I never want to feel as badly about myself as I did on December 6th ever again. I remember the day vividly. Our state principals’ conference had wrapped up and we were heading home. I asked my husband and sons to go out to dinner and we went to a fancy seafood restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids. After a fantastic dinner, we walked around downtown to see all the Christmas decorations. It was a fabulous evening. It had been a wonderful conference. But…
When I was in the fifth grade, I prayed every night before I went to sleep and my prayer often went something like this, “God, please make me wake up skinny. I promise that I will be nicer to my sister and that I will do all of my chores without being asked. Could you do this one thing for me?”. It breaks my heart to think about that 10-year-old girl already obsessing about her weight. It breaks my heart to think about a 10-year-old girl literally hating her body.
The first time I ever lost a significant amount of weight was in the seventh grade. I restricted my calorie intake and got so thin that my mom took me to the doctor to talk over my weight loss. She was worried, and she had good reason to be worried. I would do sneaky things like put the leftovers onto a plate, scrape off the food into the garbage, and then leave the plate out so it looked like I had dinner.
I thought I was so fat but when I look back at pictures, I don’t see a fat girl. I see a healthy girl who had a couple extra pounds on her. My rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain was just beginning in seventh grade. Feeling ashamed of my body started at age ten and it continues still today. I started fighting the battle with my body and my self-image when I was just a little girl and it is a battle I will never stop fighting.
Fast forward to December 6th, 2019. At that time, I felt like I was too busy to combat my weight. I had so many balls in the air with being a mom, a wife, a principal, a writer, a speaker, a friend, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, etc., and I didn’t think I could add diet and exercise to my way too full plate (pun intended). Also, I am an emotional eater and I comfort myself with food and drinks. For instance, when my mom was sick and in the hospital, the blue-cheese-bacon-burger from a nearby restaurant became a good friend. When we had a stressful move, the new Mexican restaurant we discovered became a regular stop. Over the past couple years, I have been stretching myself out of my comfort zone in so many ways as a leader, author, speaker, parent of teenagers, etc. Not only did I feel like I just didn’t have time to prioritize taking care of myself, I felt like I had to cut myself some slack in one area of my life.
I was uncomfortable in my own skin, so much so that I would scan a room I walked into and feel like a loser as I noticed all the people who were thinner than me. I loved myself in some ways and was proud of myself for many reasons, yet I was constantly berating myself for how I looked. Even worse, I knew that I was making unhealthy decisions, but I didn’t think I could stop myself from spiraling out of control. It was a vicious, unhealthy cycle that I needed to break in order to truly feel good about myself. And, I deserve to feel good about myself.
My friend Jason Gribble was at that principals’ conference with me back in December and he looked so happy…and he looked like he had lost weight. He told me about the #75Hard Challenge he was doing and I was intrigued. In addition to the physical transformation that was happening, he looked like he was undergoing a transformation of his spirit. He was incredibly determined and he exuded joy and peace. I wanted that, I needed that.
After I got home from the conference and before we left for our family dinner that December evening, I was doing laundry and putting my clothes away and I listened to Andy Frisella’s podcast about the #75Hard Challenge. It was exactly what I needed because it is more of a mental toughness challenge than a weight loss challenge. I loved the idea of proving to myself that I am tougher than my vices and that I could get my health and habits back under control again. I wanted to be proud of my body and my health. So, I started the very next day.
In the podcast, Andy describes five things that you need to do for 75 days straight. You cannot miss a single one of them on any day or you have to start back at day one. Here are the five things:
- Work out twice a day with each workout lasting for at least 45-minutes. One of the workouts must be outside, regardless of the weather.
- Choose a diet plan and follow it.
- Drink a gallon of water.
- Take a selfie.
- Read 10-pages from a nonfiction book.
In addition to these five things, Andy also says that you must stay away from alcohol during the challenge. Throughout the years, my greatest success with weight loss has come from counting calories and I have notebook after notebook filled with daily calorie counts. Nowadays, apps like MyFitnessPal make tracking calories much easier. I first logged onto MyFitnessPal in 2012 and at one time had a streak of logging in for more than 500 days in a row. Not coincidentally, I was my healthiest during those 500 days. So, I went back to where I found success in the past and chose counting calories on MyFitnessPal as my diet plan.
Knowing that I could not take any days off from the two 45-minute workouts per day, I decided to keep it low impact. My outdoor workout would be a walk in the evening and I would get my first workout in before school, which meant getting up at 4:20am. Which felt like the middle of the night. But, I did it. I got up early and hopped on my elliptical machine for 30-minutes and then did 15 minutes of strength training and stretching.
I surprised myself with my determination and I successfully completed all components of the challenge for 75 days straight. Through Christmas. Through a trip to NYC with friends. Through flu season. Through icy road conditions (although I did fall three times and ended up with bruised knees). It was really hard some days. But, it is true what Andy says. The physical transformation that comes from a challenge like that is just a side benefit. The REAL transformation is invisible to the eye. It is within.
I could write a post about each part of my internal transformation over the course of the 75 days, but I am going to sum it up in just a few bullet points for now.
- I have power over my habits and my vices. In learning about the habit cycle in the book The Power of Habit, I have learned how to break the cycle in a way I never understood before. The habit cycle of cue/action/reward exists within all of us, and the key is to change the action to align with our healthy goals.
- I have fallen in love with God and Jesus again, and as one of their creations, I have fallen in love with myself again. For the first time ever in my life, I am running to get into church each Sunday to be filled with hope and love and empowered as a child of God.
- I don’t have to cheat, ever. Of course, I would never cheat on my husband, so why did I ever think that it was okay to cheat on myself? There are no cheat days, every day counts. I am working to find a way to invite all parts of my life into my diet and exercise plan so that I never have to cheat again.
I did transform physically too. I lost a bunch of weight. I got stronger. I built my cardiovascular endurance. There are some ab muscles peeking out from a certain angle. I am NOT looking to be strutting my stuff in a bikini. I am looking to feel comfortable in my own skin in order to be the best person I can be.
I was talking with my friend Mandy Froehlich the other day and she mentioned something she learned from trainer Autumn Calabrese. Autumn said that it is okay to love yourself AND to want to get better every day. As I have thought more about that, not only is it okay, it is actually a wonderful thing to strive for. So, let’s say it again, all together…
I love myself. I am good enough just the way I am. And, I want to get better every day just because I can.
So, what is next for me? I am upping the intensity of my exercise to work toward feeling like an athlete again. Right now, Jillian Michael’s Ripped in 30 and a couch-to-5k app are my tools to get there. I am inviting some of my social life back in by continuing to count my calories but allowing myself to eat back my exercise calories. Also, I will have a glass of wine once in a while with my husband or friends. I am still drinking a gallon of water every day because I think that is a main reason why I no longer have migraine headaches.
So, that’s my story for now. I don’t know what the future will bring but I do know that I will never give up on myself. Want to join me on this journey? Let’s connect on social media (@AllysonApsey), message me on Voxer, email me (AllysonApsey@gmail.com), or join my mailing list.
Check out my newest book, The Serendipity Journal! It is a chapter book for middle grades students (4th-6th) with a compelling story and many SEL connections. It is available on Amazon right now, you can access it using this link.