When I first started thinking and writing about wholehearted living, so many people came to mind that embody this concept to me. A few years ago I listened to a podcast about championing the people around us, calling listeners to begin a sort of hero revolution. The idea resonated so deeply with me that I started looking for ways to encourage and promote others whom I admired. This series, then, is my attempt to share the inspiration I've gathered through some of my personal heroes, all of which embrace living wholeheartedly in their own sphere, style and words.
Today I'm sharing an interview from one of my dear friends, Chelsea, from Live Free Be Fit. Chelsea began her health and fitness journey a few years ago and has approached her process so holistically, allowing it to transform her from the inside out. I'm so thankful she's allowed her followers a window and raw glimpse into her journey - her vulnerability is both challenging and inspiring!
1. How did you first become interested in health and fitness?
I would say my passion for health, in a holistic sense, began in 2013. From the age of 10 I was obsessive about weight-loss. I was the girl who was buying every magazine with "Drop 10 Pounds Fast!" It wasn't until 2013, when I was about to get married and start a family of my own, that I realized that I didn't want a quick fix. I wanted contentment and comfort in my own skin - whatever that took.
2. I love your social media handle and blog name: Live Free Be Fit. What inspired the name and what does living free and being fit mean to you?
So much of my health journey has been about freedom. Freedom from insecurity and lies about my identity being tied to my physical appearance. LFBF felt real and fitting.
Being fit has a great deal to do with freedom for me. When I am healthy, I am secure enough to run - physically run - without being afraid of how my belly is jiggling. Or sitting on a couch and not needing a pillow to cover up what I am ashamed of. There was so much shame tied to my weight and being fit freed me up.
To form a lose definition of what I mean when I say fit, I mean strong and healthy. I don't mean six packs and bulging biceps because I am far from that. That was never my goal with fitness. I just want to be fit enough to run with my children and not be winded, exhausted or ashamed. And so much of that is mental, which is where the live free part comes in.
No amount of weight lost or muscle gained will fix a broken mind and heart. Seek first freedom and then pursue fitness out of that new found, liberating freedom.
3. I've heard you talk about how health and fitness is about an inward journey as much as an external one. What did your internal process look like? How did you learn to embrace and love yourself?
It is an ongoing process of the inward journey just as much as it is for the physical journey. So let's just dive right in: In 2013 I lost 35 pounds. Between then and now, I ran a half-marathon, biked from DC to Gettysburg, and gained about 15-20 pounds. All the while, my exercise and eating did not shift majorly from when I was in losing mode.
To be honest, it's shaken me. I have to figure out what it means to walk out the freedom I've claimed and choose to believe all the times I've said the number didn't matter or define me. That is a lot easier to say when you are happy with the number on the scale, by the way.
What I'm learning now is that I want deep, soul-satisfying contentment in my skin - at all stages. I always want to be challenging myself, bettering what I can, but at the end of the day, I want to be free and to enjoy my body while I am in this stage of life. Because if I can't feel content and confident unless I am a size 6, then what on earth am I going to do when I have a big pregnant belly?
I refuse to think confidence and health is reserved for the smaller sizes. At the same time, I want to make sure I am healthy and physically strong. So it's a balancing game of mental and physical health maintenance. One that will have its ups and downs, but is tied together with a tight knot of commitment to the process. As almost all worth-while things are.
If you are looking for the secret of long lasting health, I know it. And it can be summed up in three words: Just. Don't. Quit.
4. What are some daily, weekly or even monthly rhythms you put in place to help facilitate the process and journey you've been on so far?
Daily, I spend time in stillness. That is where I find peace in God and where I draw life from. Weekly, I work out 5 (ish) times a week in some way, shape or form and meal plan every Sunday. Monthly, I try to lay out some goals for the month. For October this includes taking a daily walk to watch the leaves change, drink one PSL and I set a small weight loss goal. it doesn't all have to be physical health related, but setting yourself up to thrive.
5. Have you ever chosen to take a break from those rhythms? If so, can you bring us into that a bit? How do you listen and respond to your body and your own needs?
In 2015 I got some medical news that was scary. I had to go on and off some medicines and I knew space needed to be made. I stopped going to cross-fit at 5 a.m. every morning, and instead took long walks (and cried). I stopped my rule of one or two desserts a week and baked all the things. But that was a brief season. I came back to middle ground with the help of my friends and family.
On vacations I chill out my workouts. I take walks and eat whatever I want. But I've noticed my eating habits have really changed. I actually love fruit and (certain) veggies. I prefer black coffee to sweet, heavy drinks. Things shift and just because I am on vacation doesn't mean I binge and lose control.
Listening to your body is incredibly important. I actually took a course on intuitive eating last year and it was so interesting! Your body wants to be nourished. it doesn't want to be stuffed or deprived. The teacher actually told us to eat WHATEVER we wanted for a full week. If we craved Cheeto's and Velveta, then eat it. She promised after a while our bodies would beg for a salad. It was true. Our bodies want to thrive and sometimes they need a nibble of chocolate and sometimes they need some kale.
Trust yourself and evoke that self-control when needed.
6. Do you have any tips for those of us still learning to love and listen to our bodies? How can we live wholeheartedly by taking care of ourselves and how would you suggest initiating a journey of living free and being fit?
There is nothing in the world like gratitude. Start your journey there. Speak out the ways you are thankful for your body, right now, as is, every time you feel self-critical. Dig deep into your heart and be honest with your insecurity, then uproot that junk and replace it with truth. Really do this and your body will fall in line with your mind.
From there I would suggest finding something active that you enjoy doing and carving out space to do that 3-5 times a week. Our generation is the most sedentary in history, Fight, fight against that. Go enjoy the outdoors! Explore and experience the world. Shake it in a Zumba class or pump it out in the weight room or go for a jog. Look at exercise as an opportunity to enjoy the body you were given and experience the world we live in.
7. What does living wholeheartedly mean to you? And how have your views on this sort of lifestyle evolved over time?
Living wholehearted means living life through a lens of love with purpose and passion. It's somewhere between that feeling you get when you are drinking something warm, looking out over the mountains as the sun rises and that feeling you get right before you free fall on a roller coaster.
I don't want anything to get in the way of my living life like that. Not money chasing, not size chasing, not comparison, not regret, not shame. I literally have no time for those things.
I am honestly more confident now than I ever have been. I look back at photos of my younger self and just cringe at how hard I was on myself. I don't want to waste my life on that. I want to live to my fullest potential in every aspect: relationally, physically, emotionally.
8. Is there anyone or anything that's been inspiring you to live wholeheartedly recently?
I am inspired by so many people and things. Some fitness related, some not.
Andie Mitchell. if you struggle with your weight, go to her website and read every single blog she has written on weight loss.
Ree Drummond. Girl knows how to live. To me, she is radiant and joyful. She knows what she loves and lives in balance. She makes a mean cinnamon roll and takes daily long walks. I just want to be with her all the live long day.
Shauna Niequist. All of her books mention health and her struggle to find contentment and balance. I appreciate her honesty. I just finished Present Over Perfect. I recommend that and then go back and read all of her other books, and her blog for that matter.
Alexa Wible. I have walked closely with Alexa for years and for the past three years specifically in our health journeys. She is full of wisdom and good food.
I just want to end by saying we are made for wholeheartedness. It's available and achievable and deserves to be written about. I am so thankful Tori is taking the time to talk about this and get a discussion going on what it looks like to be women striving for wholeness. Brava!
Chelsea is a content and social media marketing strategist for Consilium Interactive. She is passionate about creating effective and creative content to push across mediums to promote her clients. In her free time she is experimenting in the kitchen or writing side projects.
Follow her journey at Live Free Be Fit!