As I was planning to start a wellness routine of my own back in 2018, I started to go to social media for inspiration from everyday women who were working towards similar goals.
There were a few accounts that inspired me on days I didn’t feel like I could do it, or on days when I just didn’t feel like working out. Watching these women get up and workout despite the obstacles they faced, encouraged me to get up and do it too.
One of these women was Victoria Zanoudakis, of Cleveland, Ohio, whose IG handle is @Victoriasgoodvibes. Though she hasn’t been very active this year, during the peak time when I was working out Victoria was too. During the pandemic her at-home workouts inspired me, and her frustrations made me feel less alone.
Zanoudakis, a 26-year-old professional development coordinator for a Cleveland-based law firm, at the time of this interview in 2021 was studying for the bar exam, living with her boyfriend (now husband), and four-legged, furry child, Aspen. Her content often showed her meal modifications, oftentimes creating the same but different meals for her and her now husband, Cam. She would alter ingredients for her meals to make them a little healthier for the goals she was trying to achieve, while leaving his as-is or with extra protein. She openly shared her lunch meals at home, and during pre-pandemic time when this involved heading to the office, she would often share how she would manage lunch away from home, eating out, and the frequent office temptations that would lurk in that setting.
Once the pandemic hit, Zanoudakis struggled like many of us to find a new normal without the consistency of a gym, and everyday routines. But, that didn’t defeat her. She starting working on creating her own at-home gym with equipment she borrowed or bought from family and friends (remember, workout equipment was hard to come by those days), and even created a makeshift Peloton bike to get her going. She gave herself a goal of riding 100 times before she would allow herself the full Peloton purchase.
Working, studying for the bar, and maintaining a home, especially during the pandemic, was a lot to handle. Life was a lot to handle for many of us during those days. Zanoudakis openly shared about her weight fluctuations, as well as the grace she gave herself to accept that this wasn’t a linear journey. As someone who felt those same feelings at 40 and working from home (and then furloughed), I could relate perfectly. Many times I felt that I wasn’t doing enough without the comfort of my gym classes, and though I altered my routines and worked out at home, the scale wouldn’t budge. Following her social media account gave me a sense of community, both before and during the pandemic. Zanoudakis was what I like to refer to as, one of my Wellness Warriors, and someone whose story and journey can inspire you if you’re in a slump or thinking of starting your own wellness journey. Remember, a wellness journey looks different for everyone, and no routine is perfect or the ideal one.
Here is Zanoudakis story….
What inspired you to start on your wellness journey?
I was sick of not looking the same way I felt. I wanted to see pictures of myself and feel connected to the person I was seeing. I’m young and energetic, but the person I saw was not that.
How long have you been on this journey? How did you start? What did you do first?
What differences or changes have you noticed physically, emotionally, mentally?
When I first started, I was almost obsessive with meeting my daily goals. If I didn’t meet said goals, it would seriously affect my mood and happiness. The longer I’ve been on this journey, the more I realize how it’s okay to not meet every single goal you make for yourself. It’s more important to overall make better choices and expect bumps in the road. The epiphany of realizing that small mistakes or moments of weakness are to be expected has allowed me to be in control of my own wellness journey, and not let the journey control me.
Who have been your biggest supporters? How do they support you?
Number one has been my partner. We’ve been together for five and a half years, and he’s always supported and encouraged me. He loves me at every step and has really given me the encouragement and love that I needed. Also, my Instagram following and community! It is so encouraging to be able to post about my ups and my downs and know I’m not alone. I’m forever thankful for the validation and encouragement they give me.
What motivates you?
Progress! Not always the scale, or the way jeans fit, but mentally too. The fact that I can eat ice cream while out with my friends and not think about it all throughout the next day is progress! Looking back on old photos and old mentalities and seeing how far I’ve come pushes me to do more.
What keeps you going on days you want to give up?
Motivation will only get you so far. You have to be determined on the days that you want to give up. You have to just say to yourself, “okay… I’m going to do this workout whether I want to or not because I know I’ll feel better after.”
What does your routine look like?
My ideal day is waking up; getting to a workout right away; making breakfast; hopping onto my work computer (because I work from home right now); having a snack mid morning; reading or watching tv during lunch; mid afternoon snack; and some sort of activity with my partner after work (like a family walk with the dog, or going to the pool to swim some laps). I love to go go go, but I also really value down time. So I always try to end the night with something relaxing!
Have you also changed your eating habits? If so, how?
Yes! I did and still do deal with binge eating. But since being more self aware of my eating habits, it’s really gotten better. Additionally, I really make an effort to meal prep on Sundays or Mondays because it keeps me on track when I’m busy and ensures I’m eating balanced meals for at least 75 percent of my day.
Did you start both the fitness and eating changes at the same time or different times? Why?
Not really because I’ve always worked out, but I definitely became more consistent with it.
What advice would you give someone starting out on their own wellness journey?
Prepare yourself completely to give it your all for two weeks. By the end of those two weeks you’ll be so much more likely to continue, because you’ll have gotten used to your new routine. Also, keep it simple at first. Don’t try to make the fanciest recipes or do a bunch of new workouts. Just keep things basic, master it, and then start getting fancy to spice things up!
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about starting a wellness journey?
Just do it! There’s never a perfect time to start… so just start!
What should they do to get going?
Tell your friends and family that this is something you want. I think one of the biggest drags on wellness can be when others try to get you to break away from your goals. And in some cases, you may need to distance yourself from others who tend to coerce you to sabotage your goals.
Anything else you want to add that I haven’t asked?
Remember that everyone’s wellness journey looks different. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve had months and months where I’m absolutely doing the best and months and months where I feel like I’ve lost all progress. It’s not linear and it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
What’s the best way you would say that a friend/family can support someone starting on a wellness journey?
If you’d like to support someone’s journey, don’t be the person who says “I thought you were on a diet,” or “Should you really be eating that?” Those types of phrases can be triggering and harmful even if you mean them with the best intentions. Instead, ask how you can be supportive! For some it might be an accountability partner or a workout buddy. For some it might just be a lended ear. And remember… the person trying to start a wellness journey knows what they need to do. The hard part is staying consistent because it is not simply about eating healthy or working out. It’s about the mental and emotional struggle to remember that you are worth it and you deserve it.