Sometimes in order to continue moving forward, we have to look back at all that we have done. All the accomplishments, all the struggles, all the hard times, all the good times….the entire picture. When I look back on my health journey and where I am today verses where I was 5 years ago, I am so proud of what I have achieved. I am definitely not perfect, nor do I know all there is to know. However, I am confident in saying that I am the healthiest I have ever been: mentally and physically.  

It is a common belief that the less you eat, the more you work out, the more diet pills/shakes you intake, the healthier you will be. This is such a sad and mistaken view of how we should treat our bodies. It has taken a while for me to learn the proper ways to nurture my body and help it reach a “healthy” place. I too was misguided by these theories back when I started this journey towards a healthy lifestyle. That’s why I want to share with you where I started, what has worked for me, and how to listen to YOUR OWN body and take control of your health.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge Senita Athletics for sponsoring this post. Part of being healthy is feeling good and comfortable in your own skin. Senita Athletics does a fabulous job of making the comfiest athletic wear that I have ever worn, and it’s extremely affordable and cute! Part of looking good is feeling good, and this brand allows me to move freely and use my body to its’ fullest potential. Use code “dancersplate” for 10% off your purchase!

So back to my story. When I started dancing (5 years ago), I realized that I needed to be in better shape. I looked at these women on television, magazines, and movies that were dancers, and they had these beautifully muscular bodies with what looked like 0% body fat; I thought needed to look like them if I wanted to be a successful dancer. The dance world has always been full of this mentality behind closed doors. Though it’s not as prevalent today as it used to be, many dancers experience disorders or confidence issues because they feel this pressure that I did.

I started doing what most girls who want to lose weight do. I tried counting calories, writing down everything that I ate, working out for hours at a time every single day….low-fat, sugar-free, everything that society has told people to do for so long in order to lose weight. I was losing a little weight, but I wasn’t achieving the results I wanted.

When I moved to Utah for dance, I started cooking my own “healthy” meals. This is when I started “A Dancer’s Plate.” I wanted dancers to see that you could still eat good foods and be healthy (I LOVE food, so I never reached a point of starving myself or anything like that, and I knew that was something many dancers experienced). I was eating more, but it was all still low-fat, sugar-free…that type of thing. Though I was eating well and eating what I thought was healthy, I actually started gaining weight. Nothing extreme, but more than I had weighed before. This was one of my many trial-and-error stages. I was just trying to figure out what worked for me.

It was at this time that I started having more intense back trouble, which was partly a result from an ab workout I was doing. My Mom has had serious back trouble for years, so it is a hereditary problem as well. Instead of stopping the workout, I continued to do it (many times through the pain). I was oblivious to the fact that I was harming my body even more. I ignored my Mom and all of these other people telling me to do something different because I was set on this idea of having the “perfect body.” On Spring Break, I was at the apartment by myself when I had the worst sharp pain that I have ever experienced shoot through my back; it was like someone had hit me in the back with a dagger. I was practically immobile for 2-3 days. My body was begging me to listen.

When I moved back home to NC, I tried an even bigger variety of techniques to “lose weight.” This entire time my mindset was not about being healthy, but more about looking like someone on the front page of a health magazine. I tried the detox teas, the weight loss shakes, intense workouts….but all these things did was put my body into a terrible state which usually ended with me lying in bed for days because my back was out or having little-to-no energy.

I knew something had to change. It was around this time that some of my family had been doing research about how important it was to eat a diet that was rich in organic foods and good fats. I started including things like Ancient Organics Ghee (an amazing superfood) and Kerrygold (which is a grass-fed butter) into my diet regularly. This small step started making a huge change. It was about 1 year ago that I started using these products/techniques, and since then my whole mindset has shifted and I’m learning more about what our bodies really need in order to be healthy. In turn, this will give us the physical body we have always wanted externally, and achieve optimal health internally.

I am constantly growing and learning new things about REAL health and what my body needs. I’ve learned that my body cannot handle intense workouts, so I have lowered my cardio to 25 minutes a day. I combine this with 20-30 minutes of yoga which not only is building strength I never knew that I had, but helping me in other areas like dance flexibility as well as lowering back pain. I continue to use good fats throughout my day and eat organic products as much as possible. Recently I have been experiencing some health issues due to either gluten or dairy, so I’m taking a break from those and trying to eat a diet higher in veggies, protein….just REAL foods.

I never count calories and I try not to stress about what I eat. I allow myself to splurge sometimes and I don’t beat myself up after (like I used to do all the time). As you guys can see from my blog and Instagram, I love learning how to make unhealthy foods healthier and delicious! It’s something I’m very passionate about. Eating healthy does NOT have to be boring, and you DO NOT have to sit around and eat salad all day.

 I feel the best that I ever have and I am in the best physical shape OF MY LIFE! It’s an amazing feeling to start having your health come together and begin to feel confident in your own skin. It’s a daily process though guys. I have some days where I want to weigh myself so badly or I look in the mirror too long and analyze my flaws. I have dealt with 5 years of this constant criticizing so it’s not going to vanish overnight. It’s easy (especially as a dancer) to compare ourselves to others and feel like we constantly need to shrink our bodies. But now I have changed my mindset from “How skinny can I get?” to “How healthy can I get?” This new outlook has completely changed everything for me.

If we focus more on cleansing ourselves from the inside, the outside will begin to fall into place. Something important to remember is that everyone is different. There is no “one size fits all” regimen. Achieving health means obtaining a new way of living, a new lifestyle. If we focus on this instead of focusing on the scale, it will amaze us what we can achieve.

Here are a few of my tips that will help you to take control of your health (change your life really):

  1. Write down WHY you want to be healthier– This is such a huge thing guys. Why do you want to live a long and healthy life? Do you want to be alive to enjoy your grandkids? Do you want to be a professional athlete or dancer? Do you want to feel confident? Have less hospital bills? Avoid things like Cancer or other diseases you have seen those around you suffer? Whatever your WHY is, knowing it and having it embedded in your brain will help motivate you. This can be a combination of many things. Write it down all over your notebooks, planner, sticky notes, wherever you can constantly be reminded throughout the day.
  2. Change your mindset from “weight loss” to “achieving health”– This has been the game changer for me. When you finally change your thinking process from constantly feeling like you need to shed the pounds and shrink your body, to you need your insides to be clean and working like they need to work, then you will be able to focus on the things that truly matter. Your outward appearance will follow, it just takes time!
  3. Find a workout you and your body both love- Like I mentioned, for so long I was forcing my body to do workouts that it wasn’t physically able to do. Try various workouts and see what works best for you. My combo of yoga and cardio (1 hour total) is perfect for me: Low-impact, great results. Also, do something you ENJOY! Never force yourself into doing a workout that you dread. This leads to giving up entirely and reverting back to old habits. Experiment with things like kickboxing, dance, spin class, pure bare, Pilates…there are so many great options.
  4. Back to the food basics– There are so many different things that we can be adding or taking away from our diets to help us be as healthy as possible, but the best way to reach our goals is to go back to basics. This means eating foods that aren’t processed: veggies, fruit, sprouted flours, good fats, meat. There are two books that I recommend you reading if you want a more in-depth description of this: “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and “Get Your Fats Straight” by Sarah Pope. Lately I have been trying to eat more fruits and veggies, less grains, less dairy, regular meat/protein, and more GOOD fats like Ghee and nuts. This is working extremely well for me. However, I also believe in enjoying foods that we love and not depriving ourselves; there can be happy medium between the two.
  5. Look the part– Just like me with my dancing or an actor playing a particular role, looking the part helps us to fully embrace what we want to become. So if you’re wanting to embrace a healthy lifestyle, you need the clothes that will help you feel motivated and excited about it! I am all about comfort, mobility, and of course fashion! That’s why I love Senita Athletics so much. Their clothes are amazingly comfortable, cute, and affordable! You will be super excited to show off your new yoga pants at class, and actually be able to move freely in them. The last thing you want when buying new athletic wear is to feel restrained; this just defeats the purpose entirely. (Use “adancersplate for 10% off your purchase).
  6. Realize that it’s a process– You aren’t going to achieve your goals or a healthy body overnight. It will take years to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. I am still in the trial and error stages, and I’ve been on this journey for 5 years! I will continue to grow, learn, and evolve. There is no final destination (unless you count death haha) so enjoy the process! Enjoy learning new things about yourself, about food, about your body. It’s so much fun to learn what works for you and what it takes for your body to feel and look amazing. Try new things, allow yourself to fail, and don’t give up.

I hope you now feel excited to begin (or continue) your health journey! Remember that you are never alone during this process. If you ever have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to reach out to me here on my site, on Instagram @adancersplate or on Facebook (Ashlyn Randolph). I always love hearing your feedback and seeing your individual journeys! Taking control of your health will enable you to improve in all areas of your life and I am so excited to see where it takes you.

Never limit yourself,

Ashlyn Tori <3


*This post was sponsored by Senita Athletics