Back in the summer, I asked my good friend and weight-loss juggernaut Stephanie to write a guest post for my blog. After some things fell through on my end, I decided to wait until today to post it. Stephanie’s amazing story of transformation inside and out continues to inspire me to keep going. I’m so proud to call her my friend. Take it away, Steph!
A few months ago, Nathan asked me to write this guest-post for the FFK blog. However, I wasn’t sure where to even begin telling you about this journey that has led to a loss of over 147lbs and more than 97 inches in the last 2 years. Do you ever feel like you have multiple personalities duking it out in your head? You know the personalities of the drill sergeant, the self-defeatist, and the peace-love-happiness-dude? Yeah. That was me, and sometimes it still is when it comes to this journey down the path of fitness. For the longest time, I wondered why anyone would ever want to hear my story, and then the drill sergeant would start barking “Just do it!” while the peace-love-happiness-dude sat at his drum chanting “It’s all good maaaaaan.” After a while, I realized that we all bring our different struggles to the floor when it comes to fitness. We all have our stories of ups and downs, of days of triumph and days when that snooze button on the alarm becomes our best friend. So this is my story – ups, downs, triumphs and all.
Hi! My name is Steph, and I have developed an addiction to fitness. It’s pretty awesome, really. At the age of 41- yep, I just told you my age *deep breath* – I’m happily addicted to the energy and the soreness that comes along with becoming a fitter, healthier me. However, it hasn’t always been that way. I have struggled with weight issues throughout my entire life. Growing up, my body developed faster than most of my fellow classmates. As a third grader, I was often mistaken for a high school student. My fellow fourth grade classmates made up a little song about me and how much bigger I was than everyone else. “BBT…bye bye tree.” Hearing that song sung every time I walked by the other kids is something I will never forget. I was more than embarrassed when I was told what it meant; I was devastated and heartbroken. BBT was their secret code for calling me “big butt.” Up until that point, I never saw myself as being “fat.” As a 5’ 4” fourth grader, I was just bigger than all the other kids in my grade…at least in my eyes. Yet that song still rang in my head for years to come. At home, I was often reminded that I was, indeed, fat. In high school, I was sent to a diet center, where I was given a bunch of pills and was put on a strict diet of salads for lunch and a couple of bran muffins for breakfast. Yes, I lost some weight, but I also found myself constantly hungry from lack of proper nutrition. Needless to say, my visits to that diet center stopped within a few months, and that action was much to the disapproval from the homefront.
Steph at 343 lbs.
It was towards the end of my high school days that I fell in love with running. There was something about the freedom I felt once my feet started pounding the dirt on the trails by the railroad tracks. In college, I ran 10-15 miles every week. Running became my solace and source of centering. It was where I could turn up the volume on my headphones and get lost in the rhythmic beats of my body pulsing to the music. However, that source of peace ended my junior year when I was on the verge of hospitalization due to a battle with mono that had been in my system for more than 6 months before ever being diagnosed and had already gone through multiple relapse stages. The viral load in my body was so high that my liver was beginning to shut down. I could barely function. All I could manage for months-on-end was going to class, sleep, eating, and more sleep. As a result, I started gaining weight. It took several years before I had the energy to start exercising again, but by that time, I had gained at least 60lbs.
After many years of stress from life, the graduate school effect, poor eating and lack of exercise, I found myself buried underneath an excessive amount of weight – 200lbs in excess to be exact. Looking back, I think I got to a point where I hid my true self underneath all the big clothes and extra padding. I felt ashamed of who I was and what I had become. In my mind, I was living up to so many other people’s expectations of them saying that I was never good enough or did anything right. I didn’t want my photo taken because I never wanted to see myself. I got tired of people looking at me like I was some sort of alien blob. I tried various fad diets, including a fairly expensive ($300/month) program where you purchase their products (shake mixes, powdered foods, snack bars, etc…) and caloric intake is no more than 900 calories/day. Sure, I lost weight, but none of these things taught me how to eat properly, nor did they encourage or emphasize the benefits of exercise. I ended up gaining all of the weight back and then some. I learned an important lesson: there are no quick fixes…none.
By October of 2012, I was living in a highly stressful and unhealthy home environment and had also just completed 3 years of coursework towards my PhD. I woke up one morning to find that I couldn’t eat. My body had started shutting down and rejecting food. My hair was falling out in clumps; I was literally going bald. Insomnia started kicking in, and my energy was nowhere to be found. Sadly, it took all of that to get my attention. I decided that it was time to take control over my life. I needed to make a change, and it needed to start ASAP. (Notice I said “needed to start” and not “needed to happen.”)
Years back, I had purchased a workout program from this company called Beachbody. I did it a few times, but then it just sat in my dvd collection for a number of years. I had signed up for a free account, where I could track my progress on the workouts, but I had totally forgotten about it. When I got to the point in my life where I needed to start taking immediate action for my health, I looked up my Beachbody account and started searching for someone to mentor me and keep me on-track. I tried a couple of different workout programs; however, I felt I wasn’t being challenged enough. In November, my coach told me about this workout program that was up for pre-order and would be delivered in December. It was Les Mills Combat, a mixed-martial arts based program developed in New Zealand by a British duo, one an MMA fighter and the other a Muay Thai fighter. I took one look at the program previews and knew I needed it in my life. I went all out and started with the Ultimate Warrior package – the toughest level of the program. I needed a challenge, and this was definitely it. December 14, 2012, I pushed play and haven’t looked back since.
In the first 60-day round of the Ultimate Warrior calendar, I had a total loss of 18 inches and 26.8 lbs. So far, I have completed 10 full rounds Les Mills Combat Ultimate Warrior and 1 round of a hybrid with Les Mills Combat/Les Mills Pump. After having been on this journey for 23 months, I have lost 147.6lbs and 97.25 inches overall thus far. I am a new person, both inside and out. Les Mills Combat has been my lifesaver and guide. It centers me, it challenges me, and it brings joy to my life. I have discovered that regular exercise and proper nutrition with whole foods are 2 of my best friends. Every day, I wake up excited to see the changes happening both with the inside and outside of my body. I still have a ways to go on my journey, but I am enjoying every feeling of “change.” Sure, I still have my cheat days. Who doesn’t? I’ll readily admit my weakness for a good, dark chocolate and maybe a coffee treat on occasion. And then I keep moving forward.
There was a wise man who once spoke the words, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Okay, so maybe Yoda isn’t really a “man,” per se, but the words still ring true. One thing I have learned in in the journey of fitness and health is either you do it or you don’t do it. I have come to realize over a lifetime of struggle, the concept of “trying” always set me up with an option to fail. I was given a way out, an excuse to give up. “Oh well, at least I tried.” A life-journey on the road of fitness and health is just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. You have to want to make the change, to take on the daily challenge of battling those multiple personalities in your head. No one else can do it for you. You must find your reason for moving forward, and that must become your focus. For me, I needed to find myself. Much of my research work in school is about the healing of trauma. I realized that I needed to heal myself before I could ever fully immerse myself in helping others.
Wise Yoda is.
Yes, there are still days where the self-defeatist personality wakes up and all those voices from my past that tell me I’m not good enough. But I never give up. Nor should you. Never give up, no matter what. Let me repeat that. NEVER GIVE UP, NO MATTER WHAT!
We all have our battles to fight. So stand up, strap on your gloves, and get to fighting. Be the awesomeness that you are in all that you do. You are worth every single drop of sweat and every sore muscle that makes you walk like Frankenstein for a few days. I know that if I can change my body and my life for the positive, anyone can! Decide you want to change. Commit to making the change. You will find success. It won’t be an easy road – change never is. However, it will be one of the best decisions you will you ever make. I’m here, cheering for you. Keep it real and stay with the fight!
Stephanie is a fitness enthusiast, musician, PhD candidate at Florida State University, and an Independent Beachbody Coach. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.