• Leah Hortin

From Varsity Athlete to PT Flunkie - My journey to find balance and body acceptance

When I look at my wellness journey, my struggle with finding balance stands out. I am susceptible to an "all or nothing" mindset and it often bites me in the butt. The thing is, I don't think there is anything special or abnormal about my experience.

During my early years, I was very active in sports. Softball, Soccer, Cross Country, Ballet - I did it all. But as soon as that structure disappeared and I went to college to do my own thing, I lacked self discipline in my nutrition and fitness routine. As an ROTC cadet, I still had mandatory exercise but a reduced frequency and a crap diet. Too much pizza, too many late nights. My weight ballooned, my fitness deteriorated, so much that I was kicked out of ROTC for failing my physical. Twice. I was mortified and sunk into an even deeper hole, filled with alcohol and fried food.

After graduating from college, I was ready to get my act together. I had a Big Girl Job, I was renting a house with friends, I had student loans, I was legit!

After years of indulgence, the pendulum swung the opposite way - excessive exercise, restrictive dieting, constantly obsessing about my weight. I spent a lot of time on food blogs and calorie counting websites. This resulted in a lot of disordered eating habits like barely eating all day to "save my calories" for wine and pizza. Or spending an extra hour at the gym to beat myself up after a night of drinking.

Once my weight started plateauing, I decided to get into running (in addition to strength training) to get a higher caloric burn so naturally running crazy races made sense. I ran a couple half marathons, a bunch of 5k and 10k races, even some really awesome relay races with super cool people.

Never being quite enough, lets throw some Crossfit on top of my training schedule! There was always more weight to lose. There was always my problem areas that needed fixing. I never really felt comfortable in my skin.

Spoiler alert: high intensity training doesn't make sense for everyone. My body gradually broke down and I spent years battling chronic injuries and have issues to this day with my knees and hips.

I couldn't keep going like this, I needed to learn the art of recovery and balance. It was a slow process and arduous process. Going from high intensity 6 days a week to moderately low intensity 3-4 days a week was emotionally very challenging. I gradually started eating more intuitively, paying attention to how my body reacted to certain foods, immersing myself in supportive books and social media. I actually learned about nutrition, not just calories and grams of fat. I shifted my exercise focus to movement like walking, yoga and moderate strength training. Slowly, I allowed my body to heal itself.

It took a long time. And the progress wasn't linear. There were times where I'd succumb to calorie counting for a time, then rage quit and delete the app for the 12th time. I would beat myself up for "not doing enough" or for having a tummy pooch. I would look back at my Facebook memories and get sad about not running anymore. But those thoughts were fleeting, and I would embrace the new me. The new me that can find enjoyment in walking. The new me that can finally get into crow pose. The new me that isn't constantly inspecting myself for flaws, that can now appreciate all that my body does do for me. My ability to bounce back from surgery quickly. My ability to spend a day doing yard work and not being too banged up. My ability to hike, no matter how leisurely my pace may be.

The unintended consequence of this journey was a sense of peace that I had never even imagined possible. I hadn't realized how much stress I was causing myself, emotionally and physically, and how unhappy I was constantly fighting my body. My journey was a long one but I have learned so much and find so much joy in helping others navigate their wellness journey.

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