How Cara Overcame Her Struggle With Food Guilt

As a Track and Field athlete in college, Cara was no stranger to living an active lifestyle. She could often be found exercising for 4 hours at a time. However, Cara got into the habit of skipping meals, which slowed down her metabolism and left her without much energy.  "I struggle immensely with food guilt, and that makes it very challenging to eat healthy," she said. "I'm well-informed of the do's and don'ts when it comes to your body, but when you've been working out your whole live and [haven't] seen your body turn into what you wanted , it's hard to keep your head right." Due to Cara's naturally-slim body frame, the people around her never suspected that anything was amiss when it came to her eating habits. "I've always been able to hide it or play it off — it's sad that it has become the norm to congratulate somebody on their ability to refuse food," she admitted.

After Cara graduated from college and moved off of campus, she began to adopt better eating habits and dropped from a US size 18 to a size 12 in pants. "Honestly, being single is a huge motivator for me," revealed Cara. "A huge part of my weight loss started when I came out as gay. It was then that I realized where a lot of my unhappiness was. I was able to realize that I wanted to look good for me, but also to have the confidence to approach a lady I found attractive." To stay accountable throughout her journey, Cara joined the PumpUp community and began to share progress photos and body-positive posts. "I am in control of my life and the choices I make," she insisted. "The majority of my posts on PumpUp are aimed at being body positive because it is important for me to see myself as beautiful. It is so important to me that other men and women can look at themselves and stop nit-picking long enough to realize how truly blessed they are. PumpUp has been a great support for me in my journey to having a positive body image."

Now that Cara no longer does Track and Field, she uses PumpUp to maintain her motivation to live a healthy lifestyle. "I use PumpUp to keep me excited about lifting and sharing progress, [and] it also holds me accountable for working out now that I don't have a coach doing it for me," she explained. "My main goal with PumpUp is to maintain my fitness, because if I can maintain, then I can slowly add on more and it becomes a part of my everyday routine [rather than] some built up moment." Never a fan of heart-pumping exercises, Cara has since learned to appreciate the benefits of cardio-intensive activities. "I have always viewed running as punishment," she shared. " [Making it] something I do everyday helps me see it as tool to getting what I want. I have also accomplished keeping working out a priority after college even with less time."

Cara's Biggest Motivation

I would say the person who motivates me most is mother. She and I have done lots crash diets and when I started losing weight and keeping it off, she was the first to notice. She is the reason I started sports and stuck with them and she for sure holds me accountable for my weight. It sounds harsh and sometimes is, but I find that my fear of gaining weight back is what motivates me most. She has seen me at my best and worst.

Cara's Routine

Now that I am post-college and job hunting while working, I try very hard just to get at least 1 hour and 30 minutes in the gym 4 times a week. I start every workout by stretching. Recently I've gotten into running a mile as my warmup and cardio for the day. Then I will go on and lift weights and end my workout with abs and sometimes more cardio.

How Cara Stays Active

Though my favorite way to stay active is to play sports, I love volleyball. I am very interested in yoga and would love to learn kickboxing. My favorite exercise is probably wave squats because it is a mental struggle every time, they are hard and I really feel it the next day. The other exercise I love is box jumps! I am extremely competitive and I love pushing myself to new heights, literally, when box jumping! Also box jumps are a way to remind me how far I've come. I started them in high school and could barely jump into a small box. I've fallen quite a bit but I have worked my way up to jumping onto boxes that come up to my hips, as a 5'10" person for me that is a huge accomplishment.

Cara's Best Advice

Make being active a priority. That being said, my life motto is "Everything in Balance". I know some people can fully immerse themselves in the "healthy" lifestyle, and that's amazing, but I am not that person. I do not like missing out on life because I have to stick to a diet or be at the gym for hours on hours. Find what works for you. I need to work out to keep myself in a good place mentally and it took me a long time to learn that about myself, so listen to your body and what feels good to you. You will never stick with working out or changing your diet if you view it as a punishment or something negative. Make it a lifestyle change but one that you enjoy, some days will be hard but at a certain point it will become who you are and it will feel like home.

More about Cara

I majored in Interior Architecture and in my free time, I love designing coffee shops. I also am completely enamored with throwing clay pots, thought it's been far too long since I've gotten to. I am extremely intrigued by how people choose to express themselves through clothing or actions. I also am a firm believer that there is good in everyone. And finally l try to live my my life motto, Everything in Balance. I believe that every experience is important and sometimes you need to experience the "bad" to truly appreciate the "good". I try to keep an open mind about everything and experience as much as possible.

Keep Cara pumped! Find her on PumpUp @cara_j and leave positive words of encouragement for her in the comments below.