It's a cool and rainy day here in Chicago, which feels nice after the warmer sunny days we've been having. Today I'm really excited to share another success story from my April Inspire Joy Bootcamp! Every month I host a private accountability challenge group on Facebook for busy women who want to establish healthy eating habits, find "balance," workout consistently, lose weight, gain confidence, get their body back after having a baby, or shape up to rock a wedding dress. We surround each other with positivity, love and support as we work on overcoming all the obstacles and resistance that hold us back from loving and accepting ourselves for who we are right now, at whatever stage we're at in our individual journeys.
Andrea completely blew me away this month with her commitment, determination, and overall transformation! The changes that happen when you start focusing on working out consistently and eating right go SO far beyond weight loss. The physical changes are just a side effect...what's even more amazing is how your entire mindset starts to shift when you put your own health and wellbeing first! Being able to help women experience these breakthroughs is SO inspiring and fulfilling and makes me feel humbled and grateful to be able to do what I love for a job!
But enough about me...let's turn it over to Andrea! I'll let her do the talking :)
I am so proud of you, girl!
Tell us about your story!
Food, health, and fitness have always been part of my life. From playing soccer, frisbee, and tennis through high school to 10 years as a vegetarian, I've always loved exercise and learning about how to fuel my body. When I started law school three years ago, however, the ease with which I approached wellness disappeared. Everything about food and exercise that felt intuitive for so long became difficult as I over-thought my choices and stopped treating food as fuel for my body.
I was drowning in work and neglecting to make time for workouts, and eventually turned to food for emotional comfort and began experiencing serious digestive problems. It created a toxic cycle: I'd use food to comfort myself through rough and busy time only to end up in a place where I'd be body shaming myself, which naturally only contributed to the stress that exacerbated my stomach issues. My doctors have still not been able to pinpoint exactly why my stomach decided to turn on me, and despite countless elimination diets, its been an uphill battle. As I was wrapping up law school this past semester, however, I started educating myself on the role of stress in digestion, how much of it is mental as well as physical, and have spent the last few months trying to heal not by cutting out food, but by relaxing my mind, getting plenty of sleep, and learning how to practice patience and compassion with myself.
Why did you decide to join the Inspire Joy Bootcamp?
The primary reason I joined the Inspire Joy Bootcamp was to break the cycle described above. I essentially wanted to hit the re-set button--while food is certainly a way to feed your soul as you gather and share in experiences with others, it had gone too far beyond that place for me and I needed to refocus. After learning more about the community and support provided by the bootcamp and all of the amazing women involved, I decided it would be the perfect fit. It didn't feel like a pressure-cooker fueled by "fitspo" or unrealistic expectations. Instead, the group focused on lifting each other up with positivity, respect, encouragement, and was driven by the understanding that perfection is ultimately not necessary for living a healthy and whole life. After chatting with Anna about various programs, I signed up for the 21 Day Fix Extreme and dove in.
What have you gained from the experience?
I have gained so much from this experience! While the physical and tangible gains--stronger arms, a flatter tummy--are nice, I've been way more impressed and happy with the emotional and mental gains I've made. As sad as it is, I think this is the first three weeks I've had in a long time where I have not once shamed by body or made myself feel like it wasn't enough. Instead, I've celebrated how much stronger the workouts have made me and I've finally been able to tune in to what my body needs, respect my hunger, and feed myself well-intentioned and balanced meals.
Before I started the Fix Extreme, I had burned myself out on intense workouts and was dreading going to the gym every day! It feels great to actually look forward to completing my workouts and my favorites are the Upper Fix and Pilates Fix Extreme. Those resistance band moves are killer!
Favorite go-to healthy foods?
I love all the food, but my staples are hummus, berries, greek yogurt, and nut butter. The program has really helped me work more protein into my diet too which has been amazing, and I love the 21DFX turkey meatballs for dinner!
How do you keep yourself motivated?
The accountability of nightly check-ins through Anna's group was really great, and I try and remind myself of how great I feel when I complete a workout or when I have fueled my body well all day. It also helps to remember why I started--what prompted me to reach out to Anna and start the program in the first place. When I think back to how I felt during that time and why I knew it was time for a re-set, I'm instantly motivated to keep going!
How do you feel about yourself now?
So much more confident and at peace. I'm not walking away from these last few weeks with the abs of Autumn Calabrese, but thats ok! I've developed some incredible habits and so much perspective, and I know that those two things will carry me well beyond the formal program as I continue to heal and nourish my body and work towards my fitness goals.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out on her health and fitness journey?
Remember that you are worth it! Taking time to meal plan, exercise, meditate, and rest is not time away from things you "should" be doing--its time that you deserve to devote to yourself and that will help carry you through everything else on your plate. Also, a crucial learning point for me has been that health is not all or nothing. You're not on track or off track--you're living your life and your life should involve both kale salads and ice cream. There is space for both, so remember your wellness journey is just that--a journey, a collection of habits you build up over time, and it won't be "derailed" by giving yourself the freedom to enjoy your life, treats included!