from pageant to pudgy: my untransformation & body image struggles

do you ever look back on a photograph of yourself, and instead of remembering the moment or that time of your life, you simply stare at how different you look now than you did then?

maybe you’ve changed your hair, or have better style. for many of us, our eyebrows were terrible until the last few years (thank you, anastasia beverly hills). or maybe you see what i see the most – a completely different body.

instead of looking back at the memories and missing old friends, or laughing about fun trips, i stare at how slim my arms were, or how toned my thighs used to be. i see the definition in my stomach and the clothes i was once comfortable in. and instead of reliving fun memories, i find myself angry at the body i now know, and frustrated for losing the one i once had.

as most people, in high school i had the metabolism of a cheetah. i could eat whatever i wanted while avoiding the gym at all cost and maintaining a thin frame. sure, i was never model-tiny by any means, and i could’ve been more toned had my diet and workout been under control, but i was a teenager and that hadn’t been a priority. i came home from school, made chocolate milk, whipped up an entire box of macaroni for myself, and took a nap.

when i started competing in pageants at 17, not much changed. i had been required to join the tennis team for school, so there had been some physical exertion i was previously great at avoiding, but my diet remained stable. i ate what i wanted when i wanted it and never thought twice. the night before my first pageant, when i knew i would have to walk in front of a thousand people in a swimsuit the very next day, i stress-ate an entire tub of chocolate chip cookie dough. i’m talking the big, round tub that makes eighty million cookies, consumed by a then small-framed 17 year old girl shoveling her feelings into her face. the next day, i put on my two piece, walked the stage in tight gowns, and won my first pageant.

pageant body18 years old competing at miss washington 2012

looking back on that moment just reminds me how i have always been dependent on food. food has been my rock for my entire life. it is a constant in my ever-changing life and has helped me to balance navigating my teens and now 20s. so now that my metabolism doesn’t want to participate anymore at 25 years old, i am stuck in the body of a woman i do not know. i went from ‘hollow-legged hannah’ for almost 21 years, eating anything in sight like there was no tomorrow, to counting every carb, sugar, fat, protein into my body because i have gained over 40 pounds out of the blue. it sometimes feels like i am living someone else’s life.

i went from an always confident pageant queen, waltzing down runways and posting photos of myself all of the time, to someone who hides in her clothes and scrutinizes every item in her closet and every photo before its allowed to be seen by others. even with this blog, it has been so difficult to keep momentum when everything i put on was bought for a body severals tens of pounds lighter than the one i have now. everything is tight, highlights the unwanted, and just brings me back to that feeling of disappointment in the one thing that is mine and only mine. i’ve gone up at least 3 sizes, 4 in some brands. and yes, size doesn’t matter and weight is just a number – but it’s more than that. i’m not obese, and i know weight gain is a natural part of aging. it’s less the weight itself and more the fact that i barely recognize myself anymore.

now hannah25, working out in nyc for fashion week

sure, i’ve worked out and eaten clean and lost the weight in the past. i’ve never gotten back to my pageant weight, but i’ve been closer over the last handful of years. but it never lasts. i workout, restrict myself, cry over food and stare at the scale for hours so i can wear that one swimsuit on my senior year spring break to cabo, just to gain all of it back and then some. it’s never been sustainable. no one else in my life diets or worries about their weight or actively works out, and it is almost impossible to keep that momentum going when your surroundings are fighting you on it constantly.

but that’s what this blog was meant to be – a community where you and i can relate, be honest and learn from each other. i can wallow in this self-pity again, blame my metabolism or the programs i’ve tried and given up on, or the people who are in my life who don’t have to worry the way i do. or, i can build a new community to support each other, and try again. every time i fail a diet, or fail a workout program, i call it just that – “failure”. but it’s not – it’s progress. and not finishing a program or perfectly following a diet doesn’t mean that i can’t make progress again in the future. i still have the time, energy, resources, and functioning body that allows me to make a change if i so choose.

for the month of may, i have decided i’m going to do 30 minutes of cardio every single day. i can be running, walking, jogging, on an incline or not. just simply moving my body for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. my goal is that this is a small enough change that it is impossible to not do. making big, life-altering changes won’t help me in the long run, and i’d rather be healthy and happy forever than for one vacation.

you can follow my instagram stories for my daily posts of my cardio. hold me accountable, people! this blog, instagram, fitness – it all needs to be a community. and if you want to join me, let me know in the comments! or DM me! i would love to do this journey with you. maybe together we can learn to love our bodies the way they are, for all the amazing things they can do, and stop concerning ourselves with the way they used to be.

keto diet – the good, the bad, the cheesy

so i recently started the keto diet, and i’m here to tell you that HOLY SHIT it’s amazing.

summary for lazy readers: keto means no carbs, black coffee is gross, i eat a lot of cheese, keto leaves me feeling happy and not deprived, water is crucial, don’t try eating out, stamp of approval

if you don’t know already from the major hype, netflix documentary, pinterest recipe overload or just from your weird friend Melody who tries every diet under the sun, the keto diet is practically no/low-carbs. in other words, you eat less than 20g of carbs per day with the idea that your body begins to burn fat as fuel instead of carbs, resulting in major weight loss.

yes, there’s more to it. no, i don’t know more. i read the words “fast weight loss” and stopped reading there. apparently you actually are supposed to like count other macros and do all these ratios and stuff but frankly cutting carbs requires enough thought as it is that i just quit on the other crap. which seems to be working.

here’s a day in the life of my keto diet – mind you, i am also intermittent fasting because i’m crazy and can’t just be healthy and love my body, i have to torture it like some sick masochist seeking a thrill. in other words, i only eat from noon til 8pm in order for my body to process foods differently. more on that another time.

first things first, i drink my coffee black. i drink it in my teal blue yeti because i am basic, and its the cheap keurig stuff that’s like off-brand starbucks. so yes, it does taste like ass, thanks for asking. but nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, amiright?

after drinking my coffee as slowly as humanly possible, i break into snack time around 12. now mind you, i have had about a half gallon of water at this point because lemon water is supposedly unreal for digestion and helping with weight loss. i do my big 32 oz bottle with extra *extra* ice because warm water is for serial killers and squeeze some lemon juice in. i would love to say i use fresh lemons, but i don’t. this is mostly because they are so hit and miss sometimes and i don’t want weird water.

snack time usually consists of strawberries (no more than 7, cause each strawberry actually is 1 CARB WHICH IS RUDE, SCIENCE) and a babybel cheese, just the regular kind. i like to eat mine kinda warm so usually i will hold it in my hand still wrapped in the wax while i eat my strawberries, then i can enjoy it warm. yes it’s odd, but it’s not harming you so lay off.

then i work out. lately i have been doing 20 minutes on the stairstepper and 20 minutes on the treadmill. i try to do this with as little food in my belly as possible because i read a headline once that said fasted cardio was good for you, so here i am. but since i don’t workout until 1/2p, i usually have to have my snack first.

okay, so now it’s time for lunch and i actually thought this was going to be harder, but it’s not been bad at all. cutting out carbs is hard and does require some initial thought, but i have already gotten the hang of some pretty simple things. so for instance, i like to have fish or chicken and veggies for lunch, with my third 32oz water. i do use a lot of salt as some of you may know, so i’m sure that’s holding me back but that’s a risk we’re just gonna have to take. i like lemon salmon or tuna – tuna you can actually eat without pissing off your coworkers cause you don’t have to heat it up. a half can of tuna with mayonnaise has 0 carbs so in other words, its healthy. i like to do that with some green beans (1/2 cup max) or broccoli. at this point in the day, i’ve likely consumed about 10g of carbs overall.

afternoon snack, more cheese. that’s the best part of this diet. it doesn’t feel like a diet. sure, i can’t have bread or chips or pasta or garlic mashed potatoes but who needs any of those amazing and delicious things anyway?! i do, but i’m learning to be okay without them because i actually don’t feel deprived on this diet. i think for me it’s less difficult with only one food or food group being ‘banned’, so i can still enjoy so many other things, like cheese.

but damn cheese is good. i would recommend cheese on everything if you’re going keto, because it actually is supposedly part of the diet. score. i guess you’re supposed to eat a pretty solid amount of fats, and cheese can get you there. if i were doing breakfast, my ideal day would probably start with some sort of very cheesy egg scramble topped with extra cheese. anyway.

for dinner i usually do something similar to my lunch, although i’ve tried keto lettuce wraps, keto chicken asparagus casserole, and keto chicken salad. there’s actually tons to choose from and make without feeling limited. by this time its almost 8p, so i’m finished eating anyway and have only consumed about 15g of carbs all day.

the only hard part for me so far has been eating out. it’s impossible, truly. “can’t you just order a salad” no helen, i can’t, and even if i could i wouldn’t eat a freaking salad, i’m not a rabbit. unfortunately for those of you who do enjoy salad, they’re usually a no-no too, since dressings are packed with sugars ie carbs. i guess you could do a salad with olive oil or something but then you’re really just rabbit status and i don’t know if that’s a life worth living for me. if i do go out, i always cheat. that’s the big takeaway here – this diet is soooo doable if your meals are planned. hell, it’s even doable with intermittent fasting AND cutting out alcohol (mostly) which you guys know is a huge win for me. but if you don’t plan your meals out, you’ll end up at on the border ordering guacamole live as your main dish and eating your weight in fried, salty, heavenly chips that you later cry about in the girls bathroom. don’t do it to yourself. if your friends don’t love you while you give yourself a little self care, fuck em.

parting thoughts – i have lost 5 pounds in the last 8 or so days, and i feel amazing. i feel way less bloated, my energy feels great, and i feel hyper focused. now mind you, there are a lot of moving parts to these things (i’ve started meditation, i’m finally writing again, i’m working out pretty regularly) but i do think the keto helps, a lot. i’ll keep doing it and keep keeping you updated.