This photo is me. I feel confident. Sexy. Healthy. Soft. Curvy. Strong. But truth be told, I haven’t always felt that way – and it’s not because of my weight or size that got me here. My wellness journey has been a long one. It hasn’t been linear. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been simple. It’s been messy and embarrassing and uncomfortable and frustrating. And guess what? That’s normal. Let me tell ya about it.
It’s been a long road – but worth it.
I was a pretty active kid. For as long as I can remember, I was always in some sort of activity. I started ballet when I was three and from that point on was always enrolled in dance, gymnastics, cheerleading or track. I always had pretty strong thighs from the dance + gymnastics but I remember having my first thought of “I wish was skinnier” when I was in middle school. All I wished for was a thigh gap and smaller legs. I had to be a size 0 at the time but it just goes to show that your size has nothing to do with your self-love and self-worth. I had a body image issue and it didn’t matter what I looked like, it wasn’t good enough.
Me, myself & my eating disorder.
I tore my ACL in my senior year of high school and it kept me pretty inactive going into college. I had plans to join the dance team at MSU but with my torn ACL, I had to miss try-outs. So, instead, I spent my first year of college doing what you do in college. And with that, I noticed my body started to change. This led to me spending countless hours in the gym every week and obsessively counting calories. There was a point where I did the math and came to the conclusion that I couldn’t eat more than 600 calories/day. 600 calories. That was it. That behavior led me to develop a full-blown eating disorder my senior year of college.
I later found out that what I had was bulimia – an eating disorder where you purged your food. For me, I would go back and forth between eating 600 calorie days and stuffing my face with as much food as I could. But no matter which way it went, it would always end the same: with me throwing up everything I ate. It was a vicious, vicious cycle that I denied for a year. It got to a point where I weighed in at about 100 pounds. [just for reference: I’m 5’4 so 100 pounds is extremely low for me. Extremely low.]
I won’t get into the root cause of my eating disorder – I think that probably deserves an entire post to itself – but I will tell you this, as much as I hate that I experienced this I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the woman I am had I not been through it. Going through such a drastic phase in my life and seeing how it tore my body apart long-term left a huge impact on how I approach health now. It was scary and it was intense and it almost pushed me away from a lot of people I love – but it also reinforced how valuable my life is. No matter how insecure I get now (which 100% still happens), I know for a fact that I would never put my body through that again and there’s a great comfort in that.
More than a weight loss story
After recovering from my eating disorder, I sort of just coasted through the next several years. I worked out a little, didn’t really focus too heavily on nutrition or mental health. Just sort of lived a normal life. And felt pretty “blah” about my body for most of that time. Fast forward to 2018 and I was the heaviest I had ever been and the unhealthiest I had ever been. Not only was I struggling to walk up stairs or having some serious digestion issues but I just felt uncomfortable in my skin. And it wasn’t just because of the way my pants fit. I had NO grasp of what it meant to love yourself or have a positive body image. I wasn’t prioritizing my self or my health. I wasn’t a great girlfriend. I wasn’t happy in my job. I wasn’t the best, happiest version of myself and I knew I needed to make a change.
I hired a trainer and worked with her for about 8 months. During that time, I learned so much about myself. I grew to love fitness and health. I found my passion for helping other women. I got certified to be a personal trainer and became the healthiest I have ever been. I lost fat – sure. But I also gained muscle, increased my endurance, developed new skills in the gym, launched a fitness business, learned to LOVE MYSELF, put myself first, inspired other women to do the same and more.
I’ve also had low points. I gained the weight back. I struggled with nutrition. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that sent me into a confusing and frustrating spiral.
But at the end of the day, one thing has remained constant: I know my value and my worth and they are NOT determined by the number on the scale. Over the past two years, my weight has gone up and down. I’ve been consistent with my workouts and I’ve had weeks where I just can’t get into it. I’ve developed a healthy relationship with food and I’ve also treated myself to a lot of, well, treats. All of these pictures below are from the past few months. There’s fluff and cellulite and abs and muscles. All versions are beautiful – and that’s the only progress I care about.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
Spoiler: it has nothing to do with weight loss tips.
Tip No. 1: You have to stop doing this for vanity reasons. I know it’s easier said than done but the moment I stopped trying to look a certain way or achieve a certain size, the easier it got for me to make sustainable, realistic, and healthy changes. As a result of those changes, I experienced all sorts of things including weight loss, muscle gain, increased endurance, better digestion, clearer skin, a heightened sense of self-love & confidence, and more. It doesn’t matter how “skinny” you get it. If you do it for the wrong reasons, you’ll never love the body you’re in.
Tip No. 2: Surround yourself with support. Whether it’s friends, family, or on social media, surrounding yourself with women (and men) who lift you up and empower you to be yourself is the best thing you could possibly do. When I was in denial about my eating disorder, I had people in my corner who pushed me to get help and stuck by my side when I struggled. When I couldn’t understand why. my body was turning on itself with my Hashi’s diagnosis, I had a team of professionals who listened to me and helped me identify the problem. When I was at my heaviest weight and feeling the most unhealthy, I had a boyfriend and friends who made me feel beautiful and strong and confident. All of that matters. A lot.
Tip No. 3: You had to do more than work out five days/week and eat salad. It doesn’t need to be complicated but your wellness journey should consist of more than just diet + activity. Taking care of your body from the inside out means you’re getting adequate sleep, moving your body every day (walks and dance breaks count), getting enough water, fueling your body with nutrients, doing things that make you happy, getting support for mental health and so much more. Stop making it about just weight loss and focus on doing all sorts of things that make you feel good. I promise it’ll change your life.
SO, REMEMBER, YOUR JOURNEY IS YOUR JOURNEY
And it can be as long and as curvy and as messy as it needs to be. It doesn’t have to be about weight loss or weight gain. It doesn’t have to be about the scale or a jean size or counting calories. It should teach you things about yourself. It should inspire you to love yourself more and be more patient and kind with your body. It can be life changing and steady at the same time. Embrace your journey, no matter what. Promise me that.