“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as your proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we’have barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.” – Interstellar

 

It’s Monday.

I just registered for my last class of my program. It’s United States Government. Perfect timing given the state of affairs we’re in. Public health officials affect change on policy – you need to know the laws and process before you try to break them or change them.

I have no idea where the last 18 months went. This is what I will say in June when I wrap up my final course.

There are many aspects to my health journey.

There was the day I got started. I don’t remember it, it’s not crystal clear. I know I refused to weigh myself initially because I knew it was bad. I went based on my clothes. I didn’t even track my food – I just ate less, but even that amount was still more than most people when they start. I saw weight loss and fat loss. My clothes got big, my body got small and I looked at my wallet thinking where will the money for new clothes come from.

There was day I started running. There was the day I started paleo – the day I stopped paleo. There was the day I decided I wanted to be a competitor and I started lifting, macro counting and clean eating. There was the day I decided clean eating wasn’t for me.

There’s been personal bests. There’s been solo 5Ks. There’s been a handful of competitions. There’s been a skin removal surgery. There’s been maintaining and gaining and loss. There’s been a fluctuating amount of weight loss, but size has been pretty much maintained…except these damn hips.

There’s the mental aspect of the journey. Deciding that health is more important than a bag chips or the dollar menu. Deciding that while there may not be motivation every day, effort should be made more often than not.

There’s been MANY conversations with myself. There’s been:

Girl, you look great! You’re crushing it. You can do this. You can’t do this. What did you get yourself into? Just another rep. Another five pounds is nothing, pick up the bar. Bed early, up early. If you don’t care about you, then who will? You shouldn’t eat that. You definitely should eat that. Stay on the floor a little longer, then pick yourself up. If you can get into the shower the morning will feel better. If you can get out of the shower you can make today good. Set a timer so you can study for your test. If you don’t study you won’t understand this. If you study too long you’re going to overload yourself. It’s ok that you didn’t get to the gym today, look at everything else you accomplished! Well, this plan was better on paper.

It’s no surprise, or it shouldn’t be at least – that there’s a mental or emotional connection with the physical manifestation of health, fat loss, weight loss – whatever label you give your journey.

I’ve said some uplifting things to myself. I’ve said some terrible things to myself. Sometimes I think about why I’m not as supportive of myself like I am my clients.

It’s not that there aren’t standards for them, but everyone has a different life.

Today is the last day of being 28 and I don’t know everything about myself.

I’m still learning about my capabilities. I’m still learning when to back off and when to push harder.

The past 18 months have had some ups and downs. There’s been some sitting on the kitchen floor moments – a lot less though when I think back.

The past 18 months have been a very different environment. Going to school for my bachelor’s was easy and I don’t remember struggling to adapt to a different schedule every semester.

In the past 18 months, I’ve taken 12 classes, five were lab intensive. I have one more course like I mentioned above. I’m also finishing up fieldwork into the summer. I need 300 hours minimum of unpaid public health related work.

In the first month, I launched my health and lifestyle coaching business.

I hate calling myself a health coach, I hate saying lifestyle coach too. Health coach has become synonymous with scheme or product pusher. Health and lifestyle coaching, for me at least, is so much more than fat loss. It’s analyzing the role our environments play in our lives and developing a plan that allows for flexibility that is unique to the client. It’s about long-term behavior change. It’s about making connections and finding what works for the individual.

Wanting to help people in this way pushed me to go back to school.

 

While coaching others, I share my experiences too while connecting them to theories and research. I share even my darkest moments with them because we are human, an we can persevere. They need to see that we can persevere – that they can persevere too.

By the end of the month eight in school I came to realize that health is bigger than I thought. Public health was a natural choice for me because it mixed what I believe health to be: emotional and mental and physical. I had been sharing on social media how my mental health impacted my choices and impacted my health.

However, I hadn’t been considering other external barriers.

Simply, if you don’t have healthy food in your home you won’t eat healthy food. When creating a healthy, balanced meal plan you want to look at foods that support you and those that hinder you. If you believe elimination of certain foods is important because of temptation then by all means remove them and work through the larger issue of why food controls you. This is a simple idea.

This is a barrier that can be easily removed. But what about those who can’t afford it.

If you don’t have an apple in the kitchen then you can’t choose an apple as a snack. But what if you’re at the grocery store and you can’t purchase the apple because $2.99/pound outweighs the cost of buying a bag of rice to feed a family?

I want to empower people. I want people to feel confident in their decisions. I want them to consider all the roles they play in their life. I want them to think about what impacts their choices and the process they go through when deciding.

I tell my clients there are some things you can’t control. I tell myself that too. When life gets hard we talk about it from two angles: what we control and what we don’t.

You can argue that people could spend their money more wisely to afford fruits and vegetables. You can also argue that they may not see the long-term effects of that and may only be able to see the short-term implications of making their dollar go further.

In the past 18 months, I’ve worked with about 60 people on various health and lifestyle goals and there are many similarities including internal barriers they create for themselves. The bigger question I started asking myself while going through course literature was “what about the external barriers that cyclically divide who should be healthy and who shouldn’t be?”

At nine months into my program, I started thinking bigger. I started thinking about my community. I started thinking about affecting change so that being healthy isn’t just for those who can afford it.

By month 10, I decided I wanted to create access. Not only do I want people to be able to make healthy choices, but before they can even consider a healthy choice, they need opportunities and access to choices.

Month 12, I had been reading even more outside the classroom than I already had been. I was going through legislation and interviewing for my fieldwork placement. I also decided I need to do more writing in the New Year. I work to educate my clients so that they can make informed choices, but I wasn’t sharing this aspect of me here. That’s where Wellness Refocused Education posts came from. I’ve been slower to write than I want to, but guys – this semester is kicking my butt.

These educational posts are meant to get people thinking, provide resources for them to continue to research on their own and more importantly help those who don’t want the help of a coach for whatever reason, but want to be more knowledgeable.

I started fieldwork in month 13 and that’s when I realized if I want to create more access, I want to get involved in policy. I want to get involved in program creation and implementation. I want to start at zero.

Last month, in month 14, as I was researching for fieldwork, I saw how environment dictates priority. I saw how the interpretation of standards influences if someone will go above and beyond or do the minimal requirements. I saw the conflict between these two.

I joked the other day at the office and said I want to solve hunger. A woman I was speaking with looked at me with all seriousness and said, “we need to talk the next time I come in. I’m working on a project that we should talk about.”

I never knew that when I said I wanted to help empower people to make healthy choices and feel confident in their choices, I really meant that I want to affect change so that there are choices and opportunities for individuals to create healthy lives for themselves without or with minimal barriers.

I wasn’t thinking big enough in the beginning.

I love coaching, but I also love the idea of making an impact in this way too.

I’m getting involved in my community. I’m currently running a book collection for kids for a local organization that focuses on victims and survivors of domestic violence. I’m raising money to support an organization that provides programming for food access (see below). I’m trying to see the larger picture and the connections.

This morning, in month 15 – I was told that invitations for a leadership and goal setting workshop I created and will be running at the end of April will be sent out soon to about 400 members of the honor society I’m in. I get to do what I love with a group of people in an academic and professional setting.

I’m a small person. I’ve actually shrunk. I’m 5’3.5″, I used to be 5’4″. But I need to keep dreaming. I need to keep thinking big.

By June classes will be completed. By August I’ll have an official diploma in hand.

I’ve already started looking and applying for jobs.

I don’t know how these months have gone by so fast, but I know the moments in which something in my perspective changed.

This health journey is so much more than my weight loss. It’s so much more than a competitor’s heart or coping with mental health.

I guess I’m interested to see what happens to my corner of the world if I can move the needle a little bit.

I say all the time, I never thought I would be here.

I thought I would look older, feel older. I thought my career would be different. I thought I would comfortable, but I’ve never been good at siting still and getting comfortable.

❤ Cristina

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