As part of my new year clean-up, I did a social media purge and ended up deleting over 1,000 pictures between my most used accounts. They were mostly food pics taken in really bad lighting, a zillion selfies with only hashtags for captions and a few too many pictures of my ‘booty gains.’ Yep…nothing that I would miss or that provided any real value to my audience.

But, I also saved a lot of photos because reading the captions reminded me of just how far I’ve come, especially since my last Figure competition in 2014. And no, I will never compete again, but I needed to go through that period to get to where I am today.

One photo from early 2014 was a side-by-side comparison of my stomach and thighs with only a few pounds difference between the 2 pics. On the heavier side, I used a pig-snout and sad face emoji and on the lighter side I used a smiley face and the “perfect” hand symbol emoji. The caption was about how self-love was the reason behind my weight loss. Um, what?! My jaw literally dropped when I saw that.

3 things – 1) I look great in both pics 2) The way I define self-love today had absolutely nothing to do with my weight loss back then. 3) I remember how exhausted and over trained I felt in the first pic and those feelings did me no favors long term

When those pics were taken, I was dieting and only eating meals written on my meal plan, I was exercising to the point of exhaustion, sometimes twice a day, I wasn’t stretching or balancing out all the excessive weight training, I was living for my next “cheat meal” that always turned into a cheat day that always made me feel guilty after I ate. My sleep habits were totally off and I wasn’t very social (because dieting and exhaustion). I was all consumed by my aesthetic fitness goals.

Honestly, I probably would have kept all of that up if it weren’t for that public panic attack I had in April 2014 that literally stopped me in my tracks and gave me a second chance at approaching my fitness in a healthier, more fun and sustainable way.

The past 4 years have taught me so much about what it really means to make fitness a lifestyle. I work with a lot of women trying to break from that cycle I mentioned above. Everyone doesn’t have such a drastic wake-up call that has them seeking change…sometimes it’s just being tired, losing interest in fitness but still going through the motions and wanting your fitness goals and lifestyle to align.

Today, my body is somewhere between those two pics…it’s like, I love a good workout and I love a good piece of carrot cake. I make a delicious green smoothie and I make a delicious meaty pizza. I can make cardio and heavy lifting fun, but I also love Yin Yoga. Today, I define self-love by shifting my mindset away from guilt, shame, obsession and unworthiness so I can take my body back from pain, poor digestion, restless sleep and medication.

Reflecting on what I’ve learned so far, these are my top 5 fitness truths – 

1.     Your body doesn’t respond well to extremes – Slow and steady wins the race every single time. It’s about making fitness a lifestyle versus making a mad dash toward some invisible finish line. If you’re chasing perfection, when you finally get “there,” you’ll find something else you want to change – the work is never over so you might as well slow down and enjoy the journey.

2.     Know your numbers – Numbers such as your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and resting heart rate. Not just your weight and body fat percentage. It’s too easy to get caught up in aesthetics and forget to make your health the priority.

3.     Your scale weight is just a number – You can look and feel different without seeing drastic changes on the scale. I am roughly 30lbs heavier than my competition weight and I feel and look completely different today. My energy is better, my body composition (muscle to fat ratio) has changed, my flexibility has greatly improved, etc.

4.     You can’t ignore what’s happening on the inside – Mainly, your hormones, stress levels, your emotions and feelings. Looking back to April 2014, it was a million little things that led to my public panic attack, and it all stemmed from what I was keeping bottled up inside. Instead of addressing what I was feeling, I pushed it aside with more exercise for “stress relief” that actually made me feel more anxious. It’s true that when you get the inside right, the outside falls into place.

5.     You know your body best – You know what foods make you feel your best and which ones make you feel crappy. You know whether moderation or abstinence is best for you and how you feel when you skip workouts. You also know how many hours of sleep you need to wake up energized and how you feel when you have a full day of healthy meals. Tune in and take care. Listen to your body and notice those subtle changes that might be trying to tell you something. The more you know about yourself, the more you can take the information you read online and make it work for you.

When was the last time you took a scroll back through your own social media accounts?

When you do, read through the captions to see how much your thoughts have changed. Think back on where you were mentally and physically when you posted those pics.

What would you have told yourself back then based on what you know now?

How are you loving on yourself these days?