Here's to health

I remember eating pizza in some form or another for most days of the week in college because it was my favorite food. I remember believing that “light” mayo just meant it was ok to use twice as much of it. I remember bringing “Sandwich Spread” and Nutty Bars for lunch to work because they tasted good. And buying a cheese ball, crackers, and a Totino’s Pizza to make my all-nighters working seem like a Party for One. I remember loading up on breadsticks (and then taking some to go) at Fazoli’s because I wanted to get the most out of my dollar.

I’m a smart person. And I’ve always done “everything I was supposed to do”, whatever that means. But I remember Health class just being a joke. Biology and chemistry just being information to cram into short-term memory for the sake of a test.

I also remember a colleague saying “Do you know how much fat is in that stuff?” and thinking “no”. I remember looking at the label and not really being convicted by the fat content because I didn’t understand what the numbers really meant. I remember eating out, or going to a cheap movie (for the popcorn), on the way home from work because my favorite flavors somehow provided some relief from stress. Like a drug, I guess.

I remember realizing that I was buying clothes in the largest possible size that my favorite stores offered and fearing someday having to wear really ugly clothes with cheap-looking embroidered details. I remember looking in the mirror and not seeing my real, strong, confident self. I remember going to King’s Island and not being able to fit comfortably (if at all) in most of the rides, and getting super-painful chafing from the friction of my thighs just walking around all day sweaty. And I remember falling in love with a man, and realizing that if I have a kid someday, being obese is not a healthy way to do that.

My blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol—all of those numbers were normal. But I managed to become 100 pounds overweight in less than 10 years, and I had no idea how that happened.

I made a semi-habit of cardio activity in my apartment fitness center where I watched fitness infomercials to educate myself on fitness. (Although it’s usually hard to get motivated to begin exercise, I had always enjoyed cardio once I started because it did wonders for my stress—I always said that it gave my heart something to feel in the midst of my pixel-pushing work). Anyhow, I was on the elliptical one morning, saw a new infomercial that seemed to be the right shady marketing ploy for me, and spontaneously decided to financially commit myself to this, not just up front with the workout videos, but also with a monthly Shakeology order until I reach my goal. I’m very intentional with every penny I spend, so it became for real.

I started learning about food—to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, lean proteins. I counted calories until I trained myself. I learned to be intentional about when I exercise, and that cardio isn’t enough on its own. I watched Food, Inc. and Supersize Me. I watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead and The Weight of the Nation. I learned that eating cheap (subsidized) food is actually not smart. It’s a true lifestyle change, where food becomes a way of nourishing and energizing my body instead of a way of temporarily relieving stress. I haven’t given up any foods per se, but I do recognize that eating certain things—things high in fats, sugars, sodium—affects me physically and mentally, lowering my energy levels and triggering cravings for more of the not-so-good. So I generally avoid that. And I got more energy than I knew I was missing. I lost 60 pounds—the equivalent of 4 bowling balls or two small children.

I still have 40 pounds to go, but I’m on my way. 🙂


Hannah Downey

CX Design Consultant at Salesforce focused on content & sustainability. I love information design, the art+science of text, guac, sweet potatoes, & amazing people.

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