*warning: this is a very long, lengthy post but I wanted to go into depth about my journey and not leave anything out.
To be perfectly honest with you, my dear reader, I never thought I’d be sitting down, typing away on my laptop, writing this post and for two main reasons. One, there was a time when I didn’t think I would be at a healthy weight again nor love who I am. Two, after actually achieving- what I once deemed to be the impossible for me- I was embarrassed and dare I say, disgusted with my before photos that I have only shown Tabitha (my younger sister) and Elvis (my boyfriend) them since losing all that fat two years ago. However, the topic has come up quite often since I reached a healthy weight between friends and I was always told that I should share my story because it was inspiring. Although I have always wanted to be some one that could inspire others and is one of the reasons this very blog exists, I’ve never actually considered myself an inspiring person. Despite this, seeing how many girls at university and over on social media seem to struggle with what I once did is utterly heartbreaking. Whilst I’m no doctor, fitness instructor or expert on anything really, if my own journey could potentially help others then I think it’s selfish for me to keep it hidden. Moreover, I now know that I should be proud of those ‘before’ photos and those low points in my life because I wouldn’t be who I am without them. I’ve realized that I shouldn’t cringe at the way I once treat myself but look at where I am now and appreciate how much stronger and better I am for it.
Whilst a lot of my weight difficulties stems from a dysfunctional childhood which lead to bad mental health and an inevitable eating disorder, this is something I feel needs to be in a separate post. Therefore, I am only sharing my journey on how I lost forty seven pounds and how I went from hating my body to loving it everyday.
I remember the first time I really noticed my body.
Obviously I’d seen it in the mirror plenty of times and acknowledged what it did and how I looked but I’m talking about that moment when I really looked.
It’s unfortunate when I say that for most people, they already know what I’m talking about. Although for some, it happens over time, gradually like shadows moving in the dark, it creeps up and consumes you. For me, it was quite an instant thing. I’d been body shamed many times before but always shrugged it off- it never actually registered until one day in particular where things were quite different.
I was twelve years old, first month into year eight and getting changed in the girls changing room for P.E. It was when I was stood in my grey underwear (yes, I know, I have a really good memory) when the three girls behind me thought it was a good idea to laugh at my body. To this day, it still baffles me that anyone could be like this and yes, I understand we were only children then but age does not excuse this kind of behaviour. Moreover, to behave this way at that time often becomes concrete as one develops into an adult. Apparently my body was hilarious and there were a few comments thrown here and there, one which I vividly remember; “fat-ass“. I’d heard this word ‘fat’ plenty of times before and I knew it meant to be unhealthy. Yet, the way these girls were speaking, it seemed to have a new meaning and it hurt. I was left feeling confused. What was wrong with me?
I spent the rest of the day thinking of what happened in the changing rooms, which might I add is one of the worst things I could have done. I now know, from ten years more experience, that what these girls said about me was a reflection of them and not myself. However, I was only a child and after later having it confirmed that there were things wrong with my body by family members, the damage was done. The bubble I had unknowingly built around me burst open and suddenly my perception was changed. I was a ‘fat-ass’ and everything else others had said to me.
It was after that, which all those comments made before the P.E incident, the ones I had previously shrugged off and often not even registered became very dominant words which embedded themselves into my mind. I could now hear those words loud and clear and every time they were thrown my way, they were louder and louder. After years of these seemingly skilfully ‘innocent’ and nonchalant insults were repeated they became etched in my mind and would voice themselves daily. There was no room for positivity when it came to who I was and how I looked. By the time I had finished school and in my first of two years at college, I had spiralled into a pool of deep feelings of utter worthlessness.
It wasn’t just those comments that had me hitting an all time low. There were many factors that fuelled this toxic fire.
As a child
Before then I was very confident in myself, I admired how my legs could take me places and how they could make me run so fast I felt like I was chasing the wind. I loved how my arms could lift my whole body into a handstand or throw a netball into the hoop almost every time. I was an extremely active child. I literally couldn’t sit still and to put it in perspective on just how active I was, my Thursday nights consisted of attending netball practice as the team captain-despite my lack in height- held straight after school, then coming home where I’d shove some food down my throat before going to gymnastics for two hours. I was also very small and the doctor told my parents when I was born, that I would always be the smallest in my class. They were right. I have very small bones and with the insane amount of exercise I did as a child, I had very little body fat and would be labeled as ‘skinny’.
It wasn’t until during my first year of secondary school at the ripe age of eleven that I hit that dreaded puberty phase. It was very common for children in my family to really pack on the weight. Naturally this happens to almost every child, but the genetics I had certainly did not slack in the weight gaining area. It didn’t help that I stopped being as active, I quit gymnastics and had to leave netball when I finished primary school. I drifted from my friends and no longer had anyone to go ride my bike or run around with every school night. The weight piled on ( a good few stone) and I started to loose my spark, zest for life and flaring confidence I once had volumes of. Certain areas in my life became more oppressive and difficult to handle and I slowly became a shell of who I used to be.
The beginning of the beginning
Come first year of college, just after turning sixteen, I was determined to try and lose some weight, though at this time it was because I was trying to fit into ‘society’s standards’, to gain acceptance from people like those silly, twelve year old girls in my P.E class and to try and achieve the proper kind of love from those whom agreed with those girls. It was then that I stumbled upon Cassie Ho from Blogilates, an amazing fitness instructor on Youtube who creates challenging pilates workouts. I’d hated my booty for years, which I later realized was due to being bullied for being a ‘fat-ass’. (How ironic that this is all the rage now.) I didn’t know at the time, that you can not in fact, spot-reduce. However, I was uneducated and desperate to no longer be a ‘fat-ass’. I’d found Cassie’s Call me maybe squat challenge and started doing her video everyday- it then increased to twice a day. (I’m currently laughing to myself at the memory of my first time attempting the workout and how I couldn’t even get through the first minute. It’s crazy now, how I can bench 60kg with relative ease but a simple squat with my own body weight was a challenge.)
I was not thinking about how I wanted to be healthy in that time or how I wanted to get stronger. My mental health was in a bad state and that toxic fire was just growing and growing. Though I learnt to enjoy that one workout and adored Cassie with her positive words and fun attitude, exercise was still very much a chore and I just wanted to be ‘skinny’, not healthy.
When the real journey started
I stayed with those flames for another two and a half years and it wasn’t until I moved away to university and distanced myself from that toxicity that I could really start to heal. It was only seven months into my first year at uni that I realized I had an eating disorder. A binge eating disorder and one which I only accepted after I had gone to the doctors, just after I had completed my first year of university. I can still recall how utterly worthless I felt, how much I hated who I was as a person, how I looked, how I thought, everything. I really can’t describe that feeling to you and I can only hope that you have not experienced or are experiencing such a place. I only turned things around after being told by the doctor that if I were to continue down the road I was traveling, I would be classed as obese. It was basically a wake up call for me and I didn’t want to do loose weight to fit in to society but because I was damaging my own health and it was causing devastating repercussions with how I perceived the person I was.
I walked out the doctors with this fierce determination that I was in fact going to change. I was going to learn to love myself, get to a healthy weight and beat this eating disorder.
” I was verging on obesity, hated myself and had no idea how to get better. “
How did I actually start losing weight?
To be honest, the next year was a blur. I went back to start my second year of university, carrying with me a yoga mat, gym clothes and my goals in mind. I had previously done a few Blogilates workouts but literally had no equipment and very little knowledge on how to actually be healthy. (Thank you education system on failing to actually teach me important things!) Thankfully, we have the wonderful internet at our disposal and I started to look into ways to loose weight, effectively. I knew that Cassie Ho and her videos would help me get into better shape and discovered her incredible monthly calendars– free to download and easy to follow; they contain daily workout schedules expertly created so you don’t hit a plateau. There’s a beginners calendar that is designed to ease your body into the new healthy lifestyle and I can still vividly remember finishing my first day. It was one video, twenty minutes long, introducing all the moves and vital information on breathing and how to do the exercises correctly. I ached for days and really struggled to get through the video. It was a really big challenge and made me realize just how unhealthy and unfit I was. This only added to the determination.
As always, I only ever aim to be completely honest with you and whilst I don’t condone or entirely recommend for others to do what I did to get at a healthier weight, I can’t lie to you either. Experts state that your body is based on 10% exercise, 10% genetics and 80% diet. I can’t stress to you how true this statement is and it was only until I actually changed what and how I was eating that I actually started to lose weight. I read a lot about the pros and cons of calorie counting, whilst it has helped so many people loose weight it also resulted in many becoming obsessed leading to a very unhealthy mind set. Part of my goal was to not only loose weight, gain confidence and love my body but to also tackle the mental issues I was suffering from. Somehow, I knew that calorie counting was going to get me there and I strongly felt that I wasn’t going to become obsessive or even more mentally unhealthy by traveling down this road. So, I downloaded the app called ‘my fitness pal’, entered all my stats, found out how much I needed to stop eating to loose weight and started logging everything I ate. Not once did I view this as a diet or restrict my food consumption. I can not stress to you how important it is to go into this with the mindset of changing your lifestyle and not looking at it as a diet. This is a very unhealthy perception that does not assure success and only creates a bad relationship with food.
I did this for roughly ten months and it was honestly the best thing I could have done. I had no idea at all on portion control- it was something I’d never been taught. I’d grown up being told to eat everything off of my plate or I’d be scolded. This meant that in adult life I’d always just eat however much I made and served on my plate and it was highly common that I always made too much and overate. The app taught me how much is actually a healthy portion as well as how much unhealthy foods and emotional, binge eating I was actually doing. I was completely honest with myself and never ‘cheated’ or didn’t log in something that I didn’t want to admit I’d eaten as I had already acknowledge my eating habits and unhealthy lifestyle.
One thing I should mention about myself is that I jump into things head-on. I assume it’s to do with having an uncommon, natural mental-strength. Although with my eating disorder and other mental issues it probably doesn’t come across like that. Nonetheless, I’m not someone who eases herself into something and when I made my mind up that I was going to overcome my eating disorder and obtain a healthy lifestyle, I started almost instantly. Therefore, I was very quick to begin eating healthy and to rid myself of all the junk food I was obsessed with.
My binge eating disorder was almost non existent by the time Christmas break came (2 months in). I felt much better with myself but hadn’t really realised the actual change in myself both physically or mentally. Tabitha came up to where I was studying to take me home for Christmas and hugged me the instant she saw me. I remember her eyes bulging out of her head and exclaiming “OMG! Ell! You’ve lost so much weight.” It was a week later when I went back to the doctors and was I told that I had lost sixteen pounds in those two months.
I continued to track my eating habits during Christmas and learnt the art of moderate indulgence when it came to food. I didn’t need to stuff my face to feel better and if things started to take the wrong turn I could just put on one of Cassie’s videos and her beaming smile accompanied from the endorphins of the workout had me feeling instantly better. In short, I found comfort in a quick workout video over a packet of crisps. It sounds dramatic when I say it, but Cassie Ho really saved me from myself. Her uplifting, inspirational words and positive mindset helped heal me mentally and I really dread to think where I’d be now if it wasn’t for discovering Blogilates. I’m forever grateful for her channel and work.
3 Months in…
When I came back to university in the new year of 2016 my friends started to notice my weight loss. They were all incredibly shocked and this only increased as my clothes started to get bigger and bigger. I continued logging in everything I ate and doing Blogilates six days per week. Then, I discovered veganism after an incident during christmas break and somehow the universe was constantly reminding me about the lifestyle. In april 2016, after loosing another ten pounds in these three months, I jumped the gun and went from not having one single meal that didn’t have animal products in it, to never consuming a single animal product again. I had learnt about the living nightmare and horrid reality of factory farming, made the connection with what was on my plate and my conscience was cleared. I was astounded to discover just how terrible animal products was on my health and the truth about how ‘cow’s milk builds strong bones’ or ‘chicken and fish is part
of a healthy diet’. News flash: it isn’t.
Going vegan was a massive learning curve for me, as I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to cook tofu (you should have seen my reaction the first time I saw it) or the best ways to hit my macros. However, I did it and due to this being the healthiest diet (if done right), I dropped another twelve pounds simply from cutting out meat, dairy, eggs and honey.
By the time second year uni had finished I was feeling incredible. My body confidence was at an all time high I had learnt to fall in love with myself and according to my friends and family, I was ‘glowing’. Roll in third year uni and hitting one year since I had officially started my weight loss and body confidence journey, I had lost a total of 38 pounds. I was finally at a healthy weight and my body looked amazing.
After the weight loss
Whilst I still loved doing the blogilates videos, I came to the decision that I wanted to try lifting weights and gaining muscle. I was at a weight I was very happy with and now wanted to focus on toning up. I was fortunate enough to have a private gym on the ground floor of the private halls I was living in. After two years of only walking past it to do my laundry, I decided I was going to get over my gymtimidation and just go in there and start working out publicly with weights. It ended up taking me six months of prepping myself before I faced my gym anxiety and when I finally did I was so proud of myself. (The irony of this was that the gym was empty about 90 percent of the time and was hardly used.) Nonetheless, I followed some workout plans from bodybuilders online and mainly used the dumbbells and the four machines the gym had. The resources were quite minimal as it was a very small area and with no health and safety, the equipment provided had to be safe and without the requirement of a spotter.
I learnt to love weight training and combined this with a few blogilates videos here and there. In the next six months I gained about six pounds of muscles, slimmed down half an inch everywhere and felt even better than I already had. I learnt that the number on the scale was now completely useless because muscle weighs more than fat and used the mirror and how I felt as my measurement for my progress. In the summer after graduating from uni I lost my way a little bit and gained back some of the weight. I soon realised I was falling off the track as I no longer had a gym to train in and couldn’t afford to join one when moving back to my hometown due to unemployment. Therefore, I purchased some cheap dumbbells went back to doing more blogilates videos and here I am, another eight months later, still continuing with this exercise schedule. Working on my body everyday, loving every minute of it and incredibly proud of myself for how far I’ve come. More importantly, elated that I reached my goals and had the courage and determination to start my weight loss journey and finally love the girl boss that I am.
My greatest lesson that I can give you from this crazy long journey is this: If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you. There is no quick fix or easy way out, you have to put your all into it and believe that change is possible. I’m living proof it is! Weight loss and body confidence is mostly about mental growth over physical. Work on being healthier, stronger and learning to love the reflection in the mirror. Enjoy your workouts-whatever exercise that may be and be kind to yourself. I promise you, if you do this, everything else will fall into place. Finally, if I can do it, you can do it. Anybody can.