The Best Version of Myself
A few years ago, when I decided that I wanted to get into better shape, I didn't do so with some wild "thirty-day transformation" goal in mind. In fact, my goal was literally to reach the highest point of my potential that I could before my 40th birthday.
I turn 40 in 671 days and I am excited!
I was diagnosed with PCOS and hypothyroidism 12 years ago, after years of wondering what the hell was wrong with me. At that time, I was essentially told this was a lifelong set of conditions and I might as well learn to be as content as possible with my struggle.
That struggle included, among other things, my hair falling out, my nails peeling off, lethargy, difficulty managing my weight, hormonal adult acne that I always cheerfully referred to as "my beard," and patches of skin on my body known as acanthosis nigricans which appeared under my breasts, on the back of my neck and sometimes under my arms. More severely, wild unpredictability in my menstrual cycles, excessively painful PMS, months of anovulation, infertility, and so on.
And this, I was told, was just the new normal for me and I better get used to it.
I'm adaptable, and I am willing to play the best game I can with the cards I am dealt. I can't be blamed for ignorance when I tried to find alternatives to mainstream medicine and everything turned up blank for me. I hustled. I became a cardio junkie. My endocrinologist specifically stated that changes to my diet wouldn't help me, so I kept eating as I was, and put myself through 12-15 hours worth of cardio each week.
My cardio endurance was splendid. But my other PCOS issues all remained the same, and I continued to gain weight.
I went from weighing 165lbs in 2009 to 195lbs in 2015/2016. The more weight I gained, the worse my PCOS became, the more lethargic I felt, the harder the cardio became, and the more I worried that this futility would snowball until I was 400lbs by the age of 50! I was insecure about the condition of my skin, I agonized during my horrendous periods. It was awful.
In 2016 I shifted my focus to my nutrition. I found the blog of a woman my age who overcame her PCOS naturally through nutrition and light exercise. I was fascinated. I immediately tried her suggestions. I'd been beating my head against the wall my way for seven years, I was ready for a new strategy. I immediately began tracking calories, and lowered my overall cardio effort. I ate 80% clean food, in a calorie deficit, and lo and bloody behold, within four months I had lost thirty pounds. And I have kept it off ever since.
(Just a friendly FYI, the law of thermodynamics doesn't change just because you have a hormonal imbalance. That is a roadblock, but not a reason to give up. Calorie deficit works even if your hormones are jacked up. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise).
In the years since I have switched my fitness strategy from mostly cardio to mostly weight training. And my goal wasn't some lame "hot girl summer" strategy but rather when I turn 40 I want to be the strongest, healthiest, happiest, purest version of myself. And so, with this in mind, I didn't get discouraged and give up when 30 days in I didn't have some amazing transformation.
Change sometimes happens slowly, and that is why mindset is everything. I was patient. I learned more about myself mentally in those first months. I struggle with technique and coordination but I am always hellbent on perfection. I invested countless hours in clinical studies about weight lifting and watching videos and connecting with people more experienced than me to get help. Those first few months didn't show much physical change but mentally I was making vast strides.
But here I am, a few years in, and not only am I making progress, but I have essentially cured my PCOS. They will tell you it is incurable. But I have zero clinical symptoms of it, including in my blood work. At the age of 38, I have the healthiest menstrual cycle I've ever had, regular, predictable and my PMS is insignificant compared to how it was. My skin is clear, I have no patches on my skin, my body has changed. I am strong, energetic, empowered - I don't feel constantly at war with physical self.
I have taken control of my health. After the doctors told me there was no hope.
And when I turn 40 I'll feel accomplished at how far I have come, that at 40 I'll be so much better than I was at 20. And I'll shift my goals again, long-term goals with a broad purpose, to be vibrant and healthy and strong, to be the best version of myself every day, as each decade passes. Forget hot girl summer, this is confident, disciplined woman lifestyle.