Growing up, I was always skinny.  I never dieted and pretty much ate whatever I wanted.  I hated the gym and "exercise", but was involved in sports and dance because I enjoyed that I was with my friends outside of school hours.  However, everything changed once I graduated high school.  We moved back to the USA (enjoyed a lot of Little Ceasar's and Krispy Kreme) and I immediately put on about 20 pounds.  I wasn't on any sports teams and wasn't taking dance classes, so my workouts came to a complete stop.  After getting married at 22, I found myself eating more often and bigger portions because I was eating when and what my husband was eating.  On top of that, my 20s were really difficult years for me, full of anxiety and depression and I ended up doing a lot of emotional eating.  Before I knew it, my 20s were gone, I had put on another 30 pounds, I was constantly exhausted and really didn't feel like myself anymore. 

Fall 2016 vs. Fall 2017
Photos by Emily Lynn Christopher at Just Because Blog

It was about a year and a half ago now that I began to work out and eat better and I can't believe how incredibly different I feel.  It wasn't that I just wanted to be skinny...I felt like I lost myself somehow and just wanted to feel like "Emily" again.  I wanted to feel my best and began making changes towards that goal.  It's been a gradual process and I didn't do all this cold turkey.  But, since May 4th, 2016, here are the 10 changes I've slowly adopted:

1.  Stop the caffeine.  Although I may not drink soda but a few times a year, I did tend to have coffee a couple times a week.  Unfortunately, it brings on the jitters and leads to anxiety filled days, so it was good to get the caffeine out of my system.

2.  Kick the sugar.  I LOVE sugar and wish I could live on Cinnamon Sugar Pop-Tarts.  But, the affect is basically the same as caffeine...speeds up my heart and leaves me feeling all flustered.  Since sugar is clearly a problem for me, I've cut way back.

3.  Quit the alcohol.  I like beer, I love wine and I adore all the sugary girly drinks.  But, just like caffeine and sugar, it leaves me not feeling so great.  It's so crazy that all the things that I consider "my treats", leave me feeling the worst!  I thought it would be hard to give up, but I've only had wine once since May this year and I don't miss it.

4.  Exercise daily.  Daily exercise helps me feel better emotionally and sleep better at night...and those are huge.  Plus, it's helped me feel stronger and have more energy.  However, one big thing for me is I've had to learn to work out alone instead of relying on others to be my constant work out buddies.  But the biggest thing is I've had to make the decision that I will work out every single day whether I want to or not.  

5.  Take supplements.  I've been taking Young Living's Ningxia Red and Master Formula daily and can tell a huge difference in my digestion, energy, hair and skin when I take them!  I try to eat well, but it makes me feel better knowing that I'm covering all my necessary antioxidants and vitamins each day.

At 21-years-old, I was around 120-130 pounds and really felt great!

6.  Sleep.  Cutting out caffeine, sugar and alcohol really makes a difference in my sleep.  Going to bed and waking up each day at the same time helps too.  Count in a hard workout that day and my diffuser going with Peace&Calming blend that night and I sleep like a rock.

7.  Cut out toxins.  Did you know how dangerous the toxins in your toiletries, makeup, food, drinks and cleaning supplies can be?  Even candles, air-fresheners and things like that are harmful.  Now that I've detoxed from these types of chemicals, just being around them for a short time will give me headaches and is further proof that they should be avoided at all costs.  Your entire body, inside and outside, can be negatively affected by toxins.  Plus, I've learned that a lot of fat is full of stored toxins.  Sounds dangerous to me.  So, getting rid of anything toxic and replacing it with a healthy alternative has been high on my list.

8.  Eat well.  I hate diets.  I see people deprive themselves, lose weight, go off the diet, gorge on all the food they missed and then gain back all the weight they lost.  Diets are not sustainable.  What I had to learn, though, was how the food I ate really effected how I felt.  There are things I love to eat, but now don't because I realized how bad they made me feel.  I have learned to choose foods that help me feel good, which happen to be whole, plant-based vegan foods.  And I've also learned to eat when I'm hungry and don't eat when I'm not hungry.  It's not a difficult concept...who knew it would take me 32 years to get it?!  Oh yea, and drink more water, right momma?  Haha.

9.  Minimize stress.  Stress really affects me in every way.  I'm easily anxious and depressed, but since I know that about myself, I can try to make good choices.  One thing is not allowing myself to get too busy.  I have to have some space and alone time each day and so I am careful to plan my calendar accordingly and don't schedule things back to back.

10.  Wrap up looming projects.  Talking about stress, one big thing that I want to do is finish our home.  As you know, if you follow this blog, we are living in a fixer upper and have been for the past two and a half years.  Weekly, if not daily, we have sub-contractors over here working on projects.  Along with the workers, comes the dirt and dust and mess.  With all the nails and staples and plaster chips and who knows what else laying around, I know that living in this environment has really added to my stress.  I'm so happy that we are on the home stretch now and hope we don't take on another project this large again (not going to say "never" because then it's bound to happen).

10 years later, 31-years-old and 169 pounds...my heaviest.
I felt constantly exhausted and uncomfortable in my own skin
The past year and a half has been all about getting rid of the things that made me feel worse and adding in the things that help me feel better.  It's not just about diet and exercise, but even my schedule, relationships, work, free time, hobbies and other small things that felt like big things because of how they affected me so heavily.  I've come a long way and feel like a different person...a lot like the old "Emily".  Sure, I miss some foods and would sometimes love to slack off and just wing it, but I don't want to go back to where I was a year and a half ago.  I want to continue moving forward towards better health and feeling my best!