Thursday, February 1, 2018

Lessons from a Student

Three Months of Evolution

Allow me to paint you a picture of what has happened since I opened up about my eating disorder. It's been like a slow motion movie run, middle fingers raised at attention, ripping off layers of oppression, shame, restriction, and self-harm. What I am finding underneath decades of a self-abused woman is a fighter, a woman determined to rise. A woman who is truly done with being made to feel inadequate and physically wrong. I am still a student of the recovery and healing process and have much more to learn.  I have, however, accumulated a few life changing lessons thus far and, in an ongoing effort to help someone who may also be struggling with an eating disorder and/or has had enough of diet culture, I offer my lessons to help encourage freedom. 

Lesson One: Speak Your Truth
Recovering from diet culture and an eating disorder required me to acknowledge where I found myself. My first step was finding the courage to say the words out loud - to finally stop pretending and face my truth. I had to reach out to those I trusted and begin to confess. I had to open up without restrictions or fears. Letting go of the shame is pivotal in the recovery process. My strength would help another woman find her strength and that helped me face my fear and acknowledge my reality.

Lesson Two: Identify Triggers
Once the words were out in the universe I had to become responsible for them. I had to be proactive about putting an end to self-harming actions. My next step became identifying my triggers. Why was I so immersed in diet culture and terrified of food? These messages where coming from somewhere and I actively hunted them down. The following are key triggers I found that kept me deep in self-abuse and diet culture:

            1. Number Triggers: Good-bye scale, measuring tape, pedometer, calorie counter, heart rate monitor, and constant logging of everything I did. Good-bye to the need to be validated by numbers. They overtook my life and robbed me of a carefree mentality to my health and wellness.

             2. Social Media Triggers: I followed a ton of dieters on social media and I belonged to weight loss and fitness groups. What started as a way to stay motivated gradually fed my obsession with dieting and being skinny. I was, daily, comparing myself to others and feeling the competition and comparison pressure. My health and wellness took a backseat to my need to get skinny and be a better dieter than someone else. Once I was able to see the toxic online environment I had created for myself it was time to clean house! I left groups and I unfollowed accounts that focused on diet culture. No more pictures of someone else's scale or food. No more before and after picture. No more comparison. 

             3. Food Triggers: Food and I have a messy history. At a very early age I turned to food for emotional support. Add on PCOS, plus the body chemistry challenges this brings with it... it was a recipe for disaster. I had to look at food from the perspective of a drug addict. Would a recovering drug addict allow pictures of their drug of choice to infiltrate their social media feeds? Not the self-aware ones. So adios pictures of food, videos of two hands making recipes, junk food videos, and the constant reminder that I struggle with food. I stopped all accounts that kept images of food in my feed (that included some friends and family). I stopped taking pictures of my own food. This was a huge relief! The removal of food approval set me free to eat without the fear of judgement or guilt for eating something that didn't fit into my projected eating habits.

             4. Environmental Triggers: Reflecting on when binge eating urges typically could appear in my day. Once I could recognize a specific person, place, or thing, I was able to create alternative reactions and, over time, rewire my subconscious to no longer reach for food as a coping mechanism.  For example, I discovered my teenage son could often times be a trigger. I found myself mindlessly eating around the time he was expected to come home. With the help of my wellness coach, Ren Jones of Fitness Jones Training, we concluded that the transitional period from one time of my day into the next has often proven to raise my stress, which in turn caused me to binge eat. At the acknowledgment of the self-destructive behavior, I decided to try quick 10-20 minute yoga sessions instead. Gifting myself a small chunk of time to make a peaceful mental transition has greatly decreased my afternoon binges and helped me have more patience as a mother.

 Lesson Three: Stopping All Routines
Stopping routines caused anxiety in the beginning because dropping diet culture and ending my eating disorder potentially meant weight gain...and this terrified me. This is where my wellness coach stepped in and reminded me that we have to break down in order to rebuild. Ren gave me permission to just stop. Stop eating plans and fitness routines. He gave me permission to rebel. All the rules I had been following, the restrictions, and self-harm tactics that had consumed most of my life needed to be cut off. I had to be OK with being uncomfortable, for a little bit.

This step was the most pivotal of my recovery process. I had become so ingrained in diet culture that I lost sight of what habits I had integrated into my life to encourage health and wellness. I rediscovered these reasons after I saw a decline in my health because I allowed myself to act like an unsupervised child in a candy store (NO REGRETS!). I missed my period (an issue that can have detrimental effects on my body (PCOS)), saw an increase in body aches and pains, and felt depression hovering close. I had bottomed out and it was the best thing to happen to me. Bottoming out helped me understand what was health choices and what was diet culture choices. An example being my spin class; Initially it started as a great way to develop a strong cardiovascular system, enjoy a good sweat session, and help keep depression at bay. Overtime it evolved into a four day a week obsession that I refused to interrupt causing me lost time with friends and family. A healthy habit that turned self-destructive.   

Lesson Four: Listening to My Soul
I owed myself the freedom to be whoever I had been shutting away in the name of skinny. The biggest hurdle was shutting off the diet voice that overtook the majority of my daily thoughts. I look back and see an almost zombie like version of myself. She looked like me, she sounded like me, but she was consumed by diet culture. Self-reflection inspired me to dive back into forgotten passions to see if they felt right for my new chapter of inner peace and wellness. This has lead me in a journey of self-discovery that is showing me someone I really like. I really like myself. Finally.

The past three months have been an evolution of self that has been both exhausting and liberating. It has not been without its bumps and road blocks. I am happy to report I have not purged since coming out, however, I am still working on my binge eating habits. This is a journey, not a race. My life is worth whatever time it takes for me to find my peace. Your life is worth your time - to help you heal and find your peace. It looks so easy, written out in a nice list. This list doesn't show the tears, the anger, the moments of weakness followed by bouts of guilt, the mental fight that consumed me, and the constant desire to quit. It has felt overwhelming at times and some days felt like a success to have just survived. I am surviving, in fact, I am even beginning to thrive.

Patience. Self-reflection. Willingness to change. Refusal to give up. I am officially a diet industry dropout and my life gets better everyday because of it! Fight for your happy!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reformed Dieter: Chapter One

Excuse me while I blow the dust off my blog...Has it really been over a year since I have written anything? Wow. I think it's time to go back to basics and relaunch this blog. Let's get caught up, shall we? I have recently made the decision to quit the diet industry. Yes, quit the diet industry. After having spent decades obsessed with my weight and size I have finally said fuck it! Am I going to spend my entire life trying to fit into some sort of deluded media based image of perfection? That seems like a waste of beautiful life if you ask me.

That was my driving force in reclaiming my life from the diet industry, I don't want to waste my life trying to achieve socially acceptable beauty. I found myself relapsing into my eating disorder, bulimia. It only came around every once in awhile so I never allowed myself to admit I had a problem. While I was fighting through this relapse I had the thought of all the conversations over weight, diet tricks, and eating habits I have had over the decades. Truly diet culture has been at the forefront of these conversations.

Weight has been an on going conversation in my life since 4th grade, when I first was placed in the obese category.  Fast forward to age 35 and I am a pro at weight loss. Oh yes, no one knows how to lose weight like I do. How fast do you want to do it? What lengths are you willing to go? What diet fits you? I could answer all those questions! Weight loss became my identity.

The ability to lose weight became my shining achievement. I was placed in a separate social box - the "Successful Dieter" box. Up the ladder I climbed as I seemingly became more successful at weight loss and managed to shrink myself down to a size 4. **autographs later** **No, No, please no pictures** I had reached the dieters Mt. Everest - Skinny! Do you know what's shitty about Mt. Everest? No one can live at the top and it's a long way back down!

So, as I slowly slide back down and gradually put on weight I became desperate to get back to the top. I didn't want to lose my shining achievement. I was going to be pushed off the dieters pedestal, and my fear of failure made me do some desperate dieting tricks. When I crashed at the bottom I crashed hard! It took out my confidence, my self-worth, and my spark. Everything felt like punishment. The joy was gone from daily life and what came in its place was shame and embarrassment. That's what broke me.

I am done with diet culture. I am done with killing myself to look a certain way. I am done with counting, weighing, obsessing, and punishing myself.  The diet industry broke me. I cannot do it any more. I am tired. I am 35 years old. I am done. I just want to be. I want to be whatever my healthy is, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to NEVER live in a diet obsessed world again. **drops mic**

I am currently working with a wellness coach who is helping me find balance, peace, and health in a slow, made for me program. Diet culture is ingrained in me. It is all I know. I do not know how to just be. Food, weight, size, and exercise is the hamster wheel in my head and I'm taking it apart with the help of a great coach.  New Figure Forward is going to continue on as my outlet for the journey that lies ahead. I have begun to use YouTube to capture videos of epiphanies as they happen, Instagram is my daily in the moment posts, and my blog will document the overview of it all.

CLICK HERE to watch my YouTube videos.

Personal evolution is truly a gift. We are not stuck as the same person forever. Yes, I am a changed woman. This once diet crazed woman is turning in her calorie counters, pedometers, scale, and measuring tape. Goodbye diet culture, hello peace of mind and a long glorious life of living healthy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Year with Jillian Michaels



      This time last year I was a week into Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred workout. I had regained 30 pounds three different times in one year. I'd get it off and it would come right back! While I feel like I looked amazing regardless, I did not feel good. My body felt heavy and my mind was beginning to feel the guilt and fear of weight gain. I had promised myself and my blog readers that I was going to wear a bikini in the name of self-love that summer and I was not going back on my word. Even if that meant I'd be wearing a bikini in a bigger body. What I could not have foreseen is the impact this decision would have on the rest of my life. 
Let me tell you about my year with Jillian Michaels. 

     I completed all 30 days of the workout and wore my bikini with pride. Those first 30 days showed me I wasn't breakable. Soreness is a temporary discomfort that yields pride and change. In 30 days I went from push ups on my knees to three real push ups. May not sound mind blowing, but it was just my Chapter 1. Everyone has a chapter one, a day one. I wore my bikini and felt like a million bucks. I do not know how much weight I lost because I never stood on the scale. If I made it about numbers, I knew it would diminish my self-pride and I was not about to hand that over without a fight. The pictures speak for themselves...it worked!


     I had no long term plan, I had a 30 day plan. I was thrilled with the results so I kept doing the workouts, rotating between levels two and three until I felt ready to move onto other Jillian workouts. I went month to month, never imagining I would do this for an entire year. Honestly, even I was waiting for me to quit in the back of my mind. That disbelief in myself is actually responsible for me not quitting. I began to enjoy my new physical abilities and I did not want to go back to my old ways...so much so that I vowed to stop quitting. When I say I vowed, I mean it in a biblical sense; I told myself from my soul that I would quit holding myself back. I wanted to see what not quitting would do for my body and mind. It's all documented on my Instagram account @newfigureforward, you can scroll from the very first workout to today's workout. 
   
 Jillian Michaels got into my head. Her workouts proved to me that with hard work, transformation is possible. My body is proof. Her empowering words proved to me that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for in life. My mind is proof. It's hard not to change after hearing messages of how incredibly awesome I am and how I should be proud of the work I am doing. Jillian made me feel good in my mind. She got into my head and beat down the negative voices that tortured me since fourth grade. Within a few months of daily workouts (most no more than 30 minutes), Jillian had me believing I was badass. I cannot put in words what that feels like - to have come from a dark place of depression and obesity to a place that I believe I am truly capable of anything I set my mind to! I felt reborn. 

     My love for Jillian, I thought, was something only I had. Oh how wrong I was! Facebook can be an amazing tool to connect people to other like minded souls. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a whole group of Jillian lovers called Jillian Michaels Workout Junkies, a private group open only to women that supports each other. Thousands of women from all over the world encouraging each other to keep pushing and smash goals. This group helped me no longer feel alone, I had people who understood me instead of eye rolling and thinking I was nuts. The daily workout check in and supportive messages helped keep me focused. There is power in knowing someone gets you and I have thousands of Jillian fans that get me. It's amazing the positive power these amazing ladies have had on my journey! 

     About six months into my transformation I began to smile at myself in mirrors, have a little swag in my walk, and I liked myself. I continued to lose weight and became more and more athletic with each passing month. I had a huge reduction in my anxiety. Turns out that for me, the deep conviction that I am badass turned off my anxiety. With my new mental freedom I signed up for a Spartan Race and felt beyond proud of myself as I jumped the finish line fire. Jillian's words, heard 6 days a week, rewired me. I am not the same person. The person I was settled, floundered around, and got by. I had no passion or sense of purpose. I have gotten out of bed for the last four and half months with purpose.

     I have a goal. My reason to do what I do everyday. It's a different kind of life. I decided to go back to school, at 34, to follow my heart. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never had a passion. Then one day I figured it out and my heart caught fire. It's a different kind of life now. What I do now I do because someone in my future needs me to not give up. Someone will need help and I will be able to help them. I found my superpower...to not use it to help people is to waste it. I am strong, brave, and determined, all qualities needed for the next chapter in my life. I believe in myself because a lady named Jillian Michaels has told me to for the last 56 weeks of my life. It's a different kind of life now. 


     I wore a new bikini this summer, I lost 40 pounds over the year. I have an athletes body, 17% body fat. I am a badass. My training routine will change to accommodate my EMT certification schedule starting in late August. I will still have my daily sessions with Jillian, I need her to continue to whip me into shape. EMT training is only step one in pursuing my goal. You can follow my fitness journey on Instagram @newfigureforward. I post updates often of my achievements and goals. Reinvention is possible, I am proof! 


     That, folks, was my year with Jillian Michaels. I went in wanting my self-confidence back and discovered a badass! I quit quitting on myself and it changed my life. Jillian may not be for you, she's not for everyone, however be proactive about finding what you enjoy and do it! Do not quit! On days you don't want to, do it anyway. Half assing still counts. Quit quitting on yourself. The scale did not make a smooth drop down 40 pounds, it went up and down. The trick is keep doing it! Show up for yourself everyday and get addicted to personal pride. My sister once told me that you only get bragging rights after a workout if you finish it.
I still get my bragging rights. 


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Gearing Up for Turkey Day

The holidays are coming up quick! 
My family and I this year are hosting Thanksgiving on Tuesday so we can all be together. 
That being a work day, I won't have time to cook much the day of, so I am spending my weekend preparing my sides. Day of the dishes just get thrown into the oven. Easy enough. 

I'm posting pictures on Instagram of Thanksgiving dishes I'm preparing ahead of time. 
If you're curious about what kind of healthy (or at least healthier) dishes I am making check out my Pinterest Holiday Foods board. <3




Monday, November 16, 2015

Let's Talk About The "V' Word....Vegetables!

      Vegetables. That is the word that constantly pops up in discussions about health and wellness. There is no escaping the fact that if you want to be healthy you have to eat your vegetables and lots of them. How many of us picture an over steamed pile of something green in the corner of our plate? Vegetables have a bad reputation for being bland and boring. Vegetables feel more like a chore than a delicious addition to a meal. I remember many meals holding my breath, chewing super fast, swallowing, and slugging down water like my life depended on it.  On my journey of getting my healthy back, I forced myself to make peace with vegetables, to go beyond the green pile of something, and dive into a world I knew little about; a plant based diet.

     I am a bit “hippie”ish when it comes to food choices I make for my family. We do not eat processed foods or food with ingredients we cannot read. We only eat organic meat twice a week. Our main food is plants which includes vegetables and whole grains. I have somehow managed to transform my meat everyday family into veggie eating machines. How? I got creative. I bought kitchen gadgets to aid in the creation of plant based meals. Zoodles, anyone? I busted out of my comfort zone and tried new recipes that I found on Pinterest. I have learned a lot in the past 5 months and it is time to pass on some wisdom.

Let’s start with pictures of meals I have made.... 

Buffalo Cauliflower Bowl 
Thai Raw Carrot Noodles with a Peanut Sauce 
Zoodles with Tomatoes and Capers
Vegetarian Pad Thai
Deconstructed Manicotti with Zoodles


Lasagna Rolls

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein
Homemade Falafel 
Homemade Spaghetti O's 
White Bean Avocado Burritos 
Meatless Black Bean "Meatloaf" 

      Not one over cooked pile of something in the mix. Everything was made with fresh, mostly organic (I buy what fits into my budget) vegetables. I discovered that these plant based meals take the same amount of time, often less time, as the typical meal we were used to eating. I do not spend more time in the kitchen! I repeat; I do not spend more time in the kitchen! If time is an issue that you have been telling yourself is why you can’t or won’t...well....debunked. Most nights the meal is done in 30-45 minutes. 

     I am not a chef; I am a self taught home cook and YouTube has been my go to tool for learning technique and skills in the kitchen. Need to know how to cut open a spaghetti squash or not sure what “mince” means? You can find answer just a few clicks away. I had to push my ego aside, be ok with not knowing, and be willing to learn. It did not take long for me to feel empowered in my kitchen again. It is ok to not know in the beginning. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and in no time these foods will become your normal. 

     My family and I have grown to trust the plant based meals I set down in front of them. There was apprehension at first as we were taken out of our comfort zone. The typical three item plate we have spent years looking at suddenly changed. Where once there was meat, a starch, and a vegetable now sat vegetables with a side of more vegetables. I appreciate my family’s support and willingness to try new items. We all, happily, discovered that everything tasted fantastic! In fact, we were eating more satisfying meals because of the rich flavors and variety of foods!

     From the pictures above it is clear that not every meal is vegan. Eating a vegan menu is not my intension. I am not a vegan, nor is anyone in my family. I believe in balance and moderation.  I started implementing Meatless Monday and slowly added more plant based meals over time. This was not an overnight change. We eat organic meat twice a week. Why organic? Because once you understand what is done to mainstream animal products you won’t (I hope) be able to eat it again. We eat vegetarian meals 2-3 times a week and vegan meals at least twice a week. Balance and moderation. When it comes to real food, I do not have a prejudice against any of it, just a belief that our bodies do not need animal products every single day. 

     Veggies used to make me think of doom. The ‘do what I have to’ portion of my meal. Now they are exciting and a welcomed change to our meals. Even my 10 year old son has jumped on board the veggie train and cleans his plate every night. It took time and a willingness to try new recipes. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the grocery store while I searched for items on my list I had never cooked with before. After a couple of trips, I am no longer the lost child among the aisles -  I know where to go and what to get.

     Over the past 5 months my husband and I have both lost weight with our diet overhaul. My husband has lost 20 pounds with just diet change alone. I have lost over 30 pounds because I also workout 5-6 days a week. We have not felt deprived during this journey. We feel healthier and happier. It is hard not to get excited when we are both tossing clothes in the “too big” pile. Our bodies feel better, so much so that when we talk about a cheat meal or going out to eat we often times decide against it. Why? We do not miss the feeling of heavy, bloated, icky, and blah. The idea of sitting in discomfort turns us off to junk foods. 

     Vegetables do not have to be the boring side dish. They can be the delicious main dish or new favorite side that brings you and your family nutrition without feeling tortured. I promise that if you just try one recipe, you will discover how not intimidating cooking vegetables is, how easy it is, and how delicious your meals will be. Start simple and start slow. This is a journey, not an overnight change. If you would like recipe ideas please follow New Figure Forward on Instagram and Pinterest. I post regularly the new meals I prepared for my family and recipes I plan on trying. 

Here’s to your health, wellness, and happiness! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Simply Extraordinary Photo Project: Model Call


Seen Through My Eyes: A Body Positive Photography Project

     Beauty is not based on size, shape, measurements, or specific facial structures. Beauty is how we see the world around us; it is how we choose to see those around us. When we see this beauty, we can begin to recognize the beauty within ourselves.Through my camera I hope to inspire moments of feeling beautiful. I hope to capture soulful smiles and heartfelt giggles. I hope to capture confidence, apprehension, strength, weakness, sexiness, modesty, poise, and unruliness. I hope to capture the beauty of the woman in front of me, in all her unique glory. 

     Simply Extraordinary Photo Project is my way of giving back to those around me. I treat each portrait as art without the use of Photoshop to change my model. Our bodies are gloriously beautiful as they are, no editing needed. Each person that embarks on this self-love moment with me is treated with care and sensitivity. Each person that opens up about an insecurity not only sets herself free in front of my camera but also passes on the gift of self-love to someone looking at the portrait.  


     I want to inspire self-love and self-acceptance.  I am looking for women to model for my project. I am looking for women that want to let go of beauty standards and embrace themselves, even if it seems impossible. I am someone who has been on the weight journey of up and down my entire life. I am someone who has recovered from eating disorders, self harm, and self hate. I understand the pain of fighting to love oneself. I want to help others overcome their own battle of self-hate. 

     What is a session with me like? I take the time to get to know you. We'll talk in whatever method works for you. Emails, phone conversations, or even sitting down face to face. I want to know what you love about yourself and what you do not like about your physical self.  What you share with me is confidential. Each photo session is tailored to each model. Each photo session is a truly customized experience just for you. Your hair, makeup, and outfit are worked out ahead of time and will need to be done by the model before arriving to the location. The session itself take about an hour. 

     After the photoshoot it takes me a few days to go through the images. I select 4-5 shots and edit them. I do NOT photoshop the model in anyway. I treat the entire image as a piece of art, this may mean I colorize it in a unique way or do nothing at all. Each model will have a piece written up about their photoshoot. Without going into personal detail I explain who the person is and what "issue" they were working on in the session. For example, I had one model who never took a full body picture of herself. She always hide behind her kids or wasn't in the picture at all. No personal details given but a clear understanding of what she wanted to be freed from. I allow every model to review her article before I post it publicly, I will make the necessary adjustments to ensure comfort levels are met. 

Please take a look at previous models I have worked with for Simply Extraordinary: 

Samantha: click here

Liz: click here

Jacie: click here

MarCia: click here

Jackie: click here

       If you are interested in details and being a model please email me at Alyson@NewFigureForward.com. I should also mention this is free. I do not charge to photograph anyone for this project.      

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fight For My Health! Recovering From Weight Gain with the Help of Self-Love.


     I swore I would never see 200 again on the scale again after losing 125 pounds. I managed to successfully maintain my weight within a 10-15 pound fluctuation over 7 years. I ran, danced, and walked to maintain my size. I watched what I ate, most of the time, and found a groove to live by. This worked fine for me until this time last year when my feet started to kill me. I was in agony. My world came crashing down around me when I found out I had developed plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. I could no longer do the physical activities I relied on for weight maintenance. It felt like the beginning of the end. Little did I know this would forever change me...

     The first several months of losing my feet were mentally and physically devastating. Most days, simply moving around my home would cause tears to fill my eyes as the pain was unbearable. I lost my workout routine. I lost walking my son to school. I felt like I lost everything. I had shots in my heels, braces to wear at night, stretches to do, and a ‘let’s hope for the best’ talk from my doctor. I could feel myself slipping away into a depression.

     It did not take long for the weight to creep on. I had already purged the scale from my life months before. The number no longer defined my self-worth. However, the day I could not put on my jeans or anything else I owned, I pulled the scale out of its hiding place and forced myself to stand on it. I felt the shock might light a fire in me to do something before I lost all control. There I stood with 207 pounds staring me in the face. Somewhere between disappointment and frustration, I just cried. I sat on the floor and cried. How could I have not stopped a 30 plus pound weight gain?! The weight came on fast. I put on 30 pounds in 2-3 months. I fell back into binge eating habits and with zero physical activity my body was declining rapidly. 

     I dug deep and decided this would not be the thing that defeated me. Since I could not use my feet to exercise, I had to get creative. I formulated a plan. I found spin and aquatics classes. I launched myself into diet mode. I had some success after a few months but change of schedule, boredom, and depression eventually caused all the weight to come back. Talk about feeling like a failure. I tried again. I was finding success....then it came back. I worked at getting the weight off and again, getting desperate and try old dieting ways to get the weight off...it came back. I fought the same chunk of weight 3 times within the past year and watched my health deteriorate.

PCOS causes hair loss and breakouts. This is my truth.  
     The yoyo effect was wreaking havoc on my body. My hair started to fall out again (I have PCOS Click here), I was struggling to like myself, struggling to enjoy a relationship with my husband, struggling to not hide away, and struggling to keep from sinking into a pit of doom. I refused to spend money on clothes in bigger sizes; I survived with a few pieces I found at the thrift store. My body was suffering, my mind was clouded with desperate attempts to not hate myself, my self-confidence was shot, and my blog had taken a back seat. How could I write about health and self-love when I was struggling with my own? 

My wake up call picture 








      Nine months of up and down on the scale was destroying me. I was on the upswing of the scale (again), when a picture taken of my husband and I in June really brought it home. If I did not take control I will be right back to where I started all those years ago. I also had made a promise to myself and to my readers that I would sport a bikini in the name of self love over summer. I told myself that my mental health came first. I would not back out of my bikini moment simply because I was not at my skinniest, I would salvage my self-worth and feel bad ass when I put it on because size does not dictate confidence! I truly believe that I am worthy of loving myself. I told myself that regardless of the weight gain I was still worthy of rocking a bikini. I saw hundreds of empowered women of all sizes sporting bikinis and I wanted to be one of them. Damn it! 

  
     I made myself hit the reboot button on my health. I made myself look up healthy recipes, and I forced myself out of my comfort zone with foods and got creative. Pintrest has become a valuable tool for finding recipes. I rededicated myself to spin classes (I did not return to aquatics classes because I needed to be pushed harder) and added Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred to prepare for my bikini moment. I was relieved to discover that my feet did not hurt after her workouts. I made myself workout. I fought through the sore, I woke up early, I did all 30 days without fail. I was thrilled at the results not only physically but mentally and I felt strong again. I finally felt in control. I felt my personal empowerment fire back, lit on high. I wore my bikini with pride and confidence. I was incredibly proud of myself, even with more weight to lose to get my healthy back, my confidence was back and she brought with her a feeling of being bad ass. Self-loving myself regardless of my size empowered me through my healthy reboot. I rocked my bikini and felt like a million bucks!


     This time around, I did not stop my heathy reboot after my bikini moment, I kept going. I asked myself, “What happens if I don’t stop?” I was done with the up and down yoyo crap. No more. That became the moment that changed my life. I set physical goals for myself to take my mind off the number on the scale. 10 real push ups was my first goal. I reached it!! I have video of me falling on my face simply trying to do one and then 8 weeks later I have video of me busting out 10. I started out doing a plank for 30 seconds, I am now up to 3:30 with 5 minutes being my ultimate goal! Jumping lunges, rockstar jumps, and more! Unbelievable the come back that I have made.

     I have been working with Jillian Michael’s DVDs for 16 weeks. I have transformed my body and more importantly, my mind. I have lost 20 pounds, which according to my past, would mean that I still do not fit into my clothes. WRONG! Not only do I fit back into them, I am shrinking out of them. The amount of muscle I have developed makes the number on the scale useless now. Finally, after 4 attempts, I have successfully found my healthy again. I bounced back in better physical condition than ever! Never in my life have I been able to do what I can do now.

     With every set back is the opportunity for a comeback and I fought for mine! The number one question I am asked is how do I keep up my motivation and determination? My answer is simple: I do not focus on a number. I do not think about a size. Instead, I focus on my health; my physical and mental well-being. If I feel amazing, then who cares what the scale says or what my size tag says. I thrive on feeling strong in my body. 

     There are medical reasons that I fight for my health. PCOS is a huge motivating factor for me. Regular cycles without the help of pills are a driving force. Without regular cycles women with PCOS are at a high risk of ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. With proper diet and exercise, I can keep my body on track without medication. I also do what I have to do in order to prevent more hair loss. I can’t grow it back so I have to treat what I do have like gold. Nutrition is key to keeping hair happy.

     Back pain is another reason. Back pain is genetic with the women in my family. I have watched my grandmother and mother struggle with pain for decades. I thrive on muscle work as a preventive method to avoid such pain when I am older. I will do anything I can do today to help the me of  tomorrow be strong and healthy. Abdominal exercises may hurt but back pain and surgery hurts worse. There is also a history of heart attack in my family. That motivates me during my cardio workouts. 

     I learned over these past 16 weeks that I am capable of so much more than I ever gave myself credit for both physically and mentally. I keep a few of Jillian Michael’s quotes close to me at all times. One is, “Why not you?” Yeah, why not me? Why can’t I be strong and athletic? I am the only person holding myself back from my true potential. So I got out of my own way and stopped quitting. The second quote is, “Why are you choosing failure when success is an option?” I say this to myself every time I want to quit. Those last few reps that feel like they will tear my arms out of their sockets used to make me quit. Now I just switch to “beast mode” and do it. I do it because the feeling of accomplishment and pride is worth every bad word and drop of sweat I give.
I read it. Highlighted in it. Wrote in it. I reread it. I gave myself
reasons to fight for my health beyond a weight and size. Jillian
works for me. Who works for you? 

     I am not saying to run out and jump on the Jillian band wagon. I picked Jillian because her tactics work for me. I like to be pushed. But that is just me, I am telling you to use what works for you. Find a trainer you love. Find videos you will enjoy doing.All of my workouts I found on YouTube. My summer of healthy reboot was done on a dime budget. Read books that inspire you by people you connect with. Once you find what you enjoy, Do Not Quit! Keep going! I watched the scale go up and down on my reboot, it's going to! Weight fluxuates. Daily. Do Not Quit! Even if you are doing the same video day in and day out. Do Not Quit!  Push yourself to do the advanced moves. Sure I can quote Jillian’s 30 Day Shred DVD but I can also keep up with the advanced moves. That took weeks to do! 

     WIth every set back is the opportunity for a big comeback and that is what I have been working towards; my comeback. I am not the only person who has lost and gained. It is the balance to life, sometimes we are on top of it and sometimes life shakes things up and knocks us off track. No matters how far down the road we have traveled there are always exits! Always! I encourage everyone who is struggling to reset their healthy to be patient, start slow, and love yourself through the process. Remember, I wore my bikini at a weight I have not been in years because weight and/or size and/or shape does not determine confidence and personal empowerment. You are worth fighting for!!

     About my feet. Over time the pain and swelling dissipated. My workout routine does not bother my feet. I wear orthopedic shoes, thankfully times have changed and I find fashionable cute shoes. I'm careful with my feet. Enough time has passed that I can enjoy family walks every now and then. I appreciate the hell out of our walks because I truly thought I lost them. It was a year of trial and error. It was a year that taught me what I am made out of and it is some tough stuff!