This post is from my blog, The Juice Box Diaries. There are several pictures that go along with it so I encourage you to pop over and see the original post if you have a chance! Also, just to preface this so you understand without the context of my site, you should know that next to the title of the blog, it says, "My Journey as a Vegan, Type 1 Diabetic, and Fitness Enthusiast." This is probably the most honest and revealing post I've ever written and it took me a year of blogging to build up the courage to share this story. Anyway, here's the post:
Choosing my site descriptor for this blog was simple; this is my journey, I’m a vegan, I’m a diabetic, and I like to workout. See, simple. However, though those characteristics may seem black and white at first, not easily disputed or at all misleading, the last one, the one about being a fitness enthusiast also comes with every color of the spectrum in-between the black and the white. Unlike being vegan and diabetic, the road to becoming a fitness enthusiast wasn’t built in the blink of an eye. It’s been a process, which I’ve actually shied away from sharing on my blog. But I’m ready to open the wounds and tell my story.
When it comes to sugar and fitness, there’s 2 sides to this tale. I’d assume that when most people hear the words sugar and fitness in the same sentence, they associate it with dessert or diet and using exercise to “work off” those foods. In other words, it’s about calorie intake and calorie burning. For me, that’s only part of the sugar-fitness equation. More times than not, when I use sugar and fitness in the same sentence, I’m referring to blood sugar levels during physical activity. Actually, that’s one of the most challenging parts of type 1 diabetes; blood glucose fluctuates insanely with exercise, making working out as a diabetic extremely frustrating.
Ultimately, I want to share both these sides of the sugar-fitness equation with you, but I realize it might be a lot for one post. So, today I will just focus on part 1, the calorie intake/calorie burning side. I will share part 2, the diabetes variable, in a later post.
Now, let’s talk more about that site descriptor I mentioned earlier. I realize that “fitness enthusiast” might give off a certain vibe that says, “I’m an insanely in-shape workout freak that’s totally confident in my body because I don’t have any excess fat.” Believe me, if I came across a website with the words “fitness enthusiast” scrawled across the top, I’d pretty much assume the author runs marathons or something. Also believe me when I say that I’m not an insanely in-shape workout freak that runs marathons and is 100% confident in my body. Decently in-shape?…Yes. Workout freak?…Questionable. Confident in my body?…Absolutely not.
In a way, “fitness enthusiast” serves as a bit of a cover up. It allows me to talk all about the types of fitness I like to do while also allowing me to skip over the why-factor. What do I mean by why-factor? It’s the reason any given person chooses to workout, whether that’s to lose weight, train for a sport, rehabilitate an injury, impress a guy, release stress, etc. By calling myself a fitness enthusiast, I basically hid behind those words, letting all my readers believe that my why-factor is simply a “love” for all things fitness-related.
In actuality, I have many why-factors. I like releasing stress and challenging myself. I like being able to see the marked change in my body’s flexibility, strength, and endurance. But the most dominant why-factor is that I’m secretly extremely self-conscious and a significant part of me believes that achieving a particular body type will magically erase all feelings of self-doubt. I’ve never shared any of these feelings on the internet before, in fact, I’ve worked extremely hard to keep this subject matter as far away from my blog as possible. But as I’ve been going through my journey of post-college self-discovery, I’m finding that letting these bottled up emotions break out is incredibly liberating, like yelling as loud as possible from the summit of a mountain.
I’ve been blogging for over a year now, and during that year I’ve spent entirely way too much energy scrutinizing every photo of myself I’ve included in any post. I scour my face for blemishes, my hair for strays, and my body for any unflattering angles. I’ve cropped photos from the chest up to cut out my belly or touched up my skin to hide even the smallest pimple. Honestly, it’s exhausting to constantly worry what others will think, especially when 99.9% of people probably wouldn’t have even noticed that imperfection to begin with.
So as you can see, I’m not as confident in myself as the words “fitness enthusiast” might suggest. I’ve struggled with self-esteem for years, mostly since early middle school or so. Interestingly, I think my obsession with my weight probably started around the time I was diagnosed with diabetes in 5th grade. Right before the diagnosis, I lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks. As a 10 year old, this was a significant amount of weight that left me emaciated, literally. The nurse who weighed me that day even said, “you’re just skin and bones.” Though she meant the comment with negative connotations, trying to convey how sick I looked, I couldn’t help but smile inwardly when she said it. At that moment, I felt beautiful because I knew I wasn’t fat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I promptly gained the weight back as soon as I started taking insulin, allowing my body to replenish it’s nutrients. And unfortunately, I promptly developed a real sense for what it meant to be skinny or overweight and quickly assigned the words beautiful and ugly respectively.
Now, I’ve never had troubles with eating disorders. Even though I’m constantly aware of my weight and judge myself for it, I don’t actually allow that to inappropriately influence my eating habits. I’ve never starved myself in an attempt to shed pounds and I don’t intend to start. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit obsessed with food/weight. I’m constantly aware of what I’m eating and constantly think about calories. This is where the title of this post really comes in. Like so many other people in the world, I love sugar. Dark chocolate is a heavenly substance and I wish I could eat it like apples or celery. I struggle with finding that balance of foods that’s optimum for ideal health. In fact, I’m pretty sure not a day goes by that I don’t indulge at some point, whether it’s a rich vegan dessert, a soy latte, a spoonful of peanut butter, a bowl of chips, or even granola. What can I say, I love food!
That’s really how my enthusiasm for fitness came to life. In a way, I workout so much so that I can indulge in my favorite foods. Maybe this is backwards, but hey, it’s my life, right? And right now it seems to be paying off. I’ve slimmed down and I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve even gotten to that point where I crave the exercise. I can feel my muscles itching for movement when I take a day off. I like the rush I get when my face heats up and my heart starts pounding. So I guess I really am a fitness enthusiast after all
But I didn’t always feel like this. During high school, I went through a rough patch my senior year. I started taking a medication that basically made me sleep, eat, and lay in bed. I gained about 30 pounds in a very short time and started to feel terrible about myself. I struggled with gaining weight my freshman year of college too, constantly eating but running miles a day in a desperate attempt to counteract my “bad” behavior. It was rough putting my body through so much exercise without experiencing any results and for the next 3 years, I fought tooth and nail to slough that weight off. And honestly, I’m still fighting. I haven’t yet reached that pre-weight gain number and who knows if I ever will.
Senior year of high school pre-weight gain
Senior year of high school, post-weight gain
Beginning of sophomore year of college. Still struggling with weight
I know I’ve made a lot of progress…but that doesn’t mean I still don’t criticize this photo.
Now, even though I’m not as skinny as I’d like to be and my self-esteem isn’t beaming, I’m hoping that the fact that I’m sharing this with you right now means that I’ve made real strides in gaining confidence. I have a lot to be proud of. I’ve lost a significant amount of weight and developed an extreme passion for exercise that I’d never envisioned. And, I’ve even felt more in command of my sugar intake! I finally feel like my cravings for food aren’t controlling me! Also, I’ve decreased my insulin, lowered my overall blood sugars, and transformed my health for the better. So I guess I could say I’m in a real positive place. No, it’s not perfect and I still struggle with this sugar-fitness balancing act, but at least I understand now that it’s ok to feel like a work-in-progress sometimes.