27th Birthday Feels.

I'm currently sitting on my couch with a big cup of coffee, enjoying a day off work and reading through birthday wishes from family and friends. As I do this I can't help but sit here and reflect on how truly blessed I feel about my life. My 26th year was my best year yet, both personally and professionally, and I have a feel 27 will be just as awesome. As I reflect on the past year, I'm so incredibly proud of myself and I wanted to take a moment to blog about it, specifically about my recent fitness journey. I know some of you may be familiar with this story, but I wanted to share with any new readers how I go to where I am. So I decided to start with 18 year old Rylee, enjoying a family vacation in Florida. 

Here is 18 year old Rylee weighing in around 140-145 lbs. Honestly, she's feeling pretty good about herself right here. While you can tell she's not totally comfortable in a bikini (as evidenced by using small humans as a shield to make her waist/hips look narrower), this is probably the most confident she had ever felt in a bikini up to that point in her life. For one thing, she spent several weeks before the trip baking in a tanning bed on a daily basis - because the tanner you look, the skinnier you look, right? Secondly, she really felt like she had put in some solid work getting ready for that trip. She spent an hour every night on the elliptical for a full 2 weeks leading up to the trip. One top of that, she ate a diet made up primarily of salads (with no protein source) topped with cheese, ranch and croutons, and snacked on sugary yogurts, string cheese, and cuties. That was all she knew to do.

Fast forward to 23 year old Rylee, who - after years of eating and drinking like a jerk through 5 years of college, putting an additional 15-20 lbs on her 5'5" frame - had had enough. She starting getting into the gym, lifting what little weights she knew of, and signed up for the miraculous Advocare 24 day challenge, which was going to completely change her body composition! While I did lose 10 lbs in 24 days, Advocare didn't do much for me. I was still terrified of carbs, had no idea how to properly fuel my body, and used Advocare cleanses as a bandaid for poor eating habits. I thought I wanted to change, but I didn't really want to put in the effort to get there.

Fast forward again to November of 2014. I started taking this whole thing a little bit more seriously. I allowed carbs back into my diet and got back down to just below my high school weight and was happy and content at 138. From there my goals changed and I entered a few different stages in my health journey. I might cut for a few weeks, lose 5 pounds, feel satisfied and then focus on maintaining my weight and gaining some strength in the gym for a few months. Then I might decide to do a mini cut again. All of this time was great. I was maintaining my weight loss and staying truly consistent with an active lifestyle for the first time in my life. I share all this to simply say, this doesn't happen over night, and this journey is not always linear.

On my 26th birthday I quietly set a goal for myself to compete as a bikini competitor that year, deep down feeling unsure if I actually had it in me to pull it off.

Now I'm 27, and while I haven't competed as a bikini competitor yet, I have my first competition this Saturday - so I'm counting it! ;) The whole prep experience has been amazing. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to put in words how absolutely amazing I feel at 27. I feel like I have grown into who I am as a woman. I feel so confident in my skin. However - I don't want you to think I feel this way just because of how I look in a bikini. I don't feel like any more of a valuable person because of it, and I don't think I'm of any greater worth just because of this outer transformation. That's not where my confidence comes from. Don't get me wrong, watching the physical transformation has been fun. However I'm well aware this condition won't last forever, nor is it realistic to expect it to. So this confidence goes so much deeper than a number on the scale. I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of in this process.

 This morning's check in pics - Please ignore the wild hair and no make up, early morning check in face :)

This morning's check in pics - Please ignore the wild hair and no make up, early morning check in face :)

I was determined. 
I was driven. 
I was resilient. 
I was dedicated.
I was committed. 
I was disciplined.
I kept promises to myself, for the first time in my life. 
I took myself seriously. 
I pushed past fear, past discomfort, past insecurities.
I ignored those voices in my head telling me I couldn't do it. 
I did things that were hard, and then they got easier.
I grew in a sport that I love. 
I finally felt confident enough to fully embrace that I love weight lifting and not care who was bothered by it. 
I was unapologetic in my passion for it. 
I didn't quit on myself.
I made myself proud.

And this discipline, this confidence, this determination I discovered carried over into other areas of my life. Sometimes I talk about prep and I downplay how hard it was because I don't want to come off as pretentious, like "look at me doing this hard thing that not a lot of people would see through". But honestly, yeah - look at me doing this hard thing not a lot of people would see through. Prep takes mental fortitude that many people do not have. Prep takes a work ethic and a discipline that needs to be as adamant on day 1 as it is on day 120. I took it seriously every single day.

They say there are two types of people: hiders and seekers. Up until this stage in my life, I have been a hider. I didn't want to be noticed because I didn't feel like I had any value to provide.

Now I am a seeker.
I want to take up space. 
I want to be noticed.
I want to be recognized.
I am talented. 
I have things to offer the world, value to provide to people around me.

It seems silly that all of this can come from participating in a body building competition. It's not. Setting that goal tapped into my inner self more than I have ever experienced in my life. When you participate in a body building competition, it consumes you. You don't just get to workout and not think about it the rest of the day. Your food intake, your water intake, your sleep schedule, every cardio session, every weight lifting session, every set, every rep - every factor plays a role. It is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute thought process. It will literally change you from the inside out. I am SO thankful for truly investing this time in myself. I promised I would never say this because it seems so cheesy - but win or lose on Saturday, I have made myself damn proud.