Editors Note: Rachel Mac is a commercial litigator in Chicago, Illinois, who lives a healthy lifestyle despite 12+ hours per day in the office. She has come up with a low-maintenance healthy lifestyle that allows her to eat well and hit the gym regularly, with a schedule that’s anything but consistent. Quest is happy to welcome Rachel Mac to our blog, where she will be a regular contributor. Find Rachel on Facebook and on Twitter.
This is the story of a life-changing transformation.
I went from a sad, overweight twenty-something to a happy, confident young woman by adopting healthy habits and working around a crazy schedule to stick with a healthy diet. I’m looking forward to being a regular contributor to the Quest Blog, sharing the tips and tricks that helped me change my body and my life. But first, I want to introduce myself and tell you my story.
As a kid, I excelled in school, but not in athletics; though I attempted to play sports, I felt hopeless. My coaches and gym teachers described me as “indoorsy” and “bookish.” My academic success led me to college, where I gained twenty pounds during my freshman year. Over the next four years, I went through cycle after cycle of losing and gaining that same twenty pounds. Without any knowledge of healthy eating habits I felt doomed to continue the destructive pattern forever. I graduated college at 148 lbs with my self-esteem and body image at an all-time low. I avoided all cameras at my graduation. I was fat, graduating nearly thirty pounds heavier than when I started. With law school on the horizon I was depressed, intimidated, and defeated.
At law school things got worse. Poor eating habits, long hours, and lack of easy access to a gym brought my weight up to 155 pounds. While shopping one afternoon I burst into tears in the dressing room. The pant size I thought would fit, then the next size larger, and finally the size above that proved too small to button. During a physical exam I followed the lines on each axis into the crimson-colored “overweight” section of my doctor’s height-weight chart. The negative effects of living an unhealthy life weren’t just visual. All of the highly processed junk food was taking a toll on my energy levels. I could barely make it through a long day of stressful classes and studying with processed carbohydrates as my fuel. The final straw was overhearing a coworker make a nasty remark about my body. It finally dawned on me. My weight wasn’t a phase. It was me. It was how other people saw me. I was overweight and it was time to make a lasting change.
I found support in the online community SparkPeople.com where I started tracking my food and exercise. The social-networking component was incredibly helpful; I met a number of people who were struggling just as I was, trying to learn to lose weight after a lifetime of deeply embedded unhealthy choices. I started small, focusing on increasing my protein intake and reducing my intake of non-fiber carbohydrates. I added more fiber to my diet, replacing the sugar I used to rely on for temporary bursts of energy. I noticed that my mood and energy levels remained consistent throughout the day. The healthy fats in nuts and almond butter kept me full on fewer calories, so I never felt hungry during the day. Grocery-shopping trips went from twenty minutes of grabbing junk to an hour long ritual where I studied nutrition labels as carefully as I read my constitutional-law textbook.
But the information was overwhelming. Tracking my intake was incredibly time consuming. I felt I would never be able to live a healthy, normal life. As soon as I would start to see signs of progress, my law-school schedule would grow more demanding, in a vicious cycle I couldn’t seem to escape. The ever-increasing stresses from school combined with rock-bottom self-esteem and growing concern about my health caused me to fall back on old ways. The lure of pizza delivery. A few clicks of the mouse, a call for confirmation, dinner in thirty minutes or less.
I was heavier than I’d ever been in my life. My weight was still on the rise, and I had no idea what to do.
Part II continues here …