Fitness, Health, Mental Health

My Mental/Physical Health Journey

Some of you may wonder how I became as passionate about health and fitness as I am. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always like this. No, I didn’t lose a dramatic amount of weight or transform my body in any amazing way, but there is a story here, and it’s one I’ve been wanting to share for a while.

Growing up, I was always pretty active; I played lots of sports, one of which was Ringette for 9 years. So, that meant I was skating at least twice a week and grew some serious leg muscles. Genetically though, I was super tall and lean. I felt lanky and awkward most of my younger years. All while this was going on though, I was struggling with anxiety and began SSRI medication when I was only 12. Things were always relatively calm expect for the panic attacks every now and then. During my senior year of high school my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic Cancer and I didn’t really know how to process that information. He went through a massive surgery and had to be on medications and chemo for months afterwards. I continued playing Ringette year longer, but my mental health started to go downhill after his diagnoses and along with it went a lot of things that brought me joy, some of which included staying physically fit and healthy. Around the age of 19, I also entered a relationship that was super toxic and added on to everything else I was already dealing with. I started smoking, drinking heavily and eating crap food often. I wasn’t doing this consciously but rather as a way to avoid reality. This persisted until I was about 20 when I finally went to see a naturopath as I liked the idea of trying to get back to being healthy in a more “natural” way. Back then, being gluten-free wasn’t as widely known to most of the world. This was the first time I’d heard that I was “borderline celiac” and that I needed to cut it out of my diet (I’m not sure I believe that you can be borderline celiac. I think you either are or you aren’t). But, I believed I had a sensitivity to it, so I went with that and started to remove it from my diet. I should also mention that I have been lactose intolerant since my early teens but didn’t really make an effort to avoid dairy until that same visit to the naturopath. So, after that  I started getting back to the gym, toning up and avoiding gluten and dairy when I could. My diet still wasn’t great though and I was still smoking on occasion and eating junk food after a late night of drinking.

May/December 2012 (age 23/24)

 

When I was 22, we found out that my dad’s cancer was back and when I was 23 he passed away. Mentally and physically, I took another 3 steps backwards. The gluten thing was still on my mind but I had little to no fucks to give about what I was putting in my body and I had barely any energy to work out. I gained almost 20 pounds from a few months before my passed away to about 6 months after. My mental health was at an all-time low and would continue go from low to a little less low for almost 5 years. When I was 26, I travelled to South East Asia for 2 months, had a (healthy but just not meant to be) relationship end and moved out on my own for the first time. My mom also started dating and I lost my job! So, again, a lot was going on; there were a lot of transitions and so I was struggling to adjust.

October 2014 (age 26)

One thing that I learned when I started living on my own though was that I enjoyed cooking. And, oddly enough, when I cooked, I really didn’t enjoy eating meat. So, once I had more control of what I was eating, I was avoiding dairy and gluten as much as possible (buying almond milk, gluten free pasta and bread), and eating very little meat. This, along with occasionally working out and starting to be a bit more active had me losing weight even more and most of my clothes became too big for me. At one point, I remember having a meltdown because I had no money, and none of my clothes fit. Cue another depressive episode. But now that my diet was starting to feel a bit better, I knew I needed to tackle the mental aspect. I remember at the beginning of 2016, deciding that I was going to dedicate the next year to getting my mental health in order. I went and enrolled in group counselling (CBT and IPT) and changed my medication. By the middle of 2017 I was drinking less, smoking far less than I used to, and eating a predominantly pescatarian diet. I had also moved into a building that had a gym so I began working out a lot more. At the beginning of this year I decided that the work I had put into myself was something to be proud of and something that I was passionate about. I’m constantly inspired by healthy and vegan recipes, fitness and lifestyle influencers, and knew that that was the direction I wanted my blog to go.

May 2017 (age 28)

 

So, where am I now and what’s been going on recently? Well, I’m so glad you asked! Because of this blog, and because I have been able to allow myself to find happiness and BE happy again, I feel like I’ve gotten back the last 6 years of my life. I feel like I am where I want to be mentally and physically but I am also inspired to keep working hard because I’ve seen how it’s paid off. A few weeks ago, I went to see another naturopath to find out if there were any areas/how I could be improving my diet; also if I was low on any nutrients or proteins. As I had suspected, she had me take a ferritin test to check my iron levels and also had me start taking an active B complex and a liquid vitamin D. A week later I went back for the results of my test and I was extremely low in iron, so I went on a high dose of that as well. Both the iron and B vitamins are crucial in the development of serotonin (your happy drug), so it’s no surprise that I am already starting to feel a great deal better.  In terms of fitness, I’m working out 2-4 times a week now (depends on the week) and I’ve changed up how I work out— lifting heavier weights and learning about muscles groups and exercises to know what to do in order to achieve the type of build I want.

I’ve become a firm believer through research and my own personal experience that what we put into our bodies has a massive effect on our mental health. At the times that I was severely depressed, I was doing nothing good for my body. Yes, I was also going through a lot, but I was making things so much worse by not taking care of myself. Once I paid mind to how I was fuelling my body, I started to have more energy, my skin was glowing, I felt strong and all of that played a part in how I felt mentally. I use to think it was a load of crap when I’d hear people say that being healthy and fit is a lifestyle and not a thing you do 3-5 times a week. I didn’t understand how I could fit that into my life. But once I just started —and it was baby steps, trust me— I realized they were right. This isn’t something I plan on giving up. Self-care is so much more than just having a night in and a bubble bath. It’s truly a lifestyle, and one that I don’t plan on giving up.

 

February 2018 (age 29)

 

*Feature image captured by Hawaiian Boutique Weddings

 

Xo,