My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

My health journey spans well over 10 years. There have been ups, downs, and lessons every step of the way. It can be easy to jump into reading healthy living blogs or look at fitness instructors and think that that drive and motivation comes naturally, but that isn’t always the case. I wanted to take time today to chronicle my own journey so that you are able to see how this is always a process and with each setback there is a lesson to be learned and an opportunity for growth.

It doesn't always come naturally. See the ups and downs of my healthy lifestyle over the years.

1998-2002: I first became cognizant of my health when I was in high school, but it wasn’t a huge focus and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. I was on the soccer and swim teams for a couple years, so I was forced to exercise on a regular basis. It was awful (at the time). I realized I was horrible at running so I tried making myself run until I got better.

2002-2005: I entered college and had no interest in sports or exercise. It was at this point that I discovered drugs and alcohol, so a lot of my free time revolved around that. I stayed up far too late and definitely didn’t get 8 hours of sleep (unless I skipped my early classes).

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2005-2007: I graduated college, but decided that I wanted to go to pharmacy school. That meant I had to go back to school to take two years of science prerequisites to apply. During this time I moved back into my mom’s house and developed a routine of exercise, class, and work. I would wake up at 4:45 am, drive 20 minutes to the gym, run 5 miles, then lift for 30 minutes. I did this Monday through Friday. It wasn’t always unhealthy at this point, but I would get upset if I wasn’t able to get a workout in.

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2007-2008: When I was accepted to pharmacy school, I moved out of my mom’s house into my own apartment. I wanted to keep up a healthy lifestyle, so I started using the fitness center at the complex and buying healthy groceries at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. At some point after relocating, my health obsession went too far. In retrospect, I believe I was scared and uncomfortable living on my own for the first time and my way to cope with that was searching for control wherever I could.

I worked out every day, only ate healthy foods, and would often wake up in the middle of the night to exercise if I was having trouble sleeping. Again, I ended up in good shape, but the way I got there was very unhealthy. I also don’t have many pictures from this time in my life because I was beginning to isolate myself from everyone.

2009: I did a complete 180. I had started to get deeper into my drug and alcohol addiction which meant there was no time or interest in working out. I picked up smoking again which I had started in college. I was drinking every day and eating whatever was quick and convenient. This meant a lot of Wendy’s which was right across the street and Taco Bell because, well, it’s delicious. I would also buy gallon cartons of Cold Stone ice cream and eat them on the couch while watching TV most of the day.

I know that heroin is supposed to make you lose weight, but apparently that effect was lost on me. Those cheeks tho.

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2010: I got clean on May 20, 2010. Simply stopping all my drinking, using, and lethargy helped me lose some weight. I wasn’t ready to tackle an exercise plan just yet, however, and in three months I would end up being sentenced to 12 months in jail.

2010-2011: Obligatory incarceration for 9 months. Sorry, no pictures 🙂 My nutrition suffered terribly because I hated the food and I obviously wasn’t happy about where I was. I would sleep through breakfast, sometimes each lunch if it was something I could tolerate, and sometimes eat dinner. Most of the time I would rely on the food I bought from commissary which consisted of 25415677 brownies and other sweets. By the time I was released, the clothes I came in with were way too big for me.

2011-2012: After being released from jail, I gained back some of the weight I had lost. I wasn’t working and had very little money, so again my eating habits were awful. I loved getting $1 bags of animal crackers at the Dollar Store and going to town. I smoked around a pack of cigarettes a day (again) and decided that if I wanted to exercise it wouldn’t make sense for me to do so while I was smoking, so I didn’t bother. I moved in with Neil in September and quit smoking later that month.

We joined a gym in November and when I discovered they had a cardio cinema, I would lose myself for hours at a time on the treadmill.

2012: The end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 started my struggle with obsessive exercising and food control. It developed slowly and ended when I injured myself running two 12 mile days back to back. I had learned to abuse food and exercise the same way that I did drugs and alcohol, and it took reaching out to others for me to get the help I needed. You can read about this struggle more here and here.

I was in good shape, but the obsession with it was very unhealthy and eventually left me injured. You’re welcome for this face.

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

As you may be able to see, I had bags under my eyes and my arms were much thinner than they normally are.

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2013: By the end of 2012 I had stopped my obsessive exercising and food control and took a much more manageable approach to exercise. I cut back on the number of days I worked out and I made sure to check in with others about what I was doing. I focused mainly on running and took it easy to make sure that I didn’t start abusing it again. I got in shape for my wedding, but did it in a reasonable and healthy way.

I don’t know what was happening here. I think I was saying things?

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2014: I really enjoyed running despite my high school self hating it and I ran a couple races in 2014. I started out with a 10K, then a 5K, and finished it up with my first half marathon that September!

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2015: Last year brought a whole new understanding of health fitness for me. I became certified as a personal trainer, started coaching at Sweat, and FINALLY figured out a balance in my eating habits. I decided to take a break after three half marathons (two of which I intelligently didn’t prepare for), and since then I’ve found my favorite workouts in high-intensity and strength training.

I know from experience that restricting what I eat only leads to obsession, compulsion, and bingeing on those things, so I find a balance between what is reasonable in my weekly meals. I give myself maybe a little more leeway than some people because it could be so easy for me to slide back into unhealthy behaviors. If it’s between a donut or the possibility of obsessing over whether or not I should eat it, I’m going to eat the donut.

My Struggle For A Healthy Lifestyle

2016: Going forward, I can only hope that I’ve learned from my mistakes and struggles. I can’t say for certain that I won’t ever get off balance again, but I think I am in the healthiest place mentally and physically than I have ever been. I know what my triggers are and how to examine what is going on internally to make sure that I don’t fall off track. As long as I continue to stay vigilant about those things, I can only see positive improvements in the future.

I know that my story may be a little more extreme due to my struggle with addiction, but I wanted this timeline to illustrate that it’s usually never a linear path to a whole and healthy life. Everyone has struggles and everyone has setbacks. It’s how you approach them and choose to proceed that matters. No matter where you are in your journey, there’s always something to learn about yourself and there’s always a way to improve. Keep working!

DON’T FORGET! The DAVIDs TEA giveaway ends tonight at midnight. Get your entries in here!

Questions:

  • Where are you in your health journey?
  • What have been some of your ups and downs?
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40 Comments

  1. February 3, 2016 / 6:41 am

    I think that lifting for you has become what the marathon is for me. It is something where, in order to progress, you HAVE to respect your body, to love and nurture it. I also think that you have really, truly, learned to love and respect yourself in the past year, on a new level. I think that the medication has helped, sure, but I think that your new fitness pursuits have complimented that and started you moving in that direction.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…How to Beat the Blahs and Get out of that FunkMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:28 pm

      I concur. Good times ahead.

  2. February 3, 2016 / 8:24 am

    What a journey! It couldn’t be more true that we all learn from our mistakes. Healthy living can be a hard road for some, including myself. The urge for control and unwillingness to fail can create some really horrible habits. Thanks for sharing.
    Jenn – a traveling Wife recently posted…Pineapple Cashew Fried RiceMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:29 pm

      Thanks for reading jenn! It’s always tough to maintain but it’s so worth it!

  3. February 3, 2016 / 9:32 am

    Although I don’t know your IRL, I have so much respect for you.
    You sound so aware of yourself -your strengths and shortcomings – and you seem like you truly are in a healthy place now.
    Thanks for sharing your story and being so open.
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…King Cake TrufflesMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:30 pm

      Thanks Catherine! It definitely look a long time and I still think there’s things I’m learning all the time!

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:31 pm

      Ain’t that the truth. Good with the bad I suppose!

  4. Paula
    February 3, 2016 / 10:53 am

    Thank you, as always, for sharing! It’s so common to look at someone who’s in great shape and think, “it must be so easy for her. She can probably eat whatever she wants.” Usually not true! For a year, I sold cookies at my local farmer’s market on top of my “real” job, because I love to bake. I also happen to have decent musculature from years of crossfit and lifting. When I wore something that showed my arms, people could NOT comprehend how I could enjoy working out as much as I do but still eat cookies. I always wanted to scream, “it took ten years of anorexia for me to figure out that I could do both at once! THESE THINGS ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!!” The end results often overshadow the journey, and both are so important.

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:32 pm

      That would have been so frustrating! I get comments like that too. People have know idea what others have gone through or hard they might work to be where they are!

      Also, we might be soulmates. COOKIES FOR LIFE.

  5. February 3, 2016 / 11:10 am

    Love your honesty Erin. I followed a similar up and down path (minus the drug addiction) – wanting to be healthy, then gaining weight in school, then discovering running, then gaining weight again and becoming obsessive with health and nutrition, then finding balance with strength training and becoming a personal trainer. And it took a long-ass time to get here!! I’ll probably still have more ups and downs, especially when I start a family one day I’m sure.
    Bri recently posted…The neurology of behaviour change: How personal trainers can use brain science to help clients achieve their health and fitness goalsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:33 pm

      I’m glad you’re in a good place now! I agree, I’m sure there will be more things that come up, but hopefully the lessons I’ve learned will help me cope better. Fingers crossed!

  6. February 3, 2016 / 11:15 am

    I completely resonate with so many of these steps in the healthy living journey. I may have ‘eaten healthier’ a while ago, but I was always anxious. Now God has really given me a lot more peace by His grace and shown me that what I eat is not what defines me. And I’m more okay with missing longer workouts. I’m just so much more joyful than I used to be. You do look soo much happier last year than any other year before!
    Emily recently posted…WIAW: Not Many VeggiesMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:34 pm

      I’m so glad you’re in a better place. I didn’t even realize it based on the pictures but you’re totally right!

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:34 pm

      Thanks Rachel! It’s crazy what some people have gone through to get where they are!

  7. February 3, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    Thank you for being so transparent about your journey.
    I, too, think I’ve finally reached a place where I can focus on eating healthy without heading down a path of restriction and obsession AND I can eat a donut without eating a dozen of them. Most days….. 🙂
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…The One Big Mistake Most Runners MakeMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:35 pm

      Progress, not perfection. If you need help polishing off some donuts just let me know.

  8. February 3, 2016 / 12:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing your journey – it’s important to keep in mind that everyone has their struggles and that health and happiness are often the result of struggle and desire to overcome. I’m happy to see you looking great with a big, genuine smile on your face in your latest pics!
    Ruthie recently posted…What I Ate Wednesday – Nutrition Jumpstart Eats 2My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:36 pm

      I totally agree. Thanks for pointing out the difference in the pictures…I didn’t even realize!

  9. February 3, 2016 / 12:55 pm

    You have the most amazing and inspiring story, Erin, and I always love to hear about your journey! It sounds like you’ve really come to figure out what works best for you, but are also realistic that sometimes it’s a struggle. I always love reading your honest posts about this stuff!
    Stephanie @ My Freckled Life recently posted…Baby Colton – 8 MonthsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:36 pm

      Aw thanks Stephanie! I wish you weren’t so far away so I could play with that little squishy face (not yours hahaha)

  10. February 3, 2016 / 1:24 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s so easy to see people where they are now and just assume they’ve always been there (if they’re in a good place), or get discouraged with yourself if you’re not where you want to be right now. I really appreciate your openness and honesty!
    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions recently posted…Blogging Around FearMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:37 pm

      Exactly! I think it’s always important to try and be transparent about things instead of pretending that’s how it’s always been.

  11. February 3, 2016 / 6:54 pm

    I used to go through stages of being meticulous with calorie intake – using my fitness pal religiously. It made me obsessed with food, which is not healthy to me. My small struggle sounds so trivial compared to your journey. Your honesty about your healthy lifestyle journey really amazes me, and although there were not-so-good things that led to today, I’m so happy to be able to read your story and learn from it.
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…What Every Personal Trainer Should Know About Living on CommissionMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 4, 2016 / 3:19 pm

      No way…anything that leads to discomfort or unease is always a struggle. Don’t minimize it based on my crazy life haha

  12. February 3, 2016 / 7:35 pm

    I am still trying to get over the fact that you were in high school when I turned 30 😉 Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to your ups and downs and extremes. If you can believe it, I quit running for five years after high school because of extremes with running, exercise and food. I have had ups and downs with weight and exercise become unhealthy. I am in a better place now, too, but I am a lot older than you 😉
    Erica @ Erica Finds recently posted…2016 Wednesday Giveaway Round Up #5My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 4, 2016 / 3:19 pm

      You? Not running? I don’t think that’s possible.

  13. February 3, 2016 / 9:15 pm

    Your story demonstrates so much strength and resilience. You are amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 4, 2016 / 3:20 pm

      Thanks so much Jamie!

  14. February 4, 2016 / 1:01 am

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing! Your story is amazing and I’m so glad you were willing to share it! It looks like you’re in a great place now and I know that must feel amazing after everything you’ve been through 🙂
    Kristen recently posted…January Recap and February GoalsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 4, 2016 / 3:20 pm

      Thanks Kristen! It’s definitely been a crazy one!

  15. February 4, 2016 / 11:23 am

    Wow, congrats on where you are today, Erin – that is quite a freakin’ journey! I can relate a little to the ups and downs of being healthy and unhealthy. I gained the freshman 25, then got way too skinny my sophomore year (I actually considered putting weights in my pockets when I had to get weighed for a soccer physical – that’s when I realized that was no way to live), so then I just ate whatever I wanted again, gained the weight back, and played that up and down game for a couple years… until I finally found the right balance of exercise and food for me. I don’t obsess about it anymore – so not worth it and donuts are too good to pass up! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story.
    Sarah @ The Fit Niche recently posted…ACE Personal Training Certification ReviewMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 4, 2016 / 3:25 pm

      Thanks Sarah! I’m glad you’ve found your balance. Wouldn’t it be great if we all just had it from the start??

  16. February 7, 2016 / 7:03 am

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your journey & commitment to learning from your experiences to change your path for the better. It takes strength & determination to recover from addiction – but so much more strength to share such a personal story with the world. Hopefully others will be inspired by your story or better yet, learn from your mistakes and avoid making them altogether.
    Stephen recently posted…Orange Theory Fitness – A Customer ReviewMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 9, 2016 / 2:59 pm

      Thanks for reading Stephen!

  17. February 10, 2016 / 9:44 am

    What an amazing story. It takes a lot of guts to share it, and surely you will help (and have helped) countless others because of it. It sounds like you’ve got a good thing going! Excited to follow along 🙂
    Erin recently posted…Modesto Marathon training: the second bitMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 10, 2016 / 2:37 pm

      Thanks so much Erin (great name)! Glad to have you!

  18. March 2, 2016 / 7:05 pm

    Amazing post. So raw and honest. I’m glad to see you’ve embraced balance over the extremes when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.

    • erinsinsidejob
      March 3, 2016 / 3:57 pm

      Thanks Chrissy!

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