The Basics: My name is Stephanie. I’m 21 years old. I live in Northern Virginia and recently graduated from The University of Virginia (wahoowa) with a degree in economics and English. I loved, loved, let me repeat: loved my time at UVA, and am sad to leave Charlottesville most of all; let me explain why.
If not for Charlottesville, I would not be starting a healthy living blog today. Charlottesville, and it’s wonderful residents, are the people who taught me how to live a healthy, balanced and socially responsible lifestyle. The residents are active, the restaurant scene is thriving, and this progressive little town is far ahead of most other areas in terms of environmental consciousness. I am a different person today than when I started my four years at UVA, and Charlottesville played on large role in that.
Enough about my love affair with Charlottesville. My journey towards healthy living started way back in my first year at UVA. Like many other 18-year-olds, I gained a significant amount of weight from my senior year in high school to winter break of my first year of college. Lack of portion control, excessive drinking/late night food and lack of dedication to exercise led me from my healthy high school weight of 120 to nearly 140 lbs. At only 5’4″ and uncomfortable with my body, I didn’t look or feel good at all.
Unfortunately, like many other UVA girls, my battle against the “freshman 15″ led me down quite an unhealthy path. I learned about the wonders (and dangers) of calorie counting, but soon became overzealous and wanted to lose too much weight too quickly. I cut my calories far too drastically, and exercised excessively. By the time my second year rolled around, I was struggling to maintain my 100 lb figure, panicking if I ever ate more than 1200 calories a day. After a lot of ups and downs, I went from picture A (New Year’s 2007) to scary skinny to finally settling at picture B (Fall 2009). I’m the redhead, by the way.
It was quite a long, slow and at times painful journey to repair my relationship with food. Thankfully, three years later I can finally say I have achieved peace with my body, and I now view food and exercise in a completely different light. Several things led to that change. One would be my interest in running. Without proper fuel, I could never have accomplished my toughest, most grueling runs that make me feel like Super Woman once I’m done. Second would be yoga. Learning to respect my body and release anxiety through yoga has prevented me from using food as a crutch in stressful times.
Another huge step in my road to recovery was learning how to cook. With cooking, I grew from fearing food, to being fascinated by it every single day. When I first lost weight, I relied very heavily on processed, “diet-y” type foods that leave one unsatisfied and, ultimately, unhealthy. By learning to cook, I’ve realized that I can eat delicious REAL food that is still healthy and nourishing. Additionally, cooking is just FUN! There’s nothing better than preparing a great meal and knowing you did it all yourself. Lastly, my interest in the environment added a new dimension to my interest in food, exercise and health.
As I mentioned in my ode to Charlottesville, I was lucky enough to spend four years in a city that is well ahead of the curve (especially in the Virginia/Maryland/DC area) when it comes to living an eco-friendly lifestyle, and food is a huge part of that. The city makes fresh, local organic produce ridiculously accessible, and once I realized how much better this food tastes than the normal fare from Harris Teeter, I began to explore why America’s agriculural systems lead Americans to eat the way we do. Yes, I’m a Michael Pollen junkie and I’m not afraid to admit it. But more about that later.
So my first post was a bit of a novel, but that is my background. Mostly, I want to inspire others the way healthy living blogs inspire me. Four years ago I was overweight, out of shape, and apathetic. Today, I am HEALTHY (first and foremost), a young foodie-in-the-making, conscious of my impact on the environment in my daily life, and about to train for my first half-marathon- quite the change, to say the least. If I can help one other person move in that direction, than I’ll view my blog as a success.