Scout Fit: Being healthy isn’t easy

I think we would all agree that living a healthy, balanced lifestyle is not easy. There are so many factors that play into our everyday life which can affect what we eat and our fitness plans. Kids and work, genetics, stress, mental health, and then there are our personal relationships that can really throw things for a loop. There are things we can’t control and there are things we can. And to me it is not about being “skinny”; that’s an unhealthy goal. It’s about being healthy, happy and feeling good about myself from the outside in.

Some of you know me personally and some of you don’t; I wanted to share my “health journey” so to speak. We may own a gym now, and live a pretty clean lifestyle. But it wasn’t always that way!  It has been a long road of ups and downs with my weight, bad choices, and health issues to finally get to this place of feeling healthy, confident, and loving the skin I am in.

First off, lets talk about genetics. This plays a huge part in our body type. There are things we can control and that’s how we treat our bodies what we put into our system. But we can’t control necessarily what God has given us. I hear many people say things about their body types, and really most of it is handed down from generations! Some of you may be pear shaped, some of you may be tall and skinny with zero curves, some of you may be super muscular, some of you may fluctuate in size monthly, and some of you no matter how hard you try can’t seem to lose weight.  Sometimes, we just can’t change what we were born with. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy with what we have to work with!

A little about my genetic makeup:

Here is my mom (on the left), probably around 31…she (and my grandmother and great grandmother; straight from Norway) are small boned,very active, and always have looked fit without having to try too hard. My mom always had a flat stomach, and great arms. But what we were blessed with were bigger backsides and the dreaded cellulite. It’s just the way it is, and I have learned to embrace that. My Dad’s side is German, loves to cook and eat. They smoked and drank. He had many relatives on his side that were overweight, so I have that in my genetics too.

My mom really provided us with a healthy attitude about food. She stressed a well balanced diet; most of the time we had home cooked dinners. She tried to teach us that Sugar isn’t great, and to not overload on it. She did/does love McDonald’s and Taco Bell though (sorry mom!) So, that was our splurge! Ha! OH and doughnuts and homemade cookies too (which continues to be my weakness). See, nobody is perfect!

I was a stick in high school. I developed super late, so I always felt like I looked younger than my peers. I was very active; doing soccer, dance and competitive cheer all through High School. I think it was then that I became aware of my body. At the time I was so insecure; I felt like my body wasn’t like everyone else. I never had boobs, or curves.

Outside of what I ate at home, I didn’t really make the best food choices. I would have a Dr. Pepper and a Twix after school before Cheer. Then, I would practice for a few hours, and afterwards go to the gym and lift weights and do the step machine. I probably was over-doing it in that department and then on top of it not eating what I needed to. Not a good balance!

The day before I was leaving for college I was in a terrible accident at a house party. The 2nd story deck collapsed that I was standing on. God was watching over us that day because nobody was below the deck when it collapsed. And thankfully, I was the only one who had a serious injury; which was a ruptured spleen. I missed my first 2 weeks of college and was confined to bed rest during that time. Afterwards things just went downhill. I went off to college and couldn’t workout (because of the injury) and on top of that I was eating AWFUL and drinking heavily.

It’s hard to look at these pics from college, I feel like it doesn’t even look like me!

By my junior year, I started to pull it together. But not without some really unhealthy choices. I did start working out; not consistently but at least I was doing something. I took laxatives, which is awful, and it’s embarrassing even writing this. I don’t think I have ever shared this with anyone…so this is a first! I was looking for an easy fix. Instead of just working out harder and eating healthy, I decided that laxatives would be the solution. They obviously weren’t, and they just made me feel terrible.. It makes me sad that I felt like I had to resort to that…but I got beyond that phase quickly. I realized that Laxatives are awful, and not the solution.

 I graduated from Indiana University in 1999 and moved to Chicago. I started working for Nordstrom. I think with a career in fashion I realized I also had to look the part. I also wanted to be able to fit in the pleather pants and all the backless tops that were popular. (remember those?!) I joined a gym called the  “Sweat Box” in boystown right down the street from our apartment. I found a great hip hop dance instructor, and my love of fitness was re-ignited.

I also had a great roommate and friend  (Kami, on the far left) who introduced me to beauty products and hair tools…which really changed my life! A little help in that department gave me a huge confidence boost!

Living in Chicago in my 20’s was one of the best 10 years of my life, but it took a toll on my body. I partied way too hard. I stayed up late, drank too much, and didn’t eat good. Thank goodness for the gym, a lot of walking in the city and a job where I was on my feet all day! At least I was active, which is what saved me. I didn’t think much about my body and health at that time. I just went through the motions. Eating what was convenient, or inexpensive. I am sure my diet was 70% carbs at that time. It was also around that time I started getting knock down migraines and had terrible digestive issues. Looking back now, I know that my diet was 100% the reason for that.

In 2003 I met my husband…and the “fat and happy” stage happened. I don’t like the word “fat”, but you understand the terminology. I had just gotten out of a bad relationship and entered into one that would forever change my life. When you are in a new relationship, blissfully happy, and going out to dinner every night that will take a toll on your waistline…but I didn’t really care. It was the best time of my life! And on a side note…can we talk about Jon’s hair?! 🙂

An engagement and wedding came soon after. There is no better reason to get into shape than for your wedding day, right? Around this time, Jon also started working at Equinox Fitness in Chicago. Now, our life revolved around fitness. My husband was now the sales manager at a high end fitness establishment; I had to get my ass in gear! So my friend Emily and I both joined and would take classes together. I loved having a partner in crime and someone to keep me accountable. As we got some great new cooking tools for our wedding, we found ourselves making healthier meals too. Cooking for 2 was way more fun than cooking for 1. I felt like I was gaining control of my body again, and was feeling happy. This was taken in 2006 in Tahiti; probably the best shape I had been in, in a very long time.

Then I hit 30 and started having kids. The next 5 years were kind of a blur. I gained 45 pounds with the first 20 with the second. I definitely was not in tune with my body; I felt like I was just surviving. Getting through each day was an accomplishment. Motherhood and balancing it all didn’t come easy to me, and I felt stressed out a lot of the time. Any of you who have raised more than 2 kids, I give you SO much credit! The only time I was making for myself was starting this blog (in 2008) and doing my Tracy Anderson videos during naptime. Dinner was a struggle too, I am pretty sure Jon cooked most of the time; which I was thankful for during the years when the kids were really little.

After V was born, we discovered she was lactose intolerant. When I was nursing her, she would violently spit up and was overall very cranky. I had this gut instinct that it was something I was eating that was bothering her. So, I cut out dairy and it was like I had a new baby. Also, all of a sudden my digestive problems were gone. This was a huge breakthrough for me! And it led me to do some more research about other problems I was having. After reading the Brain Grain, I knew I also had to cut out gluten. From there my migraines pretty much disappeared. I had more energy, I was less irritable, I wasn’t getting sick anymore, and most importantly I was HAPPIER. These alterations in my diet were life changing.

in 2014 we opened Health House. For the first time in my life I was REALLY pushing myself physically. Harder than I ever had before. There are many reasons for this change; I think most importantly I was ready for it. I wasn’t so tired ( my kids were now older and sleeping better). I had more free time to get away to workout because the kids were both in school. I also quickly realized what that workouts did for me; it was a time to zone out, just “me” time” with no interruptions. The intense cardio was a shock at first, but quickly that turned to a “high”, a natural energy boost I couldn’t live without. I was sleeping better, I was more patient with my kids, I was energized. It also made me want to eat better. Why would I workout that hard to ruin it with bad food? And now that I was committed to no dairy or gluten, there was no turning back.

In the last 3 years I feel like I have changed my body, but also my well being inside and out. But it doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice, time and energy. It’s not easy being healthy. But to me it is worth it, because I feel SO much better than I did 20 years ago. I am thankful for my husband for creating a place that I love to workout. It is a happy place, filled with so many great people that inspire me and push me to my limits!  I am thankful to be surrounded by friends who have the same goals to live a healthy life with balance. Because in the end, life is too short. You have to have a doughnut, or M&M’s or cookies every once in a while 🙂

I know this is a very LONG and drawn out post. But I wanted to share my story and my journey and hopefully inspire someone out there! Whether you are 25 or 55, you should love the skin you’re in. Don’t dwell on the negative or the things you can’t change, but focus on the positive and the things that make you the most happy.

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13 comments

  1. Hugs, Melanie! Thank you for this raw, inspiring post. There is much comfort in a person as beautiful and warm as you sharing their realities so that women like me do not feel alone. I’m not nearly as far and steadfast as you’ve been on your journey, but this sure gives me hope that someday I will get to at least an emotional place to start. You’re incredible, inside and out. And that fact that you’ve found your happy too gives me much joy. Thanks for being you!

  2. Love reading about your fitness journey…I feel like we have a lot of similarities {especially being blessed with a behind!!}. Would love to hear more about what you eat + workouts, etc!

  3. I loved reading your story…. your childhood sounds exactly like mine except for the accident. My father got very sick when I was 12 so our diet changed radically. No red meats, no processed foods, no cheese. I never had to worry about what I ate or working out until I had my son. Now I work out every day, try to eat clean (so damn hard) and try to save the wine only for the weekends. Every time I am in spinning class I curse myself for not taking care of myself in my 20’s. I am trying to instill that value into my children right now. It will make life so much easier for them

  4. Melanie, I could relate to a lot of what you said! Thanks for sharing. i think the friends/family we surround ourselves with play such a huge role (as well as genetics, as you said!).

  5. Melanie, I couldn’t love this more! I appreciate you so much for sharing your whole story. It’s so easy to look at someone and assume they’ve always been fit and healthy, but so inspiring to know we’re not all perfect and everyone has a story. I’ve been through similar ups and downs (at my heaviest I weighed over 180 pounds in college…eek!). I fell in love with a studio here in Chicago, but I can’t wait to get back to Health House when I visit KC next 🙂 Happy almost weekend!

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