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'The Diet Swaps That Helped Me Completely Transform My Body'

I was a dancer throughout my childhood, until I got injured when I was 16. 

After that, I became pretty sedentary. I ate a lot of fast food, and snacked on things like candy, and other refined, processed vending machine foods. I drank more Dr. Pepper than I did water.

Every now and then, I’d try to restrict what I was eating, or turn to a drastic fad diet or cleanse in an attempt to be “healthy.” I’d skip meals and snacks in an attempt to restrict my calories. But it never worked—not only were these plans not sustainable, they left me with a lack of energy. Plus, every “slip up” would make me feel like I failed; then I’d overindulge, feel sick, and get discouraged, causing me to beat myself up even more.

After I had my son, Anderson, four and a half years ago, I started to struggle with postpartum anxiety.

When my doctor suggested that exercise might help, I thought it was a joke. There was no way something so small could fix the anxiety that had become such a big, all-encompassing burden on my life.

Still, I decided to try it out of pure desperation. A few weeks in, I was relieved to find that it was working. Everyone’s journey is different, but for me, regular exercise allowed me to cope with my anxiety and bring it down to a manageable level.

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LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY REAL “TRANSFORMATION”. . I struggled with a lack of confidence in myself my whole life. I rarely voiced my opinions even to my friends. Constantly compared myself to others and felt I never measured up. Picked myself apart, automatically focused on my “flaws”, internalized my failures, downplayed my successes and wasted WAY too much time and energy worrying about how others perceived me.? I have spoken a lot here about how my fitness journey and my journey to finding self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-love are intrinsically intertwined. Confidence did NOT come as a result of my body changing, my confidence started to grow far before I saw changes in the mirror, but rather as a result of finally treating my body with love and taking care of myself. Pushing through my workouts and prioritizing my health empowered me to push through the burdens of life and prioritize myself. About a year ago I caught up with a friend from college and she said something I will never forget: “Kelsey I am so proud of you. I knew you at 17 and I got to watch you fall in love with Ryan, you put him first and have always treated him with the ultimate adoration and respect. Well the last two years I feel like I’ve finally gotten to watch you fall in love with yourself the same way. You can finally see yourself how we always saw you.” I cried because she was right. I couldn’t see myself then. My friends, IF YOU WANT TO LOVE YOURSELF, PLEASE TREAT YOURSELF WITH LOVE. You are stronger than you know. You are beautiful and one of a kind. But me or anyone else telling you that is NOT enough. You must tell yourself and work to believe it. You must look after yourself physically and mentally. Live active and make conscious efforts to make your internal dialogue a positive one. I am OVER people tearing others down for loving themselves. CONFIDENCE IS NOT ARROGANCE. Confidence is imperative. Fight for yourself. You will be amazed to learn who you truly are, and what you can do.? . “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.” — Marie Curie

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When I first started my fitness journey, I was too overwhelmed to even think about changing my eating habits, too. But a couple months after I started working out, I started to make a shift nutrition-wise.

I realised if I was hungry and chose a candy bar, I wouldn’t feel great. But if I picked something nutritious, I felt good and had the energy I needed. That made it easier to choose healthy snacks. Plus, once I started weight training I was hungrier and needed more food to fuel my body and keep my energy levels up.

My approach to healthy eating today is to use food as fuel—and choose foods that are going to make me feel good. For me, that means eating three meals a day with snacks in between. My meals consist of clean, unprocessed foods like Greek yogurt or protein pancakes for breakfast, a huge salad with chicken for lunch, and quinoa chilli for dinner. I’m always snacking on something—raw fruits and veggies, cottage cheese, hardboiled eggs, turkey wraps, almonds.

It’s hard to say whether my training or my healthier snacking habits have done more to improve my self-confidence; I mean, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Because training gives me self-confidence, I choose to take care of my body and nourish it with foods that will energise me. But I also know that choosing to eat better foods gives me a boost, as well as a stronger appreciation for my body.

That said, I’ve also worked really hard to mentally shift away from the idea that when I eat something unhealthy, I’m “slipping up.” Yes, I definitely sometimes eat things that are not very nutritious, but I don’t believe food should be good or bad. Now, if I do indulge too much, I just focus on making my next choice a healthy one. 

With nutrition, what matters is consistency. Most of the time, my snacks are raw, whole foods, filled with nutrients. So when I eat a candy bar or donut, I enjoy that, and then I get right back on track.

If you make your nutrition choices based on the fact that your body is amazing and it deserves the best, making healthy choices is a lot easier.

By Kelsey Wells as told to Amanda Woerner. This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US. 

Kelsey Wells is a certified personal trainer and the creator of the PWR Workout. Try her programs via the Sweat app (iTunes; $19.99/month).

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