I’ve always been a high-strung, type-A individual…great for the physical sense of wellness, if not so much mental. Rural Virginia living lent itself to hiking trails, bicycling to sleepovers and generally being outside of the house, and out my mothers’ hair. I participated in cheerleading, flag corps, and the marching band drumline from 6th grade to graduation. University club league sports kept me busy through the higher education years, but were usually 70% socializing, and 30% actual physical exertion. I was an accomplished distance runner in Tampa for the next seven years, amassing well over 30 medals ranging from first in female class, top 10% of age, to “You actually chose to run 11 miles through the woods? Here, have this medal.”
Then, the 30’s started to really set in: my hips and knees cracked in protest when I tried to run on a treadmill, and the sheer lack of a proper cardio diet burned through whatever muscle mass I once had. I wasn’t well. Now I can look back and be thankful for the unpleasant yet monumental epiphany that pinpointed my issue. I wasn’t happy. I ran two hours a night just to get out of my house, because being gone for eight hours previous at a boring job just wasn’t enough. I garnered what strength I had left to leave the house, the marriage, the state, and the job (in that order).
I love modern medicine, but had a hard time relying on it for solace. Google produced too many contradictory suggestions for “build muscle, lose fat, turn off your brain” so I consulted my very first physical trainer. I learned that my body type was a mesomorph, meaning I was compact, naturally muscular, and would thus never fit the mold of “skinny”. Literally, I just wasn’t built that way. He and I also explored dietary needs, of which I was terribly ignorant, to properly fuel a strength training- driven exercise regimen. I finally started to truly grasp my own sense of wellness. To this day, I am still shocked in the transformation I found, both mental and physical
Food journaling helped identify what caused me to crash, what kept me going, and what caused me pain. I found sensitivities to whole wheat, soy, and lactose (which I already knew, but still refused to give up cheese). Eating the right foods allowed me to get through the day with enough energy to work out in the gym. Nightly work outs launched me into a solid sleep cycle that I didn’t even know existed. For the first time in years, I’d wake up totally refreshed. I felt good: physically strong and mentally clear. Knowing I feel my best when I watch what I eat and show up for lifting, I certainly don’t hold back on weekend binges of Netflix and nachos. It’s true what they say– life is about balance.
To me, wellness isn’t 100% physical, like an arbitrary number on a dusty bathroom scale. Pounds are measured in muscle, bone, and fat. Wellness isn’t about restricting food intake to nothing but dehydrated vegetable juice concoctions in order to “cleanse” myself. I have a functioning liver and kidneys that rid my body of toxins. Wellness is recognizing what makes you feel your best, and having the discipline (and courage) to chase it.