I was always very fit in high school - but all of that changed once I hit college. I started living the typical student lifestyle: studying all day in the library, eating vending machine snacks, working (and eating) at a bar and restaurant in the evening, and partying all night with friends.
Fitness wasn't really on my schedule either: I had a gym membership and would sometimes be really motivated to go and work out there for a few weeks - but I was never consistent enough to see any results. And most of the time, I would go for a huge, unhealthy meal straight after a gym session, so it kind of defeated the purpose.
I realized this was not the person I wanted to be anymore.
Shortly after I graduated from university, I moved to another country for work. One morning, after going out for dinner and drinks with friends the night before, I saw my reflection in the mirror - and I decided I had to change. I couldn't use the fact that I was a student as an excuse anymore - it was now or never.
I cut out all the unhealthy stuff: fast food, processed foods, alcohol, and refined sugar.
I knew these weren't good for me, so it was clear they had to go. Once I got the hang of that, I gradually cut back on the amount of simple carbs I ate - white pasta and bread, for example - especially in the evening.
I actually stopped eating a big meal in the evening altogether, and had a larger breakfast and lunch instead. I also paid more attention to what I drank: Rather than fizzy drinks or fruit juice, I stuck to water, black coffee, or tea.
I started cooking more at home too - researching and cooking healthy recipes allowed me to see exactly what I was putting into my body. As time went on, I ended up preferring to cook for myself rather than eat out.
For me, a typical day of eating usually looked like this:
- Breakfast: a bowl of yogurt or Quark (a type of "spoonable cheese") with a banana, peanut butter, coconut, and cinnamon.
- Lunch: a salad with lettuce, salmon, boiled egg, avocado, tomatoes, roasted nuts and seeds, and goat cheese; an omelette with spinach, feta, and sundried tomatoes and side salad; or a baked sweet potato with spinach, coriander, feta cheese, and avocado.
- Dinner: small bowl of avocado and tomato, or homemade hummus with cucumber and carrot sticks.
- Snacks: fat-free yogurt, carrot sticks, or fruit and nuts.
I knew exercise and healthy eating went hand-in-hand, so I started working out regularly too.
I began training with Freeletics Bodyweight, an app that provides you with equipment-free workouts based on your bodyweight. I started out using the app three times a week, for 20 to 45 minutes per session, usually right before work in the morning. Once I felt comfortable with that, I added one or two runs each week, led by the Freeletics Running app.
After just four to five weeks of focusing on nutrition and exercise, I started feeling the effects - particularly when I noticed my jeans were too big and I had to buy a new pair.
Now, health and fitness are still my number one priorities.
When all was said and done, I was down 33 pounds. I'll never go back to my old eating habits - I love my new ones much more. My body just feels so much better after I've eaten a balanced, healthy meal compared to a slice of pizza or a burger.
As for fitness, I always keep myself accountable. If I know that I'm going to have a busy day, I find a solution, like working out in the evening or on my lunch break, rather than in the morning.
But the biggest reward from my journey has been realizing my own mental strength.
Initially, I just wanted to lose a few pounds, but what I discovered about myself and my body - that I had the power to change - became my number-one achievement.
It's really tough at the beginning to change your life, but that's what makes it so rewarding: being able to look back and know that I was strong enough to start the journey in the first place. I feel more powerful now - mentally and physically - than ever before.
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