February 22 works exactly one year since embarking on my fitness journey. My entire life, weight has been in a mental struggle. When I was younger I had a distorted relationship with food and had to be watched closely to make sure that I ate some of my meals. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was taking my lunches to school and throwing them directly in the trash so as not to be ridiculed about my weight by classmates who enjoyed watching me uncomfortable during lunchtime. It was then that I learned that food would always be an enemy for me and that if I didn’t learn how to control it, I would never be free from it.
Growing up with this mindset, food took on a few different roles. From sworn enemy, to reward, to faithful confidant. I knew that no matter what life had thrown at me that day, I could internalize it and either eat my way out of it—or not.
By the time I had reached college, I was a “normal” size 10. Not particularly fit, but as an excited freshman, it really didn't bother me much. My excitement to start school had swept my debilitating depression under a rug and I was more than happy to continue my “everything is fine” charade. Having battled endometriosis my entire latter adolescent life, I was constantly in pain and too exhausted to get through even the shortest of days due to my anemia. I was pumped so full of various drugs, and painkillers, and hormone adjustments that it was too hard to continue school as a full time student. My doctor mandated that my university change my status to an extreme part time student. I was taking about 4 classes a week at that point, and the realization that I was not going to graduate with my class was too much. This all came a few months after winning a national pageant (before life got too crazy), and the stress of meeting those obligations began to weigh heavily on me. I gained 40 pounds in 5 months. Coming home from Christmas break, I was pretty much unrecognizable. My entire face had shifted and my usual bubbly-self had been reduced to a constantly sleeping and miserable shell. That shell stayed on until I met my husband.
Once we were expecting our first, I got so incredibly sick that I was losing pounds within days. I dropped 23 pounds by the time I was induced. My entire pregnancy, everyone kept telling me the weight would just fall off in no time. I had ever been so excited! Free weight loss AND a baby?! But there's this terrifying monster that too many new mothers are not equipped with the tools and necessary support to battle. Postpartum Depression.* My depression had me eating without even realizing I was doing it. Within a week and a half, I had gained almost 13 pounds.
I could go on and on, but the point is that my relationship with food has been drastically influenced by the state of my stress. Preparing for Mrs. Minnesota and Mrs. International was a jumpstart for my health and allowed me to truly live out our partnership with the American Heart Association.
Winning fitness at the pageant was a huge surprise. While I knew I worked hard, that stage was filled with incredible women who had muscles that rivaled many bodybuilders and even more impressive- some of them were over twice my age. The realization that your version of “fit” and what is healthy for you might be different than the person next to you. This is what it means to be fit for a queen. When I was losing the weight, small successes seemed so much bigger and were celebrated and recognized no matter how small they were. Mrs. International doesn't have to be a 00, but she can be! She can be strong, healthy, and most importantly—happy. Fitness doesn't mean cutting out every good tasting treat out of your diet. Fitness doesn't mean wasting away at the gym for 5-6 hours a day. Fitness, I have learned is an ongoing journey. It's the will to do even one step more than you did the day before. It means you take the stairs instead of the elevator. It means you reach for water before you reach for your diet soda.
As you're preparing for the Fitness competition in just a couple months- remember to define your own version of Fitness when making your goals. You'll find you stop competing with those around you and start pushing yourself to be the best version of YOU you can be!
Now go get moving!
Making the minutes count,
PS- HUGE shoutout to Adam Spiker of Spiker Fitness. He is the reason I am strong, confident, and living my version of fit!
*Mrs. Texas International 2016 is an amazing advocate for helping bring awareness to Perinatal Mood Disorders. www.KoriZwaagstra.com