Grit + Grace

Lis’s Transformation

Those pictures are 6 years apart. When I moved back from Arkansas after college, I had been living in a food-desert, a town without access to exercise classes, and had a singular-focus on my career. I had never picked up a barbell, never run a mile, couldn’t read a nutrition label and constantly avoided even talking about diet and exercise. I wanted to join a gym, but didn’t know where to start at all. I didn’t even know what to DO in a globo-gym, wanted to walk out of a Zumba class after 5 minutes because I couldn’t breathe and hated staring at myself out of rhythm and shape in the mirrors. I had a serious problem with accountability – I might force myself to go on a run/walk once every few months, but nothing kept me coming back because I was in a cycle of feeling insecure about myself. 

After a few weeks in Boston, my friend Beth convinced me to go to CrossFit with her with a few promises – there would be no mirrors, and the workouts would be SHORT – 10-20 minutes, and the class size-would be small. I can do that! When I joined, they encouraged me to come for 3 one-hour sessions one-on-one to learn the foundational movements. They asked me what my goal was – my answer was that I wanted to gain confidence in and outside the gym. I finally felt comfortable because the coaches always demonstrated what movements I was supposed to do and helped correct me and decide the weight to pick up. I loved it because it was different every day, I could track and see progress but the most important thing was that the community and coaches held me accountable. When I didn’t come, they asked if I was okay. I started to look forward to going to the gym for the first time in my life. The cardio part killed me (I mean like not even being able to run 100 meters or do 5 burpees in a row), but lifting weights became a passion of mine. How cool was it to say I could deadlift hundreds of pounds!? 

I started to notice small changes in my body (hello Quads!) but it was over a year before I made any real adjustments to my diet. Our gym was having a Paleo challenge, and despite my deep love for donuts, I am the type that can’t say no to a challenge. I did the Whole 30 (talk about 0 to 100 diet-wise) and meal-prepped for the first time. I struggled with the willpower not to cheat, but I love to cook and bake so it was fun to experiment with new ingredients. I learned a lot – that getting rid of dairy wasn’t difficult, but without carbs I felt weak. I had no portion control and ate until I was full, I was depending on fats to fill me, and I didn’t lose weight or see improvements in the gym. 

After the challenge, I continued the practice of meal-prepping on a weekly basis though. I even did the Whole-30 a few more times over the coming years, but I finally made the connection that while it was motivating – elimination diets are not aligned with my personality. They also don’t fuel my body – I need healthy carbs to be my best self, and my body doesn’t do well with high-fat foods or huge portions. My weight continued to cycle and yo-yo as I figured out what worked for me, I realized that there is no one-sized-fits all approach to diet. You need to listen to YOUR body, to go through some trial and error. In my fourth-year of CrossFit I tried Renaissance Periodization which helped me lose and maintain the healthiest relationship with food I’ve had yet. 

Throughout all of this, I wasn’t striving to be a certain number on a scale or size of clothes. I wanted confidence in what my body was able to do. I was able to move faster in the gym, I was able to workout with ease for longer, and at a lighter weight I reached some personal goals I’d had for a while. Over time, my perception of strength changed, and what I saw as “beautiful” was different. It was only coincidence that around the same time, curves started to come back in “style” – that having a booty was a good thing (lucky me I’d been doing squats for years before the Kardashians got implants). 

I hit my five-year mark in CrossFit and for many reasons, I made a decision that it was time for me to take a break from the sport. After 5 years of the same workout regimen (however “varied” it claims to be), I needed to learn a few things and test myself. How would my body react to a different workout-schedule? Do I have enough internal-motivation to keep myself accountable without the community? How will I adjust my nutrition to accomodate a new regimen? Can I keep my body type the same, keep my cardio and strength up on my own? I wanted to know the answers to these. I also craved new challenges. 

I took a month to try several gyms, schedules and combinations and made the decision to transition full-time to a local boxing gym, Everybody Fights. It’s been six-months of working one-on-one with my boxing coach to reach amateur status. I still work on strength 4 times a week, but my cardio increased (yay, more carbs!) and for the first time in a while, I feel challenged every day. I can hold MYSELF accountable now, I can confidently walk into a gym and decide what workout MY body needs, can walk into a grocery store and decide what is best for ME to eat.

Health is such an individual journey and we all work at our own pace with it. I’ve come a long way and can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned over the years. 

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