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See Krysta’s Top 3 Tips for Success

My yoga practice begins in child’s pose: forehead on the mat, arms stretched out, fingertips reaching forward. I am literally grounded. Here, I bring intention to my breath and its connection with my body.

There was a time when the desire to change my body ruled my life. But a series of ailments began to limit my physical abilities; these included cystic acne, hormone imbalances, and gastrointestinal issues. Since then, I’ve learned that supporting my health is much more important than adjusting my appearance.

Now, exercise — the tool I once used to change how I look on the outside — has become one way I feel more at home inside my body.

In the stillness of this moment during a yoga class, my heart surrenders and I feel at peace. Child’s pose symbolizes an opportunity to reset and release what weighs me down. It represents where I am now on my fitness journey. I have come a long way.

Finding Fitness

I’ve struggled with body image since I was young. Genetically, I tend toward thin, which wasn’t what I wanted for myself. These insecurities intensified following my first heartbreak and upon graduating from high school in 2013. I became clinically underweight. At the time, I equated my self-worth with my appearance; I didn’t feel worthy. I didn’t want a slender build; I wanted curves.

This desire and insecurity followed me to college, where I started taking medication for anxiety and depression. Despite the side effects, I continued to take them until I graduated in 2017 with a degree in journalism and the enduring belief that the ideal body image was a fuller figure.

The next summer, I stopped taking antidepressants to see how I’d feel. I got a budget-friendly gym membership with the goal of gaining weight and shaping the body I longed for. I wasn’t motivated by better health; my fitness journey began from a place of deep insecurity.

I worked out three to five times a week, doing a combination of low-intensity weight training and some cardio, mostly walking. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my physique, but I gained some healthy weight and my mental health improved. I had a sense of pride in exercising consistently, and I felt confident.

Then the pandemic happened. I stopped working out when gyms closed. I was furloughed, and eventually laid off, from my job as a marketing associate.

Krysta with cystic acneIn the span of three months my face became covered in cystic acne — for reasons still unknown to me. I didn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror. It was disorienting, especially after I had worked so hard to build confidence. Something with my health had clearly fallen off the rails.

In late 2020, I went on Accutane for four months. The side effects were harsh, but my skin slowly improved.

Once gyms and fitness centers reopened, I joined Life Time, where I eventually learned more about exercise technique and form. I started focusing on progressive overload and steadily gained strength and muscle.

By the summer of 2021, I was stronger and more confident than ever before. Fitness had become a part of who I was. My identity and self perception were closely tied to it.

Strength Setbacks

Meanwhile, my hormones became deeply unbalanced as a result of reproductive health issues. This led me to experiment with different forms of birth control and new medications for recurring skin complications. Consequently, by 2022, I had lost much of my energy and hard-earned strength and muscle.

Still, I stayed consistent with my fitness routine and pushed even harder. I went to the gym almost every day and religiously tracked my food intake. I wasn’t kind to myself. I was frustrated with my body because it felt foreign and untrustworthy — constantly sabotaging the gains I’d worked so hard to make.

Pushing myself only made me feel worse physically, mentally, and emotionally, but I didn’t know what else to do. I had an overwhelming desire to regain control, feel strong again, and overcome my insecurities. My fixation resulted in neglecting other hobbies, my relationships, and my responsibilities, and it prevented me from processing emotions.

In hindsight, I recognize this as a ­pivotal time: Losing my strength and well-being planted the seeds for a gentleness with myself. Though I continued to show up and work hard, something inside of me shifted. I started to reevaluate my relationship with fitness and my body.

A Necessary Reset

In the spring of 2022, I was dealing with severe anxiety, brain fog, bloating, and gut-health issues. I’d struggled with irritable bowel syndrome when I was younger, but this was different.

Krysta in a hospital bedThe bloating was so bad that a few sips of water in the morning would ­inflate my stomach so much that I couldn’t see my toes. And even though I was eating more than enough, I was rapidly losing weight.

These symptoms prompted me to see multiple gastroenterologists. After many tests, I received a diagnosis of small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in fall 2023. It felt like another setback.

In the wake of my SIBO diagnosis, I realized that I needed to again reconsider how I approached my health and wellness. For the longest time, my main focus had been trying to change my body to fit the ideal I had in mind. Fitness was my primary tool to achieve that goal.

It wasn’t working. Overexercising made me feel worse because it drained the energy my body needed to recover and further dysregulated my nervous system.

When I asked myself, In the absence of health, what role does fitness play in my life?, I understood that my goals needed to evolve. Rather than try to change my body, I wanted to meet my body where it was. This shift toward honoring my body’s limits became crucial to healing — both physically and mentally.

Regaining Balance

Today, my main goal is to balance my life, habits, and routines to fit what my body needs in the moment. It hasn’t been an instant change, but the progress is encouraging. I now see the health issues I’ve experienced as opportunities to lean in and listen to my body.

Most weeks I strength train three to five days and attend regular yoga classes, which offer my mind a different workout and more peace.

As of May 2024, after a difficult recovery path, I no longer have SIBO, but my symptoms persist. As I continue with more testing, I’ve started learning about the gut-brain connection and the ways that past trauma has affected my nervous system and overall health.

a strong and healthy KrystaWith healing my nervous system in mind, I’ve incorporated acupuncture, meditation, and mindful breathing into my routine. I prioritize sleep, whole foods, and supportive relationships that restore a sense of belonging and security.

My fitness journey initially stemmed from insecurity and dissatisfaction, and the gym became a battleground. But these days, I consider exercise a form of self-care and empowerment.

My workouts have become a means of caring for my body, fostering a connection between physical and mental well-being. I love my body and everything it does for me, on both good and tough days.

With this grander vision for my health, I’m actively working on showing my body all the love it deserves — as it ­exists today and all the days in the future.

Krysta’s Top 3 Tips for Success

1) Be intentional.
“My body is constantly teaching me,” Krysta says. “I know when to push myself and when to gently nurture myself.”

2) Embrace change.
Krysta notes that trying to control her body led to greater instability. These days, her goal is to adapt to change rather than to try to assert control.

3) Give yourself grace.
“Our hearts deserve the grace to feel our way through the complexities and chaos of life,” she says. “Every emotion deserves kindness and space to exist without judgement.”

 My Turnaround

For more real-life success stories of people who have embraced healthy behaviors and changed their lives, visit our My Turnaround department.

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Krysta Rzeszutek

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