2014: Best of F&F

As I mentioned in my New Year’s post, I prefer that a few weeks in January go by before I begin reflecting on the year before. Now that we’re mid month and I’m feeling a little more into the swing of things, I want to do some blog reflections and share the best of F&F in 2014 with all of you. I did something similar last year with my 2013 posts, and it was a lot of fun!

Ready for a content dump?

Best of F&F in 2014

2014 was a breakout year for Fitness & Feta. The blog celebrated its third birthday and got its own logo and header. I hosted my first blog event/workout class. I had a Reader Focus Week and hosted a Heart My Health social media campaign in February. In December, I hosted my most life changing and inspiring challenge yet. Also, the F&F newsletter was born! If you aren’t subscribed, please sign up! I’m sending out a fun update this weekend.

Athleta Legacy Place: Birthday Bootcamp

2014 was also the first year that I finally started monetizing this blog, which I attribute to being selected as a FitFluential ambassador and a PopSugar Select fitness blogger. I was able to attend a lot of really awesome events thanks to my relationship with New Balance Boston, and I received several other products to review and give away as well. 2014 was also the first year that I actually started turning opportunities away! This was partly because I couldn’t keep up, but also because I didn’t believe in the message of the some of the companies trying to work with me. Below are the blog projects I was able to participate in over the past year, so THANK YOU to for reading this blog and supporting not only me, but the companies I choose to work with for a little extra income. I appreciate each and every one of your clicks. 😉

2014 F&F Blog Opportunities

New Balance Fresh Foam 980s

Perfect Vermont: Warm Welcome

Fitbit Charge Review

2014 F&F Blog Series
On F&F, I launched a few different series, some of which stuck, and some of which didn’t. You guys look forward to my F&F Friday Favorites every week, and I really believe in sharing other bloggers’ content, so that continues to be popular!

Friday FavoritesFor awhile, I continued to write about my weekly workouts, but I grew bored of that and changed it up to giving you guys updates every month or so instead. There was also Journey to Fit, a series that features an F&F reader with an inspirational weight loss or weight gain story to share. I want to thank Mary, Liz, Laura, Jen and Kelly, and Jackie for sharing their stories. Keep your eyes out for more stories like this in 2015, and please let me know if you or someone you know would be a good fit for this!

Finally, at the beginning of the year, I launched Sunday Sweat Talk. I really, really enjoyed posting on a different fitness topic each week, and I think it helped me branch out a bit with my writing. Once our crazy wedding schedule picked up in the spring, having this little “fitness chat” with you guys was just too much to keep up with. I miss it, but here’s a list of the Sunday Sweat Talk topics I wrote about last year!

Sunday Sweat Talk

2014 F&F Workouts
Of course it wouldn’t be a successful fitness blog without continuing to share workouts with you guys. Here’s a rundown of the sweaty favorites I posted last year. Have you tried any of these?

4x4 Medicine Ball Ab Circuit

Park Bench Circuit Workout

2014 F&F Recipes
Last year I shared tons of food pictures in my weekly eats/catching up on eats posts, but here are the recipes that debuted on the blog this year. Have you made any of them?

Pistachio Muffins

Asparagus, Mushroom, and Ricotta Pizza

Cranberry Avocado Salsa

2014 F&F Personal Favorites
I also thought it would be fun to share some of my personal favorite posts that I wrote over the course of the past year. They aren’t necessarily specific workouts or recipes, but these are fun and different posts I want to remember and remind you guys about. Also, if you are new to F&F, you may have missed some of them!

Blogging Lessons Learned

2014 F&F Life Recaps
Finally, one of the best parts about having a blog is being able to go back and see fun recaps of my life! It was too hard to write about every single thing we had this year in individual posts (I still have some major 2014 things I never got around to recapping), so I introduced Life Lately as a way to capture monthly recaps. Aside from my monthly Life Lately posts, here are some other fun recaps from throughout the year:

Engagement BBQ: Me and Tim

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And that’s that! I’m excited to see what 2015 has in store for this little space of mine. Thanks for continuing along for the ride! You guys are the best.

Readers, let’s chat! What on F&F from 2014 stands out to you as most memorable? What do you want to see more or less of in 2015? Bloggers, what were your blog accomplishments last year? Anything you are setting out to do or grow in 2015?

Journey to Fit: Jackie’s Story

Let’s start the week off with some inspiration!

Journey to Fit features an F&F reader with an inspirational weight loss or weight gain story to share. The men and women featured in Journey to Fit each paved their own path to a healthy lifestyle, and I am thrilled they are willing to share their journeys on my blog. Everyone has a unique story and approach to healthy living, and each person had to start somewhere. I hope you find this series inspiring. Enjoy!

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Today I am featuring Jackie! I went to college in Providence with Jackie, and I’m thrilled to share her story on F&F today.

Journey to Fit: Jackie

Jackie, tell my F&F readers a little about yourself.

Hi! I’m Jackie, a 29 year old pre-k teacher living in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m originally from New Jersey, I went to college at Providence (where Athena and I met!), and I moved to Maryland after college to teach and live with my best friend from high school. I taught elementary special education for five years and am currently in my third year teaching pre-kindergarten at the same elementary school. I love traveling, spending time with my family and friends, and volunteering my time to teach sailing in the spring/summer.

When did your fitness journey begin? Was there a specific moment or event that triggered it for you? 

My fitness journey is a long one! I swam competitively in middle school, high school, and for 2 years of college. During that time, I had a fairly muscular build, but I was never ‘skinny’. I was in awesome shape, working out at least 2.5-3 hours a day, 6 days a week. After I stopped swimming, it was much harder to stay in shape. My muscular build turned soft as college cafeteria food and beer caught up with me. I would work out…but when things got busy, I didn’t go to the gym because it clearly wasn’t a priority. Also, this was the first time in as long as I could remember where I had TIME and didn’t need to plan everything around practices.

After college, my first couple years of teaching were stressful and exhausting. I was dealing with that stress by making poor food choices and going too many happy hours. I would try to go to the gym but again, when things got busy or I was just too tired from dealing with small children and a terrible boss all day, I didn’t go. I then started grad school part time… so I would work, go to class until 10pm twice a week, and do grad school homework on the weekends while still trying to have a social life and navigate my way through living in a new city.

Several years ago, I wasn’t feeling comfortable in my own skin and wasn’t fitting into any of my clothes, so I decided to do something about it. I joined Weight Watchers and lost almost 40 pounds simply by being mindful about portion control and making better food choices. The program made me do some serious self-reflecting about my relationship with food, which was needed. The WW program, however, is very driven by the scale. After a while, I was starting to obsess over the numbers. I was planning out my meals and counting points, but soon that’s all I would think about, and I knew that wasn’t healthy either. Once I fell off the wagon, the pounds started to creep back again. I wasn’t in control, and I gained almost all of the weight back.

Last fall, after the beginning of the school year, I decided it was time to make a lifestyle change. I was now living by myself, loved my current position at work, and I had the time and energy to devote to making a commitment to MYSELF about being healthy. Things just mentally and emotionally felt different, in a good way. I re-joined the gym and started going to group fitness classes (spin/RPM and Body Pump) every single morning before work and on also weekends when I was in town.

I don’t own a scale (see above, re: obsessing over numbers), but will check my weight every so often. My starting weight was 260, and I am around 180 now. I still have weight to lose and don’t have a ‘target’ number in mind–I am concentrating on doing what feels right for me and my body.

What lifestyle changes have you made since the beginning of your journey?

Journey to Fit: Jackie

1. Exercising consistently. I learned (the hard way) that for me to keep the weight off, I need to exercise often. I was too tired and had other commitments that kept coming up after teaching to keep a consistent exercise routine for the afternoon, so now I take a 6am class every weekday morning, no excuses.

2. Learning my triggers. Doing Weight Watchers helped me really look at my food choices and THINK about what I was putting in my mouth. I learned that some foods I simply have to stay away from or not even have in my apartment because it’s a trigger. Once I start, it’s very difficult for me to stop. (Pasta, sweets, soda).

3. Eating cleaner. It was eye-opening to me how when I started to eat cleaner foods, I felt better almost immediately. I try as much as possible to cut out processed food, extra carbs, (bad) sugar, and artificial sweeteners. 2 cups of coffee with half and half is my daily processed splurge because some sort of caffeine is needed to work with 4 year olds all day, every day!

Did you encounter any challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Honestly, every day is a challenge. I have to actively make choices all the time, and that’s not always easy or fun. I had to learn to literally walk away when the temptation for food was too much. I had to learn to control myself in social situations or when I was out. Waking up at 5:00 am to go out in the freezing cold during a terrible winter was many times not pleasant, but I did it. It was also challenging to not see immediate results. In the beginning, I was working so hard, but my body wasn’t changing yet. I knew I was losing weight the healthy way, but it was difficult at times to just have faith and not give up.

Aside from the weight loss, what has rewarded you? What differences do you notice in how you felt then versus how you feel now?

Physically, I have found that I have more energy. I’m a better teacher because I come to school refreshed, awake, and ready to start the day, having already had my workout. Emotionally, the way I feel about myself has changed drastically. I’m not embarrassed by the way I look, so I don’t avoid mirrors or dread clothes shopping like I once did. When I first started to lose weight and people would compliment me, I would thank them but think, ‘that means they noticed that I was bigger before.’ Now I am in a much better place mentally, and when people tell me I look great or ask what I’ve been doing, I sincerely thank them and take the complements to heart. It’s amazing to know that the people who you love care about you, want to see you succeed, and be happy and healthy.

Other small things have been rewarding too, like being a size where I can shop in regular stores, being able to borrow clothes from my friends, and having people notice my progress. I recently had a former co-worker not even recognize me!?

Journey to Fit: Jackie
What are the next steps in your journey?

I’d love to get more into running. Growing up I did a pretty great job of choosing the one sport (swimming) that did not involve running! Whenever we had to do cross training with running, I will tell you that it was not a pretty sight. In the past couple months, I’ve slowlyyyy started to become more comfortable running and over the summer when the weather warmed up, I was actually excited to get out and run.

What tips would you offer others you are trying to lose weight or exercise more?

1. Give yourself some grace. No one is perfect. Bad days happen, pizza happens, beer happens, LIFE happens. And when those things happen (because all of them will, I promise), be accountable, take responsibility, and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day.

2. Don’t be scared to try new things. I never thought I would be able to make it through a spin class, and now I do it at least 3 times a week. I tried yoga this year and really enjoyed it. I never, EVER thought I would be a person who runs outside, but this season, I got over it, laced up my new sneakers (that I won from this blog!), and tried it. Was I fast? Did I look good? Was I wearing the right ‘gear’ for any of those activities? Probably not, but I was doing a lot better than people sleeping or sitting on their couches. Give anything a try because you never know what you’ll like or be good at!

Journey to Fit: Jackie wearing Fresh Foams
3. Set a routine and follow it. Don’t have time to go to the gym in the afternoon? Go in the morning. Have to take care of the kids before work? Go to the gym straight from work in the afternoon. I had too much going on after school to consistently be able to make it to the gym, so I decided I would go in the morning. Growing up I often got up early for swim practice, so it was not a jarring thing to see the 5 o’clock hour every day. I quickly found the group fitness classes and instructors that I enjoyed, and doing so helped me keep this routine of going every weekday morning for 7 months. It’s fun to see familiar faces at 5:30 in the morning and the instructors help keep me motivated.

4. Get out of your own way. The mind is a powerful yet tricky thing. Think you can’t run another 5 minutes? You can. Think you can’t lift that bar for 8 more reps? You can. Think you can’t put on a gear higher during a spin class climb? You can. Think you can’t walk away from the delicious looking bagels in the coffee room at work? You can. Think you can’t wake up at 5 o’clock every single morning? You can. Get over yourself and just do it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks so much Athena for allowing me to contribute to this series!  I am usually a private person when it comes to this stuff, so it was a big step for me to put myself out there to all you wonderful F&F readers. I hope anyone who is just beginning or is struggling with their own journey can use my story as an inspiration and motivation. A HUGE thank you goes out to all of my family, friends, co-workers, and especially my fitness instructors for always being positive and helping me along the way. I certainly could not have done it without you all.

Journey to Fit: Jackie

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Thank you for sharing, Jackie! I’m so happy you shared your story here, and you are definitely an inspiration to my readers!

Readers, leave Jackie some love! She deserves it!

If you or someone you know has a weight loss or weight gain story to share, please email me at fitnessandfeta@gmail.com. I would love to feature you. This series will run as long as I receive enough content to keep it going.

For past Journey to Fit posts:

Introducing the F&F Newsletter

Hi friends!

No real Monday post from me today. My weekend was chock full of friends and family between three different get-togethers and a wedding, so that didn’t leave me much time for writing.

I just wanted to share something I have been working on for the past couple of weeks, an official F&F newsletter!

NewsletterThere’s a little sneak peek preview, but you can read the rest of newsletter #1 here.

To stay apprised of F&F news, events, giveaways, and more before everyone else, consider subscribing for future updates. Thanks for the support!

–Let’s chat–
How were your weekends? Busy or relaxing? Bloggers, do you have a newsletter? Any advice for a newbie like me?

Have an AWESOME week you guys!