Stepping Out Of My Health & Fitness Comfort Zone (Again)

And so it seems that every time you step out of your comfort zone, that comfort zone stretches just a litttttttle more, making each next step a bit scarier.

But, as I’ve always said, the best things in life start happening when you push yourself just beyond that point of discomfort.

Better known here, of course, as getting gutsy.

Once again, I’m taking a dose of my own medicine and stepping out of my own comfort zone. A comfort zone I thought I was completely done with — one I’ve tackled in the past, but one I’ve since learned, I’ll tackle time and time again throughout my life.

I’m stepping outside my health and fitness comfort zone (again). 

I’m reprioritizing my personal health and fitness in ways I’ve never pushed myself to do before.

I'm taking a dose of my own medicine and getting gutsy -- this time, it's to step out of my health & fitness comfort zone (again)!

Flashback to 2011

Let’s travel back in time to visit 23-year-old Jessica because six years ago is where this story begins. 

In October of 2011, I proudly wrote a blog post sharing the story of how I lost 30 pounds, after finding myself the heaviest I’ve ever been post-college.

After seeing that figure staring back at me on the scale, I made some big changes in my life, which I detail in the tell-all post.

Losing the weight was a catalyst for me — I emerged with a new sense of confidence and a new sense of purpose.

Telling this very personal story inspired me to share even more of my vulnerabilities online. It’s what led me to rebrand my website to what you see today — The Get Gutsy Blog. 

It was a transformative time, and one I look back on with pride.

A bumpy road

Here’s one important fact I didn’t realize when I wrote that post six years ago: Losing the weight actually was the easy part (though it didn’t feel that way at the time).

Maintaining the weight loss has been the massively challenging part of the process.

And over the past six years, no doubt, my weight has fluctuated. Dealing with the (natural) ups and downs became a bit of struggle, but things never felt too out of control.

My fitness routine changed — I went from loving running and Zumba (even ran a half marathon back in the day!) to a more yoga-based workout regimen. 

My eating habits changed — I went from a very, very strict diet and portioning out all of my food to becoming a little bit more lax and then eventually, a lot more lax.

I wasn’t always thrilled with the way my body looked, but I felt strong. I had made peace with my body. Or so I thought…

Which leads me to now…

Fast forward to today.

My life looks nothing like it did six years ago.

Let’s review: I no longer have a full-time job. Instead, I work for myself from home. I’m no longer single. I’ve been dating my boyfriend Tim for more than a year. I no longer live with my family. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with Tim.

Oh, and notably, I no longer run, and I practice yoga far less than I did before. I still work out, but since starting my business, it has become less of a priority.

So yeah, things have changed just a bit, to say the least. And with those big life changes, my schedule, habits and body has changed too.

I’ve found myself in a bit of a health and fitness rut.

Relationship weight gain? That’s a real thing. Yeah, I’d much rather sit on the couch watching Netflix and drinking wine with my babe than hitting up a 7:30 p.m. hot yoga class on a weeknight.

Getting comfortable in my new place and with exploring cooking new foods? Awesome, but also sometimes a detractor from eating super healthy, since I haven’t always been mindful of what I’m cooking.

Dealing with the stress of running a business? Sure, that bag of chips seems like a mighty nice way to ease my anxieties right now.

And so it wasn’t one big thing, but a thousand small habits and choices that led me to where I am today. 

Jeans from last winter just a tad more snug than they were when I last wore them. A general feeling of bloat the morning after a few glasses of wine or an unhealthy meal. Staring at myself in the mirror during a barre class wondering when that extra bit of stomach pudge appeared.

I realized: I’m not happy with my body at this very moment. 

But…unlike six years ago, this time I know what to do. I know what works. I have a plan of action.

Making changes

Over the summer, I joined a brand new fitness club in my area, Life Time. What a game-changer.

With a massive weekly roster of fitness classes, a healthy cafe, a spa, indoor/outdoor pools and more, I spend a lot of time here. 

So when I saw that Life Time was offering a 60-day challenge right around the same time I came to the realization I needed to create some change in my life, I jumped right in. 

The Life Time 60-Day Challenge kicked off last week, and runs through the beginning of January (perfect for keeping on track during the holidays!). The challenge includes a meeting with a trainer to set goals, weekly weigh-ins, daily emails with recipes, workouts, resources and motivation, and so much more.

I’m blown away by this program — seriously. Just a week or so in, and I’ve already learned so many new nuggets of information…and I’ve already made some big changes.

I also love this 60-day challenge because each week I have to weigh in and then send my results to my trainer. No excuses. It holds me accountable.

Taking action

The only way to create actual change is to take action! So here’s exactly what I’m doing to get my body and mind back where I want it to be.

Fitness:

I already felt pretty good about my workout schedule (prior to the challenge, I was at the gym 4-5 times per week), but the challenge has definitely encouraged me to step up my game.

  • I’m working out 5-6 days, per week — a mixture of cardio, core and strength work.
  • I joined a small group training at the gym called Team Alpha (more on that below!)
  • I also frequent other classes throughout the week, including barre, yoga, circuit-style classes and a barbell strength class. I’m also planning to give spin another try, though it wasn’t my favorite when I tried it back in the summer.

Food:

Food is my biggest area of struggle. I LOVE to snack (purple bag of Doritos, anyone?!) and I tend to not pay super close attention to portion size. 

  • I’m changing up my snacking. No more Doritos (well, maybe once in awhile, I know that cutting something out of my diet completely only makes me want it more). Instead, I’ve been buying and chopping up bell peppers to eat with hummus. I’ve been pinning lots of healthy snack ideas and recipes to my recipe Pinterest board
  • Breakfast? I normally eat a piece of toast with jelly. When I told my trainer this, she gave me a look and told me I could probably make some better breakfast choices. So! I’m giving smoothies a try as an attempt to get some veggies in first thing in the morning. Please give me all your smoothie recipes!
  • I’m paying close attention to portion size. When I snack on pretzels or veggie sticks, I put them in a bowl, rather than munching out of the bag. When Tim and I eat dinner together, I figure out my appropriate portion (which now I know, is quite different than what my 6’4 boyfriend needs to eat) and immediately put my leftovers in the fridge for a healthy next-day lunch.

Lifestyle:

  • I’m already a big water drinker, but I’m trying to up my water intake even more.
  • When I’m out and about at a restaurant or a bar, I’m trying to make healthier drink choices like choosing a glass of wine over something heavier and more calorie-laden like a cider. 
  • I love me some wine (ugh! so much!), but I’m trying to cut back, keeping wine to nights out or special meals, rather than a casual glass with dinner.
  • I’m aiming to get more sleep — we’ve been trying to go to bed earlier.

Here’s the thing though. I’m also being gentle with myself. I’m allowing myself some indulgences, especially over the holidays. 

The big mistake I made the last time I lost weight was being way too strict — strict to the point that I was no fun, and where the choices I made weren’t sustainable in the long run.

Getting uncomfortable

To be frank, all of the above is pretty uncomfortable for me.

After all, who wouldn’t rather be munching on chips and hanging out on the couch over hitting the gym six times a week? Sorry, but I’d much prefer the couch.

However, there’s one part of this process in particular that’s pushing me so far out of my comfort zone, I can’t even see where I left that comfort zone behind.

I mentioned it above, but it’s my Team Alpha small group training. I made a commitment to train with this group three times per week for at least three months — big commitment!

The training is intense. I’d compare it to a Crossfit-style workout, incorporating lots of weight training, strength and cardio.

We practice in a different area of the gym with all kinds of equipment I’ve never seen before. Our instructor writes out workout on a whiteboard, and often times, I have no idea what most of the words even mean.

No joke, I am the weakest, most uncoordinated, slowest person in the class.

But hey, sometimes it’s fun to be bad at something, right? 

Well, yes, I do enjoy trying new things, and I don’t mind being bad at them, but it can also be uncomfortable and embarrassing to be the odd one out in a group who seems to know what they’re doing.

That’s how I feel in Alpha.

The instructors often tell the workout to the group (some of whom have been part of it since the gym opened in the spring, and other relative newbies like me) and then usually need to come over to help me modify or figure out what I’m doing.

Just a few sessions in, I’ve already learned to be humble, and accept where I am right now in this journey. I know that with time and practice, I will improve. I’ll need less guidance. I’ll get stronger.

But for now, as I often preach here, I’m attempting to embrace this uncomfortable place, exactly as it is.

A lifelong journey

I guess I had this naive notion when I first lost weight back in 2011 that I’d get thin once and magically stay thin forever.

(Wouldn’t that be nice?)

But, like most things in life, health and fitness is a constant journey. Something I’ll have to work at throughout the different phases of my life.

So for awhile, I let that focus on my health go, but right now, I’m making it a priority.

Let’s see how the next 60 days go 

Tell me a bit about your health and fitness journey! I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced some of the same struggles as me. Oh! And if you have a favorite healthy snack or smoothie recipe, I’d love to see them in the comments!

*Photo via Pixabay

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Adulting: Moving Out + One Year of Living On My Own

I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer.

I moved into my first apartment a little over a year ago now. Yep, that’s right. I lived at home with my family until the age of 28. A bit unconventional, I know.

I didn’t necessarily mean for it to happen that way. After commuting to college, I was comfortable living at home, and continued to do so as I started my career. Then, a couple of years down the line, staying at home became more of a practical decision because I knew I was working toward quitting my full-time job.

No shame here — I’m proud of my choices and my path. 

Living at home, freelancing and working my booty off allowed me to save $40,000, giving me lots of peace of mind and room to play and grow as I took the leap to start Jessica Lawlor & Company. (Plus, I really love my family, and enjoyed those extra years with my parents, siblings and of course, my pup Buddy.)

However, I knew I eventually wanted to move out and live on my own. As soon as I felt confident in my business’s stability and my income, I knew it was time to start looking for my first place.

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer. Here's what it was like to move out and live alone for the first time at the age of 28. (No shame!)

My apartment story

For context, I grew up in Cheltenham, a small suburb outside Philadelphia. I enjoyed my neighborhood growing up — I loved the peace and quiet of living in the suburbs, but also appreciated the close proximity to the city. I felt I had the best of both worlds.

When it came time to look for my own place, I knew I wanted a similar feel. 

I considered three different towns: Ambler, Jenkintown and Chestnut Hill. All three met my requirements of being both quiet and set away from Center City, but also full of personality, restaurants and things to do.

I mainly used Zillow for my search and started seriously looking in the spring of 2016. I visited two different apartment complexes last April, both in Chestnut Hill. I liked what I saw, but didn’t have any sort of timeline, so I held off on making a decision.

Then in late June, I got another Zillow alert from the same apartment complex I had visited in April — but this time they had a two-bedroom apartment available. I decided to check it out.

I instantly fell in love. The apartment was perfect — newly renovated, hardwood floors, in-unit washer/dryer, two bedrooms (space for an office!) and right down the street from all the action on Germantown Ave. in beautiful Chestnut Hill.

I was sold. The process moved fairly quickly and within a week, I had signed a lease for an August 1 move-in. 

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer. Here's what it was like to move out and live alone for the first time at the age of 28. (No shame!)

Just call me Goldilocks — moving, and being crippled by indecision

I was completely unprepared for how much of a struggle moving and getting settled in my own space would be.

First, I’m absolutely terrible at making decisions (this moving process, among other life situations led my friends to give me the nickname “Goldilocks”). From choosing a mattress to picking a couch to selecting a color scheme, I found myself absolutely *crippled* by indecision, almost every step of the way.

Thank god for my wonderful little sister Jamie and my mom who basically furnished and decorated my entire apartment and indulged my desire to visit every single Ashley Furniture Homestore in the Philadelphia region. 

In terms of where I shopped? Besides Ashley for my couch and bedroom furniture, my entertainment center, living room rug and bedding are from Wayfair. My office desk is from Ikea. My office rug is from Target. My coffee table, end table and kitchen table are all from Overstock. I also made multiple, multiple trips to Home Goods, Target and Kohls for all the little things.

Keep in mind: I essentially started from scratch since I lived at home through college and beyond, so I bought almost everything brand new. It was *a lot* of decision making and a lot of money spent in a very short amount of time.

V. stressful, to say the least.

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer. Here's what it was like to move out and live alone for the first time at the age of 28. (No shame!)

Settling in

Something else I wasn’t prepared for when it came to moving?

My fraught emotional state of being at the massive changes taking place in my life all at one time.

For the first few months, I actually resented my apartment. It didn’t feel like home. It felt like an eerily quiet weird space that wasn’t truly mine. After years of living with four other people and pets, the sudden silence hit me the hardest.

It didn’t help that I work from home so instead of feeling excited to get home at the end of a long day to relax in my space, I felt anxious at the idea of being alone in the apartment for hours.

Two particularly sad moments stick out in my mind: 1. Bursting into tears when I finally took a look around my perfectly empty childhood bedroom and 2. Crying on my home from a yoga class because I didn’t want to go back to my apartment — I found myself wanting to drive two exits further down the highway to go back to my real home. 

The transition wasn’t easy, and for anyone else who finds themselves ashamed about these types of emotions or struggles, you’re definitely not alone.

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer. Here's what it was like to move out and live alone for the first time at the age of 28. (No shame!)

A new normal

Of course, living alone hasn’t been all bad!

Once the dust settled, I started appreciating the things I once feared.

I embraced the silence as I made my morning coffee. I enjoyed filling up my DVR with all of my shows. I happily sat in my little office, working away, feeling grateful for the business and life I’ve built. I started to learn how to cook, and got comfortable in my kitchen. I planned parties and filled my home with friends. I even didn’t mind doing laundry each week!

It got better. And I got more comfortable.

After several months, this place started to feel a bit like home — a new normal. 

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer. Here's what it was like to move out and live alone for the first time at the age of 28. (No shame!)

Weird things I’ve learned about myself after one year of living solo

You learn a lot about yourself when you go through a massive life change like moving out on your own. Here are some of the quirkier things I’ve noticed.

1. I really like doing chores

Call me crazy, but I love doing chores. I call myself a domestic goddess on Mondays — I wake up, sort the laundry, run the dishwasher and go grocery shopping. I’ve newly-dubbed Mondays “Crockpot Mondays” and have been exploring the various recipes on my Pinterest board. 

I don’t know what it is about chores, but I feel super productive as I get my apartment and life in order at the beginning of each week.

However, one part of apartment living I really don’t love? Cleaning.

A few months in, I hired a cleaning team to come to the apartment once a month. It’s not as expensive as you may think. I think of it this way: My hourly rate for client work is higher than what the cleaning company charges me, so if they can clean, and I can continue working, it benefits me in the long run. Plus, the two of them accomplish in one hour what would take me half a day to do.

2. I’m the kind of person who makes the bed every day

Back when I lived at home I *never* made my bed. Don’t know why. Never even thought about it. Just popped out of bed and went on with my day. 

Now? As soon as my feet hit the floor, the bed needs to be made. Maybe it’s something about feeling prideful each time I walk by my bedroom and see my cozy bed and pillows arranged neatly awaiting my return later that night.

3. Hosting gatherings makes my apartment feel like a home

I threw my first party a month into apartment living — a housewarming. The planning process was stressful, but when the night came and I looked around and saw all the people I love the most in one room — my heart felt full. 

Since then, I’ve thrown two Harry Potter parties (for the famous festival in Chestnut Hill!), a holiday gathering and a game night. 

I like to entertain, and I like creating a space where people can connect and have fun together. Plus, filling my space with the people I love the most makes it feel a little bit more like home.

4. I like my apartment more when I’m not there all day

As I mentioned, I work from home so if I’m busy, there are days I don’t even step foot outside my apartment.

I quickly realized this was not a good way to go about living to maintain sanity.

So now I make it a point to get out of the apartment *at least* once a day whether it’s to run errands, go to the gym or head to a meeting. I even work from my gym’s cafe from time to time which has helped a lot.

5. I freaking love cooking

Perhaps the weirdest thing of all that I’ve learned? I’m obsessed with cooking. I never cooked at my family’s house. I’d bake from time to time, but cooking? Nope.

I entered the world of cooking slowly with my hand-me-down crockpot. I dabbled with making turkey chili and then expanded into chicken tacos and more. (There may or may not have been a failed slow cooker pot roast — oops.)

Then, I got even fancier and I decided to sign up for BlueApron last winter, and became hooked. For a cooking newbie like me, BlueApron truly makes trying new recipes accessible and actually fun. I’m on a schedule where I get two boxes per month (and Tim gets BlueApron wine once a month!) so we’re always fully stocked with goodies. (Want to give BlueApron a try? You can grab $30 off your first order here.)

Now that I know how to cook, I’m also experimenting with my own recipes — scary!

I’m such a weirdo; my favorite part of cooking? Chopping and prepping all the ingredients. 

A roommate!

This won’t come as a surprise to many of you because it happened a few months back, but I have a roommate!

My boyfriend Tim moved in over the summer, so now I’m experiencing all types of changes (I guess it’s true that the only constant in life is change?) as we get used to sharing a space, budgeting and all that fun adult stuff.

I won’t lie; I love living with Tim. Living alone was fun too, but it’s amazing at the end of a long day to cook a meal together and cuddle up on the couch to catch up on our shows. Especially as someone who works alone all day, I especially appreciate the company of someone I love being here too.

Your story is your story

Whether you moved out on your own when you were 18 and heading off to college, or if you still live at home in your late twenties like I did, know that there’s no shame in your story.

When I told a former mentor I was starting my own business, instead of congratulating me, he shamed me asking how living at home would impact my “Get Gutsy” brand. He warned me to be prepared to answer questions about why I live at home and how people might think it wasn’t “gutsy” of me to make the decision I made.

Two years later, I can confidently say I’m thrilled with the decisions I’ve made.

No matter your personal circumstance, you have to make the right decision for you. 

I know I did. 

And now for the next adventure in my journey? Saving up to buy a house!

Tell me about when you moved out and lived on your own for the first time! Did you experience any of the same emotions as me? I’d love to hear your stories! Leave them in the comments below.

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