The Life of A Fit College Student Series: The Younger Years

I’ve been writing for a while, before this blog there was another blog. This is my outlet. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine – who I actually met through Instagram asked me about blogging. She said she thought she wanted to share her journey with health, fitness, eating disorders and the endless quest of finding balance. She also said she wasn’t sure if this was something could always invest in, really what it came down to – is there always something she felt she wanted to voice. I told her if wanted to guest to write a series she was welcome to. Alicia is in college and her journey started before she arrived on campus. My journey – my true start date was after college. Her perspective is unique and different than mine and I hope it may resonate with those of you who are around her age or may have experienced some of the things she discusses in her posts at that age even if it was decades ago. We’re calling the series: The Life of a Fit College Student. 

Please keep in mind she is sharing her story for educational purposes; while she went through drafts of her post this is her “brain dumping” her thoughts onto the screen. After you’ve read her post, if you want to connect with Alicia you can do so via Instagram with the link below or by sending an email to runsweateatrepeat@gmail.com with the subject: Life of a Fit College Student. 
A lot of people may not know me, but I am Alicia (@_alicia_h on Instagram), a 20 year old college student. I was born, raised and still live in Pittsburgh. I am very passionate about health and fitness. Like most fitness junkies, I wasn’t always passionate about my health and fitness like I am today, but everyone has to start somewhere and I started back in my junior year of High School circa 2012.

I played volleyball my freshman and sophomore years, but I decided to quit in my junior year. I then joined the brand new LA Fitness in the South Side with my best friend. We would go there for two hours alternating between the cardio machines and weights. There were days we would walk on the treadmill with max incline for 45 mins, yes I know, I was crazy.  We never bothered to ask anyone what we should and shouldn’t be doing because we were young and wanted to do this ourselves.  I was around 5’4 and 180 pounds at the age of 16.  I wasn’t comfortable in my body and I was at the age where I wanted to try to look my best. I had learned about basic weight lifting while I was playing volleyball such as squats, bench, and shoulder press, but we also did a lot of machines, so I stuck with the machines on light weights, did A LOT of cardio, and abs. My goal was to lose weight and to get abs. I had learned that our gym had different classes and one of them was Zumba, so I decided to give it a try. For the next year or two I would go to 1-3 times a week. I actually even bought the Zumba game for the Wii. By the end of 2012 I had lost probably around 15 pounds.  I never started keeping track until I really started seeing results a year or two down the line.

My goal for 2013 was to obviously get skinny and get abs.  

Within the first two weeks of 2013, I had lost my grandma, who was also my best friend, my support, my encouragement. She had told me that I needed to cut back on eating and get outside a little more since I had decided to quit volleyball. After she had passed, I had a goal: I was to lose weight and become a better person, a person who pushed herself to do her best in everything she encountered. I knew that would be what she wanted. At that point I had taken a month or so off from the gym, but I was going to start going consistently.

The Beginning of Weight Training

A family friend had offered to help teach me different things in the gym.  This is where I really began to start weight lifting; he showed me the basics, we would warm up and do 10-15 minutes of cardio and then we would do 4-5 exercises with weights and that was it. We would do this five days a week. I also started doing Pilates once a week and I still did Zumba once or twice a week. By the time senior year rolled around I was around 150 pounds, I still never kept much track of the actual number, but I noticed many changes. I had to wear a uniform to school and my shirt and pants were pretty baggy on me; I didn’t care at that point so I just continued to wear them.

My family friend who had started teaching me about weightlifting had moved and I began working out by myself. I finally felt comfortable enough where I thought I was able to start doing it on my own, but I never started lifting really heavy. I would stick with lighter weights and move up when I felt comfortable, I mainly stuck with machines and occasionally I would do free weights.  I also ended up running my first 5K, it was the Pittsburgh Marathon 5K where I raised money to support the Western PA Humane Society. My goal was to jog at least the first mile and then walk the rest because I really did not think I was able to run the whole thing, but I proved myself wrong and ran it with a time around 37 minutes.  I know 37 minutes is typically a long time for a 5K but I didn’t train specifically for this race. I had no intention of actually caring about my time, I was doing this to support a charity. I was only doing some lifting and occasionally running on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike. I remember one of my high school teachers pulled me a side during one of the last days of school and told me how he thought I was doing great and he could really tell that I changed not only physically, but mentally, in a good way.

By the time graduation came I weighed around 140 pounds.  My meals during the end of my Senior year were pretty much all the same:

  • Breakfast: Special K Cereal or a Fiber one bar
  • Lunch: Turkey sandwich on the sandwich thin breads or Tabbouli and Pita Bread with a side of a raw vegetable and an apple.
  • Snack: granola bar or vegetables
  • Dinner: A  can of Soup or whatever my mom made
  • Dessert: If I ever had dessert it was probably a cookie or huge bowl of ice cream

Getting Ready for College

The summer before I headed to college I got really serious about lifting and wanted to look my best or at least try to when I began college. I had gained some confidence already but I still wasn’t quite happy with my body. My best friend at the time would occasionally go to the gym with me because she wanted to lose weight before college also. I was very consistent, she was not; I went to the gym every day after working with my dad. There were mornings where I would get up and go to yoga and then go back later for lifting or sometimes I would go in the morning and lift and then go back in the afternoon to do cardio. I also started attending cycling classes every Saturday morning to challenge myself. I really did enjoy the group exercise classes that were offered, I attended a Hip Hop class once a week that was extremely challenging, but so much fun.

I started eating really clean and I would drink protein or buy protein bars from Aldis, yes, the off-brand grocery store.  I stepped into GNC one day to try out their protein bars and I found Power Crunch bars, GNC brand bars, and the Gourmet Cheesecake bars.  I started eating those after I worked out. I was in really good shape and continued to be in really good shape, I even purchased the class to get certified as a Personal Trainer (I still have not finished the class). People started telling me how I started looking good and the change was really noticeable and I began to really like the idea of people telling me that so I continued to do what I was doing. I was eating really clean throughout the day, but I noticed myself starting to binge eat at night. Some days I would eat a big bowl of ice cream or multiple cookies. I never worried about it because I thought, “Oh, I’m working out so much it doesn’t even matter if I eat this.”

When I started my freshman year of college I weighed between 130 and 135 pounds, that was my lowest weight since who knows when. I was still very consistent and eating very clean and I continued the routine I had for the summer, I would still go to the gym and I’d pack my own lunches and snacks for throughout the day. I really watched what I ate. I often wouldn’t want to do stuff because I continued to restrict myself.

The No-So-Great Turn

The anxiety began to set in because I put so much pressure on myself to be what I thought was extremely healthy and I also was just starting out college, I commuted from my parent’s house so it was a little stressful to get used to. In addition to this, I had started my first actual job. At this point I didn’t even want to attend college, to me it felt forced. I was constantly getting tired and not wanting to work out and just not wanting to do anything (the effects of eating under approximately 1100 calories a day).  I was not myself and my family began to notice; they finally took me to see a primary care physician and I was diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa. I was not making myself vomit, but I was essentially over exercising and then restricting myself too. The doctor had not prescribed any therapy or anything, all I do remember him telling me was, “you can eat whatever without worrying about gaining weight.”  Don’t get me wrong he is a great physician, but when it came to this type of situation he was not helpful at all.  I weighed 125 pounds. Looking back I still didn’t believe that I actually had an eating disorder, but in reality I did. Most people don’t want to hear it, but there are so many people out there that have an undiagnosed eating disorder.

The Recovery

After being told that I had an eating disorder, I promised my parents that I would turn around, I realized that I didn’t want to live that way either.  I wanted to be my normal self and not dread the workouts because I was tired and didn’t feel like doing anything.  I started eating more, I still ate cleanly, but I didn’t restrict myself so much. I began to get my energy back and go to gym and not dread it. I actually had started lifting heavy, I started tracking my progress weekly, not my body weight, but the weights being lifted. I began to not worry about the number on the scale. I fell in love all over again with lifting and I truly enjoyed it! I met my now boyfriend, Evan, while he started losing weight and we pushed each other to be our best in and out of the gym. It is great to have someone who loves lifting almost as much as I do.  I showed him new things that I enjoyed and we started training consistently together. My max squat was at 235 pounds, it has gone down a lot due to a tailbone injury and my hips being out of alignment and my max deadlift was 205 pounds. That’s something that shows health just as much if not more than a number on the scale.

Today, I continue to be on my journey, my goal is to get stronger and build more muscle. I do suffer from anxiety that sometimes interferes with my goals. I have recently started therapy to help overcome anxiety and to have someone I can open up to with the way I am feeling about everything. Sometimes I feel like I am on this journey alone and lose hope but I know that I have many people who do encourage and support me. I do have off days and currently I am eating what I feel like, it but I’m not overdoing it and trying to be mindful.  I want to get my maxes back up to where they were.  I had to relearn to squat so I could now actually do a full squat to parallel. I am slowly but surely getting back to the shape that I want to be in.  I am not doing it for anyone, but myself because I want to feel great, be healthy and be fit.

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