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It was a seemingly insignificant moment in my life. The very first time that I ever heard about the Paleo Diet, I was in my first year of graduate school. My roommate at the time, Maddie, mentioned that she had a friend who was “eating paleo”. When she told me what it meant, I remember thinking, “Who in their right mind would EVER eat like that? That is way too hardcore for me. No bread? No pasta? Psh. No way.” Little did I know that the Paleo Diet would one day become a major influence in my own health and wellness journey.

Let’s rewind a bit though, shall we? I grew up in Overland Park, KS with everything a girl could ask for: a loving family, a quality education, and friends that have lasted a lifetime. Growing up I had the world at my fingertips in so many ways, but absolutely no concept of how to keep my body healthy. All that mattered to me was what tasted good (junk food), and what felt comfortable (NOT exercising). I ate and did those things. End of story.

For eating a diet filled with Oreo cookies, mini chocolate donuts, and Diet Coke, I looked relatively healthy on the outside. I was never considered to be overweight, but looking back now there were so many ways that my body was practically screaming for help.

Kelly in high school
This is me with my two best friends, Mollie and Katie, back in our senior year of high school.
Eating taco bell
Apologies for the blurry photo, but this was a typical meal for me. Taco Bell was a favorite.

I regularly experienced mysterious cramps near my diaphragm, stomachaches, indigestion, and acne (not just on my face, but also all over my back and chest). These things were all just a part of my everyday normal, and something that seemed to be a part of who I was as a person. It never crossed my mind that what I was putting in my mouth (and on my skin) could actually be causing these symptoms.

Fast forward to college. I was attending Creighton University in Omaha, NE, pursuing my Psychology degree. My entire first year was spent similar to most college freshmen: eating, drinking, staying up too late, and did I mention eating? Okay, I did squeeze some studying in there, too.

Kelly and her mom
My mom and me during Winter Break of my freshman year in college. It may be hard to tell, but during this time I would regularly “edit” my skin in photos. If you look close you can see that my forehead and cheeks have been blurred to hide my acne.

As you might have guessed, I didn’t make it out of my first year without my good old friend, “Freshman 15”, tagging along. It was the beginning of my sophomore year when it suddenly hit me. Looking in the mirror, the person staring back at me was becoming more unrecognizable with each day that passed. My skin was oily and inflamed, my pants no longer buttoned, and I couldn’t go anywhere without worrying that I might get an upset stomach. Most of all, though, my confidence was quickly plummeting.

So, I took my very first step towards health. Two days into my sophomore year, I started Weight Watchers.

The rest of that semester was focused solely on the “points system”, and my success was based on whatever the scale told me each week. My mini fridge was stocked with fat-free yogurt, light string cheese, 100-calorie snack packs, and jello. Ingredients didn’t matter one bit to me. The lower the points, the better. Though I no longer personally identify with the Weight Watchers’ program, I will forever be grateful that it allowed me to take my first step.

About a semester into my sophomore year I met Trino, the man that I now call my husband. He was a cross country and track athlete at his college, about 40 minutes away from mine. I personally had never run more than a couple of miles in my life (and I use the term “running” loosely.) As I watched Trino come home each day from cross country and track practice, I became interested in pursuing a more active lifestyle. Having no clue where to start, I asked him to teach me to how to run.

finding health, balance and confidence
One of my first pictures with Trino during the second semester of our sophomore year.

Those first few runs were brutal (and looking back, somewhat comical). I begged, pleaded, threw small tantrums, and cried on multiple occasions. All I wanted was to turn around and retreat straight back into my comfort zone, AKA my couch. Trino, having the willpower of an ox, made sure that he didn’t allow me to give up. At the time, I hated him for it. But as I kept at it, I actually came to enjoy running. With every passing mile, I felt empowered from the runner’s high and competing with my own personal goals. In May 2009, with Trino right beside me, I ran my first half marathon in Lincoln, NE.

As some of you long distance runners may relate to, it’s easy to catch the “race bug”. After a brutal race you swear that you’ll never do another, only to sign up for the next one less than a week later. As difficult as running was for me, I just couldn’t quit. In April 2013 I ran my 5th half marathon, 32 minutes faster than I had run my first race.

running in a marathon
Des Moines Half Marathon in 2010
des moines marathon
I ran this one with my Dad and Trino
3rd half marathon
I ran the Des Moines Half again in 2011.
KC half marathon
The KC half with one of my high school besties, Katie, in 2012.
rock the parkway run

My last half marathon. Rock the Parkway in 2013 with my grad school roomie, Maddie.

Though I haven’t run another half marathon since 2013, I am grateful for that part of my journey because I discovered a form of exercise that kept me consistent and challenged. Each race I ran faster than my last. I felt alive and excited every time that my feet hit the pavement, no matter how tired I felt. Through finding joy, success, and confidence in running, so many more doors were opened in my life.

Whatever journey one might be on, everyone needs to take that first step. It likely will not look the same as a few weeks, months, or years into your journey, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you start.

What journey are you currently on in life? What was your first step?

Check out Part Two of my journey, when I added marriage, pregnancy, and kiddos into the mix!


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