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August of last year, I began working a second job. In hindsight, it was probably the best and worst decision I’ve made to date, but that’s not the focus here. I went from having abundant time to cook with not enough money to having more than enough money to make the things I wanted, just not the time. Takeout became a staple for me. I would either grab something cheap from the buffet next door, or I’d wait until after work and pick up whatever I could get my hands on. Whether or not I wanted to admit it, I began to put on weight. At the end of the first month, I signed up for the gym that was next door to the shop. In honesty, I didn’t even mean to sign up for the gym, I just meandered in to waste some time before my shift and ended up talking to the owner of the place. I was already going jogging in the mornings before my shift at the shop, why would I want to pay to workout? But, by the end of that night, I was signed up for the gym. The first thing I did my first gym visit was to weigh myself. I’d gotten up to 196 lbs. This was horrible. I knew from the tight waistband of my jeans among other tells that I’d put on weight, but 15 pounds? It was horrible. I felt horrible about my weight and began to do something about it. In addition to going running in the morning, I tried to supplement it with the gym membership, but I really only went a handful of times that first month, and each of those visits was only an hour. I didn’t want to burn myself out, but I was so exhausted after work that first month that I didn’t want to go to the gym.

Soon, the leaves began to change and the days grew shorter. I began to go to the gym for longer amounts of time and found myself happy after each workout. By the time I was getting home, it was late and I was more than happy to just crawl into bed and sleep before my morning job. I honestly couldn’t tell you when I began to crave going to the gym, but there was one night in November when I truly noticed how happy going to the gym made me. I pushed myself to sweat and work hard, but even then, I still wasn’t eating the healthiest. So it was like I was undoing the hard work I was doing while there. In December, when the snow kept me out of the gym, I noticed I would grow antsy when I missed going to the gym. It was also when I had the first inklings to give up red meat and pork. Red meat and pork have always been a staple in my diet. My gran makes some of the best pork chops I’ve ever had and my dad knows how to grill a mean steak. I don’t know why I got these inklings, but they became more prominent as the month wore on. By Christmas, I was pretty sure I was going to do it for the new year. Why not, right? If there was ever a time to do so, New Years’ would be the time to start down that path. New Years’ eve my date and I found ourselves at one of our favorite haunts: Thai Palace. While drinking tea and indulging in a good conversation, our appetizer came. We’d ordered steak and chicken satay which came with a side of peanut sauce. He offered me a bite of steak and a generous dollop of peanut sauce asking almost temptingly if I was positive I wanted to give up red meat. I snatched the beef between my lips carnivorously, the flavor from the charred meat and peanut sauce dancing along my tastebuds, my response lost.

Though I’d thought I was going to give up on red meat right for New Years’, it actually didn’t happen until closer to March. Up until March, I cycled out takeout where possible and did the same with red meat. Though it didn’t yet have a name, Project Fit Foodie began to take shape. I spent Tuesday and Thursday nights at the gym, each session an hour and a half long, finishing each with a half hour on the treadmill watching Chopped or whatever was on ESPN. Sidebar real quick about my half hour on the treadmill- the treadmill may seem like a good substitute to running, feeling the good slap of pavement underneath your feet, but it’s honestly not. It’s stale wind and running in the same place, without different landscapes around you, without actually going a distance. It’s uninspiring, hence why I enjoy getting my Chopped fix in while I’m on it. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’ll be trading the treadmill in for the pavement in the mornings.

When March rolled around, Project Fit Foodie really kick-started.

The goal? Eat lean protein 3x a week, go meatless at least once a week (Saturday preferably to stay consistent), and get to the gym whenever possible. It seemed easy enough, except it wasn’t. I love my mom to bits, but she didn’t make it easy on me. The first Saturday I went meatless, she made bacon and eggs for dinner, using my pan to make the bacon in. I waited until she was done in the kitchen to make dinner, my stomach growling the whole time. But after that, it became easier to turn my nose up at red meat. The more I went without it, the easier it got. Especially since I discovered how wonderful eating healthy could be. One night I made a chicken burger topped with feta, spinach and tomatoes. Another night, there was something I’ve dubbed “funky noodles”. I could go on, but then I’d have nothing to write about over the course of the week. Toward the end of the month, I began to notice the change that I’d made. I didn’t think it was significant, but it was, enough so that others noticed it as well. Clothing that once fit perfectly was now too loose, and things that didn’t fit right prior, fit perfectly. It’s motivation in and of itself to continue on the current path.

Even though I’m more lax about my eating, Project Fit Foodie is still an ongoing effort.

It’s so easy to eat lean, and just because it’s lean and healthy, it doesn’t mean it has to be bland and that’s what I’m going to be writing about from here on out.

Until next time-