Despite my love for food and fitness now, until college, I was junk-food kid who had never run more than a mile. Today, I can run 10 miles in 82 minutes. Hard to believe it, but here’s the story of that transformation.
My whole life, I was smart but not an athletic kid. I lived on macaroni and cheese and hot dogs while rarely letting a vegetable cross my lips unless it was fried. I sat inside all day and did my schoolwork. Then I went home to do more schoolwork and watch TV. I earned good grades, and my home life was ideal. But, my lifestyle of sitting around all day left me overweight, out of shape, and without an outlet to let my mind take a break from school.
So my mom enrolled my brother and I in Weight Watchers near the end of my freshman year of high school, and the program changed our lives. We learned how much we should be eating, which translated into me losing about 15 pounds.
But despite the success, counting points became annoying, and I didn’t know how I could do it for the rest of my life. Not to mention, I still did not exercise. I entered college with the mindset of eating what I wanted when I wanted. Life seemed fantastic during fall 2010. I was living on my own with all my friends at the University of Florida (UF).
I ate at the dorm dining hall like any college freshman, stuffing my plate with a lot of healthy things, but also opting for cookies and milkshakes after dinner.
During the first months at UF, I put on a few of the pounds I lost years earlier, so I went to the campus gym to “work out” on the elliptical for an hour about twice a week.
I ate, but I started closely monitoring my food intake and avoided certain foods because they were “bad.” At first, friends and family members noted how good I looked when I dropped some weight after freshman year. However, those compliments slowly turned into concern and comments on how I needed to eat more. I looked fine and wasn’t underweight by any means, but my habits were enough for my body to react negatively.
One day in late spring 2011, I realized what I had done in terms of food and fitness. In six months time, I had developed a restrictive eating and exercise routine, and it was impacting my ability to function and love life.
So I gave up on “diet” bars and the elliptical. And despite the increasing course loads and extra-curricular activities in fall 2011, I found time to grocery shop every week and cook healthy meals. I also discovered strength-training classes and rode my bike to the far-away gym on campus to take a class at least three times per week.
For the first time in my life, I had energy, and nothing seemed to upset me. I ate when I was hungry and not for any other reason. And when I didn’t eat the best foods, I enjoyed it and told myself tomorrow is a new day.
Finally, in January 2012, I started reading healthy living blogs, which inspired me to ramp up my workouts and improve my cooking skills. That‘s when I started Hungry Gator Gal.
In February 2012, I started documenting my adventures in the kitchen and the gym. And then I started sharing my thoughts, meals, workouts, and life with people who share my passion for cooking and active lifestyles.
In the 4.5 years since starting Hungry Gator Gal, my life has changed A LOT, mainly due to my decision to start taking care of my body both physically and mentally.
This love for food and fitness has provided so many opportunities that I never dreamed I’d have, including joining the Army ROTC program, working with my favorite brands, and participating in some pretty awesome events where I can push my physical and mental limits. Not to mention, I get to do it all with my favorite people on the planet.
Spartan Race, April 2016
Five Points of Life Half Marathon, February 2016. Copyright for the photo belongs to Bob Badalucco.
Hiking in New York/Massachusetts, July 2015
Ranger Challenge competition, October 2015
My goal with HGG has always been to reach people of all ages who identify with my story – a person who changed from a junk-food-eating kid to a person who’s up for any adventure.
I’m not a nutritionist, and I’m not a personal trainer. However, by sharing my life, I strive to spread the word about how healthy eating and living an active life changes you for the better. And life’s more fun that way from what I’ve learned.
With that said, save and share what you find here if it inspires you to be better, both physically and mentally. Thank you for your support!