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!
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma and body acceptance.