Finding My True Size

12 years ago I graduated high school, and instead of starting my first year of college I flew across the globe to Bydgoszcz, Poland to study abroad. I was a special case because most exchange students study abroad during high school and have it count towards their four years of education. I was very active in sports growing up, and I really didn't want to miss any years of playing.

Thankfully the Rotary Exchange Program allowed me to enter the program and basically take a 5th year of high school. I attended a Polish high school where the classes were taught in English. I didn't receive any college credit for them, so basically I didn't take school seriously. However I did take my weekly Polish language lessons serious.

With all that to say, I gained A LOT of weight during my exchange year. Similar to freshmen 15, except I gained 30 lbs. There were a few factors that contributed to my weight gain. 

After 13 years of playing sports, I finally stopped. I think my body went in to shock, because since I was 5 I've played sports. In high school, I lived and breathed volleyball, soccer and track year round. Honestly, it was one of my favorite periods of my life. I had a coach pushing me all year round, but I was used to it and didn't mind. All of a sudden I'm in another country all by myself. No one telling me to get outside and run, no one telling me to exercise. No team. No practice. No games.

When I arrived in Poland, I could only speak a few words in Polish. My host mom and dad knew about the same in English. At night we would use a dictionary to communicate with each other. Everything was new and different. The food, my school, the culture, the weather...everything. It was culture shock, and I loved it but it was also very tough. In those times, I comforted myself by eating.

I lived above a chocolate store....I am NOT exaggerating. My first host family's apartment was literally above one of the most famous chocolate stores in Poland, which specialized in chocolate covered gingerbread. It was freaking delicious and my host father bought me treats all the time. I think he might have been fattening me up to eat me...he was kind of crazy so I wouldn't put it past him. My second host family was wonderful, and cooked the best food. My host mom always bought me the BEST chocolate covered raisins, and I could go through an entire bag in 5 minutes.

I also went on a two week European tour with dozens of other exchange students who were living in Poland. We were driven by a Rotary tour guide all over Europe in a giant bus, stopping at major cities, and eating everything in site. That trip contributed a lot to my weight gain. 

I finally hit a point where I was so unhappy with myself I joined a Polish gym and started taking aerobics classes. My first few classes were hilarious, as I tried to follow along with the instructor as she spoke in Polish. I didn't lose weight, but I stopped gaining weight.

After almost a year of being gone, I flew back to my little home town in Texas. It was in the heat of the summer, and I had a couple of months before I started my freshman year of college at Hardin-Simmons University. I'll never forget making the conscious decision to get myself out of my air conditioned house, and walk out in to the triple digit heat and start running. I would jog down the red dirt country road next to my house almost every few days. I didn't jog fast, and I couldn't run more than 20-30 minutes. I could have walked faster than I jogged.  I sweat SO much, and would often run in to snakes, horses, cows, goats, and dogs that would try to chase me. I lost about 10 pounds and headed off to college in Abilene.

College was a blast, and I slowly began to get back to my normal weight. I have never gone on a diet, but would rather work out hardcore every day. In college I worked out at Hendrick Health Club, and that's where my love for Les Mills classes began. You name any Les Mills class, I took it and freaking loved it! I'm not trying to toot my own horn by saying this, but I am very coordinated. I have no problem walking in to a new Step or Zumba class and picking up the moves immediately. I even taught an aerobics class at the local YMCA, but stopped after about 6 months because I realized I hate HAVING to be at the gym. I don't know how much weight I lost before my wedding, but it was probably the smallest I've been.

Naturally I gained weight with the pregnancies of my three children, but I exercised up until I was 9 months pregnant, and after they were born my stress reliever was getting outside and moving. These days I'm not too hard on myself. I try not to overeat, and shoot for exercising 2-3 times per week. Group exercise classes are by far my favorite way to stay active. They keep me accountable, they push me, and the time flies when the music is good! Body Pump, yoga, spin, barre, Zumba, pilates...I love it all. There is one work out I've never tried out and that is CrossFit, maybe one day. Over the years I've found my groove. I know my limits when it comes to eating, and know when it's time to get my butt moving.  I know I am naturally skinny, but if I overeat and don't exercise I will gain weight...the pictures prove it.

I also would like to point out that my parents and siblings had a lot to do with my passion for exercise. I watched my mother do aerobics growing up, and my Dad was a natural athlete. He is the strongest person I've ever known. My sis played volleyball and ran hurdles, and my brother played football.

Well, there you have it. A look in to my weight gain and loss over the years. Nothing drastic, but a conscious decision to keep my body moving. Exercise is therapy for my mind, body and soul.

Do you exercise? If so, what's your favorite work out?


Melissa from SF said...

Great post!! I myself am trying to lose weight as well and have found great success in utilizing fitness blender at home workout on YouTube..you should try it Jesse!! It is awesome especially when you can't get out all the time and you can do it with Walt, Whit, and Turner!

Alex Hammer said...

Illinois State Redbirds tank?! That's where I went to college! 😍

dau said...

I love reading posts like this: I learned something totally new about you! Beautiful then and beautiful now. I feel you on weight fluctuations over the years. I studied abroad in Spain and actually LOST weight (eating overall better and less, plus walking several miles a day) and then promptly gained it all back and some within 6 months of returning home. I finally feel like I've reached my "happy" weight. Extra kudos for finding yours AND having three kids! Great post, thanks for sharing!