My Journey – 2016 Edition

I started Wholesome Fitness as a Facebook page in 2011, as an outlet for sharing my experiences training for my first figure competition. Thus, the ‘fitness’ part (I had also been a half-marathoner before that, although I didn’t get into fitness at all until my thirties). However, in the past 6 years I also pursued my professional certifications as a Personal Trainer and Sports Nutrition Consultant, as well as in female-specific health and fat loss from a hormonal and lifestyle perspective.
IMG_0619From my own long history of yo-yo dieting and negative body-image issues that began when I was 15, I was determined to move into this industry for the purpose of re-educating women about their bodies and helping them to veer away from the diet and weight loss standards that are evidently not working for most people. My goal has always been to understand our biology better, and to combine that knowledge with the psychological aspect as well.
 
In my own experience, I have done it all. I wanted to be fit. I wanted to feel in control of my body. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be happy. I spent 20 years being miserable and frustrated. I missed out on a lot of my life just trying to lose weight and using food for comfort – or as a means of controlling my weight. When I was about 33 (after 3 babies), I decided that I wanted to figure this out, so I decided to start learning. Not from magazine articles or the latest diet trends, but research and courses based in science. It was glaring to me that the science of our physiology and commercial weight loss advice did not jive together.
I realized that so much of my frustration was happening because I was not giving my body what it needed. I was over-complicating things. I was so focused on the “loss” part of what I wanted that my body and mind weren’t able to work the way they were designed to. As I learned more and experienced my own transformation, I was determined to help others find their way out of the darkness of diets and obsession too. The big part of the equation that the diet industry was missing was the psychological component that is needed to change how we think about ourselves and our choices.
And biologically speaking, it became clear to me that it is not the food itself that is our problem — food issues and weight loss resistance are the symptoms of both hormonal and emotional imbalances and dysfunction. And so, simply trying to eat better or exercise more are not the source of solving a weight management issue for most people. This was my own experience and so it became my passion to share this with others.
 
1546190_653636004682588_2050323534_nFast forward to 2012 — I started my own business out of my home, training and coaching women. By 2013 I had moved my business into a commercial space as I was getting busier and wanted to serve more people. This was my dream come true. However, running a business all by myself and working all the necessary ‘behind-the-scenes’ hours plus the hours teaching fitness classes and coaching individuals, began to take its toll on my energy and then my health. And so in June 2015, I ended up having to make the difficult decision to close the doors on that chapter. I have written a series of blogs about all that if you are interested in the details HERE, HERE, and HERE.
But to make a long story short, the stress (even though a lot of it was ‘positive’ stress) had created a hormonal imbalance that had resulted in adrenal burnout. And what I can recognize now is that this didn’t just result solely from running a business. The business was just the tip of the iceberg. I had been running on empty for a long time – from the time I started having babies and not getting enough sleep, to my running days when I would run daily for an hour or more, to all the times I didn’t eat enough in hopes of losing weight, to training for two years – very intensely – for two figure competitions, to getting up early for years to exercise, to working hard on my education and my dream….plus all the other stresses of life like relationships, finances, moving, deaths, and all that happens in life.
Even though so much of this stuff was supposed to be ‘good’ and ‘healthy’, it actually was not contributing to an overall picture of health for me. And that’s when 14 years (at least) of stressors had just piled too high and became too much and things started to go awry.
Comeback Collage 
Again you can read the blog for the details, but basically I started to feel physical signs like I couldn’t wake up feeling rested in the morning, I was anxious all the time, I would get dizzy lifting even light weights, I got to the point that I could barely lift weights at all, even though I had been training consistently for about 4 years (and I was teaching others!). And then it was like overnight that I started to gain weight, mostly in my midsection and legs – even though I was still eating ‘right’ and not bingeing or anything (I was probably not eating enough). And I had been teaching 12 -15 fitness classes a week! But suddenly none of my clothes fit. I didn’t recognize myself and I knew that I needed to restore my health before it turned into a bigger problem.
 
So this past year and a half, that has been my focus. Restoration. I have had yet another opportunity to learn about and understand how the human body works and responds. Ironically, even though I had at the time been fully aware of the effects of stress and how to manage it, I still was not immune to it. But thankfully, I could recognize it and understand what I needed to do in order to reverse it. I had to not focus on the weight gain. That was only a symptom. If I had focused on my weight as the problem (as I think so many do when they don’t realize that the weight gain is a result of stress and not simply a lack of discipline) then I would have probably wanted to solve it by “getting my exercise back on track” and “tightening up my diet”….but what I knew was that I could not solve this burnout by trying to do more of what had got me there.
I had to do LESS and create a new baseline for my health that was not rooted in more stress so that my body could function the way it was naturally designed to function, without those mis-guided human opinions about ‘ideal’ body-weight, or getting back into my skinny jeans, or putting my faith in a chicken breast or a cleanse as my only means to health.
IMG_0777 
This has been an experiment in how the body can respond and restore to good health without implementing a specific diet or fitness regime. I, of course, have a good handle on my nutrition principles and I was not struggling so much with over-eating or temptations or cravings – however, what I wanted to re-connect my mind to was how I was making choices and why. And if I had no specific parameters for what I ate, then if I only went by how I felt, could I self-regulate and correct my body’s natural ability to maintain a healthy-for-me body-weight? I wanted to experience a stress and judgement-free zone for myself – that if I didn’t try to judge every choice as good or bad, or assume that one choice would make me lose weight and the other would be detrimental – then what would happen? Would I completely go off the deep end and eat everything in sight? Would I keep gaining weight? Would I be okay?  
So I chilled out about the specifics of what I ate, and made the priority on enjoyment and satisfaction and less on rigid rules or “supposed to’s”. I had ice cream on hot summer days with my family, and I started eating sandwiches with bread again, just for fun. I ate chocolate when I wanted to because why not. I ate at restaurants and looked past just the salad selection (even though I actually do enjoy a good salad!).
I did not try to do any intense exercise, although my goal was to stay active by doing things I enjoyed. I walked a lot, and that was my priority at the beginning – just slow leisure walks to breathe deep and enjoy nature. I prioritized sleep, and have been intentional on getting restful sleep and at least 8 hours worth. Everything else has been about reducing stress and creating a new perspective on a lot of things that could normally send me into freak-out mode, and including ways to daily re-charge my soul batteries.
 
IMG_1008The result has been an on-going restoration of my health – physically, mentally, emotionally. Having been through all of that, I have a new appreciation for my body and where my good health is sourced. There is a myth that eating ‘freely’ will just result in continued weight gain and that certain foods must be avoided if you want to lose weight. But what I have experienced now that over 18 months has passed, is that creating a new metabolic baseline that allows me to eat more food but not gain weight as a result is more about being in tune with my body and mind, and correcting the hormonal dysfunctions than it is about sticking to a strict, arbitrary diet. And because exercise wasn’t a factor in that, it has allowed me to restore my ability to naturally burn fat on it’s own.
Because, what we forget as dieters is that with less energy intake, the body slows down the metabolism, thus slowing the natural ability to burn fat. And then of course, when intake increases there is less ability to burn that extra energy effectively. But it feels scary to take this approach.
We have been so indoctrinated as ‘dieters’ to believe that we do not have any control over our bodies – and so we must obtain it somehow as the key to health and happiness – and that food is always both the struggle and the key. Is that why it feels like running on a hamster wheel, and we can’t quite figure out how to make it all make sense, because we so easily allow ourselves to run in circles for no real reason? Why it feels like we maybe aren’t doing enough if we don’t hyper-focus on diet and exercise as the means to ‘control’ our bodies and our ability to keep healthy habits?
IMG_0996One of the most amazing things that came out of this for me is that I truly LOVE my body – for the first time in, maybe, ever. I love it more than when I was a size 0 and wearing a bikini on the competition stage. But it makes sense, because I have been spending time nurturing my whole self and feeding myself in the ways I needed to. I am back in touch with who I am and I know myself. How could I not love that?  And you know what? How I see myself – how I see myself in this way – has allowed me to live deeper and with more satisfaction. And when you have that, food and self-obsession, and running on the hamster wheel lose their appeal.
After working with so many women who have had similar struggles, and yet are still determined to solve it all through a weight loss solutions focused on diet and exercise regimes, I feel even more passionate about helping others move past that trap and get back to our natural way to well-being and living life with purpose.
When I look back at how the concept of Wholesome Fitness has evolved and has taken shape since I first started, the one thing that is a common theme is: I could have given up. There have been several crossroads over the years, where my journey has not been some perfect ‘before and after’ photo – and the truth is that I believe it rarely is for most people. But those stories don’t make money in this industry. We are all more than a flash in history of Point A to Point B…..it is life – you life and my life. And that has great value, even in the struggles and the up and down of the journey. I could have given up last year – I was certainly tempted to call it quits because I could no longer maintain the status quo. But how ‘healthy’ would that be? So here I am, and we’ve got this 🙂
If my journey has resonated with you, I invite you join my private Facebook page where we can connect and I can support you in pursuing your own path for wellness 🙂 
Go here to request to join: http://facebook.com/groups/wholesomefit
AND please also EMAIL me with your name, stating “please add me to the Facebook group” — so that I know to add you. Send your request to: allison@wholesome-fitness.com
This is a private group, and therefore your privacy and online security is important to me. So this two-step request helps me to keep the group for it’s intended purpose. Thanks!