I’m so excited to post the next interview in my body positivity blog series with Chelsea (IG: its.healthy.chelsea). Chelsea is full of positivity! I found her Instagram account awhile ago and was immediately impressed with her authenticity, positivity and how raw she is. I was so happy when she agreed to do the interview because she breeds body positivity. Take a look at Chelsea’s interview below!
Hey! My name is Chelsea and I am a positivity junkie from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada! I’m a firm believer that anyone can live a healthy, happy and active life, and have been committed to living MY best life since March 2015! I work in student involvement and risk management, but I have a degree in Kinesiology (the study of human movement) with an individualized major in Nutrition and Health Promotion. It’s basically a fancy way of saying I designed my own degree program, and am the only person to have ever done my degree the way I did! I love anything pineapple print, going to concerts, and have a weakness for cookies!
How has your relationship with yourself and your body evolved since starting your fitness journey? What’s the biggest difference since you first started your journey?
If you don’t mind, I’d love to give a quick background to my story, and help put it into perspective!
I have always struggled with my weight. When I was a kid, I went through puberty before my friends did, had growth spurts before they did, and of course, developed before they did. As such, from a young age I was used to being taller and larger than most of my friends. I often felt like an ugly duckling when they were wearing cute clothing from kids stores, and I was wearing clothes from Walmart, and lacked that sense of belonging. My weight never really bothered me until someone else commented on it – my dad (a very healthy and fit man whom I love dearly, but would say things like “we need to be more active as a family” which I took to mean “Chelsea is fat and by saying WE then I am not singling her out, but I am talking about her” – which of course was not true!!), and my grandpa (who was my favourite man in the world, but would poke fun at my cousin and myself for being larger than my skinny brother and her petite sister). Both of them never meant to harm me by saying those things, but their words did hurt me and stay in the back of my mind. I danced and played soccer and was generally active, so although I was larger, I didn’t think much of it. I was happy with myself! In high school I became quite active – playing soccer multiple times a week, and I took a daily Phys Ed class (even when it wasn’t required after Grade 10!) that had me running for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, plus whatever other sport we were playing in the class. I drastically slimmed down, and although I never was really concerned or had focussed on my weight (aside from being aware of it), I had felt more confident than I had ever felt in my life. I was incredibly insecure and shy about my image, though.
Along with the newfound confidence came a long term relationship – and he brought unhealthy habits into my life. While fast food may have been a treat in my family, his family ate it almost daily. That became like a luxury to me! Why go home and have boring “healthy” food, when I could stay at his place and have *insert whatever delicious greasy food it was that day* with him and his family! I think we all know where that went…. I gained a ton of weight! And after a 5 year relationship, those pounds packed on, especially since I had started University at the time and was incredibly busy with that. I was also balancing school with my relationship, my involvement in extracurricular activities like my sorority, and working a part time job in the evenings and weekend. I left no time for self care, or for exercise. When my grandpa passed away suddenly and I ended the long term relationship, I turned to food for comfort and was the most miserable I had been in my life. I was unhappy with my body, I had quit playing soccer, I was eating poorly, and I was on a downward spiral that included boughts with depression and anxiety. It was a very unhealthy and dark time for my normally positive self! I had tried multiple times to “get healthier” but ultimately it wasn’t working. I wasn’t committed, driven, or motivated enough, and would consider the once-a-week walk or elliptical session, or once-a-week attempt at BBG workout “enough”.
When I finally made the change to be healthier, and commit to living a healthy, happy, active life, it was March 2015. I had seen a picture of myself and said enough was enough! I brought out the BBG guides again and made a game plan (including making this account to keep me accountable). I tell everyone all the time that I sincerely thought I would have this account for a week and then delete it. Instead, it has helped me in more ways than I could ever have imagined.
SO! To answer your question very long-winded, since starting my fitness journey I have learned to love myself, as I am, in this exact moment in time. At the beginning I was incredibly nervous or scared to post my body and show my imperfections. After all, many of the girls I followed were so fit, had crazy motivation, or were so much further along their journey than I was. They didn’t appear to be struggling! They were killing it. It was intimidating, and I had hoped and prayed that one day I could “be like them”. My goals then were always about losing weight, and I had unrealistic expectations of what 12 weeks of BBG would do for me. Slowly along the process, I started to become more comfortable with working out again, with sharing my experiences, and understanding the limitations of my body. I would constantly tell myself “You are strong. You are capable. You are loved”, which became a mantra I would repeat whenever I thought I couldn’t keep going. “You are the strongest girl you know”. That, coupled with the love and support from the BBG/Instagram community, helped motivate me when I wanted to do anything but workout. In October 2015, I made the difficult decision to quit BBG/working out at the request of my physiotherapist and rehab a long-standing shoulder injury that I had got from a soccer incident. It terrified me to think of losing all of the progress I had made in those 7 months, and to go from being active everyday to minimally active (no weights, no high impact anything – only light yoga and walking!)
Paying attention to my injury was, quite honestly, the best thing I have ever done for myself. It’s reminded me that you don’t need to workout hard 7 days a week at a gym to achieve results. In fact, most of my workouts until recently, have been done at home, and almost always modified to suit my injury. You learn to listen to your body and what it is capable of in that moment, and in that day. You learn to look for small improvements and changes in yourself and treat them – and celebrate them – like Olympic victories! It’s allowed me to be thankful that I have two strong legs, a quick mind, a core that can always use a little more work, and be appreciative of what I can do, rather than focus on what I cannot. Maybe because I have a degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion, but for me it has always been about living my best life, and sharing my personal belief that anyone can live a healthy, happy and active life. A huge part of that is embracing your body. My big thighs? They are full of power when I am doing sprints! By focussing on what I can do, and not on what I cannot (yet!) do, it’s allowed me to love myself so much more and celebrate my strengths!
We all have an inner critical voice – what do you do to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down on yourself?
I am a very positive person, and always try to look on the sunny side of things. I have always been this way, and while that is usually good, it typically means that when I get down about something I either push it to the side and dismiss it (rather than taking the time to acknowledge it and fix it) OR I let it consume me. Usually in those instances, I turn to someone I trust to vent it out, to share my insecurities, or lately – post about them on Instagram! That is extremely vulnerable, but sharing it makes it “real” and then I have to face it. If I post that I am feeling chunky, it holds me accountable to focus on my eating a little better. Sometimes I just need to hear reassuring words from friends – Instagram or real life (or my favourite friends, Instagram-turned-real-life!) because they are honestly my biggest cheerleaders and support systems, and see things in me that I overlook or might dismiss! I always try to find at least one thing I am proud of about myself and remind myself. Occasionally, that might mean repeating my mantra to myself too! “You are strong. You are capable. You are loved.”
Usually when I am feeling down, I like to do something to cheer someone else up! My favourite thing to do is to write someone a letter, a card, or something I can pop in the mail. Snail mail is SO FUN, and often we only get things in the mail like bills or packages that we’ve ordered. So I write a little love note and mail it off to someone – my grandma, a friend, anyone! – and that instantly cheers me up from whatever was upsetting me. Knowing that when they open it, get a huge smile, and it brings happiness to their day, automatically cheers me up from whatever mood or situation I find myself in. There’s nothing better than sending some good vibes to someone else!
We’re constantly surrounded by messages from the media and our diet culture that we aren’t good enough. How do you navigate your way through these negative messages?
I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I tend not to let the media influence me- I’ve honestly never really felt pressured to look a certain way from the media, and I’ve never once considered dieting (again, this could be because I have a background education in kinesiology, health promotion and nutrition). In fact, I would say the most pressure I have felt to look a certain way has come from peers, or from wanting to belong within a friend group. That was particularly difficult for me in my sorority – I was embarrassed to be ordering large (or extra large!) shirts for events, couldn’t participate in the clothing swaps, and always felt like the “fat friend”. It was also difficult when I was first in University in the Nutrition/Dietetics major. Although no one ever told me I should look a certain way in either of those situations, I definitely felt pressure to fit in, and felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb because I didn’t fit the mold.
My suggestion for anyone struggling to navigate these pressures – be it from media, friends, or other influences – is to develop a strong sense of worth and identity. I know I am not defined by my weight, or by what size of clothing I wear. Yes, sometimes it would discourage me to try on clothes and have a certain size not fit, but I grew to stop looking at sizes and start focussing more on how they fit. Every store and brand have different sizes, so I try not to get caught up in the number on the tag. Just like on the scale, a number does not define me! Once I felt comfortable with who I was, my own personal goals, and had strong, positive influences in my life (ie friends and support from the Instagram Fam), outside pressures seemed to not matter as much, and I became content with my body and my progress at this time.
Are there any challenges with being influential on Instagram? Is there any negative self talk that stems from being influential and having lots of followers?
It’s hilarious to me to even be considered “influential” on Instagram, because I am just a 27 year old girl trying to live her best, healthy life and figure out that process along the way while documenting the highlights, struggles, and everyday accomplishments. My account has always been to motivate ME, and I have relied on the support and friendships from this community so often to inspire me to get off my butt and work out or cook something healthy. When people tell me that I am the one that inspired them, or that I am the one that gives them hope that THEY can succeed, it really overwhelms me and makes my heart so full! I think what drew people to me was how easy they could relate to some of my struggles. I have dealt with weight issues, I have an injury, I don’t like working out in a gym, I have an incredible sweet tooth, and I share all of that with my friends (I don’t like the term followers!).
Of course, despite all of the good and positive that comes from my page, there are also harsh critics and rude or hurtful messages (sometimes weekly!), friendships that I’ve discovered weren’t so strong (after my spike in “popularity”), and high expectations to continue to have progress, be exciting/entertaining, and have quality content (mostly self-expectations). While I continue to post for my own accountability, motivation and satisfaction, I do feel like people want to know MORE about me, or see MORE of my workouts, and sometimes I feel the pressure to share every detail of my life, or justify why I am eating crap one day, when realistically I am just like everyone else – I am not perfect!
The hardest thing for me was when I stopped BBG/working out in October 2015 (as mentioned before) to rehab my shoulder injury. At that point, I felt like “okay what now?”. I felt like a fraud because I wasn’t able to work out, I wasn’t doing BBG, and I didn’t feel like I had anything to share with my page because I was a slug for a good month and a half before I snapped out of my funk and became determined to modify, adapt, and continue to be healthy despite my injury. It’s times like that when I am facing my own personal struggles that it’s hard to do it on such a public platform. November 2015 was basically a write off – I ate so poorly and didn’t exercise at all because I was so depressed about my injury. Looking back I probably could have shared my experience and struggles a little more and have been honest about them (because I KNOW we all have lows!) but I was embarrassed and hid that from my page. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t remember – Instagram can be a place where it is only the positives, only the right angles, lighting, or your “best self”. I honestly try to document the good AND the bad (and the Instagram Stories helps with that too!) but even I got caught up in only putting my best foot forward, so to speak. I vowed to make 2016 a year where I would take more progress photos, document my body more (does that sound as weird to you as it did as I was writing it? I just couldn’t think of a better way to describe that haha), and find beauty in my imperfections. I think that increased my self love in 2016. If you scroll through 2016 on my account, you’ll see a lot more raw, vulnerable, and imperfect posts, and I am proud of all of those. When I started my account, did I ever think I would post a video of me dancing in my underwear, stomach rolls on display, jiggling? Nope, not at all, but there is a Boomerang of that on my page and I am proud of how confident I felt that day to post it! I stopped sucking in my stomach, trying to hide myself via certain angles or filters, and instead let my true self shine through. I try to let my negative self-talk be beaten down by my support systems – some of my very best friendships have developed because of this community, and they are always there to tell me when I am being ridiculous or over thinking something.
Also, the scariest part of having so many followers is that it means people in real life have found my page – and many of them before I was ready emotionally for them to see it. I get asked this all of the time, but I now embrace that my real life friends, family, and acquaintances know about my page (including my bosses – but it still freaks me out sometimes!!). It helps keep me even more accountable, it justifies why I turn down the extra helping of food or snacks or whatever, and it empowers me to know that I am inspiring some of them, too. At first I would freak out, block them, and pray we never speak of it, but now I try to embrace it. If I notice someone I know in real life has found my page, followed me, or liked my pictures, I now try to send them a message and say “Oops, cat’s out of the bag! Looks like you’ve found my ‘secret’ account!” or something along those lines. I feel like by reaching out to them and addressing the elephant in the room, it allows us to both feel comfortable talking about my progress or their experiences, and move forward openly. The real life people that know about my page have also been some of the most supportive and kind, so I’m not sure why I was ever really so afraid or ashamed to have them find it. I think part of my acceptance with my page has also been because of my inner confidence and my positive commitment to loving myself where I am at the moment! I’m all about being body positive and sharing that message that you should – and CAN – love yourself no matter your shape or size!
What’s your favorite thing to do to show yourself some self-love?
Oh I have so many favourite things, and it really depends on my mood, but I love going for a nice long walk by myself (especially in the evenings in the summer when the sun is just starting to set!). I feel so peaceful and beautiful in the dying sunlight, and it reminds me that I’ve successfully navigated through another day living my best healthy life! I love putting on music and dancing in my underwear around my room. Just letting go of anything and everything and letting loose! Sometimes I love taking time to express my creative side – I’ve recently taken up hand lettering, so I set aside time to focus on that, since I’ve pushed aside my creative habits lately and really want to get back into that! I’ll spend time with family and friends, and just enjoy the moments we share together and not worry about what I am eating or drinking, but just live in that moment. I try to do at least one thing a day that is just for me! Whether it is belting out songs in my car, getting my sweat on, or relaxing and doing nothing (hello Netflix!). Taking the time to love myself and be in my own company is important to me!
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you want to share with others?
I have learned to love myself, flaws and all, and embrace the things that make me different. You are so strong and so beautiful, and there are so many wonderful qualities about you that make you uniquely YOU! I’ve stopped caring what others think about me or my body, and genuinely love myself from the inside out. I have a strong heart, a caring soul, and a booming laugh. I also have stomach rolls, back pimples, and stretch marks. If someone were to ask me how I would describe myself, it would be closer to the first set of items: my heart and laughter, rather than my rolls. Because really, does having no stomach rolls make you a better person than having 3 rolls? I don’t think so. No one honestly cares! They care about your kindness and your personality, not what you physically look like. And if they do care about those things the most, they aren’t the type of people that you need associate with. Know your worth!❤
What’s one thing you want your followers to know?
The most important thing I want anyone reading this to take away is that you are strong, you are capable, and you are loved. No matter where you are on your fitness journey, YOU can do it! I am living proof that setbacks happen – injury, illness, life etc! – but I am still able to get stronger everyday, make healthier choices, and live my healthiest and happiest life. I am just like you. I struggle, I don’t want to work out some days, and man, cookies are my weakness! But if you make small commitments to change your behaviour, and genuinely work towards your goals then you can achieve them! It isn’t a race, and it won’t happen overnight, but every small change adds up! I read the other day that every picture ever taken of you is in the past. I posted this on my Instagram in a caption, but to me that means that good or bad, it is behind you. You can’t change the past, but you can shape your future into whatever you’d like, because it’s never too late to take control of YOUR life and your health! I believe in you!
Thanks so much for being part of this series Chelsea! Make sure to check Chelsea out at its.healthy.chelsea!
My next interview is with Mickey (IG: plantsandplanks). I met Mickey about a year ago and I instantly just thought she was the cutest thing. I also always wondered “how does she workout with glasses on – I can barely keep mine on straight while walking! What’s her secret!?” Mickey I’m patiently waiting….
She’s such a sweetheart and I’ve been lucky enough to experience some death by Mickey workouts with my other Bay Area girls. She’s also been amazing in supporting me with my Pilates training so I’ve been able to pay her the favor back with some death by Molly workouts! Check out Mickey’s full interview below!
Hey there! My name is Mickaela, but please call me Mickey for short. I live and work around the San Francisco Bay Area, working as a full-time graphic designer and freelance hand letterer. While I have many other hobbies like drawing, singing, binge-watching movies, and plant-based cooking, my absolute favorite hobby is being active! I love all forms of active living and do my best to try out all forms; from running obstacle races and half marathons, to intense weighted workouts in the gym.
Tell us the tale of Mickey. How has your relationship with yourself changed since before you started the plantsandplanks account. What’s your current relationship with yourself and your body like?
To be honest, @plantsandplanks was started to encourage the dark side of Mickey. In early 2014, I developed body dysmorphia and bulimia. I used a secret Instagram account that I titled @plantsandplanks to follow pro-anorexia accounts, and to track my weight loss daily. I used my account as a journal to log my daily caloric intake, which at is lowest was 600 calories a day, and to also log my declining measurements. It served this purpose for most of 2014. In my efforts to overcome and recover from bulimia, I decided to delete my negative posts, turn my profile to public, and follow positive fitness leaders instead. Since then, I still struggle with the relationship I have with my body, but I fight to be more positive everyday. Some days, I am impressed by my strength. Some days, I’m happy with my body. Today, I am content. I may not be super stoked with my body, but even when I’m at my lowest, I will aim for contentment, because I know I should love my body no matter what.
All women have an inner critic – what do you do when she comes out full force? How do you pick yourself up when you’re not feeling good about yourself?
When my inner critic comes out full force all I can do is resort to sitting still. I close my eyes, I breathe. Those moments sneak up on me so randomly throughout the day; from even glancing at my reflection walking down the street or something simple like that. My thoughts to fight my inner critic aren’t so much like: “OMG, no, don’t think that way, you’re beautiful, etc” it’s actually more me talking to myself saying: “Shh, it’s okay. Those thoughts don’t define you. Those thoughts are blinding you from seeing your own value. Breathe in deep, bring your better self back in control, and keep walking forward.”
To me, personally, overly-positive reinforcement just goes over my head; I sometimes find it insincere. Having as strong of an inner-critic as I have, which is attacking my particular personality type, I thrive in being a realist: I do my best to acknowledge the critical thoughts, then do what I can to address it and ultimately prevent it from happening again. For much larger critical attacks, I just cry, hahah, because I understand that, if something were to happen that hit me so hard, it must have a deep connection to me. I will let myself cry it out until my thoughts have time to speak, in which they usually come through to bring me back to my senses. Then I repeat the process of sitting still, closing my eyes, and breathing.
How do you navigate your way through external negative messages we receive from the media and diet culture?
My strategy to not let media/diet culture infiltrate my world is to remind myself of my own tangible differences that make my world unique to me. I remind myself that we’re all unique, built in different ways to thrive in different ways. Sure, I’m not built like a model, but I am my own unique set of shapes and traits. I look at my hands and see hands that are able to draw, design, and write, in a way only I can. I look at my legs and remember seeing miles of pavement pass underneath it as I ran over it. I wouldn’t trade the experiences my body has gone through, and will go through, to look like anything that the media or diet culture praises as beautiful, not even to be a little taller. And we all know that I’d really love to be like, just a little bit taller, hahahah.
And, regarding diet culture, I learned my lesson the hard way, which is unfortunately what happens to so many people. It’s so easy to get caught up in fad diets, jumping back and forth between diets, being so strict on yourself and all that… that can very easily develop into an eating disorder, as it did for me. It’s important to keep perspective when starting a new diet, and also approaching diets with full-term goals instead of short-term goals. If you think too much in the short-term, you tend to develop impractical eating behaviors for yourself, or set yourself up for disappointment after your “goal” time passes. If you keep your mindset thinking about long-term goals, or the bigger picture overall, it’ll help you develop and maintain healthy behaviors that are the most practical to your own lifestyle, and it’ll be more easy to sustain. It also protects your mental health.
What’s the biggest struggle you face with the Instagram fitness community? Is there anything that causes negative talk that stems from the community?
Regarding the Instagram fitness community, a part of me genuinely misses the feeling I had, waking up in the morning, scrolling through my feed at those who inspired me, seeing what workouts they did today and what they ate, and then that’s it. Close IG for the rest of the day, and check back tomorrow. I miss simpler times like that. To be honest, my biggest struggle being involved in this online fitness community is basically because the platform itself is visual-based, so naturally, it’s easier to compare your own progress with someone else’s, only to feel like you’ve made none. It’s a shame… and many people have talked to me about not feeling happy about their progress, or feeling lost because “nothing’s working for them”, based only on the fact that they see things working for others. Even though we create these IG accounts to be inspiring or to be inspired, it also tends to demoralize us way more. I constantly remind myself and others that we’re all on our own individual journeys; we just so happen to be sharing our journeys together in one space. Just because we’re all here, together, collected into one scrolling feed, it shouldn’t mean that you compare one photo to the photo directly below it, because it’s a whole new different person.
As for the negative talk… hahaha, well, man. Before IG, I never spent too much time on the internet to read public forums or anything, so seeing some of the remarks that happen on IG posts appalls me. People are so quick to be experts on form, or recipes, or to be so harsh with opinions on how someone looks, or something like that. This basically goes back to my point that, while fitness accounts on social media are made with the intention of guiding, inspiring, and documenting your fitness progress, it can also help bring out a lot of the negative sides of doing so, right to your face. Which sucks. But that’s why it’s so important to stay true to yourself and focus on your own journey.
What’s your favorite way to show yourself some self-love?
My favorite way of showing myself some self-love sounds kinda funny… it’s sleeping! Hahahaha. Not even like, taking a nap. It’s at the end of the day, after I woke up early to go to the gym, went to work, did a bunch of stuff for other people, hustled hard; getting into bed is the sweetest thing I can do for myself. Giving myself a time to curl up, get cozy, and fall asleep with contentment and confidence for the day ahead, is what love feels like to me, from me. It’s the ultimate relaxation: your mind at rest from turbulent thoughts, your body at ease after exerting so much energy throughout the day. I regard sleep as so important because, in the past, I used falling sleep in a negative way. Basically, after a long day of running and eating barely anything, I’d rely on myself passing out at night so I wouldn’t have feel hunger pains anymore, and I’d wake up with a little more energy the next day, knowing that I should’ve lost more weight. Back then, I would fall asleep, but dread waking up. Nowadays, it’s different. Now, both sleeping and waking up is a very precious act of love to myself.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you want to share with others?
Theeeee most important thing I’ve learned about how I feel about my body is: I am able to accomplish incredible things with my body. YOU are able to accomplish incredible things with your body. I mean that BOTH in a negative way and a positive way. I learned that, when I set my mind to it, I was able to achieve the most negative outcomes, stemming from hateful intentions. I used to literally say, “You have to hate yourself enough.” But from that situation, I came to realize that I just proved to myself that I CAN achieve something. WHAT IF: I used that same, incredible brain power to do something positive for myself, and flip the narrative to “You have to LOVE yourself enough” instead. That’s what made a world of difference. No matter what, our bodies and more importantly our minds have endless capability. LOVE YOURSELF enough to thrive. Love the body you’re in enough to live a fruitful, happy, healthy life for yourself and for your loved ones. Love your body enough to understand everything it’s going through; to appreciate every step along the way of the incredible journey.
What’s something you want to tell your followers?
To anyone who follows me: if you also have or have had an eating disorder, I’d love to hear your story. To anyone who thinks they might be developing an unhealthy relationship with food, please, I implore you to reach out. In the beginning, I kept silent; I told no one, and I kept it secret from everyone closest to me. That’s when my eating disorder began to thrive. Do not hesitate to reach out at all. I’m here for you.
Thanks so much for your support on this project Mickey!! Go follow Mickey at plantsandplanks.
I’ve been working on a project for the past few months on body positivity. We all follow influential people on Instagram, whether it be a fitness instagrammer, a model, athlete, photographer, you name it. I’ve been reaching out some these influential people to take part in my body positivity blog series. I thought it would be a great way to hear their point of view. These people may have thousands of followers but they are still human. They have all experienced body issues at one point and they may still even have their tough days. It’s helpful to see that these people we admire on Instagram are just like the rest of us. Human.
Today, I’m posting an interview with Megan (positively.megan). I’ve been following Megan for quite some time, her Instagram feed is yes – positive! There is something endearing about her and you can feel that when you scroll through her feed. I was so happy when she was up for doing this interview. She’s a great person to start off the series because she is absolutely positive!
Megan is a wife, a special education teacher, a goofball and a woman who loves to promote healthy living from the inside out.
How has your relationship with your body and with yourself evolved? Can you talk us through your story of where you were a few years ago to where you are now?
Let me take you back to frizzy hair, cheap makeup, and ill-fitting clothes. That’s right… my high school years! Throughout high school I was always the girl who friends would consider “average”. I was neither “skinny” nor “fat”. I was perfectly “in the middle”. In high school, I was blessed to have amazing friends, but body image was simply not spoken of. I know everyone was thinking it and that we all had our insecurities, but no one said much. I WISH body image wasn’t so taboo back then. Perhaps going through all those bodily changes wouldn’t have been so hard. My average body and I got along just fine although I always wished I was as “skinny” as the cheerleaders or that I could fit into the pants at that one “popular” store where the sizes made you feel like crap.
Post high school, I gained a lot of weight. I was away from home and on my own for the first time ever. I ate foods that I wouldn’t have normally eaten at home and was not as active as I was a handful of months prior. Yes, the freshman fifteen happened to me. (Or was it the freshman twenty-five? Hmm.)
This is where things got a little “bumpy” for me. None of my clothes were fitting anymore and since I was out on my own and paying bills, I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe. The only solution I had been to lose weight, but I didn’t have time between school, work, and a boyfriend to workout… gosh no! I could, however, eat differently. I downloaded a calorie counting app for the first time in my life when I was 18 years old. When I entered how much weight I wanted to lose, and at the rate I wanted to potentially lose it per week, the app told me I should be eating 1200 calories a day. With no education in health or nutrition at all, I listened mindlessly to that recommendation and was EXCITED to finally get “skinny!” There was just one problem… 1200 calories a day was starving me. No, I couldn’t eat MORE because then I wouldn’t lose the weight the app told me I would. Since I was already drinking meal replacement shakes every day and eating all the processed fat-free and reduced calorie foods, I only had one more option. Diet pills. You see… my favorite radio channel and favorite radio host always talked about this diet pill that would help you get “high school skinny”. It worked for him and all the co-hosts of the show and why shouldn’t I trust them? (My naive self didn’t think that money endorsements could shape people’s opinions and experience with products just yet.) After subscribing to an auto-renewing monthly shipment of these magic pills, I anxiously awaited their arrival in the mail! The day they came, you would have thought it was Christmas! I read the label. “Take 1-2 pills daily to suppress appetite and LOSE FAT!” With the option being 1-2 pills to suppress my appetite and realizing that my body was always hungry with my new lower calorie intake, I took two and didn’t think twice. Within an hour I had uncontrollable shakes (from caffeine), a killer headache (from some poisonous ingredient I didn’t care about), nausea…essentially an overall feeling of illness. No wonder I wasn’t hungry! But you guys. I wasn’t hungry! Eventually there would be days where I would forget my pills and feel savage hunger, therefor leading me to binge. It was a rollercoaster of destruction for my metabolism, but it should start working eventually, right?
That went on for about two years. The pills, the shakes, the binging… all in secret. Not even my boyfriend at the time (husband now) knew I was doing that. But why? Well, I know a part of me, the educated, bright, caring part of me knew that what I was doing was wrong all along. So why did I keep going? To be honest, the weight wasn’t falling off; it was packing on and that was devastating to accept. One day I got sick. Really sick. Doctor after doctor after doctor couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Talks of MS, lupus, an autoimmune disease, etc. went on and no answers we found. Finally a doctor told me that I might have to start a form of chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drugs to stop my body from being ill the way it was. That would be added onto the 13 prescription pills and steroids I was already taking daily. I was 20.
That doctor changed my life forever. I cried so hard on the way home that I had to pull over on the side of the road. When I got home, defeated, I grabbed a pint of ice cream and turned on Netflix. A recommended movie was “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”- a documentary. Ironic. I was “fat” (so I thought), sick, and nearly dead on the inside after that doctor’s appointment, so I thought “why the heck not?” Upon watching the documentary, I learned that the main character had almost the exact same medical mystery I had! Woah! In the movie, he cured himself of his illness by juicing daily for a month or so. Since a juice only diet wouldn’t work for me… at all… I turned to more documentaries about the power of a plant-based lifestyle. I was blown away and forever changed. That day, I decided to become a vegetarian. Call it a placebo effect or real science, I don’t care, but within a month of a vegetarian diet… my symptoms were going away! As the months went on, my symptoms vanished completely and so did the pills!
Four years later, I was still vegetarian, educating myself slightly more on the power of food, but still only eating 1200 calories a day. I knew WHAT to eat, but not the importance of quantity. I was now married and somehow larger than ever before. I remember the day I learned about Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide Program. I was in the break room at work eating my lunch and complaining to a coworker that all I wanted for Christmas was gift cards so I could by myself new, BIGGER clothes. She then showed me this girl on Instagram who helped women achieve their dream bodies. That night I stalked way more women than I am willing to admit. I wasn’t just satisfied looking at their before and after photos. I needed to know their stories. Their struggles. I needed to relate to these “unbelievable” women. I got the guides (BBG 1 and the HELP Nutrition Guide) the next day. I sat on those guides for a few more weeks until one Sunday I decided enough was enough. I was going to start the workouts the very next day; and I did! It was hard. My body ached worse than it ever had before, but I instantly fell in love with the program! I felt, happy? Successful? Worthy? Things were going great for the first few weeks, until one-day driving home from work I almost fainted in my car. Somehow I knew, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was STILL eating only 1200 calories a day AND working out intensely for the first time in my life. My body needed more. The next day I upped my calories to 1600, a week later I was at 1800. It was miraculous the difference in energy that I felt! But wait… did this mean I wasn’t going to lose all of my amazing results? I was nervous, but knew it was worth a try. That was the first time I TRUSTED my body. That was a turning point in my life. As the weeks went on I realized that I wasn’t losing my progress. No, I was making FASTER progress and eating 2000-sh calories a day. (Sometimes less, often times more.) This lead me to finally start doing home research on food and nutrition. Shortly thereafter I deleted that prison of an app from my phone and stopped counting calories all together. I was going to eat intuitively. I was going to listen to my body’s needs.
Today, I would like to say that I am truly one with my body. I know what makes it happy. I know what hurts it. I know how to push it safely towards new boundaries. I know how to respect it. I know how to love it. Learning your body is hard and it takes a lot of trial and error. For years I neglected my body depriving it of what it needed. Those years are hard to reflect on, but I know now that those years were needed in order for me to become who I am today. I do not share that so anyone reading this can justify many more years of abuse. No. I say it so someone can read my words and stop what they are doing instantly! So that they can know that health is far different from what health magazines filled with skinny teas have to say and what “that” celebrity endorses to get the perfect curves. Health is about nutrition, movement, self-discovery, and LOVE. It’s about building up your body from the INSIDE OUT!
So to answer your question in the longest way possible… (whoops!) My relationship with my body has changed colossally. My past self-lived in fear of her body. She hated her body and was afraid that because of it, people around her would judge her. It didn’t matter that she was compassionate, intelligent, fun-loving, humorous, and generous… She was never enough. Who I am now wants to hug my past self and tell her that she IS enough. That her body never equated her worthiness and should never impact her happiness, her love, or her quality of life. Today, I don’t strive to be skinny. I strive to be strong inside and out. I strive to have inner peace and accept my body in all its ever-changing forms. I make it my mission to help others find themselves, to fall in unconditional love with who they are as a whole. I love my body, I love my mind, I love everything about myself. It is not conceited or narcissistic. It is happiness. It is bravery. It is strength. It is how I am able to love others deeper than I ever have before. It is how I intend on spending the rest of my life.
We all have negative self-talk. How do you combat that now? How does it compare to when you used to speak negatively?
One day I realized that I loved everyone around me so deeply and with such passion, yet I truly disliked myself. I spoke so poorly about myself- to myself- and spoke so highly of others. It was a sad realization, yet it was one that needed to be made. I have a loving family that will never stop loving me and a terrific husband who thinks the world of me, yet here I was hardly able to find one thing that I loved, yet alone LIKED, about myself. The things that others told me they loved about me were always thought of as “jokes” in my own mind. I warped their truths into something that was more fathomable to me. It was a very dark place to live looking back now.
I watched a documentary that shared the story of a women who every day in the mirror would tell herself “I love you exactly how you are TODAY.” At the time, I thought it was crazy, even NARCISSISTIC. (Sad how society tells us that’s what self-love it…) A few weeks passed and I couldn’t stop thinking of that woman, so I stepped out of a comfort zone and said those words to myself while staring back at my reflection. I laughed. I rolled my eyes. I walked away… Until the next day. I did this over, and over, and OVER again until one day without realizing it, the eye rolling stopped. It had become routine and it actually wasn’t weird anymore. WOAH- I know. The next step was taking in the words, truly believing them. This actually came rather quickly for me. I started finding at least one physical thing I enjoyed about myself each day along with one internal thing as well. I would say out loud “I love myself for exactly who I am today with my bright blue eyes and my generosity at tonight’s dinner.” The things I would tell myself changed daily which allowed me to explore all sides of myself. Eventually I started saying the “negative” less desirable things about myself out loud and proclaimed love for them… like my tummy rolls, hairy legs, or acne on my chin. “Hey new pimple, thanks for joining me this week! Glad you’re here!, and so on. I am a BIG believer that our thoughts become our actions! Once you change your thoughts, you truly change your entire world! Once I proclaim acceptance to something that I am told to dislike, the negative thoughts have no power over me. To love unconditionally means to accept flaws and imperfections without judgement. I love my body no matter what. No. It didn’t happen overnight. But it DID happen with determination and an open mind. For that, I am forever blessed.
In life, we are surrounded by messages from the media and diet culture that we are not good enough. How do you navigate your way through those negative messages as someone who is influential in the fitness community?
I choose to stand for body positivity and the idea of embracing ourselves for who we are each and every day. One of my favorite things to talk about on social media is our “human qualities”- the things that make us perfectly imperfect. The tummy rolls, the acne, the cellulite, the stretch marks. I encourage women (and men) to embrace what makes them uniquely THEM! Society tries to tell us that being human is wrong. Having human quality equates to not being “enough.” I express that those same attributes are what make each individual MORE than enough! If we were all these perfectly photoshopped people with no wrinkles, no blemishes, absolute even completions, and manicured nails, where would beauty lie?
As someone who puts herself out there on social media in a candid manner, I have gotten some backlash from people. Instead of feeding into the negativity, I simply delete the comment. Negativity has no place on my feed. No, it’s not because my feelings are hurt. It’s because I want my page to always be a safe place where people can feel free from judgements. I want them to feel empowered by the comments and messages around them. One negative comment can poison the entire garden, so I pull the weed. Positivity, kindness, and love always win in the end.
What’s the biggest struggle you face with the Instagram fitness community? Is there anything that causes negative talk that stems from the community?
Many “large” accounts live behind a highlight reel. They post only the best of the best when it comes to photos that show off their beautifully posed food, morning abs, and round bottoms. I think that some people view fitness accounts as an unobtainable, unrealistic thing. I wouldn’t say it’s a struggle, but I strive to always show people just how HUMAN I am. I want women and men to feel safe and welcome on my feed. I want them to find things they can relate to and celebrate imperfections right there with me. I never want to be viewed as a fitness account robot. I want to be viewed as a wife, a special education teacher, a goofball, a friend… a woman who loves to promote healthy living from the inside out! However, accounts with permanent perceived perfection are still getting larger and larger. I think that as a society, most people have a problem with seeing human qualities in the media. They don’t want to see rolls, blemishes, cellulite. They don’t want to see what they can see in the mirror. They want to see #goals and day-dream about being perfect. They don’t want to accept that the photos are as real as Santa. I am not judging. I was there, too. BUT, my hope is that human bodies will be less taboo and less “uncomfortable” to see as body positive movements flood social media. My hope is that people who shine a light on the beauty of imperfections will gain enough momentum to help change the world for the future generations to come. Social media is a powerful platform. It’s time it had a powerful shift.
What things do you do if you want to show yourself some self-love?
Light candles and blast my favorite acoustic music under a blanket accompanied by a good book. (Seriously, I am the candle industries biggest buyer!) Aside from that, I allow myself to buy clothes that “aren’t for me” because in reality, all clothes are for me (and YOU), it’s just our attitudes that aren’t right for that clothes! I TREAT myself (not cheat) to deserts daily. I compliment myself multiple times a day, I love myself as deeply as I can that way I can love others more deeply. Finally, I workout and respect my body. It works SO hard for me to keep my alive, to shelter me, to support me from birth till death… The least I can do is help it along the way. I take time to be “selfish” and take time for myself. I sweat. I stretch. I do yoga. I give my body what it needs and I LISTEN to it always.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you want to share with others?
As humans, we are imperfect. We get acne. We have cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, and freckles. We get bloated. We sometimes even smell funny. We don’t look like the women, or men, in magazines and we NEVER will. Our bodies are real. Our bodies are living, breathing organisms that work so hard to keep us alive. What we see in the media is an edited projection of what society considers perfect. Do not mistake a photo for what being human really is. Embrace your beautifully constructed human body and never feel inadequate to a photo. You are the real deal! Flaunt that shit!
What’s something you want to tell your followers?
Simply that no matter what society tell you, you ARE ENOUGH. You have ALWAYS been enough. No matter your form. No matter your history. No matter your struggle… You ARE enough. BUT, until YOU believe it, the world won’t believe it. Believing starts when you stop comparing yourself to others. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Choose to be happier than she was. Choose to accept more of yourself than she did. Choose to believe in your strength a little more, too. Amazing things happen when you focus on building yourself up. You start respecting other women rather than judge them. You start to radiate light and positivity. You start to change the world! Be a world changer. Be you!
Thanks so much Megan for your amazing support on this project! Make sure to go check her out on Instagram – postively.megan.
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma and body acceptance.