Health in Body and Strong in Spirit (3 John 1:2) – our anthem as we approach this new month of September.
It is valid to feel the weight of the this world and allow its past current events to take a toll on our bodies physically, mentally and spiritually. Well, we are here to encourage you today that you are more than capable of overcoming the mountain you are facing stronger than ever!
Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you!
Today, we have one of our own sharing their personal stories, the health challenges they have faced, and how they overcame it all – we hope you are encouraged as you read Maggie’s story below!
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My name is Maggie Thomas, I am the Community Relations Director for Behold and Flourish, a follower of Jesus, a wife to truly the best husband, a small business owner, a fitness studio employee, and your perfectionist enneagram 1 wing 9.
My story of health and wellness begins in high school! I was a year round athlete in high school for all four years playing basketball and running track (shoutout to all you triple jumpers). I wasn’t very aware of “wellness” in high school, I was just trying to be the best athlete I could. I practiced everyday after school for at least two hours, and with so many calories being burned, I ate whatever I wanted. My dad, a past basketball coach, made sure to fuel me up before and after games and track meets. My dad is a great man, it never felt like I was on a strict meal plan, he was just truly taking care of me and helping my body endure the long season.
Now, here is where I will get personal with you and take a pause on my story. If this is TMI, no hard feelings just exit this page and move right along with your day. But I believe a HUGE part of women’s wellness is determined by our monthly menstrual cycle. It’s like a check engine light for how our bodies are functioning. The amount of hormones a woman's body has, and how our body functions monthly is MIND BLOWING. Our bodies are amazing!
In high school I started my cycle, but it was so irregular and chill. Hardly ever had any cramps, maybe had my cycle for 2 days, and sometimes it would skip a month. Due to high cardio and exercise my body was always in “working” mode and was just trying to keep up.
After graduating I went to the greatest university ever, Texas A&M. My lifestyle changed dramatically! Exercise was now limited to me walking to class, playing intramural sports, or going to the REC to lift weights 1-3 times a week depending on my test schedule. My diet also changed, without my dad encouraging me to eat lots of protein and hold me accountable, meals became a lot more slim. I was now in charge of meal planning and remembering to eat. I loved to grocery shop for myself and prepare healthy meals, I was just not doing this consistently (#college). I believe this affected my body’s wellness so much! I noticed it in my emotions, physically my body grew weaker, and even mentally it affected sleep, stress, etc. I began to lose weight and looked my “skinniest.." but I was so unhealthy and nutritionally deprived. But who cared?? I was skinny, that was all that mattered.
In college, my cycle became a lot more apparent. Much heavier cramps, headaches, and mood swings like no other. My check engine light was freaking out, and I just kept it on. Stress was high, there were a million things to do in all the organizations I was involved in, and sleep was low due to late nights of studying. My body was in no shape to handle and fight the stress.
Going into my senior year of college Luke and I got engaged, and soon after I began taking birth control. Now, I am not here to tell you if you should take birth control or not. I truly believe it varies depending on how your body specifically responds! For me, personally birth control was not a great move. Adding more hormones to an already stressed, nutritionally deprived, unleveled hormone body was like adding lighter fluid to a wildfire.
In my first months of marriage my cycle began to happen consistently. HEAVY ON TOP OF HEAVY cramps came, my emotions were all over the place. I was gaining weight out of nowhere. I was still working out hard and trying to eat healthy, but I was not eating enough and continuing to deprive my body of the nutrients and protein it needed. I thought I was losing. my. mind. I believe so many women also just think this is normal, that our cycles should derail us. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Your check engine light is flashing red!!!!
After about a year of being on birth control, Luke and I decided for me to stop taking it. My health was a priority, and we had to really lean into Jesus trusting that He knew our plan for having a family. Getting off the pill was another adventure, but the same general story. My body was out of whack and did not feel stable. After three months of being off the pill I had to go to a hospital during my cycle because of the pain I was having. THE HOSPITAL?! Yes. That was my last straw, there was something I had to do besides being off the pill.
I was turned towards the resources of a holistic practitioner and nutritionist. The practitioner helped me target the organs of my body that were deprived and recommended organic supplements to help create stability. But where I saw true change was working with my nutritionist. She gave me a goal of how many macros (carbs, fats, protein) I should be eating throughout my day. It was so much food! At first I was hesitant, I didn’t want to gain weight! I just wanted to be healthy and to not go to the hospital because of my period again. But she helped me discover that I was starving my body of nutrition, and she educated me on the everyday toxins I was consuming. The hard cardio I was doing to try and “lose weight” was stressing my body out. It’s like my body was in “winter mode” …storing fat as backup because it was so stressed and tired. My nutritionist helped me turn my body into “summer mode.” Eating clean & whole foods, eating a LOT, listening to my body as I work out, prioritizing sleep, and letting myself rest.
The changes that came were groundbreaking and a relief! I didn’t have to go to the hospital when my period came around, and cramps were not strong and debilitating. I was much more awake throughout the day and whenever it was time for bed my body was ready to rest. Working out became a joy and it stopped being a “check box.” My relationship with food became so much more healthy, I learned how to eat intuitively and listen to what my body needed. My moods began to become much more stable.
Now this change was not instant, it took several months for my body to slow down and catch up! This is where I see our society failing when teaching women about wellness. There is no, “one quick stop solution.” We truly have to love our bodies and be patient with them as they work. Wellness is not about having the perfect body. Having that “Victoria’s Secret look” is going to come with several sacrifices towards your health. Wellness is your body being able to function well… monitor your check engine light!
I am still growing and learning new ways to love my body better and I believe I will continue to learn how to take care of my body for the rest of my life! It is so worth the investment and time… so many areas of my life (relationships, my career, my family life) have benefited from me seeking wellness versus the perfect body. Check your priorities! Are you suffering from seeking what society paints as important for your body and look? Is it worth it?