Balance.

I decided to start a blog again! I miss blogging and I'm also so excited about my new lifestyle that I want to share my thoughts with anyone who cares to read them. I'm sure a lot of people see my posts or progress shots on Facebook and wonder why I even post them. Who cares, right? Good for you, Rylee, but keep it to yourself. If you feel that way you have probably not spent your entire life struggling with your body image. You probably have no idea what it's like to be so consumed by it that you spend your entire day feeling miserable and constantly thinking negatively about yourself. You don't know what it's like to go from feeling like you're trapped in a tired, sluggish body that you hate to feeling totally at peace with your body and excited about the things it does for you. I've made that change and I wish everyone in the world could know what it feels like to be so proud of your body, and so thankful for the daily things it helps you accomplish. That's why I started this blog.

I have always struggled with my body image. At a very young age I was painfully aware of my size, painfully aware that I was one of the "bigger" girls in my friend group. In high school "swimsuit season" was a term that made my stomach twist, and I avoided being in a bathing suit at all costs. Swimsuit season for me was less about finding a cute suit and more about finding a cute cover up and hoping nobody noticed that I never took it off.

I remember going to Florida for spring break with my family my senior year of high school, and even though I was far from comfortable in my own skin, this was probably the closest experience I ever had to thinking my body looked acceptable in a bikini. Two weeks before the trip I spent at least an hour every day on the elliptical, and my diet consisted of oranges, string cheese, yogurt and cans of tuna. No definition anywhere in my body, and at the time that was of very little importance to me.. it was just a last minute attempt to get my stomach looking as flat as possible.

Fast forward 4 years and I'm moving to Indiana my senior year of college with an extra 23 pounds on a 5'4" frame. I joined a local gym immediately and was determined to lose the weight and finally feel comfortable in my own skin. The owner of the gym stuck some things on my body in several places and hooked me up to a machine to determine that my "healthy weight" was 138 pounds. "That's what we're going to work towards" he said. For someone currently weighing 160 pounds and expecting instant results, losing 22 lbs seemed like a difficult task, but I was determined. I got right to work doing cardio as usual and incorporating a weight lifting routine 5 days a week. I cut all bread and pasta out of my diet, stopped eating fresh fruit because they were high in carbs and sugar, and cut out all that fattening cheese I love so much. (Looking back, eliminating cheese and fruit was an absolutely asinine move and should've been a sign that my methods were not long term. I was making myself miserable). I followed this plan strictly for a month and had lost 10 lbs! This progress was enough to help me continue the same routine for another 3 months, but much to my dismay, the progress completely stalled. At this point I had a decision to make - keep making myself miserable for no progress or give up? I gave up.

I continued going to the gym somewhat regularly. Once a week or twice a week if I was lucky, because I knew that even though my progress wasn't where I thought it should be, my body still FELT better when I was being active. I liked the person that I was when I was working out. I felt disciplined and I enjoyed it. I ate decently well, certainly not as strict as before, but I still avoided carbs whenever possible. I started following some fitness personalities on Instagram, who at the time I truly believed were freaks of nature, goddesses that were just naturally perfect with little effort, the "lucky ones" if you will. What I discovered was sort of revolutionary. These women did not always look like that, it did not come easy for them, in fact ..they worked hard, like EXTREMELY hard. They shared their struggles of finding time to meal prep to stay successful, stories of how difficult it was to cut out processed foods and sugar in the beginning, and progress pictures to share where their journey had started. And the most amazing thing? They ate carbs... a lot of carbs. Like, 45-65% of their diets were carbs!

At this time I decided "if they can do it, why can't I?" So I started researching a little bit more. I reached out to several friends who were good at this whole fitness thing. I read a lot of blogs. I researched popular buzz words I kept hearing throughout the instagram fitness community, like "macros" and "iifym". I watched documentaries like Fed Up! and Food Inc. and I started realizing that everything the mainstream media has told me about how I should eat is basically a lie. My focus shifted from caring only about how my body looked to having a deep desire to take care of my body, to protect it, because it's mine and it's the only one I'll ever have. September 15, 2014 was a pretty revoluationary day for me. It was the day I allowed carbs back into my diet (a lot of carbs! about 150g a day). Giving my body the fuel it needs, learning about the importance of nutrient dense foods, and being more aware of the hidden sugar that is in almost EVERYTHING Americans eat has helped my body composition completely change over the last 4 months. Here I am 4 months into a fitness journey again, but feeling entirely different. Instead of wanting to give up, I feel like I've just gotten started! My diet is not limited. I don't restrict myself in crazy, unsustainable ways. I eat things in moderation (including cheese!!!!) and make informed, educated decisions.

I don't weigh myself frequently because I don't really care what the scale says; I care more about how I feel. However the other day I weighed myself out of curiosity. I couldn't believe what I saw. 138 pounds. I think the owner of that gym was right when he said that was my "healthy weight". It's by no means the end goal but when I think about my body now, I do feel healthy. Instead of looking in the mirror and thinking "disgusting. fat. repulsive", I look in the mirror and think "strong. accomplished. capable"... and "mine."