The first time I went on a diet, I was 15 and weighed 115 pounds. For some reason, I thought that my body didn’t look the way it was "supposed" to, and I wanted to do something about it. I started by restricting my calories, trying every fad diet that ever existed (or close to it), and depriving myself of foods I loved. Every single diet ended in a binge and regaining the weight I'd lost, plus more. This yo-yo dieting continued until I was about 25.
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I finally got to a point where I had to speak with a doctor about my crazy diet-based lifestyle. He told me that I had to stop dieting for good. In order to get back to being healthy (I had missed periods and started sleep eating due to dieting too much in the past), he said that I needed to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted—and throw away my scale. That was a huge change for me because I weighed myself every day.
But I knew I had to get back to normal eating habits. I spent so long hopping from one diet to the next that I didn't know what it was like to eat like a normal person without restrictions. I filled my cabinets with chips, Halloween candy, and everything I used to consider a "bad" food. And I ate all of it. As you might expect, I gained weight. At my heaviest, I was 180 pounds.
Since I wasn't allowed to diet anymore and I didn't want to fall back into a deprivation mindset, I started running to try to burn off all the good food I was eating. I just felt like I had to do something. At first, I got frustrated because it felt way too difficult to run at the pace I thought I was supposed to; I always had to stop. But after talking to a good friend, I realized that I just had to go at a pace that was comfortable for me without worrying about what speed I "should" be running at. At my pace, older ladies were actually walking by me as I jogged. But I kept doing my thing.
I also started focusing on what I really, truly wanted to eat. Even something as simple as going to a restaurant was a challenge. I had to think, "Do I really want a salad right now, or do I just think I should have one?" But as I kept working out, I started wanting to eat healthier foods—not because I thought I should but because actually craved them. I'm not saying I didn't crave unhealthy foods ever, but still; by starting to focus on my wants and needs instead of how that food was going to affect my body, I started to heal my relationship with food.
As I continued to run, I kept very gradually increasing my mileage. On my 40th birthday, I finished my first marathon—and weighed 120 pounds.
I couldn't believe that, after everything I'd put my body thorugh and treating it like garbage, it was so forgiving when I decided to run a marathon and compete in fitness events. I learned to love my body again and realized that working out is so much more than a way to lose weight.
Today, I've done four marathons and one triathlon. After realizing how much fitness had changed my life, I decided to start my own fitness center, NuYu Revolution, for women like me who never knew that working out could have such a positive impact on my life.
Be kind to yourself. I realized that I would never say the mean things I've said myself to someone else. When I stopped dieting, I tried to start treating my body with respect and being kind to it again. That helped me heal my relationship with food.
Make fitness a habit. I try to workout every day, even if it means going easy on some days. Just going through the motions helps me incorporate fitness as a part of my daily life. That said, I will take a day off if I feel like I just need to rest.
Set goals. By slowly increasing my mileage and setting out to accomplish marathons and a triathlon, I've stayed motivated to keep working out and do something good for my body.