As told by The Vitamin Shoppe Health Enthusiast Debbie Burkhart
Healthy living was never a priority for me growing up. As a teenager, I did whatever I could to get out of gym class. I would have much rather curled up with a book than spend time exercising. When I got to college, I lived on pizza and pasta, and developed a nasty addiction to soda. Breakfast often involved cheesy breadsticks and gas station candy.
When I hit 190 pounds and started having trouble tying my shoes, I knew things were bad. But it wasn’t until chest pains regularly stopped me in my tracks that I finally decided to get my health on track.
I downloaded a food-tracker app and got smacked in the face by the reality of my daily diet: I was eating somewhere around 5,000 calories a day. I traveled a lot for work and didn’t realize my fast food meals alone clocked in at over a day’s-worth of calories. I immediately ditched my morning soda and used my food app to make better choices when drive-thrus or chain restaurants were my only meal options.
When I hit 190 pounds and started having trouble tying my shoes, I knew things were bad.
After six months or so, I’d lost 40 pounds by cracking down on my nutrition. I had always laughed at people who worked out, but I wanted to keep seeing changes in my body and feel healthier, so I knew I had to add exercise into the equation. I started doing tae-bo workout videos at home, and asked the trainers at my local gym about strength training and cardio workouts.
Once I started lifting weights, I was hooked. I tried yoga and pilates classes, too, and despite cardio always being a struggle for me, I even incorporated treadmill interval workouts into my routine.
After a few years of consistently hitting the gym and keeping my portions and calories under control, I took things a little too far. Exercise became my coping mechanism for stress, and I spent more and more time at the gym, until I was spending hours there every single day. My weight dropped down to 116 pounds (I’m 5’5”). I pumped the breaks and cut back on my workout time, and my weight bounced back up to 135, where I’ve hovered ever since.
After six months or so, I’d lost 40 pounds by cracking down on my nutrition. I had always laughed at people who worked out, but I wanted to keep seeing changes in my body and feel healthier
Now my routine feels much more balanced. I split my time among lifting weights, yoga, and a little bit of cardio. I even started teaching mat pilates at my local gym twice a week and set up an aerial yoga rig in my home. I still feel like my 190-pound self sometimes—neither strong nor graceful—and that’s okay. I cried after teaching my first pilates class because I couldn’t believe how far I’d come.
These days, I eat a bagel with light cream cheese for breakfast pretty much every day. (Cheers to flexible eating!) I make foods like chicken, rice, and broccoli or green beans for lunch, and snack on almonds or protein bars throughout the day. I haven’t touched soda, but still crave that giant ice-filled cup from the gas station, so I buy myself a cup of ice and water and mix in a couple scoops of Optimum Nutrition’s grape-flavored Amino Energy, instead.
Some days I’m exhausted or feel tempted to use food as a crutch for stress—but then I think of the 70-year-olds who make it to every single pilates class I teach, rain or shine. They remind me of the way I want to live my life: They get out there, take care of themselves, and thrive no matter what.
I cried after teaching my first pilates class because I couldn’t believe how far I’d come.
I think sometimes we are so ashamed that we’ve let ourselves go that we don’t do what we need to do to turn things around. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t be ashamed to start. Having cracks doesn’t mean you’re broken—you can do it. You just have to take that first step.
Deb’s Go-To Picks From The Vitamin Shoppe
Of course, I love my grape Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy. I sip on that stuff all day. I have a sensitive stomach, so I love D’s Naturals No Cow protein bars, especially the lemon meringue or chocolate banana bread flavors.