I’ve decided to discuss this because I think it helps other people, mostly women, understand health and wellness from a different perspective. We all have struggles, concerns, and self esteem issues; I believe talking about these topics openly helps us normalize them in a positive way.
My struggle to find balance with food and exercise began at a young age. I grew up in the midwest eating items such as sugary cereals, chips, processed snack cakes, bread, meat, etc, which I feel is pretty consistent with other 90’s kids in my age group and region. My amazing mother always worked hard to cook a warm meal for dinner, usually consisting of a protein, starchy veggies, and bread. She’s an incredible baker, and there was never a shortage of cookie dough or pie in our house. We ate a lot of canned vegetables and some blueberries during the summer (after we hand-picked them from a farm down the road). I also have fond memories with my great-grandparents, picking figs from their tree or tending to tomatoes in their organic herb and veggie garden. The 90’s was a decade of low-fat, low-calorie processed food consumption and excess cardio, which is the mindset I grew up having.
My sister, brother and I were active kids, almost-always outside riding our bikes throughout the neighborhood or jumping on the trampoline. I played several sports growing up (basketball, swimming, cheerleading, etc.) My sister went through a stage where she was a bit heavier, but she grew out of it as she got older. My brother and I never had weight issues. In my teens, you could find me at the convenience store after school guzzling a Dr.Pepper and Andy Capp hot-fries, before cheerleading practice. I would also constantly compare myself to other girls and had low self-esteem that continued into adulthood. I was very self-conscious of my height and boobs, as I was taller and more well-endowed than most girls my age. High school flew by, followed by graduation and subsequently, college.
Between my high school graduation and into my sophomore year, I gained about 25lbs. I was not exercising, eating the wrong foods, and learning to balance work with college classes.
In the spring of my sophomore in college, I took a nutrition class as part of my major (which changed fifteen times, but that story is for another day). I loved researching topics such as soy vs non-soy, organic eating, etc. Additionally, I was working as a Lab Technician at a local medical center, seeing patients with chronic diseases and terrible lab results. I made the connection between nutrition and illness, but didn’t begin to make major changes to my lifestyle quite yet.
At the end of what should’ve been my junior year in college, I decided to move back to Tulsa (where I lived when I was younger, and where most of my family resides). I had recently broken up with my boyfriend at the time, was tired of living the same life everyday, and craved something new. I moved into a tiny, heatless house that my great-grandparents owned, across from the University of Tulsa. I was around 158lbs (my heaviest, ever) at that point (I’m 5’9”, for reference) and wasn’t happy with how I looked or felt. I needed change in my life and was uncertain of my next steps. I really didn’t know what I wanted to career-wise, so I decided to apply to a local nursing program and was thrilled upon acceptance. As I waited for the program to start, I began running each day in an attempt to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. I would walk two blocks to Turner Park (where I have many fond childhood memories of our family meeting there for Easter and birthday parties) and run several laps around the park. Nutritionally, I was doing a better than before I had moved; eating lots of bananas, eggs, carrots, yogurt, and anything I could afford that I thought was healthy at the time (I wasn’t working during that time so money was tight). By the time nursing school began three months later, I had lost 13lbs. My clothes fit loosely and I felt much better, which is more important than the number itself. The summer of 2011 defintely changed me in positive ways and put me in a healthier frame of mind. Nursing school was a rough journey in itself (any nurse can attest to this), but I maintained my healthier lifestyle throughout school and learned even more about health & fitness. My fellow nursing students (lovingly) made fun of me because I always brought “healthy food” to school. One day, my professor sent me to get donuts for the class. Another student chimed in, “Don’t send Kathryn, she’ll come back with a fruit basket!” I still laugh about that to this day. And, no, I didn’t return with a fruit basket. 😉
Fast forward to 2013. The months before my wedding I was eating 1000 calories/day and doing loads of cardio—awful! I went up and down with my weight and was incredibly frustrated. John Paul and I were married in May, then moved to Florida in July. We were so exited to move into our new house and explore our new state. However, I quickly realized that I did not want to stay in Florida long-term. I missed Tulsa and my family tremendously, which created an emotional roller-coaster and caused my food intake to be inconsistent.
Over the last 5 years, I’ve been all over the place with my eating habits and exercise. I’ve tried keto and paleo diets, taken numerous spin, kickboxing, yoga, body pump, and barre classes, gained weight, lost weight, and more. I became depressed from missing home/family, and because of that I had issues with not eating, eating too much, and poor self esteem. The months leading up to my audition for the Roar of the Jaguars was rigorous. I was working with a trainer, (who was amazing!) but did too much cardio (unknowingly to my trainer, I was dancing hours on end each day) and not eating enough. I ended up losing my ‘cycle’ for almost 6 months; I’m just now becoming regular again (sorry, TMI). I was down to 130.6lbs, which included a decent amount of muscle, so needless to say I was quite lean. I was so focused on the audition that I didn’t listen to my body, and suffered because of it.
At the recommendation of my OB/Gyn, I upped my food intake and relaxed on the workouts. I’ve gained close to ten pounds since May of 2017 and that’s okay. I feel healthy, my cycle is back, and I’m in a better frame of mind.
I’d like to regain some of the muscle I’ve lost, but I’m working on it at a slower pace this time. I’m participating in activities I enjoy rather than being at the gym for hours everyday. I love barre classes, running outside, lifting weights, dancing, and the occasional yoga class. Now that the holidays are over, I’m anxious to get back at it consistently. At the end of the day, I don’t need defined abs, I don’t want to have 10% body fat, I just want to be healthy.
I’m no longer restrictive with my eating. The last few years, and even more so over the past six months, I’ve been primarily eating a plant-based diet, consuming tons of veggies, fruits, nuts, etc, with some occasional eggs, full fat cheese, and small amounts of grass fed meats mixed in. I haven’t been a huge meat eater in my adult life, and have always loved fruits and veggies, so tweaking my diet a bit was easy for me. I aim for local and organic products whenever possible. I’m eating whole, real food and I feel good.
As I get older, my perspective changes. I’m not eating for vanity, I’m eating for health. I want to nourish my body with good things to sustain my busy life. With that being said, I refuse to give my favorite not-so-good things from time to time, like my moms chocolate chip cookies, a pretzel in the food court or a reuban sandwich. It’s a balancing act and it can be tricky. My advice is to eat a ton of plants, and indulge when you genuinely feel that the timing is right. Find an activity you enjoy. Do things that make you happy. Listen to your body and don’t beat yourself up; we are beautiful!