While my public journey was vulnerably etched in the immortal feed of social media on August 12, 2019 (@katiecrokus), I can pinpoint my actual first memory of wanting to be ‘smaller,’ which is where I would say my story begins.
Interestingly, it was also in August, exactly 31 years prior. I know this because my sweet, archivist of a mom penned my age and the date on the back of a photograph, time-stamping that moment.
Here’s the crazy thing about my memory of that picture. It is so oddly vivid. There we were, my friend and I sitting casually in our swimsuits, arms draped around each other, ready to hit the pool. At a glance, we both look pretty carefree. But I know better. Zoom in on my face and body language, and you’ll get a glimpse of the bigger story.
Lips pursed in an uncomfortable almost-smile, legs clenched together, core braced, even my arm is awkwardly flexing in an attempt to make myself smaller. I can’t even look too far into my own eyes here, because all I see is my daughter staring back a me, which is the most disturbing piece of it all.
This was the first of countless ‘I don’t want to be photographed because I am so uncomfortable in my own skin’ moments, cemented in time. At 9 (and one quarter – thank you mom) years old.
I don’t know why it even occurred to me that I was ‘bigger’ than any of my friends at such an early age. For some unknown reason, I grew up with a heightened sense of awareness about the size of my body – which to be clear, even at my most uncomfortable, has never been beyond perhaps the upper end of average.
Time passed; appropriately awkward teenage years ensued, but the pain magnified as I broke my parents’ hearts developing patterns of disordered eating. While never quite manifesting those behaviors into a diagnosed eating disorder, I danced precariously around it.
Did I need help or just the time to grow into my mind and body? We never answered that question.
About two decades later I was so grateful to start having babies after years of battling infertility, that I unknowingly I became a person who couldn’t offer myself even a fraction of the care I was giving to my daughters.
From sun up to sundown, I walked around like a zombie, under the impression that my work in the gym ‘didn’t count’ if I didn’t leave feeling annihilated. Missing a workout altogether was basically grounds for self-sabotage, giving myself permission to eat recklessly for the day, if not the next week or even January 1st.
I would seek out chronically aching muscles and require them like a transaction in exchange for things like a piece of my daughter’s birthday cake or pizza with my husband. Going to bed hungry was an achievement. Everything had to be ‘earned.’
This flawed sense of pride landed me in a state of purgatory, spinning my wheels and stuck in a cycle that provided exactly zero return on my relentlessly exhausting investment.
It was hard to know where the fatigue of parenting three small kids ended, and my self- destructing mindset and behaviors began.
I carried on like this for a while, living in an ‘all or nothing’ world until I discovered macro counting in 2016 at around 37 years old.
I began with precision and saw instant results, because still at that time, anything worth doing was worth overdoing. I lost my cycle. I burned out. I gained back all the weight I lost, plus about 5 more pounds and sat with that body for about a year.
Unbeknownst to me, it was actually the most healing time of my life.
Because here is what I also gained: knowledge of a very powerful tool that could be used for balance instead of punishing rigidity. It was also the genesis of a critical mindset shift for me. One that lead me out of living in scarcity and into a place where I learned to embrace abundance.
Optimizing the power of macros lead me to begin testing and creating new recipes that I still use today (hello Zucchini Pumpkin Oat Bars, my very first recipe baby).
The next turning point for me was beginning to weight train. I switched from an unhealthy obsession of ‘cardio-with-weights’ style group fitness, to learning how to get comfortable with compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press and the chin up – I cried when I got my first one. It was like with pulling my chest up to that bar, I released every ounce of dead weight I had been carrying with me for almost 40 years.
By learning how to lift heavy and make way for actual recovery, I learned this: That the feeling of depletion does NOT mean you’re doing it right, Katie.
It was a lightbulb moment for me.⠀ ⠀
Seem obvious?! For so many of us it isn’t. It certainly wasn’t for me.
But miraculously it was like a stubborn fog was lifted; everything sharpened, and the color in my mind went from 8 crayons to the full spectrum Pantone.
I opened the doors to macro counting again, but this time with fresh eyes, and never looked back
‘This is 40.’
Something I’ve self-deprecatingly said about my life more times than I can count, even just one full year into the decade. And I’ll continue, because there are so many funny truths about it.
I’d rather sleep than go out (have you seen my ‘BTW I’m Leaving Early’ sweatshirt?). I have a favorite spatula.
College students look like 12 year olds.
But you know what else came for me at 40? Confidence. Just a bit of swagger. The gumption to know that I can be me and do it unapologetically. Knowing that my courage is bigger than my fear.
I left behind habits that stole my energy, which I realized is my finite currency. I no longer sit at tables where people talk about me when I get up.
I let go of the unrest I felt when I did things for myself that stirred up something uncomfortable in someone else.
These are not things I did the first three decades of my life.
It’s hard to know if maturity, wisdom or the ghosts of my former self brought me to this place, but one thing I know for sure is that changing my lifestyle to prioritize things that make me feel good, has absolutely had a bigger impact on my inner voice than any amount of external support.
I had to learn to show up for myself every.damn.day. I had to make my WHY bigger than my excuses.
I had to accept that this new, bigger, happier life would come at the cost of pieces of my old one.
I had to do hard things that had nothing to do with diet and exercise. ***
Candidly I’m still relatively new at this in the scope of my life. But the law of compound interest leads me to believe that bigger and better things will continue to unfold each year.
Here’s the advice I share with my daughters, write on sticky notes and frame throughout our notoriously bossy house:
• You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm
• Don’t be upset about the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do
• Decide what kind of life you actually want, then say no to everything that isn’t that
• Failure isn’t falling down, it’s not getting back up again⠀
• If you’re the smartest, bravest, kindest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room
• What you allow yourself to consume, will consume you, so choose wisely
• Your success is inevitable; so relax, shake the dust off and find ways to enjoy the ride
I don’t have regrets, but I do wish I could go back and tell my 9-year-old self these things. She may have given me the tween side-eye but what if even one of these mantras stuck? How could it change the trajectory of anyone’s life to be more self-assured in these mindsets?
So often we get caught up in chasing aesthetics or a distorted version of perfection, that we don’t realize how simply practicing health fundamentals and working on mindset CONSISTENTLY and LONG TERM is the true power move.
What is step one?
Acknowledge your fear of challenging everything you’ve ever believed. Sit with it, then welcome your new friends discomfort and courage to the table. With them come power. Pride joins in. Confidence soars and pretty soon you know you are exactly where you need to be.
Suddenly you’re making decisions driven by your WHY because it is bigger than your fear. And as it turns out, that alone makes you look pretty damn lit too.
Empower Nutrition E-book: https://katie-crokus-empower-nutrition.myshopify.com/