No Body is Perfect

“But you don’t look anorexic…” Yet I was. I struggled throughout high school. I was never clinically diagnosed. I didn’t know I had a problem. I was never super skinny or an unhealthy weight.

L-R: High school >> College >> Now


It was during National Eating Disorder Awareness week last month that this came to mind. I open up about so much…yet I never really opened up about my own disordered eating. I spent most of my life not even recognizing it as a “real” problem. I always thought that because I wasn’t diagnosed and because I was never underweight…I didn’t have a problem. But I did. I just didn’t know any better. I do now…so I’m sharing my story. Maybe it will help one of you out there to recognize a problem that you don’t even know exists.

I suffered from a variation of Anorexia known as Atypical Anorexia. A person suffering from this disorder will have many of the same symptoms as those with Anorexia. The difference is that the person will exhibit those symptoms without weight loss. They are often within or above normal weight range, making their appearance “atypical.” According to the National Eating Disorder Association, a person struggling with Atypical Anorexia may exhibit an extreme fear of being fat or of any weight changes and resort to abnormal eating behaviors such as calorie counting, cutting out certain foods/food groups, avoiding social events and functions that involve food, and more. Many individuals who have Atypical Anorexia may not even realize that they are struggling with a severe and deadly eating disorder, simply due to the weight stigma that surrounds this disease. A person may think, “I am not sick enough to have an eating disorder,” because he/she may be within or above a normal weight range. That’s exactly what happened to me.

My weight struggles began as a child. By the time I entered high school, I weighed in at 180lbs. Teen years are hard for every kid but it was especially hard on me. I watched as all of my friends got boyfriends, went on dates, had their first kiss…while I was left behind. Looking back on it now, I wasn’t all that far behind…but back then it felt like the end of the world. I was bigger than all of my friends. I couldn’t wear the same cute clothes everyone else did. Shopping was my worst nightmare. By sophomore year, I felt lost. I had plenty of friends but I hated myself…and how I looked. I went into a very bad depression. By senior year, after numerous diets failed to make me look how I wanted, I decided to control it myself. I decided that I would eat one thing per day. It started as one meal. It morphed into much worse. It got to the point where I was eating one thing per day – a cracker or a sour gummy worm (if I thought I needed a little sugar). This went on for a while until eventually I made myself sick to my stomach. I remember thinking that night about the day camp that I worked at every summer. Thinking about those little girls who I sometimes babysat…and whom I was a cheerleading coach during camp. I was only 17 but I distinctly remember that being the point where I changed my mindset..somewhat. I decided to start eating again. I didn’t want to set a bad example for those little girls.

While I did begin eating, it wasn’t a lot…probably not nearly what my body actually needed. However, I WAS eating. That fall, I began college at SUNY New Paltz. I got to be away from home and make a lot of new friends on a beautiful campus and town!  That mystique was short lived. A couple of months into my first semester, I developed severe stomach issues (which still plague me today) and ended up having to come home. My weight struggles weren’t over and neither was my poor relationship with food. I was eating but I definitely wasn’t eating well. I looked to celebrities and various articles for guidance but most of them steered me down a bad path. I tried every diet from one my doctor recommended called the “Scarsdale diet” to the South Beach diet, which I only did because Jessica Simpson did it for Dukes of Hazard. The summer before my senior year of college, I LIVED at the gym. I divided my time between the gym and the beach. I commonly refer to that as the skinniest (and best looking) summer of my entire life. It was. I got down to 130lbs, which to date, is the smallest I’ve ever been. While the number was great…nothing else was. I wasn’t eating well. I was partying a lot and compensating with extra time on the treadmill. I always did fasted workouts…even if i was doing strength training. The scale may have been nice to read…but my body didn’t really reflect that number. I wasn’t super toned and I sure wasn’t healthy. That lifestyle caught up with me once I got into a serious relationship and stopped my 2+ hour daily workouts. I put a lot of weight on. I tried to control it and maintain my hard work but because I never changed my lifestyle…it was next to impossible. Over the next few years, I was in and out of jobs and kept myself in an unhealthy relationship. My weight continued to climb as my confidence kept plummeting. By 2010 I was up to 210lbs, my all-time highest weight. I knew it was bad but I had very little motivation and no idea how to change it.

Two years later, I  finally had enough. I was done going through the motions of life. I was watching the Biggest Loser (season 14) and really connected with the contestants. I realized at that moment that I could do it – I could actually turn my life around! I started educating myself properly on nutrition and exercise. I began going to the gym a few days per week. I started out doing mostly cardio but as I learned more, and built more strength, I was able to incorporate weights into my routine. My metabolism is all but broken but after about a year of very hard work I was able to lose a little over 70lbs and go from squeezing into a size 14…to comfortably wearing a size 2/4.

I won’t lie and say that I’m 100% cured. I still struggle with things everyday. I worry that my recent surgery and modified workouts are setting me back. My clothes still fit but I see the scale climbing and my body losing the muscle that I worked so incredibly hard for. I’ve become very busy with my job(s) and while I love what I do and where I am…my diet has not been the best. There are meals that I skip. There are late dinners. It makes me worry…but I don’t let that stop me anymore. My mindset has completely changed. I may have these worries but I don’t let them consume me anymore. If I want to have a beer, a piece of candy, or buffalo wings…I have it. No guilt. I have finally realized something I should’ve realized years ago – life is way too short to spend it at war with yourself…and with food. For the first time in my whole life, I can honestly say I am not just existing…I’m actually living (and loving) life. Things aren’t perfect but I am doing my best to make the most of everyday.

To learn more about eating disorders and what you can do, check out my article with The Arena: http://thearenafitness.com/no-body-is-perfect/

If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help. Encourage open dialogue with the people in your life…especially children/teens. Let’s break the silence on this horrible epidemic. Let’s Fight to be Fit together.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina

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Winter Blues

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The funny thing about being on a journey is that it never really ends. There honestly is no finish line to this…every day you just get stronger and continue to grow from your experiences.

I’ve been put to the test lately, as I’ve been suffering with some PCOS issues as well as a very bad flareup for my IBS. As if that wasn’t enough, I’m also battling with a freezing cold northeast winter. Now, I don’t know about you but I’m very susceptible to getting sick. So, in an attempt to not get myself deathly ill, my workout routine has been completely thrown off. All of this has given me a terrible case of the winter blues and I’ve spent most of this week feeling good and sorry for myself.

I don’t remember the last time that I had a hard workout. Sure, I’ve been keeping up with my strength training…but cardio has become like a foreign word to me. With my non-existent metabolism if I don’t workout, I will get fat. It’s a proven fact that regardless of my diet, without cardio I will gain weight. Being super paranoid about getting sick has led me to scale back my workouts…which means little to no cardio and big issues for my mental state.

Now, I know that cold weather is (sadly) part of life. I can’t spend the rest of winter being so bitter and miserable. I’ve worked way too hard and come to far for that. Besides, why be so miserable about something I can’t even control? That being said, I’ve come up with a preliminary winterized routine to keep myself in-check and keep me from going batty.

Beginning tomorrow, I will be doing hardcore cardio on weekends. This is because I can get to the gym during the day when it is typically (slightly) warmer. Since I work all day during the week, those days will be reserved for strength training. I will utilize DVDs and workout videos on days where it (God forbid) snows. If it happens to be warmer on any given weekday, I will take advantage and do a harder workout.

I’ve also decided to get my diet in check. I said I wanted to begin the IIFYM stuff but I need to get things working right again. My IBS has been horrible lately so I really want to get that under control and the best way I know how is to eat super clean and strict again. Trainer Bob (Harper) from Biggest Loser has been posting about a 30-day diet that he’s currently following. I looked into it and it seems like what I did last spring, just a little more strict. It’s the Whole30 diet and I will be starting that in a couple of weeks (beginning of February.)

With a bad stomach and a ruined routine, I’ve really been tested. This has all really done a number on me mentally. It’s really hard to see the “new you” when you are all swollen and aren’t working out. Hopefully with the new diet and a new workout plan, I can start feeling more like myself again.

It can be really hard to see the light at the end of tunnel when there’s so much darkness in front of you. This journey never ends and things happen in life that can’t be controlled but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last two years it’s this: the bigger the obstacle, the sweeter the reward once it’s overcome. Always remember: nothing worth having comes easy.

Stay strong and stay in the fight!

-Gina
thefight2befit@gmail.com

Back to Basics

Happy Friday! Hope everyone is keeping warm in this ridiculously cold weather that we’ve been having!

I’m finally starting to get back on my feet after being sick for almost two weeks. I had vertigo for most of last week. If you’ve never had it, consider yourself lucky–it’s a very annoying illness. You don’t feel sick in the conventional way–you just get incredibly dizzy for no reason…which also makes you nauseous. Vertigo can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days to even a few weeks. Lucky for me, mine was gone by Sunday. However, to treat the vertigo, I was told to buy motion sickness pills.  I was so sick, I didn’t care what was in the pills or what else they could potentially cause—I just wanted to stop being dizzy. So while the dizziness dissipated, I had new issues come Sunday night. Turns out one of the side effects of these pills is that they mess your stomach up…bad. Having stomach issues already, this was a recipe for disaster…and unfortunately one that I’m still battling as I write this.

Whenever my stomach issues (IBS in particular) flare up, I notice a pattern with myself. The longer the stomach issues drag on, the worse I feel mentally. I worked really hard to lose weight and get myself in good shape but during these lovely times, I can’t really workout. Sure I could lift weights or do leg work—but I can’t do the cardio which will get my mind right. Without that, what’s the point? That go hard or go home mentality really bites me sometimes.

I started this blog in the hopes of helping others who may have similar struggles and show anyone that they can do it too. I know that not every day is going to be perfect on this journey and that things happen. We get sick, we get busy…life just happens. The important thing is how you bounce back. I still have moments where where I slip back into negative thinking. When my stomach is blown up and I feel crappy, I tend to think that I look like a cow. Deep down though, I know that once I am able to work out again that feeling will go away. Thankfully, I have surrounded myself with some great (and patient) people who remind me of this and talk me off a ledge when it’s needed.

IMG_7860My game plan is get back to the gym (or maybe even run outside if the weather warms up a little) this weekend. As far as my diet, I think I’m going back to basics. I’m going to start using MyFitnessPal again to keep me accountable. Since I want to lose some more weight and lean out, I want to do some research on reverse dieting and IIFYM. With the holidays quickly approaching, I need to get back on track with everything. I will share my findings with you all as soon as I can.

Stay tuned for a healthy Thanksgiving recipe, to be posted this weekend 🙂

Until then – stay strong, stay warm, and stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Quick & Easy Clean Eating

My apologies on the delay of this—looks like I’m going to need to get a new computer sooner rather than later. Anyway, as promised, I’ve decided to share some recipes along with some daily staples of my own diet.

Thanks to Rachael Ray and her 30-minutes of fabulous creations, I love to cook. That woman really taught me wonders. While I don’t follow her recipes, I do get inspired by them and I have adapted her techniques to cook everything in 30 minutes or less. Now I can transform all of my favorite dishes and make them healthy with minimal time and effort – It really is genius.

Here is my daily breakdown:

Breakfast:  I never ate breakfast growing up. I was never hungry and would give my mom a really hard time each morning before school. As an adult, I realize how important breakfast is and it’s become my favorite meal of the day. Weekday mornings there isn’t a lot of time to prepare amazing things so I eat oatmeal. I portion the oats out by scooping a ½ cup into a Tupperware container. I then sprinkle about a ½ tsp of cinnamon on top. For variety, I like to add a half banana (which I slice), some blueberries, flax seeds, or some almonds.  This is a healthy, fast breakfast on-the-go for work days.  On weekends, there’s no time constraint so I get creative. I almost always incorporate egg whites but what I do with them varies. Sometimes it’s just egg whites scrambled, sometimes it’s a frittata. If I feel like having oatmeal on a weekend, I will sometimes add in a scoop of protein powder to make a sweeter variety on my every day breakfast.

Coffee: This gets its own category. Anyone who knows me knows just how important coffee is and how seriously I take it. I drink iced coffee and I typically make a whole pot and have that ready for each morning. Now I’m not lactose-intolerant as I can consume dairy products such as cheese, ice cream, yogurt and others without a hitch but I cannot have straight milk in anything—especially not in coffee. That’s just a recipe for a really bad day in stomach land. So I opt to use coffee creamer. I know some people use almond milk or coconut milk but to me it just doesn’t taste as good in coffee and then I have to add sweeteners to the mix. I prefer the creamer, which may not be so great but I don’t have to add anything else to the coffee. Weekends I tend to get my coffee outside. I was treating myself to turbo iced coffees at Dunkin (which are loaded with tons of unnecessary sugar and calories thanks to the flavors I add) until I discovered the beauty and magic that is a “blendicano” from Starbucks. So my weekends now begin with a venti double blended Americano. I read that people add sugar free flavors to it. Most of the time those have a weird taste to me but the sugar free mocha is amazing and doesn’t have that chemical taste to it. I still have the turbo iced coffee from time to time but I prefer the blendicano.

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My lunch and dinner varies each day. As a rule for myself, I try to not eat any carbs after I leave work. Occasionally I may have a banana post-workout or something like that but my dinner almost always only consists of protein and vegetables. This helps in reducing bloating and keeps your stomach flat.

Here is one of my favorite dinner ideas. I got the initial idea from my mom, as she used to make this for me years ago. My own version is slightly modified, eliminating onions and cutting down the serving size to just feed one. I use frozen zucchini and frozen pepper strips and fresh mushrooms. This dish is super easy to make and typically takes no more than 30 minutes to prepare.

Italian Stir-fry

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  • 1 chicken breast
  • Olive Oil (approx. 1 tbsp)
  • Diced tomatoes (about ½ 14 oz. can)
  • Mushrooms
  • Pepper strips
  • Zucchini
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt and black pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  • Begin by lightly coating the bottom of your pan with olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper; Heat the oil on medium heat then place the chicken into the pan. Season the other side of your chicken and flip.
  • Remove cooked chicken from heat and let rest.
  • Using the same pan, lightly coat that with more olive oil. Place zucchini, peppers, and diced tomatoes in pan; Season with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and salt/black pepper.
  • Cover and simmer until vegetables soften.
  • Slice rested chicken; add chicken and mushrooms into vegetable mixture.
  • Cook together for another 5 minutes, serve (by itself or over brown rice) and enjoy!

If you have any questions about this recipe or suggestions for others you would like to see in future posts, feel free to email me.  A healthy lifestyle can be difficult to maintain but being able to transform some of your favorite dishes into a healthier version, it becomes a little less stressful. Always remember: nothing worth having comes easy.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Clean Up Your Diet Without Cleaning Out Your Wallet

I focus a lot on motivation and exercise in this blog but I thought I’d touch on diet this week. I haven’t really gone into it so much because my situation is so unique. However, the point of this blog is to share my journey and hopefully help someone in a similar situation.

People are always asking me what the secret is to my weight loss. Well, there is no secret. I work really hard and most importantly, I eat clean. Abs are built in the kitchen—if you eat crap, you will not have a flat stomach or lose weight. Life is all about the choices that are made and if you choose to not watch what you eat or exercise regularly, you can’t expect to look like you do.

I began eating clean earlier this year when I was on my bikini body mission. I’ve maintained that diet while working in some snacks along the way. I feel it’s very important to not deprive yourself foods so as to prevent binging later on. So, I’ve created a balance and I no longer have the food noise holding me back.

Truthfully clean eating has really changed my life. It has not only allowed me to lose weight and drop several sizes, it has drastically helped my stomach problems. My stomach has never felt as good as it did the month I ate totally clean. I do feel the effects when I allow myself those snacks or “bad” foods and as a result I do have some occasional flair-ups. Overall though, my stomach problems have gotten drastically better and I don’t suffer nearly as much as I used to.

When I tell people they should eat clean, I’m told how expensive it is and how hard it is to maintain. While it’s true that clean, healthy eating can be very pricey, I’ve found ways to work around it.  Living on a budget and having a restricted diet means you have to get creative and I have seemingly mastered that art. Here are some of my tips:

  • I hardly ever buy name-brand products. You pay for a label and in many cases, it’s double the price for the same product.
  • I read through the supermarket flyers. Yes, this takes a little time and patience but when you have a limited budget and you can only food shop once a month, you make it work. I may have to go to a few different stores, but I manage to get everything I need and only spend about $50 for a month’s supply of food.
  • I buy certain foods in bulk. Doing this saves me money since the larger quantity usually lasts longer. My chicken (Kirkland boneless chicken breasts) comes from Costco and runs me about $18. They come individually wrapped and require little to no cleaning/trimming. For oatmeal, I buy a big canister of oats from Shoprite. When it’s not on sale the oats will run you about $2.79 (if you happen to catch a sale, even better!) You can also get the oats at Target for a similar price. For coffee, I get the biggest size of Maxwell House at Costco for under $10 and while I drink more than my fair share of coffee, that container still lasts.
  • Frozen vegetables and fruit: Fruits and vegetables are often frozen at their peak ripeness, so as long as you buy the bags without any added sugars or ingredients, you’re good to go. You can often get bags of vegetables for $1 on sale. You have to shop around for your fruit but I have found some amazing frozen blueberries and strawberries at (brace yourself for this) the Dollar Tree. That sounds weird…I know… but it’s the same brand that can be found elsewhere. So if I can pay one dollar for the same fruit that I’d pay triple for anyplace else, why discriminate based on the store?
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables: Other than bananas (which I get at Trader Joe’s for .19) I only buy fresh if there’s a sale. Of course certain things like avocados, lettuce, and asparagus have to be fresh but I do my homework or I go without it that month. If lettuce is not on sale, I buy extra frozen kale that month and make warm salads with that instead.
  • Read labels. I continue to learn this lesson the hard way. Matter of fact, just a few weeks ago I suffered an allergic reaction due to a preservative lurking inside my favorite snack (Pop Corners.) These chips along with most granola bars and a lot of “healthy” foods contain tons of preservatives and additives. It’s also important to note: just because you buy a food from a health store or it’s labeled natural/organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Take the few extra seconds and turn the package over. As a general rule: if you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, it’s definitely not clean eating…and it’s probably not very good for you.

I’m often asked how to prepare various things and what I eat to not only lose weight, but minimize my stomach issues. So, I will be adding recipes to this blog once a week that will feature everything from smoothies and snacks to full meals. I hope to take the hours of research that I’ve done over the years and make your lives a little easier.

No matter what struggles you face, it IS possible. Always remember that nothing worth having comes easy!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Gina’s Journey

Like many others, I have struggled with weight most of my life. I was overweight for most of my childhood and suffered from depression and eating disorders throughout high school. The biggest struggle for me though, came upon entering college.

I began college in SUNY New Paltz and it was amazing. I was meeting new people and making lots of friends. I was just beginning to adapt to life on my own when I began getting sick. I would wake up with SEVERE stomach pains and be crippled to the point that I couldn’t get out of bed. After missing many classes, a friend who had a car on campus, drove me to the nearest hospital and waited with me until I could be seen. They kept me in the hospital for over six hours and ran countless tests.They originally thought that I had appendicitis, based on the location and symptoms of my pain. However every test for that came back negative and the doctors were very perplexed. They allowed me to call my parents who rushed upstate from the Bronx. When the doctors there couldn’t help, my mom said she would bring me to our family doctor back home instead.

After seeking the help of my primary doctor and a gastroenterologist, there was no real discovery made so I tried my best to live life like a normal college kid. I ended up coming back home and attending a local college. Around the same time, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was placed on birth control and the issue seemingly resolved itself. 

The summer before my last year of school I decided I had enough. After years unhealthy eating habits, I worked hard with diet and exercise and got myself down to 130 lbs and a size 4–the smallest I had ever been! I was still suffering periodically with stomach issues but there didn’t seem to be any conclusion as to why. And then two years later, weight mysteriously started to come back. My weight was skyrocketing and I had no idea why it was happening.

What I didn’t realize was that certain medication can cause your metabolism to slow down. Around the age of 23, I was prescribed anxiety medicine. Since my metabolism was not great to begin with, this medicine combined with a decrease in exercise, was making me balloon up. This went on for years unbeknownst to me.

Five years later, during a routine visit to my doctor, I took notice of my chart…where my weight was listed. That’s when I realized how big I was actually getting and how out of hand it really was. I noticed the pattern dating back to when I was 23 (when I began the medication.) I consulted the doctor about my theory and when he agreed, I begged to be taken off the medicine. He agreed and I was taken off the medication immediately. 

After being weaned off the medicine, I decided I would start being more diligent with my diet and sign up for the gym. Six months later, despite my best efforts, my weight only dropped 10 lbs. I would cry and not understand what I was doing wrong. I was following a good diet and working out but nothing was changing. I contacted my doctor who ran some tests to make sure I didn’t have a thyroid issue or any other conditions; when it came back that I was otherwise healthy he decided to put me on a pill called Phentermine which would help regulate my stagnant metabolism. I was closely monitored and told to stay on it for just two weeks. In that time, I magically dropped 20 lbs. A month later I was stuck again. The doctor gave me another two week prescription and that did the trick. I lost another 10 lbs and have been fine ever since.

Today, I have lost over 70 lbs and am down from a size 12/14 to a size 2/4. I still suffer from unknown stomach issues and occasional bouts of my PCOS but I’m otherwise healthy. And, as it turns out, I probably never needed that anxiety medicine. I haven’t had any issues without it. Sometimes you have to be your own doctor and listen to your own body. You know when something is not right and while a doctor may be able to diagnose various things, they can’t tell you how you are feeling. It’s been nearly 15 years and while I’ve seen several doctors and had countless tests, no diagnosis has been made. The only thing that has been found was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.) It also appears that I suffer from a food allergy, but since it is more than likely from a preservative, there is no way to test this theory. I know there is more to the story but since there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive evidence, I just eliminate everything that makes me sick and try to go on with my life. One day I will have answers but until then there’s no point in dwelling on it. While the situation is very frustrating, I’ve learned to take the negative and turn it into a positive. After all, my very limited diet has made things much easier on this quest.

I may not be where I want to be, but I have come so far from where I began. The biggest hurdle to overcome is in your head–weight loss really is more mental than it ever is physical. Once you get out of your own head and eliminate food noise, the sky’s the limit. I was told time and time again that with my stomach problems and other health issues, I would never have the body I wanted or be as fit as others. Well I proved them wrong and you can too.

Everyone’s journey will be different and it will NOT be easy but I am proof that against all odds, you can do it!

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina