Eating well and exercising, living a healthy lifestyle, is about more than losing weight and looking great. It is about more than performing well on the athletic field, running faster or lifting more weight.

It is about IMPROVING YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE.

Here is Shannon’s story about how she improved the quality of her life through diet and exercise. Not only did she improve her physical health, but also her MENTAL HEALTH!

Shannon’s Journey:

I am 43 years old, female and I work in an office setting. I sit at a desk all day and have generally had sedentary office jobs.

I was not into sports as a kid; I was much more of a reader and TV watcher. I grew up on a really, really bad diet ranging from cheap boxed mac n’ cheese, chips, Chef Boyardee, Kool-Aid, cookies, frosting from the can, ice cream, hotdogs and lots of fast food.

As an adult, I tried losing weight sometimes using conventional methods … low fat rabbit foods, whole grains, treadmills…it never worked.

Nothing tasted very good and I was hungry all the time. I got my weight down a little and figured, well – this is what middle age must be.

I didn’t want to “diet” and be hungry all the time and I didn’t want to work out for hours a day which is what I thought you had to do to be in shape.

I figured I would just be chubby and live with it.

I liked myself well enough. I had a good marriage – jobs – friends – etc. I looked like your average middle age American woman and was a size 16 at my heaviest.

Then one summer I was so depressed I could barely get off the couch. I went to the Dr. to have a hormone panel run and they discovered my B vitamins were way, way low.

I started a series of B vitamin shots to battle the depression.

THIS is what turned my life around – A whole entire summer lost lying on my couch so depressed I could barely function.

I decided to try eating a Primal diet. We had friends who had been eating that way for about 2yrs and they kept going on and on and on about how great they felt all the time.

I was annoyed by it and thought how can it be THAT great? That is stupid.

How can anyone live without beer and pizza and pasta?

I tried it purely out of spite to PROVE it wouldn’t work for everyone. To prove how dumb it was. I kept thinking what is 30 days in the scope of my life? I can do this.

My husband and I began eating vegetables -finding ways to cook them and reading recipes on the web to flavor them in ways we would like. We ate some fruits; we ate fish/chicken/beef/pork.

We were NEVER hungry which was huge and all of a sudden we began sleeping at night which we had been really struggling with. We began feeling a LOT better both mentally and physically. This was enough to keep us with it and see where it led.

A homemade clean variation of pizza.

(A homemade clean variation of pizza.)

We didn’t try to do everything all at once.

We didn’t expect perfection.

It was a learning process like anything. We made mistakes.

We didn’t begin exercising while we were trying to figure out how to eat better. We walked our dogs most days but we didn’t have any expectations of where all this might lead.

I never thought I would be a size 2 in 30 days. I was more focused on how I felt than a number on the scale.

Mostly, we eat real food.

It doesn’t have to be Primal or Paleo or Mediterranean or South Beach to be “right”.

It’s just minimal ingredients and real.

An apple vs. apple sauce with coloring or flavors added. Strawberries without it being in the form of a fruit roll up. Beef we buy from our neighbor’s cattle vs. fast food burgers. Broccoli without a lot of fake sweet and sour sauce and with real butter instead.

No “diet” is going to tell you to eat more cupcakes or chips. Any diet worthwhile will fill your plate with real foods of mostly veggies, proteins and fruit.

When we were eating better, we had more energy so we began to add in some exercise.

I wasn’t able to do 10 modified knee pushups in a row when I began. I don’t think I’d ever done a squat and I didn’t know what a burpee was. Burpees looked really complicated to me.

I started with a free e-book about calisthenics and I did them in my living room… plank, push-ups, squats, burpees. My workouts probably started off at 10 minutes and I didn’t exercise longer than 30 minutes.

I kept telling myself this was MY time. I could give myself this 10 minutes or 30 minutes of time to focus on me. This was my gift to myself.

I am now a size 8.

I have never been a size 8. I have muscle definition and I actually look like a fit person which is a completely brand new experience to me.

I stuck with eating the way we did and moving more because I FELT so much better. It wasn’t about looks or being a certain size in 60 days.

The “look” was the icing on the cake, created from consistent eating and movement habits.

I knew if we made changes we could stick to forever, we could make these changes part of our lives. The food we tried and made for ourselves had to be food we liked and could eat all the time. The exercise had to be fun enough to keep doing it.

Many people ask us how we did it and they see this “instant” change.

It most certainly was not instant.

We were consistent and we kept going.

Yes we had hard days and days I just wanted to give up and eat a large pizza with 4 Colorado Microbrew beers. I still have those days.

It was not easy to eat lunch with co-workers who would try to get you to eat food you didn’t want to eat any more. We had to make big, big changes.

It didn’t happen overnight. We did not grow up loving vegetables and we didn’t know how to eat healthfully.

It is worth it. The effort pays off…Exponentially.

It can be done with an open mind. Your tastes really and truly do begin to change. I am a person who LOVES vegetables and fruits now. I honestly never thought that would happen to me.

I literally didn’t eat an apple until I was in college – I never had grapes or strawberries or blueberries or spinach or cauliflower or squash or parsnips – NOTHING other than canned peas and corn until I was an adult.

You can change your tastes and develop a love of all these things.

Research spices and try different cooking methods. You will find veggies and fruits you like. It really does happen.

Begin moving more. We all have to begin somewhere. It begins with ONE. SINGLE. STEP. Or in my case, one single modified knee pushup.

You can do it.

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Find people that are not derogatory to your process. People that don’t minimize where you are in your journey. People who will explain why and who don’t make you feel stupid.

Find movement you love. Try new things so you know what you like and what you don’t like.

I have SO MUCH to learn, and I sometimes feel frantic trying to take it all in because I didn’t come to this game until I was 39 and there is so much to learn.

I wasn’t involved in fitness or sports all my life; I didn’t eat well until 4 years ago.

I know a drop in the bucket about the fitness world.

That’s why I’m so glad I started following the Man Bicep blog and doing online training at Redefining Strength with Cori.

I am learning how to progress and challenge myself in a logical program. I am learning the why behind the exercises and how to not injure myself trying for movements beyond my capacity.

I will get there; I will reach the goals I have…it just takes time, patience and practice.

If you told me 4 yrs ago I would feel this good, exercise the way I do and eat the way I do, I would have laughed at you until I turned blue and passed out.

If someone like me can do it, I really and truly believe anyone can.

I will never go back.

I will never lose another summer to inactivity and depression because of my diet and lack of movement.

Middle age does not mean chubby and unhappy. Not at all. In many ways I’ve just begun living because I’ve never felt this good.

I feel like I’m actually getting YOUNGER!

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