In December 2015 I was at an interesting place in my life.
I had found love again, but it was still new and questionable.
I was happy with my living, but I was under my mother's roof.
I had become a huge advocate of body positivity, but I was so-un-happy. in my own skin.

On New Years Eve, I was getting ready for our lazy pajama party - because home is where the food is, duh - and I was alone in my bathroom, upstairs, fresh out of the shower. For some reason, I stopped and gave myself a good, long, hard look in the mirror. My body was very different from what it used to be... Approximately sixty plus pounds different.
I saw myself in the mirror every day, I knew what I was looking at. But  I always had that looming fear of what did other people see? How was my body perceived by others, or in any other medium?

I mean, I had a boyfriend now, and he never complained. Curves were a huge deal to have now but I still found that I did a good job of hiding the majority of my whole body in most pictures I posted.
Could it really be THAT bad?
I whipped out my iPhone and took some pictures.
No sucking in, no posing, just naturally standing. Just me, in all my glory.
Front, back, side views. What was I actually dealing with here? I tried not to panic.

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Who the fuck is that? What happened to the tiny, 125 pound girl I used to be? I know the scale says 185 now, but... since when did i stop caring about what I looked like? When did I decide stop caring about how I felt about my well being? When did I become so complacent with how uncomfortable I feel in this skin?

The pictures were telling to say the least. This was a problem for me.
I had told myself  that "these things just happen; people gain weight as they get older."
But that's not what happened here. I had found myself in a dark spiraling hole of mild depression (which had improved from deep depression in previous years) and dropped all self concern for my well being.
I was stuck between a rock and hard place from wanting to enjoy my life as it was, to balancing the unhappiness that stemmed from "enjoying" said life.
I had to find BALANCE - and balance did not come from a box of chicken supremes from Bojangles and/or a six pack of booze.

But what do I do? Where do i start?
How do I regain my balance after having lost it for so long?
I had clearly let myself go. I was sure I couldn't run, not like I used to. I hadn't exercised since September when I ended a gym membership to avoid my ex and his ever growing posse watching me with side eyes while I worked out. I had no idea what to eat if I were to "eat clean." I doubted that I could afford to start a new gym membership because money was tight (after all I WAS living with my mother for a reason - I was broke).

The answer was start small. Accept the fact that this was going to take a while if this was something I truly wanted to change. It's not like I could expect to drop the 60 pounds I had gained in the past six years in a month or less. I knew that I had to be patient and reasonable. But I needed support. And sometimes, asking for support from your friends when you need a change is too difficult to bare.

So I went looking for answers instead of support.

Cue Instagram; My favorite and most watched social media platform.
I remembered I followed a hilarious account called @sarcasm_only that had posted something other than memes every once in a while. I revisited the page and found several posts about a fitness challenge that was to begin the new year. It was called @fitgirlsguide.

The first thing I noticed about @fitgirlsguide was how REAL IT ALL WAS. The pictures were not of 5'11" women with 24 inch waists drinking skinny tea and wearing waist trainers. They were women of all shapes, heights, sizes, colors, figures. They all showed PROGRESS. No matter how small the progress, it was celebrated. And there was a clear difference between all these awesome participant side by side photos they were sharing.
What a great marketing tool, right? Every body type, every woman they shared had seen results and progress from this program. How? Because they worked for it, clearly. 

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Come to find out, none of the @fitgirlsguide products were free. Obvious deterrent for the broke girl living with mom. But the beginners eBook, complete with meal prep instructions, recipes, and a whole MONTH's worth of workouts was only $25.
I mean, I could drink $25 in one sitting and feel no regrets about it. That was no problem (but really it was part of the problem).
With this book, I didn't have to search for recipes or develop a half assed workout plan on my own. Everything was already planned out for me. All I had to do was read it and then JUST DO IT. (Nike is for real when they say that.) The biggest selling point though was that I didn't even have to leave the privacy of my home to do any of this! No equipment was needed for any of these circuit workouts!

Ok, yeah let's just go ahead and click that Add To Cart button. Duh... 

They actually had so many options for various levels of workout plans but I chose the simple, beginners, 28 Day Jumpstart. It was designed for people beginning their fitness journey, leveled for people who had never exercised in their life and organized with such ease, my dog could probably read it.

Their Instagram advertised the next 28 Day Challenge would begin on January 4, 2016.
I purchased the book the night of January 3rd and read the whole thing that night and they convinced me to complete their online challenge. The purpose of following the monthly challenges was to keep you on track with the plan via daily check ins and posts on Instagram AND it kept you motivated by other @fitgirlsguide users who were completing the same workouts and plans as you! I created what @fitigirlsguide called a #fitstagram under the name @fitgirl_jbunznick. Secretive enough for me. At the time I was hoping that no one who actually knew me would ever find my page.

I made myself a promise the night of January 3rd that I would follow this program through. I knew that if i truly wanted to see results and make a serious change in my current lifestyle, I would have to choose to do this with intention.

Reluctantly, I didn't actually follow the meal plans from @fitgirlsguide for the first 28 days as I wanted to give my body a good detox to kick start my weight loss. A friend and I decided to follow a meal plan that had worked for me before and completed the Whole 30 challenge for my first month of this new lifestyle.

Whole 30 is actually pretty simple. Only whole foods as well as no carbs, no dairy, no legumes and especially no alcohol. Not drinking any alcohol at all for 30 days was definitely going to be a serious challenge. It took a lot of will power and a lot of endurance through all the shit talking a lot of people did to me.

"One beer wont kill you."
"You can have a drink, it's totally fine."
"Don't be so lame! Just have a beer with us!"

Needless to say, going out was hard for a while.

But I genuinely didn't want to give in! Luckily most people gave up after a while and supported my decisions.
I mean, did I plan on never drinking again?
Certainly not because I love beer! I love wine. A good martini is a weak spot for me.
I just wasn't ready to get back into the swing of those habits just yet.
I had the alcohol tolerance of a large horse and for such a small woman, that wasn't healthy. I needed a break. I wanted to be a cheaper date.

@fitgirlsguide does a great job of breaking down caloric intake for you. It actually even says that you're ALLOWED to have two alcoholic drinks a week that range under 150 calories a piece. So, maybe one glass of wine or a Corona were their suggestions. Definitely didn't recommend drinking 5 Two Hearted Ales at a time,  so I just chose to abstain from all drinking for the month of January. I honestly wanted to see what it did for my body in the long run.

Learning about the calories in alcohol did a lot for my mindset, too. For instance, a six pack of any given craft IPA was WELL over 2000 calories by itself. That's more than enough calories for a whole day's worth of eating - yet in delicious, alcoholic, liquid bliss form. I knew that if I wanted to, I could kill a six pack (and more) on my own without any issues and that was not ok. Alcohol, I secretly knew, was the true reason for most, if not all, of my 60 pound weight gain throughout college.

The first 28 days of the Jumpstart Challenge flew by and I completed all 28 workouts, even the cardio sessions based on the schedule @fitgirlsguide provided. I was so proud of myself. I had a brand new sense of accountability for myself. @fitgirlsguide really encourages you to break away from the terrible relationship you definitely have with the scale, too. (don't be a slave to the numbers!) They really wanted you to be surprised at how awesome their program was and, even more so, all the hard work you put in was worth so much more than a damn number.
I had only weighed myself in the very beginning, on January 4th, (per the books directions) and, one other time, two weeks into the challenge. When I took to the scaled on day 28, I found that I had lost 25 pounds in just a month. Like, holy shit! IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE FEELING! 

My biggest take away from my first round of 28 Day Jumpstart was that it was not a simple 28 day plan and fix all. You couldn't just finish your 28 days and then go back to your old ways. They refused to call it a diet. @fitgirlsguide always moved forward calling it a lifestyle and that's truly what it was. After the first 28 days, I had to make another choice. Was this something that I wanted to continue?

Well ,DUH. Because having lost 25 pounds ALREADY, why the hell would I not continue with this plan?

The 28 Day Jumpstart also teaches you all about progress pictures and why they're necessary. #progressnotperfection
Progress pictures are a major key in all of the @fitigirlsguide books. It's an easy and fun way to snapshot your progress. Taking pictures of myself in my underwear was something that I found embarrassing, at first... until I took my final progress pics of my first challenge (below). Just glancing in the mirror daily doesn't show you the slow and steady progress your body is taking on. But side by side pictures definitely can. There are major differences between the two pictures that I never would have noticed without documenting them in photos.

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I completed the beginner's 28 Day Jumpstart challenge again in February, followed the workout plans and upped my daily circuit workouts to be followed by 30 min of cardio daily.  I picked up with the recipes only to find that they were EASY and DELICIOUS. Learning to meal prep from @fitgirlsguide for several days at a time was the best thing I ever taught myself how to do... other than create a good smokey eye. 

 

Come March, I advanced into the Fitkini Body Challenge for intermediate level exercises and upped my cardio once again.

The Fitkini Body Challenge is the second of several books that @fitgirlsguide offers. It's meant to be a follow up of the 28 Day Jumpstart and includes meals and workouts for 28 days, as well. This book upped the cardio sessions to three times a week and alternated upper and lower body circuit workouts. Each circuit workout has nine different moves and you could do up to four rounds of each circuit. Depending on how many rounds you choose to do, your workout would be between 20-45 minutes.

I began the Fitkini Body Challenge by completing 2 circuits daily and 30 minutes of cardio between circuit days as the book directed for Fitkini first timers. I purchased a new yoga mat to work out on and later added a kettle bell set to enhance my workouts.

I completed Fitkini Body Challenge for a while until I worked my way down to about 145 pounds and was fitting a size 4 again for the first time in yearssssss. I was watching my body change before my eyes. I had lost 40 pounds by April - which was absolutely nuts to me.  I was running two 5Ks a week at this point and completing at least three circuit rounds for each upper and lower body workout that I did. Spring had arrived and I often did my circuit workouts in my back yard. The dogs were always confused over squat jumps and burpees happening in the sunroom and I'm sure if they could have laughed at me, they certainly would have.

The best part was, the results kept coming. Things just kept improving. I had yet to hit a stopping point or a road block. I was comfortable in my own skin. I felt sexy. I was so proud of myself. (I'm still very proud of myself.) :)

492e536d-5e97-469b-99f9-b34d81549f70After three months of Fitkini Body Challenge, I craved MORE of a challenge. I wanted to see what my body could do next. I wasn't really in a rut but I wanted to make sure that I didn't plateau in any way. I was doing great, my hard work was paying off and I was kicking my own ass. I wanted to continue this streak.

Moving forward again, it was now June and I was fresh out of school for summer. I decided it was time to step my game up and wanted to attempt the workouts in the last edition of @fitgirlsguide called Fit Girl Bootcamp for advanced workouts.

Fit Girl Bootcamp is MUCH different from the other two books. It lays out six days of workouts including cardio drills, superset/tabata workouts and 3x3 circuits throughout the week. All of this, of course, alternated between days of steady state cardio. Bootcamp is a lot less circuit training though and a lot more HIIT. It was fast paced, quick workouts that were super intense. I was in love. I was dead by the end of each workout but I was in love.

By July, I was down 50 pounds to 135 - where I'm currently still sitting on a given day. And that was my "goal weight." But I couldn't wrap all my goals around superficial numbers. My true goal was to be happy in my own skin, even when the number still fluctuated from day to day if I stepped on the scale.

@fitgirlsguide taught me a valuable lesson about all the different ways your body moves weight around and why. Nowadays, I don't die inside every time I see 140 on the scale. i also don't falsely applaud myself on the rare occasion I see 130, either. There is no difference. My clothes still fit the same, I'm a size two even when my body is unbalanced and the number is different than it was the day before.
I also don't weigh myself every day. It's something a lot of people do that discourages them. I know not to anymore. I also know the week before and after my period, I probably won't be happy with what it tells me so I avoid it. Solely because of hormones and water weight. I know that if I drink 16 oz of water, I gain a pound - simply because I just drank a pound of water. I only weigh myself first thing in the morning about every two weeks just to give myself an idea of my ongoing progress.

img_6015When I graduated high school and entered college I was 125 pounds. I would run endlessly on a treadmill and eat one meal a day. I was a healthy weight but I was not living a healthy life by any means. Despite my small size and low weight I was never, ever satisfied with how I felt and looked. Today, everything has changed and I can tell you that I weigh almost ten pounds more than I did  back then. Yet, I'm the same pant size as I was my freshman year of college! So much has changed in retrospect to how I grew up feeling about my own body and how I felt about being perceived and seen by others or even how sexy or not I ever felt in my own skin. I no longer compare my body to others because I'm the only one with my genetic makeup. There are no other bodies like mine out there in the world.

How I feel about myself and how I "look" to myself in a mirror, means a lot more to me now than a number on an electric box ever did. I am ever grateful to @fitgirlsguide for that.

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