How The Past Five Months Changed Me

I think all of our lives changed this year. I know mine has. I see it as life before March 13, 2020 and life after. I changed a lot since that date, some not at first by choice, some because I felt I just had to make the most of a really horrible situation. These choices improved my health and have left me stronger. Several of you have commented on the change in my skin, my body shape, my hair, and even my attitude. There were a lot of lifestyle changes over these months that caused the visible changes you’ve seen in photos and in my videos on Instagram Stories.

My Food and Drink Consumption Changed

March 13, 2020, that was the last Friday of semi-normalness before our area was ordered to shelter in place. Our daughter attended her last day of school, I used hand sanitizer after filling the gas tank, and I got a feeling of nesting I hadn’t experienced since my third trimester of pregnancy. While the news was saying it would be two weeks of sheltering in place, my husband and I felt it would be more like three months. My husband went to the grocery store and Target to stock up on necessities preparing for at least 12 weeks quarantined in our home, but items we’d use if we were wrong and back to normal after 14 days. Along with cleansers, sanitizing wipes, and toilet paper; he filled the pantry and refrigerator without a list, with what he thought would be tasty and able to go the distance in regard to shelf life or versatility. He is vegan so everything he bought was plant-based. He doesn’t drink alcohol, so he didn’t buy a single bottle of wine or case of beer.

A peek into part of our pantry after that first pandemic grocery run. Plenty of ketchup, PB&J, and nuts… if I went shopping the selection would have been very different!

Our home was mostly plant-based before the pandemic. My husband, the primary cook of the household, wouldn’t prepare animal-based food products, but my daughter had mozzarella sticks for her lunches, I’d occasionally buy a block of feta or blue cheese to add to dishes, she and I would order sushi, orange chicken, and Pad Thai for takeout, and we’d pick up a bag of Doritos and order pepperoni pizza delivery for sleepover play dates. My daughter and I also ate animal products outside the home at friends’ houses and restaurants. But being unable to leave our homes, we three became completely plant-based.

My husband has always been one to try different things to tweak his quality of life and his health and I often go along for the ride because I have done my skeptical research and can see benefits. Yoga, meditation, vitamins, superfoods, even a grounding sheet for our bed, I was down. But when he cut out all alcohol and all animal-based products I was out. I was okay with alcohol not being in the home, but I couldn’t imagine not going to brunch, a blogger event, dinner at a kickass restaurant, or a drink at a bar with a friend after an especially awful or awesome day without at least a glass of Prosecco. And cheese? How could I or why would I want to quit cheese? I’d pretty much cut out chicken and pork over the years and kept beef to a really kickass steak or tartare at a restaurant, but how could I abandon sushi? And Maryland crabs?? In Maryland, summer isn’t summer without at least one crab feast.

But the pandemic changed all that. No crab feasts, no blogger events, no drinks at the bar after an awful or awesome day. And for our household, it was replaced with a sober, plant-based existence.

You May Like: Trying a Plant-Based Diet

We don't dine out, and have more time to tend to our gardens. Our dining table now looks like a farmers market. The paper bags have green tomatoes ripening inside.

The Results of This Change

Well, the first result was dreaming about Sauvignon Blanc and seared scallops. And then it was Coca Cola and 7-Eleven nachos. But after the first two months or so, the cravings diminished. I found by eating less of that food and having fewer opportunities to indulge (no driving by restaurants, listening to commercials on the car radio, watching less network TV and more streaming without videos, no social occasions, etc.) I desired it less.

That being said, I didn’t suddenly become some person who only eats when they’re hungry and has mastered portion control. Two days ago I ate an entire family-sized bag of salt and pepper crinkle-cut kettle chips and the week before my period I filled a salad bowl (not the individual one but the one that you put on the table for everyone to serve themselves from) of spaghetti with plenty of Smart Balance, salt, pepper, vegan parm, and some crushed red pepper and consumed all of it around 3am while binging Netflix.

But physically, I changed.

The lack of dairy and/or lack of alcohol took away the dark circles under my eyes that have plagued me since I was a child. My skin looks brighter, became less oily, gets fewer hormonal zits, and my pores are less visible.

My hair is less greasy. I couldn’t go more than one day without washing or I’d be an oil slick; now I can go 4-5 days before I have to shampoo and even then, it’s not as greasy.

My belly has deflated; I joke that now I have three breasts because it used to be fuller and firmer.

My stomach is deflated. I won’t say it shrank because it didn’t, all the skin is there still, but it’s not as firm and round. The ab muscles I’ve built over the years are now more visible, and my pants are all loose because it’s as though my stomach was a balloon and someone put a pinprick in it.

My Fitness Routine Changed

At the end of 2017, I quit my job in Corporate America to be a full-time blogger and I also signed up for personal training at a gym. From December 2017 to March 2020 I went to this gym five days a week, focusing on weight training. This was the first time in my life where I stuck to any sort of fitness routine longer than a couple of months. I enjoyed getting strong. I didn’t care about losing pounds or inches, and didn’t really lose a lot of either, but my body impressed me with its strength, agility, and flexibility that came with a regular fitness routine. It helped me create a healthier relationship with my body and come to respect it.

The last couple of months I wasn’t feeling it at the gym. I loved the gym, adored my trainer, saw results, but was ready for some change. However, I didn’t want to make a switch until I had something else I could commit to; I didn’t want to lose all that I had gained from the experience.

My husband and I decided to get a Peloton bike. While my husband was a bike guy, even riding his road bike nightly on a trainer in our bedroom, I hadn’t been much of a rider since getting pregnant in 2008 and never attended a spin class. I didn’t know if this would be something I liked, but with the pandemic on the horizon, we felt it was a smart choice so we could remain active while staying indoors. The bike arrived just at the start of the pandemic.

Why yes I did buy myself a helium tank and mylar balloons to celebrate my 100th Peloton ride!

This past weekend I completed my 100th Peloton ride. I’ve also completed over 30 Peloton strength classes, 20 stretching classes, and over 20 guided meditations. The days I don’t ride I feel stiff and achy which makes me get on there even if I’d rather be doing anything else.

But sometimes that time on the Peloton is what I really really want during this pandemic. When you’re stuck in your home with other personalities you need a way of escape. And if you don’t have any alcohol in your house, sweating your ass off with a pair of earbuds closing off the world and blasting you with music and motivation is a good alternative.

The Results of this Change

In the past 16 months, I have been everything between 186 pounds and 201 pounds. The last day I went to the gym at the beginning of March I was 196 pounds. At the time of writing this I am 191 pounds though people keep asking me if I’ve lost weight and saying I look smaller. I’m proof that the number on the scale doesn’t mean much.

This is 193 pounds. Looser skin, bigger muscles, and more respect for this body than I've ever had before.

My body is very different since switching from weight training to cardio. My face has thinned out, the whole top half of me from neck to arms to torso seems leaner, and there is more loose skin. My thighs are bigger; pants that were loose before now cling. My calves and ankles are leaner and look more muscular. My butt is higher and bigger practically square from the new muscles from riding a bike several days a week.

I’ve always been a sweaty person and super self-conscious about it. I resisted group classes and events where I would be the weird person with sopping wet hair and streaky mascara after only five minutes of dancing or spinning or even mingling in a crowded bar. I thought I sweat a lot; I’ve never sweat as much as I do on the Peloton bike. After just a 30-minute ride, there are puddles on the mat under the bike and I could wring out the headband or bandana I’m using to keep my hair out of my eyes. But unlike social events where such sweat would embarrass me, I now find it a sense of pride. And I’ve seen by allowing myself to sweat, really sweat, it has done a lot for my skin. My complexion looks amazing. I have a glow even on days when I don’t ride. My pores appear smaller, I get fewer breakouts, I think my skin looks younger.

My Sleep Changed

I used to wake up by alarm at 5:30 so I’d have gone for a mini-breakfast at least an hour before I would be at the gym for my training session. Now I don’t use an alarm knowing my body naturally wakes no later than 7:00. With this life at home, I don’t need to be up before 7:00. I can scroll through email and social media in my pajamas while making my coffee. I can flip open my laptop on my kitchen counter to review a contract or schedule a Zoom before the microwave bings letting me know my oatmeal is ready. I work out later in the day and can do so because I don’t need to drive to a gym. I can change, get in a 30-minute ride, shower, dress, and eat my lunch all within an hour because it’s all within 1,400 square feet.

I've worked hard to improve my sleep and will be sharing a separate post on this topic in the near future. 

My Daily Routine Changed

Before the pandemic, our family had a rigid schedule. We all woke to alarms and had places we needed to be at certain times. We lived by the dry-erase calendars in the kitchen and matched them to our Google calendars on our devices. My husband taught yoga three times a week, our daughter had activities after school every day of the week, I usually went to at least one blogger event a week and regularly worked at coffee shops, The Wing, and other locations. Weekends were packed with Girl Scouts, sleepovers, photoshoots, visiting relatives, and events with friends and neighbors. We carefully choreographed our life to make it all work.

Living a less-scheduled life these days

And now? My daughter has piano lessons by FaceTime one evening a week and we go to visit my mom in her yard one day a week and there isn’t any other consistent appointment we need to adhere to. Instead of synchronizing calendars, we each write out a to-do list in our individual notebooks and cross it off, using them as a kind of journal to track what we need to do, what we’ve done, and how things are. I still maintain the same work hours and soon our daughter will be back to distance learning and with it a variation of the routine we created the end of last school year which took place at home.

My Beauty Routine Changed

As a fashion blogger and Instagrammer, I would put makeup on every day, even if I didn’t have plans. Photoshoots, Instagram Stories, blogger events, Zooms, and in-person meetings with brands, it just was part of my routine. Gym, breakfast, shower, change, do my face. But now? I go most days without makeup. I’ll put it on for a shoot, or a Zoom video call, or occasionally when I feel the need for a pick me up or when I got inspired by something I saw online. But most days it’s just a lot of moisturizer.

My bare face, and then my face with the most makeup I've worn since March: concealer, bit of tinted moisturizer, brows, mascara, cream blush, and lipcolor.

And speaking of moisture, I think I drink more water because I’m not leaving the house so I have quick access to my own bathroom. Hell, I can take my laptop or phone with me and continue my writing. Parts of this piece may or may not have been written on the throne. But let’s get back to the topic.

My hair is happy with me at home. While I wash it just as often as before thanks to sweating my booty off on the Peloton bike, I have only used a hairdryer once or twice in the past five months and no other hot tools. My hair is air-dried, regularly given a moisture mask, and left to its own devices, which seems to be shiny ringlets. I’ve had time to try things – see if I wanted to grow out my gray, try a new line of hair products, see if I can French braid my own hair. My hair was always something that stressed me out – too thin, visible roots, limp, frizzy, in need of a cut. Now because I’ve let it sort of do its thing, it’s a part of my appearance I worry very little about.

I tried letting my gray grow out but decided I didn't like it. I also tried straightening my hair and decided I preferred my curls!

I used to get powder dip acrylic nails every 2-3 weeks and a pedicure every 4-8 weeks. I have chewed my nails and cuticles since I was little and this process kept my hands looking less grody for photoshoots and product promotion and also made my nails too thick and strong to nibble them or the skin around them. I haven’t been to the nail salon since February. While my daughter and I had a spa day one time a few weeks ago where I painted her nails and she painted my toes with pink glitter, that’s the only TLC my fingers and toes have experienced. While I miss having someone rub my feet and wrap them in hot damp towels, I find the lack of manicures freeing. Yes, I have resumed chewing my cuticles which is gross, but I do love having back that time in my life as well as the money spent on the mani/pedi upkeep.

You May Like: My Experience Trying Acrylic Powder Dip Nails

The Biggest Change

The relationship with my body has been the biggest change over these five months. As long as I can remember, I have felt I was too big. Size 2, size 16, didn’t matter I felt that if I was smaller I would have a happier life. Weight training really helped me come to respect my body and understand that size does not determine strength or value. However, I did still have issues with my body. My job really made the relationship with my body difficult. While I would feel confident and want to motivate others to normalize their bodies, I’d also have to scroll through 300 photos of me at a shoot, seeing my body from all angles and have to tailor it down to just a handful for a post and social. I’d see candids from events I attended where I felt I dressed fierce and looked amazing but the photos would show someone that looked like a lumpy mess. As my size went down with working out, so did my traffic and my income, making me question my job, my body, my size, my everything.

Feeling way more connected to my body after these few months.

But being home, there wasn’t all this external pressure. I let myself be comfortable in elastic waists and stretchy knits, I packed up all my shapewear and let my feet spread in Birkenstocks. I wasn’t being weighed daily at the gym, I wasn’t attending events where I had to be “on,” I gave myself a mental vacation from it all. And that along with the diet, activity, and beauty changes, did me a world of good. I gave myself time to see my body in the mirror in whole, not just a belly and cellulite and saggy skin. I also gave myself days at a time where I never took more than a quick glance at my reflection as I went off for my day. I took regular selfies to remember how I felt and what I thought of myself at that time, taking them when I felt strong or sexy or beautiful or vulnerable. I both got into a more intimate relationship with my body and disconnected from this constant focus on it.

I hate this current existence for us. It’s tragic and terrible and unhealthy on many levels. But being forced into this situation with the circumstances I had – the bike, the plant-based husband, the lack of alcohol, the ability to slow down… it has been truly transformative. Like most of us, I may not be feeling the most secure mentally with our new normal, but with the physical changes I’ve made, I feel better prepared for whatever the future holds.

25 Comments

  1. Anne Thorne
    August 27, 2020 / 7:59 am

    What a thoughtful, positive, and honest post.
    What I love most of all is the beautiful example you are setting for your daughter and so many other young women to care for yourself and the body you have with love and respect, and to be true to yourself. Thank you for leading the way.

  2. Kelly
    August 24, 2020 / 6:20 pm

    I bookmarked this post and have been thinking about it for the past few days. Thank you so much for writing it! I hate to say that good things have come out of the pandemic, because there has been so much pain this year. But, in working at home I am able to work out 6 days a week, eat better, drink less (not at all), spend more time with my dog, cats, kids, husband… It’s not all good, or easy, and I am not where I want to be yet, but it is better than how I started the year. Thanks.

  3. Caroline Derrow
    August 24, 2020 / 3:37 pm

    I’ve been thinking about your post for several days now. You are a great writer and I look forward to your Instagram posts and blogs. I initially started following you for your fashion, but stayed for your witty commentary. So, I LOVE this post…. but I am shocked and saddened that your traffic and income went down with your size. WHY?? (and really I am screaming WTF?). You are lovely—TRULY lovely. You have shared photos of yourself at many ages and sizes–and you are gorgeous in every single one. And really, what business is your size to anyone else? Were they thinking of borrowing something from your closet? Please don’t surrender your joy to these small folks. Know you are a g*ddamned cheetah.

  4. Suzanne Cross
    August 22, 2020 / 8:17 am

    Thanks for your honesty. It’s interesting how we can still grow in the hardest of times. You’ve taken this change in your life and flipped it on it’s head and you are more mentally and physically ready for what the future holds.

  5. Nancy Toombs
    August 19, 2020 / 8:31 pm

    Thanks so much for your posting. I am 66 years old and have struggled with my weight on and off throughout my life. Your message is inspiring!

    Thanks again,
    Nancy

  6. Tracie Bowman
    August 19, 2020 / 6:21 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful posts! You always offer thoughtful ideas on living life, and ways to become more comfortable in our own skin. I have been trying to change my eating, exercising and working. You are a great role model and I feel more compelled to continue with these new things after reading about you and your family.

  7. Tara
    August 19, 2020 / 1:02 pm

    Alison, this is another wonderful post. It is maybe weird to say this but I think of you as an “Internet friend I haven’t met yet” and I visit your blog on the daily. I love your insights on style and beauty but I also appreciate your honesty and forthrightness very much. I think you put a lot of kindness into the world–which in turn encourages kindness to ourselves and kindness to others. I am older than you but I think you are helping folks of any age help get a little closer to their authentic selves. So thank you for that–I appreciate you and your voice and am proud of all of your hard work paying off! Have a great week.

    • Alison
      August 22, 2020 / 2:42 am

      Well put, I have a lot of these same thoughts on this post (and others).

  8. RoseAg
    August 19, 2020 / 10:58 am

    I think Hubs was shopping like he’d be stuck at home for a year!
    It looks to me like he’s got 10 jars of broth?
    And how many ketsups?

    • August 19, 2020 / 11:03 am

      Right? LOL and he naively thought that would be enough yeast. We still have a bunch of broth but have had to buy ketchup since – he and my daughter are ketchup fans!

  9. Rose
    August 19, 2020 / 12:49 am

    Alison, please consider doing a post about your plant base diet and options that you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, if any. Any recipes would be helpful also.

  10. Judy
    August 18, 2020 / 8:13 pm

    You two look so happy. Actually radiating! Makes me smile. Thanks.

  11. JC
    August 18, 2020 / 5:30 pm

    I stopped going to the gym in mid-March when we were told to stay home (and they closed the gym, so I couldn’t go). This bothered me greatly as I had successfully lost 11 pounds since October, including the holiday season. My workout was not spectacular at the gym. I used the elliptical machine 45 minutes and did light weight lifting on Nautilus machines for 20 minutes 3 times a week. My eating plan was also nothing spectacular – less processed food, more fruits and vegetables and lots more water than I had been drinking. I fell short many days. These days, I walk 30 minutes and do 30 minutes of Yoga 6 days a week. I do this when I feel like it because I work from home. My stomach looks deflated as you’ve described. I’ve lost only 3 pounds since March but I’m inches smaller all over. My bras fit better. My tops and bottoms are looser than they’ve been in years. I’d been wearing tight clothes so long, I didn’t realize they were tight.

  12. Amy Coose
    August 18, 2020 / 5:23 pm

    You are amazing, and beautiful and just downright FABULOUS everyday and all day!

  13. Melissa
    August 18, 2020 / 3:40 pm

    Wonderful post!! I told you on Instagram, “girl, you lookin’ GOOD”. And now I see it is not just a reflection of your hard Pelaton work, but that shine from within coming through! Bravo!

  14. Karen
    August 18, 2020 / 12:09 pm

    Ooh loved this! Went through some similar changes and mostly for the better. What struck me is when you said you were a “sweaty person.” Me too!!! Running to the bathroom after dancing to dry my hair with the hand dryer, trying artful ways to pull my hair back to hide the sweat! Ha! We are head sweat-ers and I always felt like the only one! Thanks for that! I am leaning towards less alcohol, more plants and this post has inspired me!

  15. Teresa
    August 18, 2020 / 10:40 am

    Thank you for writing this. It rings true on so many levels. Like Dianne, I too am a widow (10 years) and though I don’t mind living alone, this has been especially difficult. I practice a meditative yoga daily and that has helped a lot. I did just jump in my car with just me and my dog and drove from PA to MN to visit with my daughter and grand babies. Will be driving back soon and begin my quiet life again. Looking forward to getting my Peloton and reinvesting in myself. I love reading your blogs and even though I’m much older than you, have found them to be so helpful and inspirational with my body image. Thank you.

  16. Linda B
    August 18, 2020 / 10:29 am

    Amazing Alison, thanks for sharing so fully your experiences over the past 5 months. All of us who are your readers will find many gems here. I certainly did! I know my own body has changed in these five months. It is stronger and lighter mainly because I have found increasing my cardio activity (running, road cycling and hiking) to be the most reliable way to keep anxiety (induced by the double whammy of the pandemic and our political situation, as well as moving!) at least somewhat under control. For the first time in nearly 36 years, I am nearly the size I was before I had my first child. I am pretty sure that not eating out is also a factor, though I think that was only a once a week or so event pre-pandemic. I am enjoying feeling stronger!

    This is a very terrible, stressful time in so many ways, and yet there are silver linings, especially for those of us who have been able to maintain our health and our income–I am ever more aware of how privileged this makes me. That awareness is a double edged sword–I am full of gratitude, and I admit–guilt! But you are a great example of someone addressing the issues around privilege head on–we all have to find ways to support others and make a difference, from home. I also know that getting bogged down in guilt doesn’t help anyone, so I am trying to both do my part in supporting change, and letting my body and soul have this chance to find new healing and strength.

  17. August 18, 2020 / 9:59 am

    I have enjoyed reading the posts yesterday and today. I was let go of my job last February and I have been at wits ends of whether to go back to work or retire or what should I do. Also I have been a widow for 20 years and it has been lonely so that is another decision of what to do when if this ever goes away or just put myself out there and meet people. I think that I am not the only women that is in the same position. This year has been so uncomfortable and unreal for all of us. I love your blog and follow you on Instagram. Please do not stop, we all appreciate it.

  18. Wendy Berglund
    August 18, 2020 / 9:56 am

    Thank you for this post. I think there are a lot of silver linings to this year.

  19. Shelly
    August 18, 2020 / 9:55 am

    Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your life so honestly. You’re a great role model!

  20. Kim
    August 18, 2020 / 9:49 am

    Great piece! I stopped drinking for good almost a year ago and I definitely had the same skin results (tho no real weight loss, boo hoo). I’m also heartened to see your results from the Peloton, as you have influenced me to buy one. I’m excited to get started. I agree this time has been awful for many things, but has also produced some real revelations about how I want to live.

  21. Betsy Cornell
    August 18, 2020 / 8:51 am

    Today’s post and yesterday’s have really spoken to me. The benefits of home-based workouts, better eating, no restaurant food, less fuss and frazzle with schedules have been amazing; a small silver lining to this world-wide mess. Thanks for your honest refection.

  22. Ruth
    August 18, 2020 / 8:46 am

    You are stunning and strong. That picture of you celebrating your 100th Peloton ride is so badass! I really enjoyed this post, and am also reflecting on how this time has changed the rhythm of my and my family’s life.

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