I was a dancer throughout my childhood, until I got injured when I was 16.
After that, I became pretty sedentary. I ate a lot of fast food, and snacked on things like candy, and other refined, processed vending machine foods. I drank more Dr. Pepper than I did water.
Every now and then, I'd try to restrict what I was eating, or turn to a drastic fad diet or cleanse in an attempt to be "healthy." I'd skip meals and snacks in an attempt to restrict my calories. But it never worked—not only were these plans not sustainable, they left me with a lack of energy. Plus, every “slip up” would make me feel like I failed; then I’d overindulge, feel sick, and get discouraged, causing me to beat myself up even more.
After I had my son, Anderson, four and a half years ago, I started to struggle with postpartum anxiety.
When my doctor suggested that exercise might help, I thought it was a joke. There was no way something so small could fix the anxiety that had become such a big, all-encompassing burden on my life.
Still, I decided to try it out of pure desperation. A few weeks in, I was relieved to find that it was working. Everyone’s journey is different, but for me, regular exercise allowed me to cope with my anxiety and bring it down to a manageable level.
When I first started my fitness journey, I was too overwhelmed to even think about changing my eating habits, too. But a couple months after I started working out, I started to make a shift nutrition-wise.
I realised if I was hungry and chose a candy bar, I wouldn’t feel great. But if I picked something nutritious, I felt good and had the energy I needed. That made it easier to choose healthy snacks. Plus, once I started weight training I was hungrier and needed more food to fuel my body and keep my energy levels up.
My approach to healthy eating today is to use food as fuel—and choose foods that are going to make me feel good. For me, that means eating three meals a day with snacks in between. My meals consist of clean, unprocessed foods like Greek yogurt or protein pancakes for breakfast, a huge salad with chicken for lunch, and quinoa chilli for dinner. I’m always snacking on something—raw fruits and veggies, cottage cheese, hardboiled eggs, turkey wraps, almonds.
It's hard to say whether my training or my healthier snacking habits have done more to improve my self-confidence; I mean, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Because training gives me self-confidence, I choose to take care of my body and nourish it with foods that will energise me. But I also know that choosing to eat better foods gives me a boost, as well as a stronger appreciation for my body.
That said, I’ve also worked really hard to mentally shift away from the idea that when I eat something unhealthy, I’m “slipping up.” Yes, I definitely sometimes eat things that are not very nutritious, but I don’t believe food should be good or bad. Now, if I do indulge too much, I just focus on making my next choice a healthy one.
With nutrition, what matters is consistency. Most of the time, my snacks are raw, whole foods, filled with nutrients. So when I eat a candy bar or donut, I enjoy that, and then I get right back on track.
If you make your nutrition choices based on the fact that your body is amazing and it deserves the best, making healthy choices is a lot easier.
Kelsey Wells is a certified personal trainer and the creator of the PWR Workout. Try her programs via the Sweat app (iTunes; $19.99/month).