Fitness for Every Stage of Life: Meet Amberlyne

I started Carol Covino Fitness because I wanted to promote the idea of women being fit at every age and stage of life. Over the next few weeks I will be presenting the stories of women in various age groups and how they are living active, healthy lives despite the challenges they have had to overcome. This week I want to introduce Amberlyne Malecki, a beautiful, young woman in her mid-twenties.

I first met Amberlyne several years ago when she set foot in one of my strength and conditioning classes. This was the start of a friendship that initially revolved around fitness and later became so much more. Amberlyne has matured in every way possible-from career and fitness goals to self acceptance, confidence, and love.

Here is Amberlyne’s story in her own words.

Throughout my life, the term “fitness” has always been around, but I never really understood what it actually meant until these past few years. Growing up, sports and physical activity was always something that was present and top priority. The physical aspect of “fitness” was the easiest part and that came natural. I have always been that girl who played sports, went to the gym regularly, and was naturally strong and athletic.

I started playing softball when I was 8 years old and officially stopped playing fastpitch softball in the middle of my freshman year in college. Softball was my life. It was the one thing that made me feel free, and I was able to be my true self. I began pitching when I was 9 years old. Between little league, club softball, and high school softball, I ate, slept and dreamt of softball. My dream was to be in the Olympics and play college softball. I trained and worked so hard to get to a place where I could prove myself to anybody who would watch and listen. Throughout all the training, there were plenty of injuries that ultimately left their mark on my body. Junior year of high school was one of the hardest years I ever faced physically and emotionally in my softball career. I injured my ankle in the beginning of the season and was out for awhile. I pushed myself to extreme limits, because I was not going to miss my first game of junior year. I played that first game, but because of that my ankle has never been the same. In the middle of my junior year softball season, another injury sidelined me for a longer period. I collided with a player on the opposing team and ruptured my bursa sack within my knee. I was devastated and scared that my softball career was over.

After the season was done, I took the time to heal my body so that I could do the things I needed for softball. Within this time and heading into my senior year, I made a decision that this was going to be my best year as an athlete and that I was going to play college softball. I trained everyday and had my own pitching coach that I worked with multiple times a week. Throughout this training, I pushed my body to its limits and it paid off in the short time. I decided to attend college in New Mexico, tried out for UNM’s softball team,  and made the team. I was beyond excited and so happy that I was able to show my abilities and my hard work. Well, all of the training and pushing my body to its limits finally caught up with me right after the fall training season. I had to make the hardest decision at that time of my life. I decided that I had no choice but to walk away from the sport, the thing that I loved the most. My body physically could not handle it, and I was also not mentally and emotionally strong enough. It was devastating but I made the choice that if I could no longer play at a competitive level, I would coach and teach young girls how to fall in love with the sport of softball. I have coached on and off since my freshman year of college, and I currently do private softball lessons.

As I mentioned before, the physical aspect of fitness was always the easiest for me to achieve. The hardest part of fitness and the real struggle for me was the eating. From the time I was in middle school until a year ago, I was that girl that had been on every diet possible. You name the diet, I can guarantee you I have done it. Unfortunately they failed every single time. Living in a world where you felt like you were never good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough really takes a toll on your perception of “fitness.” Within this world, the idea of being healthy and fit included unhealthy behaviors and habits that ultimately caused damage in many different areas. There was a sense of being out of control when it came to eating, and I needed to find a way to get in control. Unfortunately, finding control sent me down a secretive dangerous path for 7 years. It was and is a daily struggle and constant reminder, but where I am now has allowed me to see the eating aspect of fitness as a positive rather than a negative.

In 2015, my perception of “fitness” began to change. I was approached by two very influential individuals in my life about competing in a fitness competition. This was by far the scariest thing that I have ever been approached with. I made the decision to try and do this. I used it as my goal for the New Year. Throughout the first few months of 2015, I turned my whole fitness journey around and did things I did not think I was capable of doing physically and within the eating aspect of this journey. While all of this was happening I was in the midst of getting my Masters in counseling. I thought I could do it all. Train for this fitness competition, go to the gym for hours, eat every two hours, go to my classes, and see clients. Well, unfortunately I was wrong. I was not able to do it all. I had to put aside the thing that I wanted most in order to finish school.

After I walked away from the training, I began to fall back into old unhealthy eating habits, and I ultimately stopped working out for a period because I was so engulfed in school. Somewhere in the middle of 2015 to somewhere in 2016, I lost myself and who I was and what I wanted to accomplish. At some point in 2016, I got the motivation to get back on track. With my newfound motivation, I found a love for paddle boarding. It is an outdoor sport, a great workout, and it makes me feel free. Paddle boarding also gives me a sense of safety, where I am able to release all my thoughts and clear my mind. The motivation factor goes hand in hand with the eating aspect of fitness which is my weak point. But, fast forward from the past to now. I have the knowledge that I have gained throughout my life and most importantly these past few years. I know what is good for me, what I struggle with, and how I can conquer those bumps that seem to randomly appear.

I feel like my fitness journey is constantly changing and that’s okay. It allows me to grow and see what is right in front of me. Currently, my greatest goal for this year is to take the word LOVE and put that in every aspect of my life and in every part of who I am. This includes health and fitness. Instead of focusing on how much I weigh or what I look like, I want to be able to love me to the core. I want to be healthy, fit and ultimately one day do a fitness competition. But, in the mean time, I need to utilize love for myself.

In achieving this, I am currently trying to find the balance of fitness with my work, family, and social life. I make it a priority to meal prep every Sunday in order to get prepared for the week ahead. However, I am allowing myself to make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life. Instead of me hating myself or being negative, I put the mistake behind me and start again. I also am currently going to the gym 5-7 times a week. My ultimate goal is to go once a day every day. Some days, due to life and work, I do not make it. Yet, again, I am working on accepting that it is going to be okay. Each day is a new day to show up and do something different and with the love that I am working on to show myself, I know I can accomplish bigger and better things.

My view and understanding about fitness is very different than it was in the past. Fitness is not necessarily just physical or all about eating. It includes those things, but it also includes emotional and mental health, and overall mindset. Everyone’s life looks completely different and because of that our fitness perspectives are different. For most, like myself, my “fitness” varies everyday. My work consumes me physically, mentally, and most of all emotionally. So, I really have to be aware of where I currently am each day and do frequent check-ins with myself. Understanding my limits and what I am able to do in a workout for that particular day is a huge component to staying fit. Again, each day is different and some days I can handle more than others. I am completely okay with that.

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In the past, I would have beaten myself up for missing a workout or not eating what I was supposed to. I have and still am slowly learning to be gentle with myself. When I do go to the gym, I use this time as time for me. I am the first person to tell everyone around me that they need to take care of themselves first. However, sometimes, I lack in listening to my own advice. My “me time” allows me to de-stress, unwind and get back in center with my own self.

Throughout my fitness journey, I am still learning and wanting to grow as much as possible. Overall, who I am is one of the most important things, as well as allowing myself to accept mistakes and create a healthier mindset. My ultimate goal this year is to prove to myself that I am ME. I do not know what that looks like or what that means, but I am excited to find new and old things about myself.

 

THE PATH TO A HAPPY, FIT LIFESTYLE

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We are coming into our third week of 2017, and January is already flying by. I thought this would be a good time to talk about the fitness lifestyle, self acceptance, and breaking the guilt and shame cycle.

I know what this time of year can be like. We start the new year excited with plans to eat better and workout regularly. Life gets hectic and we start to slip a little on our nutrition goals or miss a few workouts. This is often where the guilt creeps into our thoughts and leads to an “all or nothing attitude.” Rather than guilt spurring us to be more consistent, it erodes our motivation by telling us we are not strong enough. This leads to more skipped workouts, less consistency with our eating habits, and even giving up entirely.

I had a client once tell me “Carol, I just need to be stronger and stop making excuses! I tell myself that I am going to do better but am just not motivated and I can’t seem to get my act together. But I need to do it!” As she was saying those words, I could see a look of shame and distress cross her face. The look was saying, “I am not good enough or confident enough to make changes.”

Fitness is a lifestyle, and one you are good enough to achieve! Fitness is not a single 8, 10, or 12 week program. It is not the diet in the latest best selling book. It is not just one transformation program. All of those things have a place, and I use those methods to help women learn lasting nutrition and workout habits. But, fitness really begins with our attitude and how we feel about ourselves. We have to break the cycle of shame and the “all or nothing” mindset. Shame will never create the type of body you desire. Guilt will never create confidence. It simply breeds more guilt. Working out is a process where we learn our bodies, become increasingly comfortable with who we are, and build confidence. We don’t need to achieve a total transformation to begin this process. We can start today changing how we see ourselves.

Here are my three ways to begin a fitness lifestyle that is joyful and shame free.

Practice being judgement free – If you skip a day of working out, don’t judge yourself. If you had less than a perfect meal or day with your eating plan, don’t dwell on it. You can always get back on track tomorrow.

Focus on one simple nutrition or workout habit at a time rather than trying to tackle all the changes at once -Try choosing just one action you can consistently do, such as having a healthy breakfast or working out 3 days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. Then stay consistent with that one thing. Keep it as simple as possible in the beginning. You can always build on the positive routine you have set.

Journal for fitness – I recently wrote a newsletter on this subject that I encourage you to read. It is a practice I started last year and am finding to be beneficial for me with my fitness, business, and personal goals. When you write down your thoughts without judgement, it helps you to be fully present in the moment rather than stressing out about what needs to be done next. It also give you insight into deeper feelings that may be interfering with your fitness path. I like to start with a prompt such as “today I feel…” or “today I have a big idea…” I always include a section for gratitude, because living in gratitude helps me be joyful and content. I then write my schedule for the day using the insights I gained from journaling.

This year let’s focus on a different type of transformation – one that occurs from the inside out. 

My 5 Favorite Supplements

Choosing supplements can be confusing, if not overwhelming. There are so many choices and endless promises. Some supplements can even be toxic or dangerous if taken incorrectly. My supplementation has changed with my goals, age, and the individual needs of my body. Here are five of my favorite supplements:

  1. Tri-Pep BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids): Improve recovery, builds muscle, and promotes endurance. BCAAs increase the rate of protein synthesis and stimulate the cells capacity for protein synthesis. BCAAs bypass the liver and go directly to the blood stream. So they are a quick energy source before, during, and after workouts.img_0095
  2.  Metabolic Effect Craving Cocoa: Helps to reduce cravings and hunger. There are studies that indicate cocoa stimulates serotonin production, regulating mood and suppressing appetite. Cocoa powder also has a high fiber contact, which makes it naturally more filling and helps to keep your digestive system working properly. I like to mix a scoop of this into cold or hot coffee and add a little almond milk.
  3. Curcumin (the main ingredient in turmeric): Has been linked to several benefits including reducing inflammation, increasing the antioxidant capacity in the body, boosting brain function, and lowering heart disease. My main concern with rheumatoid arthritis is finding ways to fight inflammation, and curcumin does this  at the molecular level. In fact, it has been found to be as powerful as some NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), yet significantly safer. NSAIDs have been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, stroke, and gastrointestinal problems.img_0093
  4. Resveratrol: An antioxidant found in certain fruits, vegetables, cocoa, and my favorite…red wine. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and potentially help protect the brain and nervous system. Studies indicate it can protect cells from damage, inhibit the spread of cancer, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, keep the heart healthy, and improve elasticity in blood vessels.
  5. Smart Blend by MRM: This supplement contains some key “good” fats.                       CLA is a natural nutrient found in cheese, milk and beef that is known to promote increased lean muscle and reductions in body fat.
    GLA promotes the release of good prostaglandins. This is critical in the development of cardiovascular, joint and immune health. It is also a good anti-oxidant.
    EPA and DHA are essential body fats that our bodies are unable to produce from within. EPA and DHA promote overall good health.img_0091

This is not a conclusive list but rather a few of the products I have personally found helpful. I encourage you to work with your health practitioner to develop a program that works best for your body.

Thanksgiving Workout: Begin, Burn, and Build in 30 minutes

During the holidays it’s easy for us to get off track. There is so much to do-shopping, cooking, decorations, entertaining. I have found that shorter, intense workouts help me to stay on track when time is an issue. They are not only more practical from a time management perspective but also in terms of consistency. We are more likely to exercise daily if it fits in our busy schedule. Also shorter workouts can deliver quite a bit of intensity, because there are so many exercises condensed into a brief period of time.

I  call this workout Begin, Burn, and Build because it really addresses all three. The Burn and Build are easy enough to define. Cardio and weight bearing exercise address both burning of fat and building of muscle. However, the “Begin” at first seems out of place. In my own experience I have found that beginning new goals doesn’t work well for me in the New Year. I have had better success starting new habits before or even during the holiday season. The little extra discipline and push at a challenging time of year makes us feel good, and when the New Year hits we are all ready off and running, ready to go!

Because this workout does contain a lot of different movements, feel free to take rest where needed and to modify speed, resistance, reps, and sets up or down for your fitness level and goals. It’s not about perfection. It’s about consistency.

Give this workout a try and let me know what you think. It begins with 15 minutes of cardio and ends with 15 minutes of weight training. Dumbbells are optional on this. You can use just bodyweight and work up to dumbbells once you have the form.

Begin with this 15 minute Spin Workout (can also use a recumbent or regular exercise bike and stay seated). RPE or rate of perceived exertion is on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the hardest level and 1 the easiest. Adjust speed and tension for your fitness level.

  • 4 minutes:  Warm up. Seated 80 rpm with light tension
  • 4 minutes:  Seated. Increase resistance every minute. 80 rpm. Moderate tension.
  • 1 minutes:  Decrease resistance. 80 rpm light tension
  • 4 minutes: Stand and increase resistance every 30 sec. 50-70 rpm. Heavy tension
  • 1 minutes: Cool down at 75-80rpm and light resistance

 

After you complete the cardio workout, do the 15 minute muscle circuit. 3 to 4 Rounds

EXERCISE WHAT TO DO NUMBER OF REPS
Squats moderate weight. 10 repetitions
Walking Lunges moderate weight 10 each leg, 20 steps total
Reverse Lunges No weight. Move quickly 10 each leg alternating for 20 steps total
Sumo Squats single moderate to heavy dumbbell   10 reps concentrating on depth and range of motion

And…if you have the extra time, it doesn’t hurt to end with a little hot sauna!

WHAT TO DO WHEN AN INJURY DERAILS YOUR TRAINING: 5 STEPS

Last July I was three weeks out from my first national figure competition. Diet was on point. Workouts were intense. My body and muscle conditioning was at its best. It was about that time that I began to experience a profound fatigue unlike anything I had ever felt during contest prep. It was like having the flu times ten. My doctor ordered blood tests and discovered markers in my blood for inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis. I was referred to a rheumatologist who confirmed the diagnosis through x-rays and more extensive blood tests. RA is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own healthy joint tissue. It can cause ligaments and tendons to weaken to such a degree that they can no longer hold joints in shape and can result in joints being totally destroyed.

I managed to make it to the stage and to place top 3 nationally despite being in the middle of a major rheumatoid flare up. Everything hurt and the fatigue left me feeling like I had been hit by a train. When I returned home I began treatment for the symptoms and continued to hit the weights hard in the hopes of returning to the stage for nationals in 2017.

All this came to a screeching halt in early September. I had just completed an upper body workout and felt great. My husband and I took a 30 minute sauna and I headed for the shower. Suddenly I had an excruciating pain radiating from my lower back down my left leg. I knew something was terribly wrong. The pain continued to grow worse over the next few days and by the fourth day I was unable to walk without collapsing in pain. That night I was in the hospital.

The next 10 days were a living nightmare spent in bed with nerve pain that did not respond to pain killers. The MRI showed stenosis and a bulging disc. I had an epidural and began numerous physical therapy sessions. However, I attribute the progress I have made thus far to the nerve decompression treatments I have had with Gabe at 3H Fitness. It was really the only therapy that was helping me with the pain.

Two months later I am on the road to recovery. Although I am so much better, I am not able to endure intense training sessions or lifting heavy weights. “Beast mode” is on hold. My body needs time to fully heal. At this point I am uncertain what my training or goals will be like going forward into the future. I can tell you that I am determined to be the healthiest I can be at each stage of life.

So, what can you do when an injury derails your training? Here are 5 things that have helped me:

1. Focus on what you *CAN* do. If you begin each day thinking about all the things you cannot do, you will find yourself feeling defeated. This was and still is the most difficult step for me. I have had days where I can’t walk the dog. On other days I find myself staring at someone at the gym who is doing all the activities I used to do. When I fall into that trap, negativity sets in, and I feel lost. So I start creating a list in my mind of every activity I was able to accomplish that day-wash the dishes, walk to the mailbox, drive the car, ride the recumbent bike, take a yoga class, go to church.

2. Seek alternative exercises. Find the exercises you are able to do without pain. For me, I have found that some very light dumbbell exercises or certain machines are safe for me to do. Something that helped me was to journal my activities and note which ones were causing me back pain either in the moment or hours later. As a result, I am far more precise and creative with my workouts than before.

3. Create a support network. Talk to friends and family. If you have a chronic illness such as RA, do research and search for resources and groups in your community. Seek out other people who have encountered the same problems and have overcome them. It helps to learn that you are not alone in your challenges.

4. Plan to the best of your ability. It’s important to still set goals, even small ones. This week you ride the recumbent bike for 10 minutes and next week aim for 15. You were able to do 3 sets of 10 reps with 4 lb weights and next week you try for 12 reps or 4 sets. Slow progress is still progress, and perfection is overrated.

5. Remember to be kind to yourself. Set goals as best you can, but be flexible and forgiving. When you are recovering from an injury or dealing with a chronic condition, you will have days that are difficult. You may need to rest or lighten your activity. When you have been an active person, it is hard to take days off. I have found myself actually feeling guilty for not going to the gym even though I was experiencing pain. Look at the rest time as an opportunity to be stronger the next day and in the coming weeks.

3 Short Intense Workouts (Minimal Equipment)

The #1 reason people give for not being able to exercise is “NOT ENOUGH TIME. Here are 3 short, intense workouts that are 30 minutes or less.  30 minutes amounts to only 2% of your day! The key is to bring the focus and intensity to each session and be consistent to see results.

All 3 workouts use only a treadmill and dumbbells.  The first 2 are centered on muscle building and begin with 10 minutes cardio followed by 20 minutes of dumbbell exercises. The last workout is less than 30 minutes and blends cardio with short muscle segments for more of a fat loss emphasis. Give one a try and tell me what you think.

Workout #1: Treadmill & Legs

Treadmill for 10 minutes

  • Begin with 10 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. You can also use any other type of cardio equipment, such as the bike, elliptical, or stairs.
  • You will need two sets of dumbbells for the muscle segment that follows (one heavy and one light).
  • Adjust incline or speed up or down to accommodate your fitness level

 

Exercise Time Speed Incline
Walk 1 minute

4.0

2

Jog 1 minute

5.0

3

Jog 1 minute

5.5

4

Run 1 minute

6.5

5

Run *45 seconds

7.0

5

Walk *45 seconds

4.0

5

*Repeat the above 90 second interval (last two 45 second segments) until you have reached 10 minutes total on the treadmill 

Leg Circuit: 20 minutes

  • Do the exercises in the order listed below.
  • 5 exercises circuited 3 times for 20 minutes
  • If you finish too quickly increase weight, sets, or reps. If you are unable to complete all 3 rounds in 20 minutes, decrease weight or reps.
Exercise Reps Instructions
Walking Lunges 20 steps (10 ea. leg) Dumbbells held at your sides (weight is optional)
Bench step ups 10 each leg Dumbbells held at your sides (weight is optional)
Squat jumps 10 reps Can do pulsing squats if you don’t want to jump
Sumo Squat 15 reps Holding 1 single heavy dumbbell between the legs
Glute Bridges 10 full range reps followed by 10 pulsing reps Holding 1 single dumbbell at the hips

Workout #2: Treadmill & Shoulders

Treadmill for 10 minutes

Exercise Time Speed Incline
Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

6

Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

7

Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

8

Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

9

Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

10

Incline walk 1 minute

3.8

11

Incline walk 1 minute

3.8

12

Incline Walk 1 minute

3.7

13

Incline walk 1 minute

3.5

14

Incline walk 1 minute

3.5

15

Shoulder Circuit: 20 minutes

Exercise Reps Instructions
Overhead Shoulder Press 10 reps Seated palms facing forward
Front Raise 10 reps Standing, elbows have a slight  micro-bend
Rear delt reverse fly 10 reps Seated, chest to knees, slight bend in elbows
Lateral Raises 10 reps Use your heavier weight
Lateral Raises 10 reps Use your lighter weights

Workout #3: Cardio with Shoulders 24 minutes

  • You will need 1 set of moderate dumbbells positioned near your treadmill.
  • You will be getting on and off the treadmill
Exercise Time Speed Incline
Incline Walk 1 minute

4.0

5

Incline jog 1 minute

5.0

8

Incline run 1 minute

6.0

8

Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

5

Off Treadmill: Squat to Shoulder Press 1 minute
Off Treadmill: Push-ups 1 minute
Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

6

incline run 1 minute

6.0

8

incline run 1 minute

7.0

8

Incline Walk 1 minute

4.0

6

Squat to Overhead Shoulder Press off the treadmill 1 minute
Push ups off the treadmill 1 minute
*Incline walk 1 minute

4.0

8

*Incline run 1 minute

6.0

8

*Incline run 1 minute

7.0

8

*Incline Walk 1 minute

4.0

8

*Squat to Overhead Shoulder Press off the treadmill 1 minute
*Push ups off the treadmill 1 minute

*Repeat the last 6 minutes of the cardio muscle segment above to conclude with a total of 24 minutes. 

How I Overcame a Decade of Yo-Yo Dieting

I was always a skinny kid and a notoriously picky eater as a child.  Yet, there was a drastic shift when I reached my teen years. Suddenly I was constantly hungry and gained a lot of weight in a short period of time. Looking back I realize that the initial weight gain was a normal part of puberty and due in part to a rapid increase in my height. However, at the time I became fixated on the fact that I was fat. I was self conscious and constantly compared myself to my thin girlfriends and the even thinner fashion models I saw in the magazines of the 70s.

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This period marked the beginning of an unhealthy eating pattern that lasted for close to a decade. I would literally starve myself to lose weight and then rapidly gain back those pounds and more. By the time I reached 17, I weighed 160 pounds and suffered from a slow metabolism and low self-esteem. I was so ashamed that I would attempt to hide in family pictures and would tear up my photos or cut myself out of the pictures. In fact, I have no photos from this period of my life. I erased myself.

After I graduated from high school I resolved to lose the weight and resorted to near starvation techniques to successfully reach my goal weight of 115 pounds. I looked great and was encouraged by numerous compliments and plenty of male attention. I dated, went on to college, got a good paying job, and kept the weight off. Life was great! There was only one problem. I began a pattern of yo yo dieting.  I would binge on all kinds of fatty, sugary foods and gain 5 to 10 pounds. I would then feel ashamed, insecure, and unworthy and would rapidly starve myself back down to 115 pounds. Food was the enemy, and eating was something that made me feel guilty.

The weight cycling continued into my mid-twenties until a big lifestyle change broke the pattern. I met and married my husband, Mike. Was I a damsel in distress saved by my knight? No this was hardly the case. I was and still am a strong minded woman. I was simply fed up with my own behavior and with the health issues I was experiencing from insufficient nutrition. My husband was the catalyst for the changes I was already mentally ready to make.

Neither one of us had any knowledge of nutrition other than the four basic food groups taught in school. However, what Mike did have was a love and appreciation for good food that he in turn shared with me. My Italian hubby enjoyed eating at great restaurants, cooking gourmet dinners, and drinking amazing red wine. He was a foodie long before that term was ever popular.

It’s funny because until Mike read this article he was unaware of the impact he had on my eating habits. Early in our relationship he put me in charge of making a salad for a meal we were preparing for friends. He quickly saw that I did not know how to do this simple task and patiently taught me how to prepare a beautiful salad. I remember Mike telling me something he would later say to our kids, “It’s all about the presentation.” That statement resonated with me and marked the beginning of a change in perspective. Food was not the enemy. It was something to be enjoyed.

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When my perspective shifted, I no longer struggled with my weight. I focused on nourishing my body with healthy, delicious foods and enjoying treats in moderation. My weight regulated over time and stayed within a normal range.  I went on to learn about exercise and fitness nutrition. I became a competitive marathon runner, cyclist, cross county skier quadrathlon athlete, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and national figure bodybuilding competitor. The past mistakes were far behind me, and I did not even think about those painful years for a long time.

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I was prompted to write this blog when old demons recently resurfaced. I suffered a back injury that left me unable to do any type of real workout. Although my body weight was staying fairly consistent, body fat was increasing and muscles were losing definition. I began comparing myself. The thin magazine fashion models of yesterday were replaced by the beautiful Instagram fitness ideals of today. I even compared myself to my own past competition photos. I was stepping on the scale way too often and skipping meals. I questioned my ability to successfully coach clients because I was not able to exercise and not in “competition shape.”

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This utterly absurd thinking compelled me to take a long walk down memory lane and relive some of the past mistakes to remind myself of just how far I have come. Yes, I can’t wait to get back into a workout routine. I love body building and seeing all the beautiful muscle definition. However, I also need to recognize that my worthiness as a woman and my ability to help others is not dictated by how I look. I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger version of me everything I have learned. Then I remember the choices I made were the choices that made me who I am today, and perhaps I can be the catalyst for change in someone else’s life.