This week I’m dedicating to Clean Eating! So, I’ll have a ton of great recipes that I cook for my own family and links to other recipes that are favorites. I’ll also have a few workouts posted for ya still too
Today’s guest post comes to us from an amazing woman, The Clean Eating Geek. She has kindly shared her moving and uplifting story about finding fitness and clean eating with us. I know you will take a lot away from her story just like I have. Also, today is her Birthday, so Happy Birthday Danica!!!
Hello, my name is Danica, otherwise known as The Clean Eating Geek. I’m Australian and I have fallen in love with the fit, clean eating lifestyle. Andrea very kindly asked me to write a guest post, so here I am ready to share my story. I guess it’s always best to start at the beginning, I have been overweight my whole life. I was always the heaviest and the biggest (I’m now 5’10”) – even compared with the boys. There is a photo of me, aged 4, towering over 6 and 7 year olds. It’s the story of my life, always being the biggest, forever the ‘fat kid’. I copped the usual teasing and bullying of course, I think we’ve all been there.
Skip ahead to my teenage years and things certainly didn’t get any better! I have an anxiety disorder called Social Phobia and it well and truly reared its ugly head when I was 13, in my first year of high school. Being at school was torture for me and I was absent more than I was present. I ended up leaving school at the end of Year 9 and did Year 10 at home via correspondence. My Social Phobia and depression caused me to hit absolute rock bottom at this time, aged 15. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a truly horrible time. Thankfully my love of horses pulled me through, but only just.
I spent 2001, aged 16, at home doing nothing. No school or any other kind of study. I was still miserable and overwhelmed by hopelessness. I used to wake up at lunchtime and then I would spend the rest of the day eating everything in sight and drinking Pepsi Max (which developed into an emotional crutch that I still use today). My only salvation was my weekly riding lesson and more often than not that was the only time I would leave the house. Needless to say my weight got to the highest it had ever been by that point in my life.
Things took a turn for the better the following year. I went back to school to do Year 11, this time at a senior college, and everything changed dramatically! I made some new friends, I was actually enjoying being a school and I gained some independence. The biggest change was that I lost almost 20 kilos! I didn’t set out to lose weight; it happened on its own thanks to me being more active every day (no deliberate exercise) and eating a far more sensible amount of food that was healthier than what I had been eating. I wish weight loss was still that easy! I think being 17 helped in that respect, but changing your lifestyle and making better choices really does work.
My next health milestone was when I joined a gym for the first time at the end of 2005, aged 20. I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to join but I’m glad I did! It was a HUGE leap out of my comfort zone. A big part of Social Phobia is this overwhelming feeling that people are judging you for every little thing that you do and possibly hating you for it, so to go to a gym with other people knowing I might embarrass myself was a big deal. Thankfully the staff members were wonderful and they made up a workout plan for me and showed me how to do everything. This was my first experience with gym equipment and using weights. I went fairly consistently up until late 2008 when I switched gyms. I don’t recall what my weight was at the time but I remember feeling strong and fit and losing tons of centimeters all over my body.
In 2008 I got into a relationship and the gym gradually became less of a priority. At some point I switched to my now ex-boyfriend’s gym so we could go together but it wasn’t a very regular thing. Like a lot of women I stacked on the ‘love weight’ and ended up the heaviest I have ever been. Towards the end of our relationship I was definitely turning to food for comfort (as I always have) but a large part of that was trying to deal with my Dad having terminal cancer. Needless to say that was an incredibly tough time.
Dad passed away on November 28th 2009. I am an only child and I was Daddy’s little girl. I lost my protector and it’s a loss I still feel every day. I started eating everything in sight and I returned to my soft drink addiction (after going without for some time) – trying desperately to fill a void that can never be filled. I was physically and emotionally uncomfortable and there was no denying that something had to change!
In February 2010 my relationship ended. It was mutual and we are still friends but of course it was still heartbreaking. It was time to start turning my life around. I wasn’t working at the time (my job was given away while I was grieving for my Dad but that’s a whole other story), so I threw myself into working out at the gym. I finally had the freedom to go whenever I wanted, so I did! I got brave and started doing group classes which I totally fell in love with. The weight started to come off and that spurred me on even more.
Things really took off in January 2011 when I could finally afford to move out of home. For the first time I had complete control over the food that came into the house and how it was prepared – it was life changing! Every decision was my own and I got to take full responsibility for them, either way. If I bought ice-creams or potato chips it was totally on me – I couldn’t blame anyone else so I had to own it! It was actually quite liberating. I was doing a few classes a week at a gym and I started bootcamp. My weight continued to drop. Towards the end of the year I had become a total cardio queen – bootcamp twice a week and running twice a week. It was exhausting and I was getting shin splints because I was pushing myself so hard, but then the universe stepped in!
On December 27th 2011 I broke my foot. I walked around with a swollen mess of an ankle for 2 weeks before seeing a doctor (yes I am silly). I figured I would go ‘just in case’ it was broken because it wasn’t getting any better. Turns out I had fractured the top of my heel bone. They put me in a cast for a week so I spent the entire time in my apartment (couldn’t get down the stairs), sitting on my butt. I had nothing to do but eat and go on the internet. I started comfort eating big time because I was thoroughly miserable about not being able to work out. I couldn’t understand why I would be struck down while I was working so hard. My recovery was slow and after 3 weeks of hobbling around in a ‘moon boot’, I started going for walks again because I was desperate to exercise. I didn’t weigh myself during this time because I just didn’t want to know – everything was so toxic, I felt terrible about myself.
I couldn’t do much exercise so I looked into alternative ways to lose weight. I decided that maybe I should try and cut back on my sugar intake, so I started researching the benefits. While I was doing that I came across people talking about cutting out processed foods and of course – clean eating! I spent hours reading about it and looking at people’s transformations – it’s like I was struck by lightning! I believe everything happens for a reason and I swear I broke my foot because I needed to realize that you CAN NOT out exercise a bad diet (as I had always figured was the case). Weight loss is mostly about nutrition and I really hadn’t come around to that until I found clean eating. I figured that if I burnt 700 calories that morning on my run that eating some chips at lunch time would be fine – it’s not!
So in late February/early March 2012 I started making the switch. I did a massive clear out of my fridge and pantry – some food I gave away some I just threw away. It wasn’t a smooth process by any means. The toughest part for me was trying to work out how to start eating 6 or so small meals a day and to figure out when to eat and what to eat. It requires trial and error and I am still tweaking what I eat and when. It’s okay to ease yourself into it, it’s a lot to wrap your head around.
Sometime in April I weighed myself for the first time since before Christmas 2011. Based on those figures I had lost 5kg but that doesn’t account for the fact that I probably put on about 4 kgs when I had my broken foot, so it could have been as much as 9 or 10kg! I was completely blown away. I felt amazing and I was at the lowest weight I had been for at least 6 years!
At no point have I been eating 100% clean, 100% of the time apart from a week or two here and there. For this reason I still have a long way to go because one of the hardest things is balancing out clean eating with treats (or cheats as some people call them) because it can be really hard when PMS hits or you have social occasions to attend. This is something I find very difficult (I am prone to emotional eating and bingeing) and it is one of my goals this year to get it sorted out so that life is a lot calmer and simpler. However, since I first started I have continued to prep myself clean food every week without fail and I guess that has been my saving grace. I would like to get my fittest body ever by the end of this year.
In September 2012 I made a commitment to myself to start doing weights at the gym. After months of reading people’s stories, following fitness models on Facebook and reading articles I finally conceded that doing weights would NOT make me bulky. I had been scared of this for years (even with my own past experience!) so I decided it was time to let go of the fear. I found a basic beginner’s program online and I have been following that ever since. I do strength training 4 days a week and I have barely missed a workout in that time. I was scared and nervous at first but now I love it! My weight has gone up considerably since then, mostly due to muscle gain. I rarely weigh myself now because even though I know why the number is going up it’s still really hard to see it going in the opposite direction of my ‘magic’ number. I am learning to let go of the number I want to see on the scale because it’s just silly. It’s far better to base your progress on for you feel on the inside and how your clothes fit etc.
In October 2012 I started my Facebook page The Clean Eating Geek. I had been considering it for a while but I was never quite brave enough to do it. Even though I’m still on a journey to my fittest body ever I hope that sharing the steps I’m taking every day to live a better life is helping people. I’m not perfect by any means but I acknowledge my set-backs and try to grow from them. No journey is easy but I plan on living a full life and there is plenty of time to figure it all out. My path to success is not a straight line but a swirly hot mess! Life has ups and downs, strength comes from picking yourself up each time you fall. I truly can’t believe how far I have come in my 28 years. I have hit the lowest of the lows a number of times and clawed my way back up. It’s never fast or easy, sometimes you just have to wait these things out, but when you get to the other side it’s all worth it. It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point. A point where my life is predominantly happy and positive. I spent far too long being bogged down by negativity and depression and it still plagues me at times but I know the light will return. Working out, eating clean and living a healthy, fit life has helped me immensely. Working towards a healthy lifestyle might just help you too.
To all of the wonderful supporters on my page and all of the new friends I might make after this blog, thank you. I appreciate every one of you. Thanks also for taking the time to read about my story. This is really only a slice of everything I have been through in my life so far. If sharing some of the more personal aspects of my struggle has helped even one of you understand that there is hope out there, then it was totally worthwhile. I understand what a relief it is to know that you aren’t crazy and that you aren’t the only one going through something. Whatever you may be dealing with right now, you are not alone. I wish you all much health and happiness.