Below is a very personal post. I was nervous to publish it, but I want to share my journey: where I started and where I am now. Thank you for joining me once again. 

Growing up, I was always the chubby girl. I have this vivid memory, when I was around 7 or 8, and I was at a family reunion. For some reason, my kid cousins and I were talking about how much we weighed. My twin girl cousins, who are two years older than me told me their weight. I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed that I was younger than them and I weighed more. It seemed wrong in my mind. I should've weighed less, I was younger, and supposed to be smaller. I think this is my first memory of feeling shame towards my body. 

One year in elementary school, I never ordered school pictures. I even got retakes, but I had chubby cheeks with braces and a glasses, and a short hair cut. I hated the way I looked. I didn't want to have the pictures as a memory of what I looked like. I think I was in Grade 4 or 5. 

Later when I was a preteen, I remember not being able to ride in the car with my legs exposed. If we were on a road trip, I brought a pillow or blanket to cover my legs with. I didn't like the sight of how my thighs "expanded" when I sat down. 

I know that my self-image goes hand in hand with my relationship with food. I liked to eat (I still like to eat). I liked to eat a lot. And when I was in junior high I didn't know how to eat healthily. I didn't really do anything active or sporty in junior high. 

In Grade 10, I went on my first diet and I got a gym membership. I thought if I could lose weight, then I would be more beautiful, more popular, more likeable to others and myself. I thought if I was thinner then I could wear the trendy styles. When I started my diet, I followed the Weight Watcher's diet and counted points. For breakfast I ate a small bowl of cottage cheese, a pear, and maybe a hard boiled egg. At lunch, I ate a (very) small salad which only consisted of iceberg lettuce, a few shreds of cheese, and some grilled chicken. I topped it with balsamic vinegar and oil. If I was still hungry, I ate a Silhouette yogurt. I went to the gym everyday after school. I became an elliptical junkie. 

Obviously, on this diet and with the exercise, I lost weight. I became obsessed with weighing myself only in the morning (with an empty belly). I would weigh myself AFTER working out so that I might be even less weight. If I lost weight, I celebrated by eating. If I gained weight, I was very hard on myself and vowed to try harder. 

In the summer going into Grade 11, I had grown out my hair, lost my glasses and braces, and was very thin. At my lowest weight, I was 110 lbs.  I stopped getting my period. I had no boobs. But, in pictures, I still saw myself with having a gut. People commented that I was too thin. I went to the doctor. My doctor, told me that I looked great and that maybe I had a thyroid imbalance. I didn't. I was just too thin. 

Over the course of Grade 11 and 12, I couldn't keep up with my demanding diet and exercise. I started to eat normally again and exercised less. I gained weight. My period came back, my boobs grew. But, I still wasn't healthy. I would eat garbage: cheeseburgers, cookies, fries, chicken strip, ice cream. But, my metabolism in Grade 11 and 12 was pretty good and so I thought it was okay to eat this way. 

When I was 19 and attended College, again, a voice inside of me told me that I needed to be thinner. There were days I would go all day without eating, and then only eat dinner, or binge at the end of the day. I would tell myself that if I didn't eat all day, I could treat myself by indulging at the end of the day. 

When I moved to Victoria for University, I fell into under eating and overexercising again because of a friend I was close with. I lost weight again. All I ate was Special K, salads, and tuna. We exercised every day: run, swim, and weights. A few months into University, if I was alone, I would binge. When I felt sick of what I was eating, I would throw it in the garbage and spray the remains with hairspray so that I wouldn't eat anymore.  

It was only when I lived on my own that I really started to turn my eating habits and exercise around. I started cooking and ate relatively healthily. I joined a great gym that offered empowering classes. However, I still lacked positive body image and was often self-conscious of my round face and thick thighs. I still felt the need to snack a lot and often overate at night time. It did not help that the person I was with encouraged overeating and lots of unhealthy foods. It was a vicious cycle of living healthy all day long and then feeling the need to reward myself with food. I continued this lifestyle for years. 

When I moved back to Cranbrook after University, I continued to struggle with a balanced healthy lifestyle. I partied and drank too much. I learned how to pose for photos so that I appeared slimmer and more angular. I would tilt my head and face to my "good side" to hide my chubby cheeks. I would lean over and push my butt back so that my legs looked skinnier.  

It wasn't until I started dating my hubby, Tim, that my body image and confidence started to improve. Tim always makes me feel good about myself! I am so lucky to have a man in my life who lifts me up and shuts the other negative voices in my head down. Tim loves to be active, so many things we did together were outdoor activities. I got into hiking and biking and found joy in exercise OUTSIDE of the gym. Before I felt that I had to go to the gym everyday, but with Tim we found alternate activities to exercise and get endorphins! However, I lacked interest in cooking. I found that I never had the time and organizational skills to plan and prep and cook. We did eat really healthily, but I never felt great about it. 

After I had Duke and Jude, I now really had NO time to cook. For months, we had food brought to us, or did really easy things like barbecue! It wasn't until the twins were about 4 months old that something in me was sparked with interest to cook again. But now, that we had kids, I really wanted to be conscious and mindful about the food we were buying (where it comes from, how it's grown). Not only did I want to set a good example to my boys, I wanted them to be getting the BEST nutrients since I was still breastfeeding 100% of the time. 

With this newfound interest, I found my love for cooking Vegan, or as I prefer, plant-based. I like the term plant-based more because it means that my diet is based from PLANTS, but we don't 100% eat Vegan. Tim especially, he still eats dairy and meat, but every dinner (because I cook) is plant-based. I am now probably 95% plant-based. When I am at home, I eat Vegan. But, I can't always be at home! If I go to a friend's for dinner, I can't be picky (and I do love me some meat on rare occasions). If go I for dinner, there aren't always plant-based options. If I am craving dairy or meat or eggs or whatever, then I will have it. Also, as I am learning, not all wine is Vegan! I love wine, and will drink Vegan wine when I can, but the way it is processed it sometimes tricky to know if animal products have been used. 

For me, the greatest thing about eating plant-based is how good I feel mentally. If you've read my blog, you know that I have dealt with some PPD and anxiety. Your gut is linked to your brain, and so it only makes sense that if you have a healthy gut, you will have a healthy mind. And when I eat plant-based, I have NO guilt. I eat a lot and can feel satisfied from what I eat. My stomach is bloated way less than it used to be when I ate meat and dairy. I also take probiotics and digestive enzymes :) A plant-based diet isn't for everyone. I was hesitant at first... it took us a long time to transition. Giving up cheese was hard, but if I am craving some, I will have some. But, honestly I really don't crave it often at all. I am lucky to have close friends who have inspired us to change the way that we think about our food, a hubby that will eat whatever I make, my parents who are open to eating differently too, and I get a lot of drool-worthy inspo from people I follow on IG. 

As for exercise, I quit my gym membership in the Fall. I have to say that I was nervous. I have had a gym membership since I was in Grade 10. But, I have found my love for the outdoors and for indoor spin classes. I also love to run in our Community Forest! Between walking, running, and spinning, I keep very active. Not to mention, that when my boys start crawling and walking, I will be running after them! Now that we have kids, I want to do fun exercise, together as a family, and not feel chained to a gym. 

When I am eating healthily and working out regularly, I feel good mentally and physically. It has been a long journey from when I was 8 years old. 20 years to be exact ... but the journey has led me to a place where I am the best version of myself and am setting a great example for my boys as they grow. I don't ever want my kids to feel ashamed of their bodies or struggle with their relationship with food and/or exercise. I want them to be strong, confident, and proud! I strongly believe, that by setting a positive example, my kids will follow :) 

The battle I have with food and exercise and body image will never completely go away. For the most part, I can push the negative voices away, but every once in awhile, when they creep in, I focus on the positive, think about leading by example for my kids, and really lean on my husband to guide me back.

Thank you for reading,