I have been counting calories since I was 14. As a kid, I tended to be overweight, so I developed the hobby early on.
I remember the first time I was required to jump on a scale. It was during a health screening test at my elementary school. In fifth grade I tipped the scale at 132 pounds— 52 pounds over the average weight of a fifth grader.
The experience of being weighed by an adult and realizing for the first time that I was bigger than all the other kids scarred me, leaving a life-long-lasting impression on who I am.
As a teenager my struggles continued. I wanted to like my body and be like the other girls, but my weight was constantly fluctuating and I didn’t know how to diet or exercise the right way.
During my senior year of high school, I put on 30 pounds. At 5’3” I was 163 pounds and had an approximate body fat of 33 percent.
Fifteen Minus Forty
Once I graduated from high school, I made it my mission to get healthy. I was headed off to school to major in dietetics, and I knew it was time to look the part of a dietician. That was the year I learned I could have complete control over the way my body looked.
The absolute number one rule of dieting: write it down.
In 2009 (before MyFitnessPal came out), I tracked everything by hand. I took one day off a week, but the rest of the time I tracked my calories. I planned out my weeks based on the cafeteria’s menu, and I made adjustments to my caloric intake, as needed.
The number two rule, of course, is move. No matter what type of exercise you do, you have to keep moving. As with dieting, I started off simple. I always planned for a half hour of cardio and a half hour of weightlifting. I taught myself to use the weight lifting machines and, over time, became daring enough to use the dumbbells.
By June of the following year I was down 43 pounds. I had gone from a size 11 pant size to a size four in ten months. At that time, I was the healthiest I had ever been. I felt like I had been freed from my demons.
That was until I received a nasty comment telling me I wasn’t done losing weight and I should “probably continue.”
Rule Number Three
Rule number three; find balance. Make it your number one priority, but don’t let it consume your life. For nearly a year, I had worked so hard to become a healthy person; I thought that meant I would be free from ridicule.
But that single comment left me damaged, and I became far more unhealthy mentally and emotionally than I ever have been. My healthy lifestyle was no longer healthy— it was a flat-out addiction that consumed me. Dieting and working out came before everything. It was my best friend, and it was destroying me.
It took me years to recover. Slowly, over time I became healthy again. It took the support of friends and a personal trainer I knew to help drag me out of my obsession. That was about the time I dropped out of college to pursue a career as a personal trainer. I was driven to help people just like me.
I wanted to educate people about nutrition and exercise. I wanted them to know my passion and feel the same way I did about exercising. But most of all, I wanted to form an alliance with them. I wanted to be that person they came to for help.
As a trainer, I would tell my story when people would accuse me of not knowing the struggle. I have struggled, and part of me will probably always struggle. But being and remaining healthy is as simple as remembering the three rules. Write it down, move, and find balance—it’s as easy as that.