The Voice was in 2013. Definitely a life-changing year. The Lord continued to challenge and grow me in 2014. Some of you may have read my blog about my 2014 transformation. I didn’t post it anywhere; I just e-mailed it out. And I’m kind of glad I did it that way. Though that piece is a good depiction of my growth in 2014…I’ve learned some important things and have undergone MORE transformation since. Life is about growth; it’s about self-improvement. And each day is a chance to move toward a better YOU, a better life.
Since I’ll be heavily referencing it, I’ve posted this 2014 transformation blog at the bottom of this post in case you’re interested in reading it. I’ve been receiving a lot of messages and questions about how I got started in fitness and that post sums up the beginnings of my fitness journey pretty well. Re-reading was even a good reminder for ME of all that I found out about myself that year.
To recap, I ended the toxic relationship I had been in for two years. I learned how to manage stress, basically self-curing my gastro-intestinal disorder. I continued to be a total gym rat, mostly running and doing cross-fit-type metabolic conditioning circuits. I trained for and ran my first full marathon. Yet was still unhappy with my body composition…which might have had something to do with my obscene intake of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Peanut Butter - my go-to emotional coping mechanism. In August, I hired a trainer, switched up my training to a traditional weightlifting regiment, followed strict meal plans, and began prep for a December bodybuilding competition. It was an amazing experience. I learned I can do hard things…seemingly impossible things! And most notably, I reconnected with my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ…whose abundant love for me reignited my zest for music and life, as well as helped me to find the ability to love myself and to treat myself kindly. I also learned more about my purpose here, which I believe is to help women find and nourish self-love.
So there’s 2014 in a nutshell.
Now. One of the most notable thing about 2015 was all of the valuable knowledge I gained regarding health and fitness…and that health is actually so much more than being 15% body fat. I finished out 2014 as a lean bean and total “health” nut…but what I had lost was balance. My body image was a constant struggle following my competition and lasting almost all of last year. The worst it had EVER been in my life. I was still in competition prep mode, never allowing myself a break, having these wild expectations of myself as to what I could and could not eat, what I should look like, etc. I began feeling extremely burnt out as I never allowed myself any time to rest and recover from what I put my poor body through prepping for that December show. Sticking to a meal plan was getting increasingly more difficult. I was finding myself in that restrict and binge-type cycle. The gym felt like a chore at times. Though I was putting on quality muscle as well as some body fat, I was haunted by my measurements creeping up. Sometimes I felt like my identity was slipping away as the scale went up. On top of this, I could tell something was just…off. Full disclosure. My last period was in August….OF 2014!! So yes, it’s been over a year and a half. (Don’t worry, I’m working on it with health professionals) And here I am. Still dealing with the hormonal fallout that came from the extremes I had taken to lean out for this show, and the extremes I was continuing to take to try and maintain an unrealistic leanness. Teaching voice lessons in the afternoon became almost impossible, because my body would just about shut down at 2 PM every day. I was EXHAUSTED. Come to find out I had some real adrenal fatigue going on as well. You guys! IT WAS A MESS.
My family and friends know this about me. I’m simply an extreme person. I’m 110% dedicated to anything I truly commit to. And I always get burned in some way. It’s just hard to not put my whole heart and soul into things. However, this has been a recurring theme in my life and I’m finally figuring out my limits and a proper dispersion of my energy.
Though I’m still recovering now, 2015 made for great strides in finding BALANCE again. Something I didn’t know existed in the bodybuilding world. And for many, it doesn’t. But health is more than just physical. It’s everything together. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual HEALTH. Every aspect is so important.
I had planned on doing another bodybuilding show in June 2015, but told my trainer in late April that there was just no way I could do it. Immediately, I felt a burden lifted. Training started to become fun again, but food was still a huge issue. At least in my mind. Though now looking back…pretty sure I was just hungry. I was totally depleted…and I very much was disregarding food’s role in healing and recovery. My measurements were still creeping up. And I was just mentally a total wreck. That self-love I had developed the year before was dwindling as I shamed myself day after day, telling myself I wasn’t good enough. I don’t know what I was seeing in the mirror exactly. But I hated it most days.
Finally, around the end of May, I had had enough. I began following an account on Instagram that posted constantly about flexible dieting, nourishing all aspects of our health, and finding BALANCE. Everything they were saying really resonated with me and my current struggles. So I finally contacted them. LedBetter absolutely put me back on track to self-love and normal life! I began a “reverse diet” which consists of slowly increasing macros each week to build back up metabolism and restore the body. It’s a difficult process filled with plenty of mind games, but I knew it was something I needed to do…even though so much of me was screaming to restrict calories so I could get closer to that lean bean status again. I resisted those urges and forged ahead. I checked in weekly with my trainer, Emily, for three months and slowly increased my caloric intake without any significant increase in body fat. No strict meal plans, just macro numbers to hit each day, and an awesome progressive weightlifting regiment. I cut my weekly cardio in half and beyond. I learned more movements, incorporated more gymnastics into my training. I ate what I wanted, stopped living in fear of eating out or of food in general. It’s still a battle that requires a lot of sincere self-talk but I’ve made huge progress. And now I’m literally living on the road, but making it work! Getting in the healthy foods I love and need to feel good, but letting myself live and find balance. I get my workouts in whenever possible, but don’t need a full-blown gym to do it. Sure I still try to do more the day after I splurge, but the extra I do is not out of guilt anymore. It’s just because I love it and enjoy the extra energy from extra calories. Bad body image days still occur as I still find myself angry if I indulge a little too hard and wake up bloated. But I try to immediately shut down those thoughts and feelings. Instead, I focus on what all there is to love about myself.
Though some kinks are still getting worked out hormonally and what not, most days I really do feel awesome in my body! Yet I’m nowhere near as lean as I was in December of 2014. So how am I so happy? Oh. That’s right. Because MY BODY DOES NOT DEFINE ME. It was like every day this past year; I’d gain a new bit of understanding when it came to this truth. Loving my body now is not about being the leanest and meanest I’ve ever been. It’s about seeing how much it does for me. How it functions when I’m truly treating it kindly and not overworking it to utter exhaustion. 2015 was not about physical change. It was about internal change. It was like a switch had to be flipped in my brain, opening me up to truly accepting myself, and loving myself EVERY DAY no matter what I ate the day before. Realizing that I don’t want to miss out on memories with my friends and family even if it means I eat some cookies or have to shorten a workout. I began learning BALANCE. I’m still learning it. But I find more and more as time goes on. I realized that there was nothing wrong with nor has there ever been anything wrong with my body…I was still ME before I started working out more hardcore, I was still ME before I dieted down for my first bodybuilding show. The number on the scale does not say anything about who Amy actually is. It’s just a number.
Self-love is a never-ending process. You have to re-commit each new day. You have to base your love for yourself on REAL things, things that actually matter, things regarding your character. It took me way too long to realize that when I’m not on this earth anymore…I could care less if people remember my physique. That is NOT what I care to leave behind. I love muscles. But they don’t define me. I want to leave behind the memory of someone optimistic, compassionate, accepting, loving, fun, passionate, service-oriented, and full of light and life. If I’m a girl who smiles and serves freely, then I’m a girl worth loving. I’m a girl worth loving because my Father in Heaven loves me. Nothing will help you live every day better than accepting His love. And letting Him show you why you can and should truly love yourself.