My body, 12 years later.

When I graduated high school 12 years ago, I was 5-foot, 6-inches tall and weighed in at a staggering 103-pounds. It wasn’t because of poor diet, or because of exercising. It wasn’t from illness, or anything else. It was simply genetics. I ate like a horse (and far from healthily at that). My friends would always watch in amazement as I polished off a large pizza solo, then dove into another without a second thought. I was a busy senior, constantly on the go, so that added to it.

My friends would always talk about my weight. I was so skinny. I was so lucky. Truth be told? I hated my body. I was a straight line. I had zero going for me physically. I hated the stares, the under-the-breath remarks. The implications I had an eating disorder. I was uncomfortable, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to change it. I tried eating more, moving less. That didn’t work. I just became antsy and it took more food to fill me up because I’d stretched my stomach.

Just on the other side of my 19th birthday, I was walking out of McDonald’s after work one day and passing by a table of women that looked certainly old enough to be my mother, I had a cheeseburger, half-eaten, thrown at me. I was then called a skinny bitch and told to go eat a hamburger. Little did they know, I had two of them in my bag (I lived and died for the #2 two-cheeseburger combo at McD’s back in the day).

Now, I had anger issues growing up. I got into fights at school over the dumbest crap ever. I snapped like a light switch. I just rolled with it until the day I turned 18 and realized my “skinny ass” would wind up in jail if I didn’t cut it out. So, here these three women were, old enough to know better, taunting me after I’d already put in a year of hard work curbing my anger, managing my fly-off-the-handle tendencies. To this day how I was able to walk out of there with my head high and not say anything after having food thrown at me, baffles me.

Life after high school was where I started making the changes to change me. After a Food Science and Nutrition class my freshman year of college, I started making the change from Junk Food Queen to healthy eater. The first year was rough. I was eating more, my grocery bill was higher. It sucked. But I stuck with it and now I wouldn’t have it any other way. My body loves me for the smart choices I make when it comes to food.

I started running again. I found body weight and band workouts to do in my apartment. I was deadly determined to succeed with the physical changes as much as I had always been determined to succeed in anything I did, period.

Before my 20th birthday, I hit plateau. I hit a rut and couldn’t get out. I’d only gained two pounds in four months, but my body was starting to change. There were a few new curves here and there, but I was still straight as a pencil. There was another hurdle, I was still in recovery physical therapy for a neck and back injury from a serious car accident I was in the year before. I had days where my neck and my back were in so much pain that walking seemed a chore.

In August of 2003, I joined a local gym, hired a trainer (immediately ditched that trainer and got a different one) and set off on what would be a hell of a ride over the next 11 years.

It took me two trainers to find one that would be able to guide me towards my goals. This is why I always have a free consultation with my clients. Finding that perfect fit is key to succeeding with your goals, and not just in fitness.

I took to my first program, and dug my heels in deep. I was not giving up. I dutifully went to the gym five days a week, every week, every month. If I missed a day, I had two other days that the gym was open, I’d just swap around my days.

It wasn’t until I was two years into a regular gym routine that I noticed the change to my body. I was looking at photos from three years earlier, comparing them to ones of me at that current time. I had a little more shape to my body. I’d put on just under 10-pounds in that time span (gaining for me has always been, and always will be a task). And I looked happier than I had three years before.

At that point, my trainer changed things up a little for me, because my goals had changed. I started drinking protein drinks, focusing on splits, doing different types of workouts (5×5, German Volume Training, Giant Sets, Super Sets, etc…).

Five years ago, six years into this journey, looking at photos at my parents house again (my mother was the queen of taking photos. Explains where I got it from), I felt my heart doing a dance in my chest. Looking in the mirror every day, you never see it. You look the same. The changes are never clear until you have something to compare it to. This is why I always tell people: progress photos!

Seriously. If I didn’t see myself at the age of 18 compared to the age of 25 in those photos that I held in my hands that day, I wouldn’t have realized just how much my body had changed at that point.

I had muscles. I had shoulders. I had calves! Calves! My chicken legs had faded into history at some point and I never got to say good-bye. My thighs had taken on a beautiful shape. I had clear definition from biceps to triceps. And my back… I’ve always liked my back, it was always a strong point for me, even when I was a shapeless string bean. At 25? I was borderline madly in love with it.

At 25, people you start running into the people you went to school with. I’d done college locally, so I’d stuck around (who wants to leave being 5-minutes from the ocean? Not this beach lover) and set my roots down where I grew up. When people started filtering back into town, I suddenly had people (men in particular) that wouldn’t have paid attention to me in school, interested. I looked so good! What’s my secret! You always were small, but you look just as amazing if not better! And the best of all was: Why didn’t we ever get together in school?

I did the only thing I could do… Shake my head and walk on. I was still the same person at 25 that I was at 12, or 15 or even 18. I hadn’t changed at all. Even today, at 30 years old, I’m still the same exact person I always have been. My personality, what drives me, my desires, my interests? All the same.

Courtesy of the Throwback Thursday fad that’s cropped up due in part to social media and “what’s trending”, I get to see photos of my old self regularly. Some are from way back when I was a buck-toothed, ratty-haired punk. Others are from those high school days. And some are from my early adult years. It’s fun to look at them, think of the memories that were created the day the photos were snapped, and reminisce. This past month, it’s been more for me. Particularly because there has been a lot of high school photos popping up…

I look at me then, I look at me now. Before my Body 360 class arrived this morning, going around the room, running over what they day’s exercises would be, I caught myself in the mirror.

Somewhere in the past 12 years, I’ve lost an inch in height (don’t ask, I have no idea). But what I’ve gained is amazing. From head to toe, with more than a decade of dedication and hard work, I have remade my body. There isn’t a hint of what was once there, not a trace. I’ve brought my fighting weight up courtesy of a gain of 25-pounds of muscle in that decade. I’ve gained inches of muscle all over my body, giving it curves and definition up and down.

There were setbacks. There were hard days. There were days (more at the start than now) when I questioned my sanity as I dragged my ass into the gym for a workout.

In the end, I’m happy that I pushed myself. That I believed in myself. I knew, deep down that I could do this. I still know, to this day that I can keep doing it. My story is far from done.

I’m a real person, living in the real world with a full time job, a new business of my own, a household to run, a dog to tend to. I have days where I want to sit on the couch and eat a back of M&Ms and do nothing more. I have days where quitting does cross my mind. I’m only human.

But, I’m proof that with dedication and elbow grease, it can be done. Success can be had.

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Mother. Photographer. Writer. Founder of Fit Fridays for Mental Health. Former powerlifter turned weightlifter. Coach & Nutritionist. Spondy/PCOS/Endo. Bully breed advocate.

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