Hi I’m Chen, the face behind chinups.with.chen! This is my first blog and honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve always loved to write, but not in a “English major” type of way. I tend to just write about the weird thoughts that pop up into my head, even if they make no sense. I apologize in advance for my poor grammar as well, hopefully the content makes up for it. This blog is intended to help you guys find all my recipes faster and (hopefully) in a more organized way. Along with the food, I want to share more about me and my story. If that part doesn’t interest you, totally fine, just look at the food! But hopefully I can connect with some of you and maybe you can relate to the random health issues I have. First, I wanted to tell you about who I was prior to chinups.with.chen. Long story short: I was a brand new college student who loved junk food and didn’t know how to get to the nearest gym. I was unhappy physically and emotionally, but that didn’t seem to matter that much. Long story:
When I started college, I weighed 120 pounds and had no idea what it meant to be fit.
Rewind a little, at the start of senior year of high school, I suffered from major migraines. After many doctor appointments, I was prescribed a medication that was intended to help with the pain. One of the side effects of that medication was weight loss. Over the span of that year, I lost 20 pounds. I never felt unhappy with the way I looked, but I sure loved losing weight without even trying. I never went to the gym, but I did karate most days after school so that kept me relatively in shape. I ate whatever I wanted and, because of the medication, never gained a pound. In fact, I just kept dropping. When I started my freshman year of college, back in 2013, I knew I had lost too much in a very unhealthy way, so I took myself off the medication in hopes to keep most of that weight off, remain pain free, but not have my body controlled by a medicine.
Everyone always warns you about the freshman fifteen. I never believed that I would fall into that category, especially since I had lost so much prior to college. I continued eating all the junk food; endless trips to the dining halls, ordering in awful Chinese food with my besties, and stocking up on vending machine goodies at 3 am. Slowly but surely I was gaining weight without knowing it. I ignored the fact that most of my clothes didn’t fit anymore and that I didn’t quite look the same in pictures. Before I knew it, I was up thirty pounds and I had never felt worse. At the start of my sophomore year I took a picture that changed everything. At sorority bid day, all dressed up in red, white, and blue (obvious theme), one of my friends snapped a picture of me straight on, nothing hidden. In the moment I felt so happy and great, but looking at that picture the next day, I cringed. A moment of pure fun, ruined by my unhappy thoughts. I looked nothing like the girl that started college, and even worse, I felt nothing like her. I felt slow and sluggish, my acne was out of control, and my stomach was angry. Fast forward a little and after a few health issues, I was diagnosed with Crohns. This wasn’t at all shocking, especially at the rate I was going. Other than the fact that I was prone to the disease because of my genes, sorority house food wasn’t exactly helping especially with the sweetest, most Southern lady making our food. I never drank enough water, I wasn’t active, and my anxiety was at an all time high. Needless to say, this felt like rock bottom. I know so many people have it worse, but to me this was the worst. I didn’t know how to live with a chronic condition or how to even start changing my way of life. I felt lost and helpless, but I knew I had to start somewhere.
At the start of my second semester as a Sophomore, I started running and going to the gym a few times a week. I attempted to cut out all my favorite foods cold turkey because my doctor wanted to get my stomach working properly again. I worked harder than ever before to get back to a place where I could be comfortable in my own skin and feel even better. With the help of a Crohns medication, I was digesting food better, but not as great as it should have been. I felt like I was sneaking food past my doctor because not eating food like pizza or brownies was hard and I couldn’t simply stop eating them.
Fast forward to the start of Junior year, I had lost some weight and was feeling better. I was eating healthier food, but still allowed myself a good treat most days (even though my doctor didn’t suggest it.) After moving in to my own apartment, I could cook food that wasn’t drenched in oil and grocery shop for fresh fruits and veggies. The medication had finally kicked in and allowed me to eat “normal” food, just not at the same rate as before. I could late night buffalo chicken nuggets and not worry about spending hours in the bathroom the next day. I spent that whole year going to the gym occasionally and eating to make my heart happy. I wasn’t gaining weight so I was content, but still not thrilled with the way I looked. It was never about the number for me, but simply feeling good in my own skin which I had yet to achieve.
I started Senior year with a bang, and with that I mean, I broke my foot walking into my apartment. Any gym progress I had made went out the window and take out became my best friend. I was feeling fine internally so I didn’t mind that fresh vegetables weren’t on my menu most days. After some healing time, my grandpa surprised me with a ticket to visit my family in Israel. I was super excited to spend time with the family I see once a year; eating, shopping, and just hanging out. Over winter break, I headed to Israel and was very in my element. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. The scenery is amazing, the shopping is endless, the food is to die for, and for me, the love is all over. My family took me everywhere and I was having the best time. One of the days, I was out shopping with my aunt. Most of my friends know that she’s one of my biggest inspirations. She’s always worked so hard to get what she wanted. She has a successful career, an amazing husband, the most perfect two girls, and has her health under control. Anyway, we were shopping, and since we have the same taste, we would grab the same stuff. An awesome pair of leggings: her in a size zero and me in not a zero. I know this shouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did, but this truly got to me. I kept thinking, “she’s had two kids and looks incredible.” I’m shorter than her, but weigh so much more. These numbers should have meant nothing, but they helped me realize that I had lost so much of myself while at school. While gaining all that weight, I lost something important. I lost all my self-confidence. I hid my body behind extra large t-shirts because I didn’t want anyone looking. I let people run over me and control my life. I apologized for everything even if it wasn’t my fault. I did everything I could to make sure people liked me, even if I wasn’t completely honest with them or myself. I vowed to myself that, when I returned home, I would change my life. I would go back to the gym, eat properly, and take my life back. In January, I started chinups.with.chen. At first, I used it as a resource to keep me motivated. I had two close friends follow me and that was it. I had no idea how much it would change me. If you’re interested in that story, check out my next post –> “Post Chinups.with.chen”