Testimonial Tuesdays get me so excited. I found Brittany on Instagram after she posted a picture of one of my recipes. I checked out her pictures and found her amazing transformation! She is such an inspiration to me, juggling nursing, cross fit, and clean eating. And talk about small world, Brittany and I actually have mutual friends because she’s from Mississippi and I’m from Louisiana! Follow her on instagram at @bstew26 .
Growing up, I was never a kid that struggled with my weight. I stayed active with cheerleading in school, so looking back I know I never really was overweight. However, that in no way means I didn’t struggle with body issues. Right before I started Junior High, puberty was really cruel to me. It seemed that overnight my body turned into an hourglass figure and my thighs and hips grew twice their size. My body changed so quickly that I had (and still have to this day) stretch marks on my thighs! I was so self-conscious to get into shorts or my cheerleading uniform or a bathing suit. And I know that you’re thinking, “Every girl wants that hour glass figure!” But trust me, as a 12 year old girl, all I knew was that I was DIFFERENT, and during that time in life all you really want to do is fit in. So although my struggle was never really with my weight when I was younger, I definitely dealt with some body issues. I know what it’s like to not be comfortable in your own skin.
After my cheerleading career ended during my freshman year of college, I set out on an extremely inactive and unhealthy lifestyle. It seemed that while I was in college the “exercise” to do was run for hours and miles on the treadmill. As many times as I tried, I just could NOT get into that exercise routine. For me it was boring, and I could never stick with it long enough to see results. I also was used to being able to eat whatever I wanted. Those two factors along with the stress I was under due to being in nursing school caused me to gain weight. The summer of 2012, right after I graduated nursing school, was the biggest I had ever been at 145lbs. (I truly HATE to use the scale as a frame of reference here. I know that every body issue struggle is different, and for some 145lbs would be an ideal weight. However, 145lbs for me was being totally inactive, eating whatever I wanted, and feeling terrible about myself. I was a brand new nurse, and I felt sluggish and exhausted during my 12hr shifts. I knew I had to make a change at MY 145lbs. I encourage you to drop the scale and use other ways to determine fitness goals.) I knew at that point, I needed to incorporate some kind of fitness regimen to my routine. Luckily for me, around this same time in my life, two guys I had grown up with were opening a Crossfit gym in my hometown.
When I first started Crossfit in January 2013, I went into it with the mindset of two things:
- I would NEVER lift anything heavy— I certainly did not want to be a big, bulky, muscular girl.
- I was going to get S-K-I-N-N-Y!
From an outsider looking in, I was sure that the goal of all Crossfitters was to be as big and bulky as possible. I told myself that I would lift the minimum weight just so I could burn some calories during a WOD (workout of the day). I thought doing this would make me lose weight, but not gain too much muscle. I did Crossfit for a few months with this mindset. It all changed for me one night doing power cleans. I had just successfully lifted 85lbs and was attempting to do 90lbs. After a few failed attempts, I felt really frustrated. I didn’t understand how 85lbs was do-able and 90lbs seemed impossibly heavy. When I finally had a successful attempt at 90lbs, I was HOOKED. It was the idea of struggling with something and being able to overcome it that I loved. From that point on, I understood why female Crossfitters were so comfortable in their fit and toned bodies. They lifted heavy and they were proud of it! My fitness goals in Crossfit completely changed that day.
Once I started using heavier weight during workouts, I saw major definition changes in my legs and arms. I saw even greater results when I started incorporating whole, clean foods into my diet. I got plenty of compliments from people at my box. I will never forget the day one of my coaches said to me, “Wow, Brittany, you really are starting to have some Crossfit quads!” For the first time ever, my larger-than-average thighs were actually a GOOD thing! But for every positive I heard about my changing shape, I heard about 10 negatives from people who do not do Crossfit. Some of my favorites are:
“Just don’t get too muscular. That’s not cute.”
“Nobody wants a girl who looks like they can beat up their boyfriend.”
“Girls just shouldn’t be strong. It isn’t very feminine.”
“I’ve seen pictures of your ripped up hands and callouses. That’s disgusting. Do you really think that’s attractive?”
Those are just a few reactions I received from people who did not do Crossfit with me. Not very easy to hear! However, those types of reactions from people made me realize something very important. This was MY fitness journey. I do Crossfit and eat clean foods to benefit only one person: MYSELF. For the first time in my life I was feeling strong, capable, and HEALTHY! I was better than what I was, so anything negative that was said to me about my lifestyle did not bother me. I think that is one of the most important lessons in any fitness journey. Do it to please YOURSELF and compete with only YOURSELF every day. I also realize now that the people who have this negative view of females who Crossfit are not trying to be cruel, they just simply do not understand it.
Although my fitness journey is mostly about my Crossfit journey, I would have never seen the results that I have without making major changes to my diet. I cut out most processed, packaged foods like breads, oatmeals, cereals, chips, sandwich meats, etc., and started actually COOKING with whole, fresh foods. I spent six months travel nursing in the Providence/Boston area where I experimented with different Paleo/Primal recipes. This helped me tremendously to become comfortable in the kitchen since I was living alone. I was not cooking for anyone else, so if something did not turn out as great as I expected, I wasn’t disappointing anyone who was expecting dinner! A normal eating day for me these days usually looks like this:
Breakfast: bacon & eggs! It’s so simple, but such a great classic. I usually cut my bacon up into bite-sized pieces before frying and cook a vegetable down with it (spinach, mushrooms, onion, sweet potato cut up in the food processor). Then I scramble my eggs on top of it all! It’s never a really beautiful dish, but it’s easy and very filling!
Lunch: ALWAYS leftovers from the night before! I usually cook dinner for just my roommate, and me but I always make enough for 4-5 people because I will waste NOTHING!
Dinner: One of my favorites is salsa chicken! I brown boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thin sliced) on both sides in some coconut oil and seasoned with just salt and pepper. Then I turn the heat down and add a container of fresh salsa from a local grocery store to the pan and let it cook down. I usually serve this with “cooked coleslaw.” Take a package of coleslaw and cook it down with some bacon grease and chicken stock. One of my favorite side dishes and it takes less than 10 minutes to make!
This isn’t to say that I don’t have a “treat” every now and then! Pizza is my weakness, and I am not quite sure I could ever cut it out completely. When I do treat myself, I don’t dwell on it and I do better the next day. Simple as that!
Today, I am the strongest, fittest, and most confident I have been in my life. I go to my box at least 3-4 times a week, and I do it because I enjoy it. Not because I am trying to get a beach bod or to simply drop 5-10lbs. Life is chaotic and can be confusing at times, but it makes the most sense for me when there’s a barbell in my hands and I am working towards a goal. I challenge you to find your own therapeutic exercise regimen. If it’s not Crossfit, maybe it’s yoga! Spin class! Running! The possibilities are endless, and you have to find what is right for YOU. If you want to see more of what I eat or the workouts I do, follow me on Instagram @bstew26 or email me at email@example.com . I would absolutely adore your feedback! Cheers!!
Amy @ The Little Honey Bee says
What an amazing story! One that I can definitely relate to in many ways – especially gaining confidence due to CrossFit. I completely agree that everyone needs to find their “thing” that makes them feel good. While I still love to run, CrossFit and eating paleo have taught me to do this to be the best, healthiest and happiest version of me – not to look good or for the number on the scale. Wonderful post.
Monica Bravo says
Thanks for commenting Amy! And yes I think us girls can agree working out and eating right gives us a new kind of confidence! When you start loving yourself and your body, it makes life a whole lot easier 🙂
I just decided to go Paleo last weekend and am loving all of the resources your blog and others like it have offered! I actually went to college with Brittany (small world) and loved hearing her story!
Monica Bravo says
Wow that’s awesome! Thanks for commenting Allison! : )