My Journey to There to Here
I sometimes look in the mirror these days and wonder, how the hell did I get here, doing what I am doing? Me? A fitness trainer? That is not possible! But it is in fact the truth and my reality now, and I am loving every minute of it!
I have had a similar story to many people, in that I have struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. Small hints as a child from here and there, comments made, that told me my body wasn’t right, that if it were different, it would make me a better person. I would look better, my jeans would fit right, and life would just be perfect. But the way you are.... well... it just doesn’t cut it. I was never picked for sports teams I tried out for. I was picked close to last in gym when gym became about only sports and not the fun games we used to play.
I had it in my head for all of my adult years that weight loss needed to happen. I tried all the fads, all the diets. I can list more things that took me down the spiral of self hate, but you get the picture and it’s not a story you have not heard before, and well... that is the problem isn’t it? My story is TOO familiar. There are so many of us that can nod in agreement as we read and relate to a childhood to adulthood story of feeling crappy about our self image because of being told we are not good enough from family, from peers, from media.
THIS STORY HAS TO CHANGE!
Although sports were never my thing, I have always liked being active, hiking and walking, riding my bike, going to the gym, etc. But when I got older, moved to Toronto from St. Catharines at 33, work and life changed and I became less active. So when I got into my fourties, I decided, after watching my parents start to deal with some health issues, that I wanted to give myself a fighting chance to avoid some of the same. In January of 2016, I found a 6 week boot camp challenge that was in my neighbourhood and thought, ok, 6 weeks, I can do this. But I was terrified! I was so out of shape and at 43 years old I thought both what the hell, why not, and what the hell am I doing?
The challenge was against the other participants, and whomever had the biggest transformation in both weight and inches lost won $500. So I took it seriously, I followed the prescribed eating plan of tracking my macros on My Fitness Pal, and I went to every single workout, 3 times a week at 6am. Starting from a place of not being able to do a decent push up to pretty darn good ones after 6 weeks AND I WON THE CHALLENGE! I was so excited and not only that I started to love the workouts! So I put the $500 back into the monthly membership fee, signed up for a year and I was off to get to my goal of losing 70lbs!
I was consistent with my workouts, diligent and obsessive about my eating, and in less than a year I achieved that 70 lb weight loss! I was so excited! Over 200 likes on Facebook for my post about it. People told me how inspiring I was and what was I doing so that they could learn from me... and it was a whirlwind of emotions. One of the things I started to think was... hmmm maybe I can help others, maybe I should become a trainer! I have always been in a helping field. That is what I decided to do.
But another thing happened at the same time. After losing the weight... I felt a bit lost. I wasn’t sure how to eat, do I have to follow this counting thing my whole life in order to stay there? It seemed like a lot of work to continue. I also got comments from people about looking too skinny now, and don’t lose any more, and jealous type comments from some people around me. It was a confusing time. I realized I did not want to keep up the lifestyle of counting everything I ate, and feeling bad or guilty if I ate outside of that, I mean are peas and corn really going to make me fat? But at the same time, I liked being smaller, I had never wanted to be thin, but my body felt better with less weight, less pain in my bones. I still felt that weightloss is the only way to achieve good health at this point. But something didn’t quite feel right, I was still judging myself, and others if they weren’t trying to be smaller and how could someone be healthy if they are overweight?
In the Spring of the following year I signed up for the Fit Chicks Academy and worked my butt off doing the education and also working full time but I did it and became a certified Personal and Group Fitness trainer. The training also talked about nutrition and healthy eating, and weight loss. I really enjoyed the program and learned lots about the body and I was ready to start on my next leg of the journey! I was also still struggling at the same time with trying to figure out my own body issues, and how to eat healthy, maintain a busy lifestyle and not obsess about it all.
Within 5 months of graduating, myself and another trainer decided to open up our own boot camp. But during those 5 months in between, I had started to read more about being body positive, loving yourself where you are at, and that maybe weight loss is not the key to health. So when the time came... I was still wanting to help people lose weight if they wanted to, but starting to change my values on it. I had already gained some of the weight back that I lost, and I was ok with it for the most part, but scared about losing the gains I had made in my health. In the midst of opening the business I had a personal issue happen that cause some emotional trauma, and I found myself turning to food once again, to make me feel better. So. Much Guilt.
In January 2018, Body Positivity Movement Boot camp was born. I loved the name and I loved the concept, but I still wasn’t fully living it yet. I started reading more about this movement, I read Health at Every Size, Embody, Intuitive Eating, and a few other books and many articles that started to open my eyes and mind that maybe we as a society have it all wrong! So many studies said DIETS DON’T WORK! That made me feel so relieved and conflicted at the same time. You mean all this time I am not weak? I am not fully at fault if I gain the weight back? Plus, it is ok if I do and I can still be healthy and as long as I exercise and mostly make healthy food choices? What???? I started seeking out as much info as I could on this subject and I started to really feel like I found my tribe! After about 7 months of building the boot camp, my business partner got an opportunity to move on to his dream job, and although I was scared, I was ready to fully take on the Body Positive approach both business wise and in my own life! I have even started a group for young girls call the Girls Empowerment Movement (GEM). It is a group to instill more confidence both inside and out at an age where we start to lose it. (see more info on my website)
I have really started to dig deep these last few months into my own body image issues, and the fitness industry will really play a number on you for this! But I know now in my heart, that I am healthy strong woman, as I am. I am healing my disordered relationship with food and how I look and feel, and my passion is now to support others in this journey. I want to be a role model for those that need it. But wait, that is scary, you have to put yourself out there! Ah!
SO I did.
Last week, I did a photo shoot, with the most amazing photographer who opened up her studio, and her heart to further heal my blocks, and the blocks of other women by showing them how beautiful they are. For the first time in my life... I will be exposing my belly to the world! OMG! It’s not flat, its not 6 pack ripped (on the outer layers anyway!) I have cellulite on my legs, but it is REAL. I had so much fun doing the shoot. I have worked hard at starting the process of most days feeling ok looking in the mirror. The shoot that I did was also to support mental health, which is a BIG part of body positivity.
The shoot was with Lady Luck Photography in Ridgeway, Ontario. Jennifer
(McCready) calls them CHEER sessions, which I think is perfect.
I had paint splattered all over me! We used the colours of my business and it was so much fun! I felt so good after and we laughed through the whole thing!
I have always been someone who wants to change the world for the better, and now I know how I am going to do it.
One beautiful body at a time. My business motto is Love Yourself- Love the World.
Love is the only answer on how to change things, and ourselves for the better.
My wish for you, is that you will feel the same about yourself. Until next time..... I am Here!
From Hating Everything She Was, To Being Head Over Heals In Love With Herself - Stacey Shares Her Journey Through Mental Health Stuggles and An Eating Disorder.
My name is Stacey and I am strong, powerful, independent, and beautiful, but I wasn’t always this way.
A lot of you may find it weird to hear that the girl that some of you know has
a very dark past, a past that almost took me from this world. All my life I have strived for perfection, I wanted to have the best job, the best car, the best boyfriend, and above all else the best body. I wanted to be liked by everyone and found it very upsetting when I wasn't liked. This need to be perfect came at a cost, a cost that would ultimately find me at St. Catharines general in the Psych ward on suicide watch.
Shortly after I had my gorgeous daughter Freya my world spun into a whirlwind of guilt and regret and pain. I HATED myself, I HATED what I looked like, I HATED my life, so I decided to try and change this so I went to a local gym and I hired a personal trainer. At first it took
me so much effort to drag myself to the gym, but after a while I started to love the way I felt, and I started to shrink right before everyone's eyes. At first everything that i was doing was healthy, and I was getting healthy life was getting better, then my gym went bankrupt and I
was forced to find another gym and trainer to keep up with my incredible progress.
I eventually found a gym that felt right to me in Niagara Falls and I continued with my routine.
I got a new trainer and I was feeling fantastic. As a few months went on you could find me at the gym 3 hours a day 7 days a week, and as bad as that may seem to make things worse I had developed something that would consume me …. An eating disorder.
Now I have suffered through eating disorders when I was younger but they were never to this extreme,
WITH as much as I was going to the gym I was doing all that on only a 600 calorie diet. Before I even realized that I had a problem I started to notice physical things like I was losing strength, all of a sudden weights that I had no problem lifting all of a sudden seemed heavy to me. I remember being at the gym one morning and I was running and the next thing you knew I was on the floor …. I had passed out but the scariest thing about this was the fact that my heart rate was insanely low, so low in fact that my doctor informed me that if I were to continue the way that i am going he was fearful that my heart would just STOP!
I did slow down slightly at the gym but not as much as I should have.
The day that i realized that I had a problem with eating was my sisters rehearsal dinner, we had pizza and wings for dinner and I had 1 chicken wing, and a quarter of a square slice of pizza. As soon as I consumed that i felt so guilty with myself for eating carbs that I ran to my mom and dads bathroom and threw everything up and cried, I cried for so long and I remember my dad coming in and just holding me and my mom telling me that we were going
to get me help. Soon after I started going to New Port Eating Disorder clinic and things started to get better, but with eating came weight gain.
The weight gain was scary but It was coming on slowly and I kept telling myself that i was getting healthy. Then came my second pregnancy, and then the fear came back, I was so stressed out, I cried all the time, I wanted to die, I tried to really watch what I was eating but also tried to make sure my child was getting fed. I gained weight, and I gained weight fast and I gained quite a bit of weight. After I had my son Quinn I had postpartum, I feel that a lot
of that stemmed from the fact that I went back to work 2 days after i has him.
I had my son in June and come September 15th I was hospitalized. I remember driving that night thinking that I was going to jump off a bridge and that everyone else would be so much better off without me. As I was driving I saw the hospital sign and I decided right then and there I would give life one more chance.
Three and a Half years later I weigh more than I did, however I LOVE MYSELF …. Most days! I am graduating on Honor Roll from Hospitality Hotel Restaurant Operations this June and I'm going for my Bachelor Degree in the Fall.
I started performing Burlesque again and I am the lead singer in this amazing band Strange Tendency.
But above all these accomplishments my best accomplishments are my 2 beautiful children cause if it wasn't for them I can assure you I wouldn't be here today, they saved my life.
I am Stronger, I’m a Fighter, I will Rise Undefeated!
What’s your story, Gab? Tell me about your story.”
I used to jump at opportunities like this. Being offered a platform to talk about mental illness or body image was always a big deal to me. I’d like to say that I have helped people recognize and communicate their stories by sharing mine. I hope so. I do believe that talking about it can help bring people into the light and maybe even redirect that light for people who don’t have first hand experience. But right now I’m more excited to tell you why I chose Jen and why I think her services can help you, too.
I actually met Jen when a friend of mine asked me to join her in her consultation. Walking in to the studio, there’s an immediate sense of “holy smokes this is for real” but also “this really seems...doable?” I can’t quite explain it. It’s professionalism meets humility. Jen is such a friendly person that the minute you walk in you feel understood and, dare I say, excited! Listening to the two of them talk ‘shop’ and sharing ideas and feeling connected I remember thinking “man, I wish I could do this!” But that’s just it, Jen makes you want to try. Her energy is so contagious you can’t understand it until you meet her in person. She also has a vulnerability about her, you want to open up to her and tell her things just so you can hear what she has to say about it.
Some months later I asked Jen if she would be willing to try a shoot with me that was a little unorthodox. Nothing crazy, except sharing parts of me that have traditionally been ‘undesired’ in some of the photos. The parts you try sheepishly to hide when in the company of a set of eyes, or worse yet, the mirror. And the super crazy part? I love the pictures. I’ll say this again, I love my pictures.
Our pictures. They are pictures for everyone because the experience is carried into everyone around you. You feel beautiful, desirable and proud. If you let it, this experience can change the way you see yourself and the way you want to be seen.
It’s easy to say you want to practice self love and self care but if given the chance, how much would you open yourself up? I dare you to be brave, try something new and learn to trust the universe (holy crap, Jen, I’m seeing patterns everywhere. Thaaaanks). Lady Luck helped me see the value in balance, in trust and - I can NOT believe I am about to say this, deep breath - myself. I truly want that for you, too.
Journal Entry #101 - boy mike
Actions hurt words harm.
I always thought that words didn't hurt - but when that man called us Faggot today it brought back memories from my childhood. I understand now how much harm these words do.
It was the mean joke they told when they didn't realize I was in the back of the room. They were all laughing so hard they did not notice my presence. I was deflated and I slipped away without them ever knowing I was there.
The comments and names from acquaintances stung but the ones that really hurt were from my classmates, my teachers, my friends or my family. I looked up to all of them so words from them pierced my heart. It was that 7th grade teacher who stood me up in front of the whole class and made fun of my spelling. The kids that year called me stupid, idiot & retarded. Still to this day I don't like being the center of attention - good or bad. I struggle everyday feeling that I am not smart enough as the word stupid echoes through my head.
Being born gay I was teased all my life being called queer, fag or homo. Many times it was words but there were times that I was beaten up for something I had no control of. When my brother called me gay in the heat of the moment as part of an argument or fight it made me feel so small and made me ashamed of something that deep down inside I knew to be true. I can hardly remember the physical bullying - but those words / names come back to haunt me again & again often when I least expect it.
The man who was supposed to support me the most ended up being my biggest bully. For my dad it wasn't the words or the beatings that I remember the most it was the silent treatment and the disapproving look in his eyes. We never really got a long - I think he knew I was gay long before I ever knew what it meant. When I came out to them at the age of twenty four, that is when communication between us pretty much ceased. If I came home to visit he would head downstairs - we were rarely in the same room. I only wanted to make him proud for him to love me like any father should. That acknowledgement came the day he died on the phone with my brother he said make sure you tell Mike I love him. Too many it was too late but to me it was enough - I love you dad.
I cried myself to sleep many nights & sometimes still do. I felt isolated, alone, never really fitting in or that I was part of the team. I traveled to many places but never felt at home. I would often give up before I started trying as I didn't think I would be able to do it anyway.
I finally learned to focus on the truly amazing people in my life. I now try to find little things that make me happy and include them in my journal like how your rode by on your motorcycle and waved to me at work or how you took the wedding cake that needed a little repair and with a few flowers made it a work of art. When I search for the good I believe that more positive energy is drawn to my life without even looking. I know now that I was born gay and it is completely natural and normal. I am not the only one and I have many talent amazing role models to look up to.
I have learned to forgive as I realize that many of the bullies in my life were struggling too. I believe that the bully is also a victim who could use the same healing that I need. I have also learned to stop being so hard on myself to stop my own bulling and love who I am - who I have become.
All my experiences have made me who I am today. I am kind & empathetic because I don't want to see other people hurt like I did. Life for me will always be a work in progress and I am ok with that. Please be kind and gentle with your words.
I am getting tired so I am going to head to bed.
Love you both so much,
- boy mike.
Where in the world do I begin? It's never easy to talk about your past, it's never easy to talk about your angst or your pain or even admitting something. I have depression.
There. I said it.
It's out there and I can not take it back. Sounds really scary and intimidating when you say to yourself or even to someone else that you have mental health issues. There are days that I have to remind myself that I am not flawed. I am not broken.
When I spoke to Jen about doing a cheer session, I had a very specific colour in mind that I wanted to use. Black. I bet you're thinking, black!? But this is a CHEER session! That's OK, let me explain.
Yes my paint colour of choice is black but I also used gold sparkles. The black represents the darkness, the anguish, the anxiety, the sadness and fear that I experience on a regular basis. Although I'm medicated, these feelings can still creep up on me but I know how to handle it better.
The gold glitter and sparkles represent the light shining through the darkness. No matter how dark things get, you can find your light. You will sparkle and you will shine.
When I spoke to Jen about my ideas, we were bouncing ideas left and right and we were getting more and more excited! When photo shoot day came, (please note, I'm about 7-8 hour drive from the studio) I was beyond excited.
I loved the welcome sign at the door and it was such a welcoming feeling.
I had my makeup beautifully done (thank you, Brooke) and it was time to be painted.
I stood in front of Jen, topless with my arms stretched out.
I remember the feeling of the first couple drops of paint landing on my skin and it felt like I was being baptized.
Jen was so loving and supportive during the shoot. We shared so many laughs.
The pictures turned out how I envisioned them.
This is only a small portion of my story.
Thank you for reading.
Remember, those struggling with mental health issues are not broken. We are warriors.
#endthestigma #mentalhealthmatters #understandmyjourney #cheersessions #ladyluckphotographystudio
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