Fitness is a never-ending journey that doesn’t stop fulfilling you as long as you keep going. I never thought I would feel as strong and energetic as I do right now in my late 30s and I am still a baby in the area of physical fitness. If you are struggling to get there, perhaps my story may help you.

August 2016- August 2021 (4 months pregnant!)

When I was 29 I had surgery on a brain aneurysm which shifted my view on my health and set me on a new course. I had two little kids and the too close for comfort health scare really, well, scared me straight. I quit smoking which I had struggled with (kind of and completely, I never actually wanted to quit) for 15 years. Then after almost a year of being too nervous to speed walk or do anything that might shake my brain because there was a complication with the aneurysm surgery, I came upon Holy Yoga. I thought of it as a gentle way to get back in shape after years of straddling the 200lb. line since the first baby.

Thank God for Holy Yoga. I was so weak when I started that I couldn’t imagine ever being able to do a full up dog and forget about planks or chaturangas. I had a weak core and sore back from my pregnancies, poor posture and mismanaged stress.

Over the years I was able to get off my thyroid medication that my doctor told me I would be on for the rest of my life. The incredible team at Holy Yoga of CT helped me get stronger and more at peace, closer to God than ever. Beverly, Toni and Anna are actual earth angels.

There was something I didn’t know when I was struggling to get in shape, I needed to get strong from the inside out. My kids were little and my father was in a three year losing cancer battle. I was so broken from postpartum depression and watching my father slowly die for years that I didn’t have any energy or emotional strength to push myself when anything else was difficult. I felt deeply broken.

One of the greatest blessings that came from those years was that I spent most of those days with my dad. He still wanted to go to church every day as he always had. In the last year of his life he could no longer drive and at the end even the walk from the car to the church proved too difficult for him. I was heavily pregnant, with a 2 year old and helping my father walk. Then carrying the new baby in a car seat which made being pregnant seem like a breeze.

I would help my father lay down in the last pew for mass as he was too weak to sit up. I was in such a daze I don’t think I even paid attention to the masses, I just talked to God. All of those days seemed so difficult and I would pray to God to take the pain away from my dad. During that time of tremendous pain I found a relationship with God that has made every day since then so much brighter. I learned how to discern his voice from the noise of life.

This post was not meant to be so… but my strength was found in Him and it is the only reason I reached out to HYCT at all. HYCT not only helped me get stronger physically, but they also helped me see where I felt broken when I wasn’t even able to recognize it myself. Just like strength training muscle groups, I had to break down to build up stronger.

Mid-2020 I decided I wanted to get back to the physical shape of my youth. The more we learned about the facts of the pandemic the clearer it became that taking care of my family’s health from the cellular level was of utmost importance. I was in a great place spiritually and emotionally. Although I was stronger than I had been in years, I was in a see-saw weight of 185-198 that I couldn’t break (for 11 years). I was doing yoga multiple times a week and walking, hiking and eating a pretty clean plant-based diet. I participated in a seminar with Tony Robbins called “Unleash the Power Within” and it gave me the boost to set my new, upgraded habits in stone.

Once my good habits were set, my body hasn’t let me stop. I haven’t missed a workout since June 2020, if I get to the end of the day without a workout my new “no matter what” mantra kicks in and I set up a mat and get to work.

I am not sure if managing stress resurrected my propensity to workout or if my workouts kept my stress levels at bay. Once you have both a habit of working out formed and stress under control it feels like a conveyor belt that keeps you consistent. I read once that it takes 21 days to form a habit, so I often tell friends who are struggling to just force it for 3 weeks and see what happens.

I am down 20+lbs, I have found my cheekbones again and I feel better, stronger and happier than ever. I just completed a nutrition certification program that has helped me clean up my diet and so much more. I can’t wait to help others get out of their own way with the knowledge I have gained from this program. **Update from July 2021, 1 year into my life changes, I have lost 40lbs!**

I am so grateful to have grown up with home cooked, real food meals and pretty well rounded 80/20 diet which is what we all should be striving for. I still love to learn about eating for optimal health. Our soil has been so badly depleted that we all need powerful supplements until Regenerative Farming does its job of healing what industrial farming has destroyed. I replaced breakfast with a daily organic greens and antioxidant rich protein smoothie which definitely made a huge difference. I added in weights as my best friend had been telling me to do for years and I am at the point that I can’t imagine missing a workout.

I set a schedule so that I have no excuses to not get in a workout every day. I get up at 5am, start with warm lemon water (which I have been doing for a decade, but now I make the whole family join me) and I read until 6am. Then I workout for an hour until I wake up the kids. No matter what. Then I make our smoothies and we all start our day. (This recently changed as the kids are back in school and that first hour’s reading has been replaced with making the kids lunches and prepping the smoothies before my workout.) Most days I add in a second workout midday or before bed.

Real exercise was my greatest mountain I needed to climb. I had been doing yoga and walking/elliptical for years but I was in such bad shape I needed so much more. When this focus began I decided to workout 2x/day until I fit into a certain pre-baby dress which is almost fully zipped. I found that variety was the best path for me. In the summer I did Kinrgy with Julianne Hough which was a fantastic way to get super sweaty and loosen me up. Then I joined the Peloton app ($13/month), best money I’ve spent this year. They offer such a wide variety of classes. My favorites are the strength classes and yoga classes. I also get destroyed by my all time favorite trainer, my best friend, whenever she has a Zoom training class. I do kickboxing on Saturday mornings with HYCT to support my favorite local fitness center through these closings and participate in bible study whenever possible. When spring rolls around and HYCT goes back to outdoor classes I will be there! Although people love Peloton for the social aspect of it, I don’t have that experience. I don’t feel connection through internet strangers. That is why I use it in conjunction with HYCT and training with my friends because human connection is very important for well rounded fitness.

I just got the Peloton bike and I love it, but still not for the social aspect. The cycling is a fun way to workout and a good way to multitask when you need a workout but also need to get work done. You can set up a ride on your own and read while riding or if you are taking classes online you can watch your class while you ride.

Some key takeaways that helped me along the way…

Action– Consistency is key. There is no substitute for getting your workout in every day, no matter what. It feels amazing (eventually, trust me) and the results when paired with a healthy, whole foods diet are worth every second.

No amount of knowledge can replace action. It’s why certain people/groups are less effective than others, they rely too heavily on education without focusing enough on the grit and tenacity it takes to create and build something. We need to share what we have learned even though we may not feel we are the best or totally ready. This is how to help people. I don’t know what it is about me, maybe being the youngest of 5 kids, but I feel like I am the last to know anything that I have learned. I know logically that this is so not the case, but this thought pattern often holds me back from sharing things that can be helpful to so many others.

Growth– Don’t worry so much about goal weights and measurements. Set them so you have a target to hit if you need to, but focus on growth/progress, every day. Physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. Remember that you get to workout, you never have to.

Balance– Fill your body with all of the nutrient packed foods you can get your hands on. You will have very little room/desire for the filler foods. If you remove comfort foods all at once you are going to struggle. I have found that if I just avoid sugar and wheat, when I do have it I enjoy a bit and crave no more because I don’t feel great after eating it. These things gradually, naturally become no longer comfort foods, rather they become quite uncomfortable. You won’t feel like you are missing anything at all.

It feels really good to feel good. These may not be the foods that trigger you, but you have to help yourself, listen to your body to figure out what needs to go. And don’t underestimate the power of hydration. We all know the guidance of drinking half of your body weight (in ounces) of water each day. This is true, but if you are very active, listen to your body and drink more as needed.

Gratitude and happiness go hand in hand– Waking up is a gift, if you start your day thanking God that this day has arrived it will be quite difficult to be taken down. Gratitude is also a practice, no matter what is going on around you, there is always something to come back to center and be grateful for.

Detaching from things that don’t serve any purpose or hurt you– At one point I started noticing that some of the people that I had been exposed to would wear their misery as a badge of honor. It almost made me feel guilty to be happy. I started to feel miserable too. I had to pull myself up out of that, stop engaging in those conversations and avoid them at all costs.

Self-care needs to stop being called selfish– Somehow people have started to say we deserve to be selfish by taking care of ourselves. No. Being selfish isn’t good. Self care isn’t selfish. Self care allows you to show up for the people in your life in the fullest, most energized and happiest version of yourself so that you can serve them better. This is especially true when you are in a serious growth period. You have to rest your body and mind to get after your goals in the most efficient way possible.

I am sharing this part of my fitness journey in hopes that someone out there relates and can take something big or small out of it that may help them in their journey. As I grow and learn I am working on projects that will serve communities that are looking for multifaceted health. Please reach out if there is something here that helped you make a shift that positively impacted you, that I might be able to expand those ideas and help others as well.

Wishing you well in your total wellness journey!

About Julie Parkis

About Julie Parkis

Mom, MBA, Yogi, CIA grad and food enthusiast looking to share knowledge of food/cooking and general wellness information.

I am happiest in the kitchen with people who love food as much as I do!


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