My Story

Sometimes weight loss can be extremely difficult. It’s the honest truth. Things do not always go as planned and along our journey we are bound to hit some sort of a road block.  I plan to share my personal weight loss  journey with you in hopes that I can connect with more people on a similar playing field. There may even be a few tips along the way for getting through those road blocks.

I was very active throughout most of my high school career.  I competed nationally as a freestyle snowboarder, in Halfpipe (Think Shaun White, but at 10%) and Slopestyle (Jumps and Rails).  I trained just about every day imaginable.  I loved going to the hill by our house which hosted one of the best terrain parks in arguably the whole Midwest.  I’d be there for hours with my teammates and friends doing a hundred laps a day.  Additionally, I played varsity lacrosse my junior year ofhigh school as well as tennis my senior year.  In the summer time I spent a lot of my time out with friends, either playing lacrosse or skateboarding.  I was very active, and would go to the gym a couple of times a week in the summer to be sure that I stayed in decent enough shape to survive a winter full of snowboarding.

When all of my sports ended, I found myself in a strange place.  Being 18 years old with out knowing what exactly you want to do for the rest of your life, and not having some sort of structure like sports provide, can be difficult.  Can anyone guess what a senior in high school, with no responsibilities to a coach/team does?  In case you aren’t sure, they tend to find parties on the weekends. Those parties tend to have alcohol at them. This is where my story takes a slightly negative turn.

When I graduated high school, I had gained roughly 20 lbs. Doesn’t seem too ridiculous, but it wasn’t good weight.  Family and I would joke about how I just got a head start on my “freshmen 15.” When I had gone off to college, I had a fairly steady weight gain.  I never stepped onto a scale,  but the picture proof is out there.  This weight gain, plus relationship trouble all guided me to two things; Pizza and alcohol.  I relied on alcoholfueled fun and horrible food for comfort, this is where I spiraled out of control.  I would lose track of how much I was drinking, and wake up regretful.  What happens when you’re regretful? You rely on whatever it is that makes you feel better; pizza and alcohol.  It was a vicious cycle, hidden by my ability to be funny and “having a good time.” 

I was so sick of myself; the way I treated myself mentally and physically was disgusting.  The night I decided something needed to change I was laying in bed at 3 am, having not slept yet, talking myself in and out of going to the gym and losing weight.  I knew this is what I needed to do, but my mind was racing trying to talk me out of it.  I didn’t listen to it.  I stayed up and packed a gym bag to go to the NDSU Wellness Center at 5am.  I walked in the doors, was intimidated by the first person I saw, and immediately decided it’s not meant to be.  I accepted my fate at that point.

The moment that I accepted that I would spend the rest of my life obese and gaining weight; I knew that was the end for me.  Knowing my fate, I chose to go to the local YMCA.  The members were a little bit older, and much less intimidating.  I joined.  This was going to be the new me, something sparked that morning when I walked into the exercise area. If you have ever been truly overweight, you have done the search, “Easiest ways to lose weight.” I happened to find the article we all are looking for, unfortunately I don’t remember the name/where I found it, but I stumbled across an article about making the gym a habit.  I knew after reading this article, I needed to be at the gym 7 days per week, no matter how sore I was.  Just get there, and sit on a bike for 30 minutes if that’s all I can do.  It worked, and I had dropped 20 lbs. faster than I thought possible.

When I was in Dickinson, ND for the summer (~6 months into my weight loss journey), I had the opportunity to be introduced to CrossFit.  With the help of two great coaches, Mason Culver and Ryan Baxter (Owners of CrossFit Amicus in Dickinson, ND), I had my first introduction to intensity.  Noworkout I had done leading up to my first CrossFit workout compared to what I had accomplished in my first workout.  I was hooked.  I attempted to use the female weight, not because I thought I was stronger than any of the women in my class, but because I thought it was a manageable weight.  I was wrong.  Overhead squats and Box Jumps were both new to me, and this presented an opportunity to learn.  If you have been doing CrossFit for a couple of months, you should have been presented with a learning opportunity more than a couple of times.  My goals shifted from the primary focus of weight loss, to performance related goals.  Weight loss was a by product of those goals, and surely followed the completion of other goals.  I just wanted to learn how to do it all, and I was obsessed with watching countless YouTube videos on progressions to get muscle ups and all of the other awesome movements you see high level athletes completing.

So here I am today, a CrossFit Level 1 trainer.  I have the best job coaching amazing people who took the initiative to change their lives, as I have. Life has not always been easy since I started working out, that’s the honest truth.  Losing weight has great benefits for mental health, but it doesn’t fix root causes of issues.  What CrossFit does exceptionally well is gives us the opportunity to test how strong we really are.  When we see what we are capable of physically, and the changes we can make physically; mentally we are more confident in our ability to face bigger challenges.  That voice that tells me to quit during a workout, is the same one telling me to mentally shut down and let the stressors of the world win.  If you learn to push that voice aside in the gym, even if its just for one more rep, you have figured out the key to success in pushing that voice aside outside of the gym.  

We are so much stronger than we let ourselves think and we are our worst critic.  I have said the worst things to myself, and I know we all do this to some level, but I have came up with some strategies that have helped me to cope when times are tough. You can use these inside and outside of the gym to help you push for one more rep, or push those evil thoughts out of your head.

1. The physical “suffering” that I experience inside the gym has nothing on the mental suffering I have felt in my past.  This pushes me and really puts things into perspective when I feel like giving up in a workout.You didn’t give up then, so why are you going to give up now?

2. I am so much more capable than I have previously given myself credit for.  CrossFit has given me an outlet to witness and attempt new things I never thought possible for myself.

3. No matter how deep of a hole I feel that I am in, I know the only way I’m going to get out is by positivity.  If I tell myself, “I am so stupid,” I will immediately tell myself “I’m not stupid, I just made a mistake.” Bring that positivity back to the front of your mind.

4. Set relatively short term obtainable performance related goals.  Weight loss or weight gain can be a great goal, but having other goals outside of weight change can be a great motivator!

5. Lastly, have fun!  My mom sent me an awesome quote recently, “..exercise should be viewed as a celebration of what our bodies are capable of doing, not a punishment!”

Author: Ian Aarsvold

Left photo: December 2016 - 250lbs

Right photo: August 2018 - 185lbs

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Anna Soland