2015-07-15

Fitness Journey: From Pre-diabetic Teen to (Kinda) Athletic Young Woman


Overweight
2003, Age 13
Measurements: ?-?-?
Dress size: 12; Pant size: 14-16
155lbs (70kg); 5'5
A bit too thin
June 2014, Age 24
Measurements: 31.5 - 26.5 - 34.5
Dress size: 4-6; Pant size: 4-6
124.5lbs (56.5 kg); 5'6.5"
Just right!
July 2015, Age 25
Measurements: 33.5 - 26 - 36
Dress size: 4; Pant size: 4-6
130lbs (59 kg)





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Disclaimer (just in case): I am not a doctor, fitness expert, or nutritionist. Everything written on this post is based off my experiences, and I make no claim that the same practices will benefit you. Additionally, I am not under the delusion that my life changes are on the same magnitude as those who have traveled the arduous journey of losing, say, 100+ pounds. Moments Like Diamonds and A Black Girl's Guide to Weight Loss are prime examples of truly amazing journeys toward health.

While my blog focuses more on travel and miscellaneous tidbits of my life, I would like to write more posts about my other passtimes and hobbies as I have many interests. A huge part of my life is fitness; I try to live an active, healthy lifestyle whenever possible. Naturally, I'm not on my game at all times, but I am serious about it. However, fitness wasn't always important to me. In fact, I was quite unhealthy as a preteen. 

Health in relation to weight is a hot-button issue right now. How big is too big? How thin is too thin? What is "right" for someone of this or that size? Which size is the "healthy" size? For us females: Which size is a "real" woman? 

I detest all those questions, by the way.

I think any rationally thinking person would agree that being at either extreme could bring about health issues. That being said, there are plenty of obese people who have no health problems and underweight people with less optimal health, and vice versa. Personally, I have never been obese, but I was an overweight pre-teen. At just 30 pounds or so overweight, I started to experience health problems which eventually lead me to change my ways.

While striving for health, I struggled a bit along the way, but I am currently happy about where I am now. Therefore, I'd like to share my story.

Pre-2002: Healthy, Happy Kid

I was born a 7.5lb baby and grew into an I was an average child. I took after my dad in that I was a thinner kid, not really chubby past my first couple of years. Nonetheless, my parents gave my brothers and I adult portions of food. In our typical Nigerian house, white rice, beans, oily soups, and fried starches (e.g., plantains, potatoes) were common meals. These are not necessarily bad foods, but in large volumes at a high frequency they can be. I remember finding it hard to finish my meals but being told to clean my plate. Still, I don't blame my parents. I believe our bigger portions were a result of their not having free access to food when they were children, at least not in the sense that we did. 

Positively, although I ate a lot, I was an active kid. I loved recess and played with my friends in the neighborhood after school. Like many children, biking and rollerblading were my favorite physical activities; however, I remember I hated running.

2002 - 2005: Diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic

Age 14, 15Xlbs (7X kgs).
As a preteen, I always looked
beyond my years.
The amount of food I ate didn't affect me until adolescence. I continued to eat large volumes of home-cooked food. Also, junior high and high school presented me with an opportunity to eat junk food, a rarity in my house. I wasn't raised on fast food and sodas, but it was easy to obtain treats at the school cafeteria. Any kid growing up in America attending public school is aware of cafeteria fare: hash browns, greasy pizza, chicken pot pie, fried chicken sandwiches, etc. Also, the vending machines at school made it easier for me to get my old favorite snack - Cool Ranch Doritos!

After a long day of school - I participated in a few extra curricular activities starting in junior high - I'd come home and wipe out a roll or two of Ritz crackers or Saltines (with peanut butter, of course) while doing homework or vegging out in front of my computer before dinner. This occurred almost everyday.

Little did I know how much these habits were affecting my health. This is when I began to have dizziness, blurry vision, constant pains, and migraines from hell. Along with my unhealthy snacks, I felt like a needed an Advil after classes too.

The answer to all my pain and discomfort came when I got a physical in 2003, the year before I started high school. The physician frankly told my mom that I had all the symptoms of pre-diabetes and I needed to lose weight before I got the full-blown version of the disease. Of course, I was shocked. I went to school with bigger kids so I didn't think I had a problem. Plus, I thought my height compensated for the extra weight (I was always tall for my age until high school; by 11-years-old I was 5'4" and well over 100lbs). Nevertheless, the favorable distribution of my fat did not negate the fact that it was there.

After the diagnosis, my parents did not put me on a diet, but I surmised that exercise wouldn't be a bad idea. I started riding the stationary bike at home a couple times a week. Honestly, I didn't take it too seriously and I still snacked, had multiple bowls of cereal in the morning, and didn't hold back on pasta. Still, that bit of cardio brought me down about 10lbs before my Sophomore year of high school.

2006 - mid-2013: Exercise? Yes. Diet change...What Diet?

Jan 2011
Age 20, 145lbs (65.7 kgs).
On a cruise...where I gained 10lbs in a week
after eating cheesecake everyday!
By the middle of my high school career, I was able to keep myself under 150lbs by doing cardio a few times a week. I went down a couple of sizes and felt a little lighter. Granted, I still hated running, was doing nothing but cardio, and didn't really change my diet at all. In fact, I'd say my diet declined. I'd go out with friends and eat fast food frequently. This is when I developed a serious obsession with McDonald's fries. I'd overeat quite often as well. It was not unusual for me to eat half a pot of pasta or three bowls of cereal before work when I got my first job during my senior year of high school. More times than not, after work I'd grab an Oreo McFlurry.

This behavior continued into my college years. I spent a lot of time at school, and the vending machines were my best friends. Commonly, I would eat breakfast at home then get pop tarts from the vending machine at school! A couple of semesters, I had class in the evening; Einstein Bros and Taco Bell were my best friends on those days. By this point, I didn't feel many pre-diabetes symptoms, so I suppose I thought that gave me license to live on the edge so to speak (or write).

Although I ate anything and everything, this was the period of my life when I started to compare myself to others. I would always think this girl's figure or that girl's figure was better. After I graduated from college in 2011, I was determined to see how much I could lose. I kept with the monotonous stationary bike cardio and ate like a bird. The result? Almost 20lbs lost. Of course, like all crash diets, this didn't last. What was I thinking?! The "best" thing about a crash diet is blowing up the minute a regular meal touches your lips again, ha!
June 2012
Age 22, 125lbs (56.7kgs).
Post crash diet - tsk, tsk, tsk...
Jan 2013
Age 22, 138lbs (62.6 kgs)
Gettin' my grub on at Danshui Old Street.
In August 2012, I moved to Taiwan, the land of the night markets which are loaded with food stalls. Xiaolongbao, buns, pig's blood cakes, fried chicken cutlets, I ate it all! I would go to night markets and literally eat from almost every stall. While the food tasted good, I knew it was cooked in dirty oil with not-so-healthy ingredients, but I wanted to try everything. Fun fact: one xiaolongbao is usually around 100 calories; typically they're served in sets of eight with other dishes! Going to Hong Kong during my first year abroad didn't help in that I had to eat as many egg tarts there as possible. Oh, and I went to a couple of Lunar New Year dinners, that didn't help either...

Needless to say, I put on most of what I lost in no time despite continuing with my cardio, but positively, I began to do different exercises. I walked more than I ever had before in my life as I had to walk to the grocery store, bus stop, train station, etc. I also took up hiking and even ran (!) on occasion.

Later 2013 - early 2015: Diet Change & Excessive "Stressercise"

My second year in Taiwan began in the summer of 2013 and was a stressful time. Literally my second day back I was scrambling to look for a place of my own since one of my roommates was pretty inconsiderate (that's a long story). I was so focused on looking for a place before my lease was up that I would go apartment hunting from morning until night. Luckily, I finally found a great apartment, but the pressure made me eat less. Some days I lived on apples and rice balls since they were quick, easy, and portable. 

May (?) 2014
Age 24, 122.5lbs (55.3 kgs).
Stressful time despite the smile,
lowest weight as an adult.
The stress continued for much of that year due to conflicts in my personal life, which doesn't merit detailed discussion here. Certain ugly people started untrue rumors about me and I let it get to my head. Compounded with that, I was working three part-time jobs in order to pay my bills and sustain myself.

June 2014
Age 24, 124.5lbs (56.5kgs).
More relaxed; having fun being silly
in Belgium.
I "stressercised" constantly to deal with the pressure. It wasn't unusual for me to run everyday for two hours. I bought a bike and would ride all over Taipei, sometimes for 8 hours in a day! I ate what I wanted, albeit more fruit and vegetables, and no processed food if possible, but with all the exercise, it still wasn't enough. However, when I was particularly stressed, I didn't feel hungry. I dropped a crazy amount of weight at this time. While I was still in the "normal" range for my height, I didn't particularly like how I looked...

February 2015
Age 24/25, 127 lbs (57.6kgs).
Turning 25 in Tokyo.
I was lucky to escape the stress in the summer of 2014 when I visited a friend in France. We traveled a bit around Western Europe and made good memories. Aside from walking about, I didn't exercise and I ate tons of delicious food. I think my more relaxed state allowed me to put a bit back on. 

After returning to Taiwan at the end of summer, I had to deal with stress again as I was constantly working on my thesis and had two jobs. The stressercise habits resurfaced. To combat the reemergence of this vicious cycle, I traveled to Tokyo to take a break. I didn't exercise there, but I walked liked crazy. I cut loose and ate whatever I wanted to there. Cookies, tempura, chocolate - I gave myself complete liberty. I think it didn't have a negative affect on me weight-wise as I was having fun.

Now: Gastro issues, Diet Change #2, toning


April 2015
138lbs (62.6 kgs).
Earned my Master's and returned to the States.
Carrying several pounds of food, yuck.
Toward the end of my time in Taiwan, I was confronted with the new stressor of moving. The mental task of closing a chapter in my life and the physical labor or having to pack everything up had a great affect on my body. My IBS was flaring up more than ever and gastroparesis made me nauseous and full all the time without having eaten anything as my food was barely moving through my body. By this time, I had stressercised myself to the point where I couldn't do much physical activity because I was constantly fatigued. 

This continued after I returned home. I suffered from constant nausea, reflux, and stomach pain. My stomach would swell to the point where I looked several months pregnant! The food just didn't go down and my colon spasmed regularly. I felt irritated because there was nothing I could do aside from spending most of the day resting (which is hard for me!) 

July 2015
130lbs (59kgs).
Almost recovered, new workout routine,
feeling healthier.
I'd try to eat regular meals but it wouldn't go down well. Therefore, I was on a liquid and pureed food diet for a bit - not fun. Still, erasing everything from my diet and starting fresh was what I needed. I noticed that the massive bloat began to decrease and I had more energy. Once I could eat solid food successfully again, I decided to stay on a mostly vegetarian, gluten-free diet as gluten and meat are mean to my colon! Eating lots of healthy fats (e.g., coconut oil, natural peanut butter) and protein (e.g., beans, tofu) has given me wonderful results. Now, I'd say my digestion is about 85% back to normal and I'm grateful for it. 

Once summer came, I also got back into exercise. As hard as it was for me, I focused on weight training rather than cardio. After a couple of weeks, I reintroduced cardio as a supplement to my weight training (I'd like to share my workout schedule in a future post), and began practicing yoga to avoid injury and increase my flexibility. I now feel more energetic, and I don't think I've been this toned in my adult life. Although I'm slightly bigger than I was last year, I fit my clothes better as I've replaced the little fat I had with muscle. This has led to greater confidence and I hope to continue like this no matter what my future entails!

Long term fitness goal? Run a marathon! 

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