This past summer I came across an Instagram post that was truly inspiring from someone who just so happens to be my sorority sister, and friend. Her name is Gabi, and I would absolutely love if you guys would take a few minutes to read her story. I can guarantee you'll be inspired as well:
"My name is Gabi, and my health journey has been an integral part of my life for the past 20 years. Just like almost every other middle school and high school girl, I was never comfortable with the way I looked. I knew I was a little heavier than my friends, and although I never obsessed over it, it was always an anxiety-filled experience to enter a dressing room or get invited to a swim party in the summer. Working out and eating “healthy” never produced any changes and left me feeling frustrated and defeated. Despite my tendencies to be the loudest one in the room and my seemingly confident persona, my self-esteem on the inside was consistently low. While dealing with my body image issues, I also began experiencing physical problems in high school - constant exhaustion, headaches, sore throats, flu symptoms, and mysterious “virusus.” Antibiotics left my immune system virtually defenseless, so I was getting sicker and sicker on a more regular basis. It got to the point where I would be nervous to accept invitations or make plans far in advance because I did not know how I would be feeling or if I would be up to it. I truly felt like I just pulled the short end of the stick and I was doomed with an overweight, sick body for the rest of my life. I was never content with the way I looked or felt, and this version of myself began to take a toll on my ability to engage in everyday life.
It took me until sophomore year of college and a few too many health center visits to finally acknowledge that this way of life was not acceptable – there HAD to be a way to feel better. When I went home for spring break that year, I decided to talk to a family friend, Sheila, who specializes in personal training and health coaching. Her theory was that the food I was putting into my body on a regular basis was the same thing that was causing the sickness and mental unrest. Despite my initial skepticism, I took her up on an offer to become her client for the summer. This meant I would have to give up everything I loved for 8 weeks – grains, sugar, dairy, alcohol, soy, you name it – in an attempt to save my body from the downward spiral it was heading into. The idea was to eliminate all unnatural toxins from my body and build my immune system from the ground up using organic, all-natural proteins, vegetables, and good fats. After 3 weeks, we would begin to reintroduce foods one by one to see how my body would react. In my head, I was thinking that I would surely die in 5 days on this plan. Was I really going to sacrifice my summer of sangria and snow cones to plain meat and vegetables? The only thing that overruled my frustration was my fear of being sick and sad forever, so I knew that I had to at least give this a shot.
The first step of the process was an intense food journal that I kept glued to my hand for fourteen days. I wrote down the time and specific descriptions of every single thing I ate/drank, along with how I was feeling that day. I had always considered myself to be a fairly decent eater, so I wasn’t ashamed of the few bowls of ice cream and Bud Lights here and there over the two-week span. However, when we analyzed the sugar and processed ingredients in the food I was eating, the results were terrifying. Every 2 hours, the journal showed that I was turning to a sugary food or drink because my brain physically NEEDED it. Sugar was a literal drug to my system, giving me headaches when I lacked it and extreme mood swings throughout the day. (Food journals are a great way to check yourself if you are trying to eat healthy – physically writing down those 5 McDonald’s French fries from your little cousin’s Happy Meal is as demoralizing as it sounds). The food journal gave me a much-needed reality check and completely changed my perspective on what I viewed as “healthy.”
After the analysis, it was time to actually begin. Week 1 of the detox went down in history as one of the hardest weeks of my life, but after finishing the process, it makes sense as to why it was so rough. The first few days, I experienced flu-like symptoms because my body was going through withdrawal from sugar. Since I had eaten whatever I wanted my entire life, my body was conditioned to use the pseudo nutrients to fuel itself. Most of us don’t realize how addicted we are to the foods we eat because we have created these habits over a lifetime. Although I was eating meat and vegetables, I was left with zero energy to even take a walk because my body was desperately yearning for the sugar – it was toxic hunger. I felt sad, discouraged, and anxious all the time. With a few teary phone calls and encouragement from my friends and family, I decided to stick it out – my fear of failure was far bigger than the pain.
After the initial shock to my system those first few days, my body slowly started to heal and accept the good nutrients as fuel. Little by little, I felt small improvements in my sleeping patterns, strength, appetite, and mentality. The days went by smoother and I felt more confident in my abilities to accomplish this without giving up. I actually craved vegetables! In between week 2 and 3 is when I finally reached my “Ah-Ha” moment. The change I began to experience was UNREAL… it was a feeling I never even knew was attainable. I slept flawlessly; I had insane amounts of energy without an ounce of caffeine; and I felt stronger than ever – all from just a change in my diet. I began to thin out and lose weight, but the best part was that I wasn’t killing myself at the gym to achieve those results. The food was truly transforming my body from the inside out. I showed no signs of sickness in the entire 8 weeks of this process, which with my track record was a huge milestone. Not only was my body physically improving, but my mind was transforming as well. For the first time, I felt clarity and total mental control throughout the day. Having dealt with anxiety for most of my life, I never knew it was possible to feel this good. My friends, family, and even coworkers noticed a significant change in my happiness. Although I struggled with cravings and missed out on some nights of drinking or ice cream dates with friends, this mental high was what kept me motivated to continue living my life in a healthy way. Feeling better about myself was a far greater reward than I could have ever imagined.
In 8 weeks, I was able to transform from an uneducated, moody, sickly sugar addict into a happy, healthy, improved version of myself. I didn’t count calories, I didn’t deprive myself when I was hungry, and I didn’t work out like crazy. I simply decided to respect my body, and in return, it respected me back. My transition back to UD and a more integrated diet has been a challenge, but this summer gave me the knowledge I needed to keep this happiness for a lifetime. Sure, I still treat myself with a DD’s food truck cheeseburger on the weekends in the neighborhood, but I know exactly how it will make my body and mind feel the next day. My advice to anyone who is looking to feel better (mentally or physically) is to listen to your body! It sounds crazy, but you will be amazed at what you will find when you make a conscious effort to prioritize your health. It is crucial to understand what you are fueling your body with and how it affects every part of your life. This was not a diet – it was a lifestyle change. Not all plans work for everyone, and there are various ways to achieve your goal healthy lifestyle. The most important thing Sheila taught me was that true health and fitness starts when you work on improving the inside, not trying to change the outside. My journey did not end when those 8 weeks did, but I can honestly say that each day I am becoming a better version of myself, and I can attribute it all to real food and a healthy attitude."
Gabi is a firsthand example of how just a minor change in your life can make you feel healthier and happier. You never truly know what your body is capable of until you put it to the test. Allow Gabi to inspire you, and take control of your own life. Even if it's just for a week or two, try giving up sugar (NO cheating) and see how your body transforms inside and out.
Also, Gabi left us with some recipes that got her through her no sugar period:
Shrimp Avocado Salad:
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 limes, juice of
1 tsp. olive oil
¼ tsp kosher salt, black ground pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo cooked, peeled shrimp (chopped)
1 medium tomato, diced (I used cherry tomatoes)
1-2 Hass avocados, diced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
In a small bowl combine red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let them marinate at least 5 minutes to mellow the flavor of the onion.
In a large bowl combine chopped shrimp, avocado, & tomato. Combine all the ingredients together, add cilantro and mix. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Chill in refrigerator and enjoy!!
Zucchini Pizza Bites:
3 zucchini, cut into ¼-in thick rounds
1/3 cup tomato sauce (I use Rao’s Tomato & Basil)
½ cup finely grated mozzarella
Salt & pepper to taste
Toppings – can add spinach, crumbled sausage, etc.
Preheat oven to broil
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, add zucchini and cook, flipping once until golden about 1-2 minutes on each side.
Place zucchini rounds onto a large baking sheet. Top each zucchini round with marinara and mozzarella (and toppings if desired)
Place into oven and cook until cheese has melted, about 1-2 minutes
If you have any questions for Gabi contact her at email@example.com!
Have a great holiday friends and remember to stay fit, not skinny ;)