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May 30, 2016 457

Becoming the Best Version of Myself!

Hi! My name is Ashley and I am an avid weightlifter and Dragon Boat paddler! I first discovered the Dragon Boat during my freshman year of High School, and have been in a committed relationship with the sport ever since! Upon joining the Dragon Boat team at my college, I then dove into the world of weightlifting and my life has never been the same since! But in all actuality, I still have never really considered myself an athlete, but rather just an average person trying to build the best version of herself.

I first started having problems with my health during my junior year of high school. I had been overweight as an adolescent, and continued feeling that way throughout my high school experience. I didn't know much about nutrition, but what I did know was that the less I ate, the more weight I would lose. By the end of this year, I had tried countless diets, juice fasts, and drastic calorie restrictions. I had lost some weight, but my health did take a big hit - I was incredibly weak, had very low energy, was constantly bloated, and was always sleepy. This is when I discovered the world of paleo, a diet in which you stay away from processed foods and starchy carbs. I completely dove into the lifestyle, thinking that it would be my saving grace. I still did not know much about nutrition, but I started dividing food into two different categories - "bad" and "good". This is when my relationship with food first became unhealthy. 2014 was by far my hardest year - all these health problems - bloat, heartburn, intestinal pain, and anxiety - surrounded my daily routine. I was still eating "healthy" but was scared of eating too much (not because of weight gain, but because of stomach pain). One day I just decided to give up caring about health and to see what life would be like to just eat what I wanted, so I began to binge. I would eat packs of chips and cupcakes at a time because I was frustrated, which immediately followed with an intense feeling of guilt - and so I began to purge. 2015 was the year I began to take biochemistry and metabolism classes - the year where the science behind food entered my knowledge and empowered me to take control of my life. It was a slow process, but I slowly learned that it's okay to eat fat (it won't make you fat), or it's ok to eat more (so your metabolism runs optimally), and that there's another way to tone without cardio or starving yourself - through strength/weight training (the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate is). I began to feel in control of my body and I channeled my frustrations into strength - both of the mind and body. I began to eat to feed my muscles and train to become strong, and I have never felt more empowered to build the best version of "me"!

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