Liz and I became friends a few years back, shortly after I joined CrossFit. She had been a member of our gym before I joined and I was always chasing to keep up with her. We first bonded over our mutual interest in healthy eating and all things organic. Liz is certainly one of the most, if not THE most hard-working, non-stop, go-getting person I've ever met. She holds herself accountable, she's strongwilled and she's just an awesome person. I'm very excited for you to meet her!
Liz sporting our 13U MAZE Crop Racerback
Leading up to college, I never had any issues with my weight. I ate like a maniac; I always loved food. Growing up, I was not a picky eater. I ate everything under the sun. I danced my whole life, so I was always super active and just kind of ate whatever I wanted. In high school, it was the same exact thing; I would come home and it was like you hadn’t fed me in three weeks. I would raid the fridge, I would order pizza and I was 95 pounds. I was always really tiny. I ate healthy in the sense that we had a vegetable on the plate, a protein on the plate, and a carb, and I always had to drink milk with every meal. Soda was a treat—that kind of thing. For the most part, I ate whatever I wanted and there were never any issues with my weight, but as soon as I got to college, that all changed. I gained weight so rapidly. It was within the first month or two because I remember coming home for Thanksgiving and that’s when it hit me for the first time. I put on clothes that I hadn’t brought to school with me, and they wouldn’t even zip. I mean, I couldn’t even get them onto my body in some cases. And I was like “ho-ly shit.”
I just ate whatever I wanted at all times with no regard. Well, at first it was with absolutely no regard, but I’ll get into when that changed. I thought, wow I don’t have an adult telling me what to do, I can wake up in the morning and have a bagel with cream cheese, I can have sugary cereal, chicken tenders, and ice cream. I don’t think I ingested a vegetable my entire freshman year. Drinking was a big part of it, too, because in high school, I drank, but I could count on one hand the number of times. I wasn’t really one of those people who got drunk regularly; I drank here and there. In college, all of your social events are centered around drinking, so that was a huge factor. It was like a constant state of being bloated. So, it really hit me during Thanksgiving break, and I thought "now I have to do something", and from that point on, it was a rollercoaster up and down for 4 years.
That’s when it changed from zero regards to what I ate to thinking about it every single moment. I bought a scale. I weighed myself every single morning and that’s what determined my mood for the day. My weight was up, I was not happy. My weight was down, I was happy. It could be something so insignificant like a half a pound, but that’s what determined my mood for the day. And every day, I went into it thinking “alright, I’m going to eat healthy. I’m going to go to the gym.” Half of that always happened—I always went to the gym, but I was not eating right. I’d go to the gym every single night. I would go on the stair stepper which I laugh about now and would do 20 minutes. By the end of the day, every day, I was ordering pizza again. Or drinking. It was so hard for me to get it in line when all that garbage food was around me. When I walked into the cafeteria and I had the choice between a salad bar and chicken tenders, I always chose chicken tenders. I still struggle with that to this day, if it’s in front of me, I’ll eat it. I don’t keep any snacks in my house or anything like that. I know I’d want to eat it all at once. I’m never going to have a bag of chips in my house unless I’m having people over or something. So I really struggled with that for the duration of college. I couldn’t get it together. Meanwhile, all of my friends around me seemed to be enjoying all of the same foods and not gaining weight. That was difficult because I wanted to be the girl who could eat chicken wings and still look great. There were times where my weight was down and when my weight was up. The all-time high, I remember the moment I saw this number on the scale was my senior week, the week of graduation, it was 123. Now, I’m 4’11” so that is a lot. That was the heaviest number I saw.
In college, it was this constant rollercoaster of 10-12 pounds fluctuations. Every day was a struggle. One day I’m gonna eat healthy, one day I‘m not. I did crazy diets. I remember this fast called a fruit flush. I got it from some book; I downloaded this e-book “The Three Day Fruit Flush” which is exactly what it sounds like. For 3 days, I ate nothing but fruit, and I lost 6 pounds. I remember I had started it on Monday so that I would look great on Thursday because that’s the night you go out. So by Thursday, I was down by 6 pounds and I was feelin’ myself. Now, obviously the moment you eat something that isn't fruit you gain it all back. Thursday night I’m like, “Yea, guys, hey… I lost 6 pounds.” And I just thought it was the greatest thing. Those were the types of things I did in college. There was another stint, freshman year; I decided to do the Atkins diet. I’ve never been so sick. I got so sick. I ate all the wrong foods. I bought these sugar-free candies from the grocery store that are recommended for diabetics or people on Atkins, so I would be sucking on these sugar-free candies and eating sausage for breakfast. It was ridiculous. I don’t think I lasted more than 2 or 3 days on that one because I just was so, so sick. I remember I broke the diet with a bag of Twizzlers. There was no sound nutritional research behind anything that I did. It was just fad diet after fad diet.
A part of me knew I would never get my weight under control while I was still in college. I was just in my best friend’s dorm room every night eating Domino’s and knew that that wasn’t going to change as long as we were in each other’s dorm rooms every night. I knew that when I graduated I would get it under control because I would be able to buy my own food and I did. It was just one of those things where I couldn’t thrive in that environment but I kinda knew it. When I graduated, my weight loss was pretty immediate. I changed my eating habits; I ate a lot healthier, I focused on whole foods. I eat a little differently now, but one thing I’ve always subscribed to, to this day, if somebody asks me how I keep my weight down or how to stay fit, the most important thing, I think, is to eat unprocessed foods. Stop eating when you’re full, eating when you’re hungry and you probably won’t have any issues with your weight.
Over the next year, I got down to 100 pounds. So I lost almost all of the weight I had gained in college. I felt really good; I was working out all the time. At that time, I was obsessed with Spinning™, that was my workout of choice. I loved it. My favorite teacher, Carl called me bunny rabbit because I was so fast. I didn’t do a lot of weight training back then so my body composition was a lot different, and I certainly wasn’t strong. But I was in shape, conditioned.
I did lose most of the weight, but there were fluctuations in the past 10 years as well. There was a period of time where I was complacent in seemingly every area of my life. My relationship, my job, and my living situation. My weight had gone back up to 112, really high for me. I don't even think I realized how unhappy I was until I had changed all of the above. After ending my relationship, I lost all that weight and then some, I was down to my high school weight of 95. I changed jobs and simultaneously doubled my salary because I was so underpaid in my previous position. Then I got my own apartment. All within a year. I really kicked it up a notch when I joined CrossFit shortly after.
CrossFit brought on a whole new lifestyle for me. There are things, not only did I not think I was capable of, but I didn’t even know I wanted to do. I didn’t know that I had any desire to deadlift 250 pounds or do a muscle up. It brought on this new mental strength that I didn’t know that I had. The whole reason I think that I can do anything in my life is because of mental strength. I always use Morgan King as an example; she’s an Olympic lifter and weighs 105 pounds, around there. So, I always think, “why is she capable of lifting that much?” She’s so small, but the reason I think she’s capable of it is because she thinks she can. There’s really no other explanation for that and I think that’s why I’m capable of doing everything that I’ve done in the gym and in every other area of my life.
I was watching a video on elite mental performance and this guy talks about the first time somebody ran a 4:00 mile. Before it ever happened, people thought that you would die if you ran a 4:00 mile. That your heart would literally explode out of your chest. Roger Bannister, the first person to run a sub 4-minute mile, said he just visualized himself crossing the finish line while he was training. Once he did it, he didn’t die, then people started believing they could as well, and now others have run 4:00 miles. No one ever did it before because they didn’t think it was actually possible. But again, I believe he was able to do it because he thought he could.
When you lose 30 pounds and maintain it for years, it’s really hard to get out of the mentality of “dieting", but you can’t always be on a diet. Your body can’t always be on a diet and your mind can’t always be on a diet. It’s really hard to break out of that when for years you were just focusing on a number. Keeping the weight off is the hardest part, it’s harder than losing. Seeing the number on the scale go down, you’re so motivated and you’re in it—that part is easy, at least for me. I was so excited and so motivated and so disciplined… and once you get there, it's like “okay, now what?”
Something I continue to struggle with to this day is the all or nothing mentality. If I get thrown off for some reason, meetings, travel, or if I can’t have my food that I prepared, I think, “oh, well fuck it, I screwed my macros for the whole day so I might well eat some pizza." Something I set out to do last summer was to give myself a diet break. I made a point to just be consistent and give up the all or nothing mentality. I think I was successful. I did it, I didn’t gain any weight (which is shocking and awesome). I always made sure I ate enough protein, things like that, but for the most part, I really let go of the rigid schedule that I always adhered to.
The goal for me now is to just be a normal person and eat healthy and hang out at a healthy weight where I look and feel good and just be fucking strong. I think one of the best things I ever could have done for myself is taking that break and just chilling out. And by the way, I got super strong during that time. I was able to focus on other goals and areas of my life that needed attention. Don't get me wrong, I'm passionate about fitness and nutrition, but aren’t there other things in life that are so much more important than your waistline sometimes?
Another constant struggle is people thinking I'm just naturally thin. When I said I peaked at 123lbs, when I wrote that down, I thought, "if someone reads this, I’m going to sound crazy." People don’t understand how small I am. Not only am I short, I just have a really tiny frame. I have no hips, I’m super straight. I don’t know many people who eat as well as I do, I don’t know many people who work as hard as I do, the amount of time I put into preparing meals, planning meals, working out, I look this way for a reason. I am super tiny, yes, but that’s because of the work that I put in. So when people don’t believe me, I show them a side-by-side of 123lbs. and 93lbs. It’s a 30lb. difference. People don’t think it’s me. Unless I show them that photo, it’s “oh no, you’re so tiny”. It’s very frustrating. There aren’t many people I can talk to about body image and weight and food prep and all that stuff because people don’t get it. People just look at me and call me a skinny bitch or whatever. It’s something that’s extremely frustrating.
When I walked into the gym (CrossFit), I weighed exactly as I do right now. I look a lot different, but my weight hasn't changed. Clearly, my body composition has changed because of the strength I've gained in the last 4 years. I've experienced firsthand that the scale is only one way to measure progress. This is hard for a lot of people to wrap their mind around, myself included. In the process of losing 30 pounds, it was always chasing a number on the scale. And then you get there, and it's like "now what?" That was a struggle for me. The journey has changed. I still have goals, I'll always have goals, but it isn't a number on the scale anymore.
Most people think this is just how I look, but no, it's been years of weight loss, trying different ways of eating, and then getting strong. Not everyone knew the person before, so they just think that I’m naturally thin. That couldn't be further from the truth. I didn't start working out to get strong either; I did it to lose weight. I just wanted to look good. I never thought I was going to give a shit about strength. I never thought I was going to care about how much I was lifting or being the first one to finish a workout… that was the surprising part for me. Some people will come up to me and say, “wow, you’re really strong for your size” and I totally appreciate that because not everybody thinks about the fact that I'm lifting the same weight as people who are 40, 50, 60 pounds heavier than I am. So there's that mental strength again, I'm able to do it because I think I can.