Hi there!  Before I get started posting, let me introduce myself!

My name is Steph, and I am a 27 year old Behavior Analyst living and working in Chicago, IL.  If you haven’t got a clue as to what a Behavior Analyst does, you can check out some info about the field here.   Behavior Analysts do lots of things.  Personally, I write and supervise in-home programs for children with autism.  I love my job – it is incredibly fulfilling, and fun!  I live with my husband, Nick, and our two pets Izzie (the dog) and Beanie (the cat).

I love my little family!  I haven’t always been interested in “food and fitness”, so here’s a little bit of how I got here:

I grew up in New Jersey (and yes, I love “The Jersey Shore”)!  As an aside, the Jersey Shore as a whole is really a beautiful place.  My parents have a house there, and I was married there this past summer (in Cape May).  But, I would be lying if I said the MTV show doesn’t depict a part of the shore to a T.  It is a really accurate and super amusing portrayal of one of the shore subcultures.  But that’s neither here nor there.  Getting back to it: I grew up in New Jersey and played sports all through high school.  For a long time, I felt that playing sports gave me the liberty to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, in whatever quantity I wanted.  I didn’t pay attention to nutrition, nor did I know that I should.  I was never really overweight, but I certainly wasn’t in the best shape either.  Then, in the summer before senior year, I lost about 20 pounds.  I didn’t try to lose the weight, and to this day I have no clue how it happened.  Maybe my body was just adjusting as it got closer to adulthood.  Regardless of how it happened, it sparked an unhealthy relationship with food.  I started to count calories religiously, and was always on some sort of diet.  This outlook on food carried on through college, and while I stayed the same weight, I was definitely not fueling my body the way I should.

By the end of my junior year, I found myself filled with an absolute dread about life after college.  I’ve always been a natural student and couldn’t fathom what I would do once I hit “the real world”.  Eventually, graduation came, and I did not react well.  I was unhappy and felt completely lost .  After a few months, I decided the working world wasn’t for me, so I applied to grad school.  I had a few options, but ultimately chose to go to UNC and study in the Behavioral Neuroscience/Psychology department.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the best decision I could’ve made.

At first, I still felt lost in grad school.  I liked the subject matter, but the work (animal research focused on neural mechanisms involved in addiction) just did not do it for me.  I plugged along, but could not shake the feeling that things still weren’t right.  At this time in my life, I was essentially inactive and was not making healthy food choices at all.  I knew things needed to change, but I just didn’t know how to go about making the change.

Fast forward about a year, and I found myself on the hunt for a pet.  I couldn’t get the idea of a dog out of my head even though I never had dogs growing up, and in fact was scared of them through the majority of college.  After a bit of trial and error, I stumbled upon a picture of a cute little pup naimed “Aimee” on the local animal shelter website.  Aimee was labeled a “gold star dog”, which meant she was a good fit for a first time dog owner.  I met her and fell instantly in love.  Her adoption paperwork said she was “very high energy” (which I think is why she hadn’t yet been adopted), but I didn’t mind.  A few weeks later, she was spayed and I was bringing her home.  As a huge Grey’s Anatomy fan, I had the idea of naming my dog after my favorite character – Dr. Isobel Stevens, so Aimee became Izzie.  They weren’t lying on her adoption paperwork, she was full of energy.  Indoor play did not even come close to cutting it for  her.

Here she is after an indoor play session.  Those crazed eyes just don’t give up.  So, in addition to daily trips to the dog park, I started accompanying Izzie on 1, and even 2 mile walks.  Quickly, I started to feel better (and happier) than I had in years.  Who knew that just moving my body could make me feel so good!  Feeling better soon led to healthier food choices as well – all thanks to my little girl 🙂  About 6 months later, I attended a “red light green light” party put on by the grad student association.

And I met Nick…this here is a picture of us that was taken the night we met – how fun is it that we have a picture from then?!  Anyway, as our relationship grew and we learned more about each other, we began to cultivate a shared love for food and fitness.  Now, almost 4 years later, we love (well, tolerate) getting up early to work out, cooking healthy meals during the week, and experimenting with new recipes and new restaurants on the weekends.  I’m excited to share my story, and our life, with anyone who is interested in reading – hopefully I’ll have some fun stories and interesting new ideas to share with others interested in living healthy, balanced lives!


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