As I sit here about to write a post about what I’ve been up to this weekend while vacationing in Michigan, I realized that I’ve never actually written about what originally sparked my interest in health, fitness, and nutrition. Since this is where it originated, I figure now’s the perfect time.
Coming to Michigan has always been a time for me to recharge and reassess my health and fitness goals.
I told you before that my mom was a driving force behind my passion to pursue a healthy lifestyle, and her father is the one who instilled those values in her.
Every summer since I was little, I can remember coming to Michigan to visit him and his wife Paula (our step-Grandma) and spending time hanging out at the athletic club they owned, The M.A.C. — swimming, learning tennis and just generally staying active.
We would take trips to Lake Michigan where we’d run around the beach, and jet over to Mackinaw Island to bicycle around the perimeter.
Growing up, I was always very energetic. In addition to my mom’s positive example, my father is a former pro-athlete, so he’s always encouraged me to participate in sports. Throughout my childhood, I tried swimming, basketball, soccer, softball, gymnastics, bowling, volleyball, track (hurdles), golf, tennis (briefly), and dance. A lot, I know.
Swimming was the only one that lasted a significant amount of time though, about nine years.
My freshman year in high school I made the Varsity swim team. What for some would have been the start of a successful career in sports, was for me the beginning of the end.
At 14, instead of focusing on the pool, I was captivated by popularity. I dropped swim team and spent the next four years flirting with boys, going to parties, and treating my body like a garbage disposal for Big Macs.
By my senior prom, I was in the worst shape of my life.
This is a very bad, blurry picture but it’s the only one I have here in L.A., the rest are hidden far in the back of a closet in my childhood bedroom in Tucson. You can’t see my body well, but you can see in my face how my poor choices had taken their toll.
People joke about the freshman 15 in college. I had gained the senior 15, and more.
Now, I don’t want to exaggerate. My journey wasn’t nearly as difficult as many other peoples’. I was never significantly overweight. But when I weighed myself for the first time after seeing those prom pictures, I was nearly 25 pounds more than my average teenage weight.
That summer before college, I went to Michigan for our yearly vacation and told my Grandpa that I was tired of being unhealthy and I wanted to change my life and body. He jumped into action.
My Grandpa set me up with a trainer at his gym during the trip, and I got to work. It was the first time I’d ever talked to a professional about nutrition and fitness, outside of sports. I was fascinated. I loved learning about healthy eating, experimenting with recipes and pushing my body to the limit at the gym. I was in competition again, but this time, it was with myself.
I spent the whole trip quizzing my fit family members about everything you could possibly wonder about working out and eating healthy: How many calories are in this? How many grams of protein should I have a day? What’s flaxseed???
I took the skills I learned back to Tucson and spent the rest of the summer implementing them.
When I started college in August, I had dropped all of the weight.
It was such a big achievement for me. I felt so much happier and healthier than I did when I was “enjoying myself” and much more confident. I maintained the loss, more or less, for the past ten years.
I still fluctuate though depending on my eating habits for the week, and I still have fitness and health goals that I’m working to conquer.
This is the first time I’ve been back to Michigan in about six years. After high school, the visits became much less frequent and eventually stopped when I started working full time.
My Grandpa and Paula are moving soon though, and as this will probably be my last opportunity to visit, I couldn’t miss it. I’m on my second full day of the trip and I’ve already weight trained, played 18 holes, ran 2 miles, and am planning on an afternoon swim.
I love it here, and I love my family for introducing me to a better way of living. Anytime I get off track (most recently: Coachella, my birthday weekend, and 4th of July), I simply remember the lessons I learned here and I start anew.