If you were sneaking into my house with the intention of finding out who I am, you might take a look inside my refrigerator. I often feel you can tell a lot about a person by what is in their fridge, bathroom and by what they read. After making a few observations including the fact that the light in the refrigerator needs replacing, you might think that the person who lives here must be healthy. The contents would include gluten-free veggie burgers, organic meats, yogurt and various whole foods.

Once you made your way upstairs, the bathroom would reveal organic shampoo and Annamarie’s Labyrinth soap along with natural, earth-friendly cleaners. If you stopped with the kitchen and bathroom, you might think that you could begin to put together a picture of who I am. If we were to use a stereotype, you might think I am a bit “granola”, a “crunchy” or a smidge “earthy”. This definitely tells the story of a woman who owns Birkenstocks. Some of this might even be true.

Then you would open my closet door. A closet would surely be the place that would be the most telling about a person. Right? At first glance you observe that hanging inside are clothes of a similar style with a specific color palette. Then you put on your best Sherlock Holmes impersonation and take a closer look. Once you finish gasping at the ridiculous quantity of shoes, you might begin to look at the clothing labels. You would notice that the tags inside the garments range from small to extra large and the picture starts to look a little less consistent with your prior thoughts about my identity.

One of our core values at Mind Body Align is to keep things simple and authentic, and I’m going to be extraordinarily vulnerable and authentic with you about my health and fitness journey.

I was steadily gaining

I was a skinny kid complete with knobby knees, glasses and a bowl haircut (we called it a Dorothy Hamill. If you aren’t old enough to remember it then give it a quick Google search). This physical body was mine—albeit gawky—and over time, I grew comfortable in it.

Puberty came, and I was pretty okay with who I was and how I looked. Throughout high school and college, I was physically active and maintained a healthy weight. I read Seventeen magazine and later Vogue and slightly idolized the models. I loved how the clothes looked on them. Thin was in.

All of that changed in my mid-twenties and early thirties. My weight was out of control. Have you ever heard the term, “size denial”? That was me. Over many years, I was steadily gaining weight. I knew that I was shopping in the plus size section—hello Lane Bryant—but somehow that did not connect with the logical part of my brain that knew that I was not healthy. My reality was warped.

Make conscious choices

The change came in a room at Mansfield General Hospital. My grandmother was dying from complications of diabetes. She spent several weeks in the hospital, and I came home from Florida to be with her. My usual coping mechanism had been to eat my way through a crisis. Food was a comfort for me. This crisis was no different as I spent hours in the hospital cafeteria.

One day when I was sitting by her side, a nurse came into the room with a scale. I had not measured my weight for years so I decided to step on. Size denial no more! The numbers don’t lie. I decided right then and there that I needed to make swift and severe changes. I did not want to spend my last days suffering in the same way as my grandmother.

I immediately started to make conscious choices about food, and as soon as I returned to Florida, I joined a local Weight Watchers group. My weight loss journey was a fourteen month one with the end result being a loss of 75 lbs. I went from wearing a size 20 to size 6. I tell you this only so you can get an idea of the change. I faithfully walked 30 minutes a day and eventually added other forms of exercise. Most importantly, I was healthy. It wasn’t about a diet. It was about a lifestyle change. Yes. The scale was my new best friend, but I viewed it more as a tool and not the judge and jury. I maintained my goal weight and stayed within a healthy range for 15 years.

Be your best self

The topic this month is about sharing challenges and triumphs, and I’ve had my share of both in regards to health and fitness. At this moment, I am challenged. I am having a tough time controlling my weight and prioritizing regular exercise. Although I eat mostly healthy foods, attend yoga classes, ride a bike and enjoy other outdoor activities, there is room for improvement.

Recently, I was scrolling through Instagram when a post caught my eye. It was a picture of a pair of feet on a scale. The scale read 180.4 lbs. It was a post from Olympic Volleyball player, Gabby Reece. Gabby is not only a professional volleyball player, but she is also a sports announcer, fashion model, and actress. She also happens to be my age.

Here is what she wrote:  “Scale talk. I’m 6 foot 3 in and don’t fit into any of the typical measuring modalities. Just a reminder. Be your best self. In my case, I’m going with “one big bitch.” Just concern yourself with being healthy, feeling good, sleeping, and connecting. Not ready to talk about cellulite yet.”  This was, as Oprah says, an “Ah Ha” moment for me

Discovery and triumph

I am discovering that my body is changing and I am needing to embrace new strategies as I move through middle age. As I approach my fifties, I am realizing that health and fitness are more important to me than the size on a label, and I want to live my life in such a way that I am physically able to have all the experiences that I choose to have.

I have all of the tools I need to achieve success and this feels like a triumph.  I also feel strength and support from my tribe as I embark on my newest journey. This is my health and fitness story, not my life story.  I will do this!

The closet that you peered into at the beginning of this blog does, in fact, contain a variety of sizes. The story my wardrobe tells is that the woman who lives in my house and wears those clothes is a real woman with real challenges. She buys organic food, is a little bit crunchy, sometimes struggles to live her best life and, through it all, she is enjoying the journey.

Jennifer Blue is the Operations Director for Mind Body Align having joined the team in August of 2017. She studied political science at Otterbein College and the University of Louisville. She returned to Mansfield in 2005 and is excited to be a part of the positive changes occuring in our community.