I am the least athletic person you will ever meet.
From the time I was a child, I always dreaded fitness. In fact, some of my least favorite memories of elementary school are of "the run," the standard fitness test in which all of the children in any given grade would have to try to run a certain distance (determined by age) within a fixed amount of time.
I remember wanting so badly to beat whatever time was set as the "benchmark." Although not often, I would occasionally see this goal through - however, at a price. I remember, even at seven years old, my lungs would burn and my side would hurt when I ran. Although I was never technically diagnosed with asthma, for whatever reason, I visibly struggled more than most of my peers who were asthmatic.
Still, I was always a skinny child. And other than adopting a largely vegetarian diet at a very young age (the reasons why being a whole different story in and of itself), I never paid very much attention to what I ate. While compared to most children, my food intake was relatively good... I still ate a lot of junk. For example, despite having two medical professionals as parents, I was raised having sugary snacks every night before bedtime (such as two big chocolate chip cookies or a big slice of cheesecake).
One of my favorite transformation pictures, posing outside of the Hulk Roller Coaster at Universal Orlando, 4 months apart.
Yet, I was still thin when I hit puberty. I was thin when, for the first time in my life, my health became rocky.
One day in the ninth grade, I awoke to agonizing abdominal pain. Even though the pain was torturous, I didn't want to go to the Emergency Room, as my parents had both worked in ERs, and had told me stories of people who took advantage of using the ER when they really didn't have the need for it, and I was, consequently, scared of being "that person." A day later, the pain subsided. However, it came back the next month, before subsiding again... just to come back the month after that. Finally, during my third round of pain, my dad dragged me to the ER.
I had an ovarian torsion (three times around). Which, is basically as pleasant as it sounds. At the age of fifteen, I literally went into a form of organ failure. (Also - side note: if you EVER feel acute pain or if something doesn't seem right, please DO NOT hesitate to see a medical professional ASAP). I lost an ovary and a fallopian tube. Consequently, my OB-GYN immediately started me on hormonal birth control, as it can help prevent the ovarian cysts that often cause torsions (a preventative measure in order to keep the remaining side of my reproductive system healthy).
Being a late bloomer, I had only started puberty about a year and half prior to this occurrence, and now, in addition to puberty, my hormones were thrown out of whack. In the midst of this experience, I developed an unhealthy mindset - that my body, including my weight - was out of my control.
So, I continued to eat the way that I always had, ingesting cookies every night and eating at least two large portions at every. single. dinner. From my sophomore year through my senior year of high school, I steadily gained weight. And, just like with most people, the start of college certainly didn't make my eating habits any better.
I guess it's no shock that I eventually became overweight. I tried to ignore my weight gain until last spring break. Taking pictures with my friend, who had gotten into health and fitness a couple of years prior, I felt like the "fat friend," and even though now I am able to look back and see beauty in myself no matter my weight, and know that "fat" is FAR from synonymous with ugly, at the time - I felt ugly and gross.
That same spring break, I got my teeth whitened for the first time. Now, I know that you're probably thinking: what the heck does this have to do with health and fitness? Well - here's my answer; after getting my teeth whitened, I had to limit my diet to white, processed carbs for a couple of days so that I wouldn't stain my newly white teeth. While the food that I ate for these days was a far cry from health food, it was the first time that I came to the realization that I had the power to control what I ate.
After that spring break, for the first time in my life, I decided to make a change in my lifestyle. It started small, by simply not going up for seconds at dinner. I also downloaded an at-home workout app, working out only once every week or two.
Slowly, I started to workout more and more. After school let out, despite my continued hatred for cardio, I would spend 30 - 60 minutes a day on my mom's treadmill, trying to burn off calories. I didn't know how else to work out: as all my mom ever did was light cardio, my exchange sister also was a "cardio-bunny," and my dad had never been into fitness.
My transformation, from near the very start, to twenty pounds down!
I continued doing cardio and app-based workouts while on Walt's Pilgrimage this past spring, a Study in the States program through WMU's Lee Honors College that brings one to Chicago, Missouri, San Fransisco, and LA over the course of a single week in order to study the life of Walt Disney.
While the course was incredible, I felt so alone being the only one who headed to the hotel gym after long and intense days. Still, at this point I had shed upwards of ten pounds, and was determined to keep going.
After returning from the trip, I made a renewed effort to clean up my diet, focusing especially on protein intake, being a vegetarian. I began drinking protein shakes daily and eating protein bars consistently.
It was at this point in my journey that my friend told me about Grand Haven Fit Body Boot Camp (as GH is my hometown and was my summer residency last year). Still having very little clue what I was doing in the gym, I decided to give it a go. I still remember the first workout. It was HARD. But I came back, and kept coming back day after day. I had a "tribe" of workout friends to help get me through. We would joke around with the trainers about how much we "hated" the workouts, even though we all loved the way they made us feel afterwards. (Another quick side note to my current coaches: if I seem cynical, this is definitely why, I PROMISE that I am just being sarcastic!) And even though I was still an un-athletic, red, sweaty mess - by the time July rolled around, I was consistently doing two sessions a day at Boot Camp. I shed off the weight - twenty-five pounds by the time I left for summer school in the United Kingdom at the University of Cambridge at the beginning of August.
While I still occasionally worked out at Cambridge, I suspended my diet (with no regrets) in order to best experience my time abroad. (For me, personally, I want to experience the world through the food it has to offer, and sometimes this means giving up monitoring my diet for short periods of time. What I have found however, is that as long as I am consistent in my day to day life, it ultimately does not affect my progress, and helps me to maintain a healthy relationship with food.)
Coming back to Western in the fall, I was ready to get back into it. However, this time I didn't have my friends to workout with. Yet, I still had faith in the FBBC franchise, so I decided to sign up at the Kalamazoo location - alone. Even though I was intimidated, I walked into the building, signed up, and have attended regularly ever since.
By October, I had lost thirty pounds. I was back to being relatively thin. My confidence was up. Soon after, I began to try other fitness classes. And this past spring break, I began to finally workout using machines and weights. I am planning to start weight training more often. I also have an appointment with a nutritionist to revamp my diet, as now, after weight-loss, I am ready to see my body's full potential. What it is capable of. What I am capable of. (However, FBBC still holds a large place in my heart for the instrumental role that they played in my weight-loss, and I plan on continuing to attend sessions there.)
Despite my success, I would still get discouraged. Even though I had an overall trend of weight loss, I would occasionally gain a little weight instead of losing weight between individual weigh-ins. In addition to this, even as I did lose weight, like many girls, I began to see attributes that I liked about myself (to be blunt - such as my breasts and booty) shrink before my very eyes. To this day, I still get discouraged. Over spring break, I literally broke down crying because I haven't improved - only maintained, since October. Some days, my body confidence is through the roof and all I want to do is take bikini pictures on the beach. Other days, I still feel "blah" about my body, like it's not good enough and there's so much more that I can achieve. I still compare myself to others, even though I know that I shouldn't.
My one year transformation! March 2017 - March 2018! Thirty pounds down and determined to continue to tone up in the next several months!
My journey, just like anyone else who has had a journey in health and fitness - is ongoing. It's a constant process, full of failures successes, and, quite literally - sweat and tears.
Recently, after a Fit Body Boot Camp session, the coaches asked our group why we were there. I remember thinking "Man, I could write a book on why I'm here!" but I simply answered: "It improves my mental well-being and positive thoughts," which wasn't a lie. It does. After a workout, I am often feeling relatively confident and am less prone to the anxious and paranoid thoughts that often cloud my brain.
But it's so much more than that. I started to workout to lose weight that I put on due to both medical reasons that were out of my control and poor personal choices that were completely within my control. However, I now feel empowered by working out and eating healthy. I feel like, ultimately, I have taken back the power that I thought I lost when I started gaining weight.
After that session, being the emotional person I am, I went back to my car and cried. I cried for myself and the roller coaster of a journey that I have been on. I cried for everyone else in that building and how they found themselves there. I cried because I saw so many others who were taking back power that they once felt had been taken away from them.
I am still the least athletic person you will ever meet, but you know what? Now, I am proud of it. Because even though I am not a natural athlete, I make an effort, nearly every day, to be stronger, both physically and mentally, than the day before. To me, this is what matters the most.
My transformation from day 1 of my lifestyle change... to (roughly) day number 365!
So I get all of this, I really do. And to a certain extent it makes me feel better. Parents and teachers have been having these battles since before electric lighting.
But truth be told, my struggles with homework are far less grand. In my house, it’s not homework wars as much as homework squabbles, little questions and doubts that build up and start to nag.
Do my children need dedicated space for their homework, or is it O.K. to do it in the kitchen? What about listening to music, is that smart? Should I correct my children’s errors or let their teachers discover where they need help? Can I do anything to encourage self-reliance?
To find some answers, I turned to a team of homework experts. I asked them each a speed round of questions.
Do children need their own desks, or is the kitchen table acceptable? Eva Pomerantz is a psychology professor at the , Urbana-Champaign and a specialist in parent involvement in children’s learning. She’s also the mother of a 13-year-old daughter who loves homework and an 8-year-old boy who doesn’t. She said that on homework days, both the children and the parents are more stressed. “It can be a real time of connection with your child, or it can be totally dysfunctional,” she said.
Ms. Pomerantz believes in the kitchen table. “I think it depends on your house,” she said. “If you have a crazy, noisy kitchen, that’s probably not the place for your kids to be doing homework unless they have amazing concentration.” But if the kitchen is a place where there’s some activity but it’s generally quiet, it can have advantages.
“The thing about the kitchen,” she said, “is the parent is usually in there doing something, like making dinner, and they’re there if the child needs them, but they’re not sitting next to the child the whole time, which discourages self-reliance.”
Is it O.K. to do homework on your bed? A friend’s son was struggling with grades in high school, and my friend asked his teacher for advice. “Tell him to stop doing homework on his bed,” she said. “All the kids do it these days, and it’s bad.” Is that true?
Erika Patall is an assistant professor of psychology at the , who studies motivation and achievement. She said research shows that children vary significantly in their preferences for doing homework. Some like bright lights, others dim. Some prefer sitting up, others lying down. “It’s not about the kid being on their bed while they do their homework,” she said. “It’s about the extent to which they’re really engaged and attentive to their work.” If the child is falling asleep, staring out the window or cradling a phone, that’s a problem.
“If your child is having trouble staying focused, it’s probably time to have a conversation about switching to a different location,” Ms. Patall said.
Is it acceptable to listen to music or FaceTime with friends while doing homework? Ms. Patall said research is growing that multitasking is a bad idea. “People tend to be very bad multitaskers,” she said, “even people who say, ‘I’m a great multitasker.’ I would say to my child that other kinds of activities, like texting, Internet searches unrelated to homework, and shopping, need to be minimized. One way to phrase it is that the more time they spend doing other things, the longer the homework is taking, which makes them even less happy.”
Should parents review homework or let children make mistakes? Ms. Pomerantz said she always checks over her children’s homework “even though I think that’s probably not the best thing.” She noted that research suggests that reviewing your child’s homework even when they don’t ask helps them do better in school. The problem, she said, is when parents start correcting the homework themselves or worrying that sloppy homework reflects poorly on them.
“The way I try to frame it to myself is that it’s important to help them identify mistakes or maybe realize that they didn’t give it their best so the process is a learning experience,” she said. “If you’re concerned that imperfect homework makes you look bad, that’s problematic.”
Is criticizing your child’s work acceptable, or should you simply offer encouragement? Rose Chavez is a court transcriber in , who with her husband raised five children in their modest three-bedroom home. (The parents actually gave up the master bedroom for the three boys to share.) All five children went to , making Ms. Chavez something of a celebrity in education circles.
She told me that she made homework a priority, emphasizing quiet concentration and no play until schoolwork was done. But she didn’t hesitate to criticize her children. “These days everyone says self-esteem is important and you should tell your kids they’re doing really well,” she said. “I don’t agree. We didn’t give praise where it wasn’t due. We pushed them.”
Ms. Patall concurs. “You don’t always have to be upbeat,” she said. “You don’t want to deliver critical messages that imply things can’t be fixed. So you never want to say things like, ‘You’re stupid.’ But pointing out a situation where they should try harder would certainly be justified.”
Is there anything I can do to make my children more self-motivated? Ms. Pomerantz said the key is to give them as much control over homework as possible, advice she sometimes finds hard to follow. Her instincts, she said, are to read over an assignment, then sit down with her children and make a rigorous plan of attack. “I do that because I’m naturally a controlling person,” she said. “Then I always have to remember that the child is the one who needs to be in the chair doing the strategizing.”
Ms. Chavez’s approach may be characterized as lead by example. “In our situation, our children saw how hard we were working,” she said. “Our philosophy was, ‘We are going to work hard, but we expect you to work hard.’ They knew we couldn’t do more for them than what we were already doing, so the rest was completely up to them. That’s a big motivator. If you give them space to be self-reliant, they usually will take it.”Continue reading the main story