Growing up I was always the bigger girl in class, I developed faster than others and grew taller. I would say the first time I noticed I was “bigger” than the other girls would be in grade 4, this is when the bullying started. I was called—fat, pig, cow—you name it, I have heard it. Throughout my elementary year I was riddled with self-conscious thoughts, I wouldn’t dare to raise my hand in school or stand out in anyway. The only thing that made me happy or feel normal was food. Food was something that was there at all times without judgement or criticism; it was a comfort. Growing up food was used as a reward system, I did well in school—I could eat, I behaved –I could eat.
My high school years were really no different; just with a different group of people. Throughout grade 9 year I developed sarcasm as a defence mechanism, if people thought their words did not hurt me; they didn’t, right?
I met my first boyfriend in grade 10, I fell hard and fast, I felt attractive and wanted by someone. I remember refusing to go out to eat with my new boyfriend for at least a few months because how could I eat in front of someone, would he find me attractive knowing what I enjoyed eating. At this point in my life I weighed about 180 lbs. My relationship took a bit of a turn at that time, I was forced to distance myself from my friends and family. All I had left at this point was my relationship and food; I began to wonder why I was not worthy of a healthy relationship, why wasn’t I good enough to be treated appropriately.
I remember one specific moment when I was sitting beside him, he had pinched the skin on my stomach and made a comment how I was too fat. My initial thought was not that I should have left, it was how do I make it better—how do I make him love me more? Over the next couple of years, the comments escalated and the person I once knew had changed. When going out, he would often stare at women who were slimmer or who were more attractive, and he would make direct comments to me, I should look like that or he would love me more if I changed. In my Grade 12 year I joined a 12-week body transformation program with the goal to be skinny therefore attractive. I was determined to lose weight and be the girl that I thought everyone wanted. I weighed in around 240 lbs at the time. My classes were scheduled 3x/week and it came with a regimented diet to follow—at the time I thought the only way to lose weight was to be on a restrictive diet. I would ride my bike for an hour, take a kickboxing class for an hour, do my scheduled 1-hr workout and bike ride home—I would workout 4 hours a day 3x/week. I felt so empowered restricting my food, I strived on feeling hungry. I would stand in the mirror with no clothes and pick apart the things I hated about my body. My daily food intake would be—an apple with 6 almonds, ½ chicken breast with salad and ½ can of tuna with an apple—combine that with the intense workouts and you can imagine the weight I lost. I completed those 12 weeks and was able to drop 50 lbs—I had done it! I expected to be met with open arms, I was slimmer therefore I deserved love. That definitely was not the case, the relationship itself only continuing to deteriorate, I do not recall the first time, but physical violence had started as well. It was infrequent, so I thought it was something I could manage; If I was nicer it wouldn’t happen or so I thought.
Once I completed high school, I entered college and then university to complete my nursing program. I found a career where I found confidence and self-worth, as a nurse I was more than a number on the scale and a pant size. I felt good at work, I made healthy choices for my life and I had a purpose. Throughout this time, I was called fat, useless, told I was nothing without him and that I wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for him. I could not even believe that is what my life had become at that time; I was embarrassed to even share any details with my friends. I was such an angry person with no self-worth; I had a constant tape playing of negative thoughts in my mind. These thoughts were so real that they eventually became my identity. The only thing I had left was food, my old friend that was always there for me. I was judged about food, if I started a diet I would hear—why waste your time it isn’t going to work, if I ate unhealthy food I hear—do you really need that. No matter what I did, it wasn’t right; at that point I started hiding my food intake or binging when home alone.
I married my ex-husband at the age of 22, throughout my university years I had gained all the weight I had lost back and was about 240 lbs again. On my wedding day I was most concerned with fat hanging out of my dress and how to hide rolls from the camera. I got married because I thought it was the next step, I was scared of being alone and that if I left this relationship there would be no one else. When I think back to my wedding day it was filled with anxiety—at the time being the centre of attention was debilitating to me. At the age of 23, I found myself pregnant with my 1stchild, my biggest fear was gaining weight; this thought kept me awake at night. I will never forget when I was going for an ultrasound, I had upset my husband at the time and he left me at the hospital without a car or finances to return home. I sat through the ultrasound alone, walked home alone and I knew I was emotionally alone. Once I had my 1stchild I was not only fat and useless, at that point I was also told I was not a good enough mom.
I decided things would get better if we had another child, I found out I was pregnant fairly quickly. Sadly a few weeks later I started bleeding, I went to the doctor and they suspected a miscarriage. I remember finding out in my car that I did in fact have a miscarriage and cried for hours. I went home and shared the news and was met with an emotionless and cold “ok”, I once again was alone to deal with those emotions. I then became pregnant and gave birth to my second child, which did not change a thing in my relationship.
I tried to go to the gym, however was always left alone with 2 small kids. If the results from the gym did not show quickly, I was told that I was wasting my money. All the food I ate was supervised and judged harshly. I found out my ex-husband was having an affair, that was the breaking point—I was done; I had an obligation to create a better life for my children. From 2016-2018 I gained the most amount of weight, creeping over 300 lbs. I struggled to find my own identity, who was I as a single woman, would anyone want to be with me or was I destined to be alone. I struggled with my well-being and self-image during that time, I was so overwhelmed with negative thoughts and I did not know how to fix it. I tried all the fad diets, I tried not eating but that always resulted in binge eating when no one is around. I would get out of the shower and not even look in the mirror, I never felt attractive and my life succumbed to hating myself.
How do you climb out of a hole so deep you can’t even see the light any longer?
Throughout this dark time, the only thing I knew is I needed to change my perspective and I needed to create a positive environment for my children. I needed to stop the constant cycle of negative thoughts in my mind I sought out therapy and began to feel empowered that I was going to change my life. I sought out a passion of mine which was teaching, I began to teach nursing courses at the college level, I was able to positively impact others through my past experiences. On the outside, I seemed like a happier person however I still struggled with using food as a way to make myself feel better.
In December 2018 I decided it was time to rely on myself and deal with my health; everything needed a reset. The idea of walking into a gym was debilitating to me, I had no idea what I was doing and how to go about fixing it. I knew without guidance I would fall back into my old ways and my health could not take that any longer. I decided to hire a personal trainer (Xavier Ellis-Hamilton Fitness Academy), I remember walking into the gym feeling anxious and nervous; I was met with genuine care. I toured the gym and talked about what it has to offer, then the dreaded scale and measurements; I refused to look or acknowledge any of those numbers. I was so embarrassed that I had let myself get to that point. The one question that I will never forget was—if I were to look in the mirror what is one thing that I would change? —All I could think of is if it would be appropriate to say everything.
My journey since then has not been easy or without struggle, although that may be difficult for most people to understand. Unless you have been a bigger woman who has struggled with image and confidence as I have, you can never truly understand. My first weigh in was the most challenging for me, I was reluctant to acknowledge the number even though I knew what to expect because I already was weighing myself multiple times a day at home. I had lost 8 lbs that first weigh in, the only comment I had was that it was easier when I was younger, it was faster then. My trainer made a comment to me that I will never forget—“you have to fall in love with the journey, not just the end result”—that was a monumental moment for me. This wasn’t about a diet or a quick fix, this was about learning to love who I was as a person and value that. When you truly love yourself, you want to take care of your body.
I started boxing around the same time, this introduced me to a group of amazing women who were all at different stages of self-love themselves. The first few months of training was flawless, I was consistently losing weight and the results were visible. I was exchanging a few negative thoughts a day with positive thoughts, I was making a point to acknowledge the good in my life. I had created the perfect support system within my friends who would help me through my struggles. I started to notice that when things became difficult, I was telling myself I couldn’t do it, without even trying. I was admitting defeat without a fight, that was unlike me in every other part of my life. I noticed I started to push myself more in the gym at that time and it became a very positive place for me to be.
I decided to adopt a fully vegan lifestyle with the main goal to be health and nutrition. I started to take the time to learn about my food, how it fueled my body and made me perform better in the gym. I was a few months in before I even considered a cheat meal, I was so scared to eat anything “unhealthy” in case I slipped back into my old ways. There was a moment that was life-changing for me in regard to diet, I was told that a specific day was a weigh in day, my scheduled workout was in the evening. I weighed myself in the morning and took a picture of the scale, I thought to myself that in order to keep my weight low, I wasn’t going to eat. That whole day I ate an apple and drank about 4 L of water; when I came into the gym, I was 4 lbs heavier than in the morning. I kept it to myself and proceeded to work out, I felt sick, dizzy and sluggish the whole time. It was that night I decided the number on the scale didn’t mean everything, it didn’t define who I was as a person.
I am now down 102 lbs overall with 86 of that from this year alone; these numbers make me so proud of myself. I have gone from a size 22-24 pant size to a size 10; shopping used to cause me anxiety and embarrassment; that has all changed. I expected that when I lost all the weight., everything would be fine; I would be attractive and be able to love myself. I certainly didn’t expect to continue to be self-conscious and despise parts of my body. I was not prepared for the loose skin that comes with weight loss, I didn’t expect for the parts of my body that I didn’t like to change so I didn’t like them for a different reason. I was not ready to be scared to jump in the gym for fear that my stomach would jiggle, and people would see. I did not want this to become a barrier to my success, so instead of keeping it to myself, I talked about it. I was open with my friends about how I was feeling and what my fears were; being able to be open about this was powerful to me. It was no longer a dirty secret, although it is still not my favourite, it was proof of all that I had overcome.
This past summer was another turning point for me, I forced myself into situations that were outside my comfort zone. I proved to myself that I could push myself physically and succeed and that I could eat without feeling restricted in anyway and still provide my body with nutrition. My transformation, aside from my children, makes me most proud. The love and joy I have for myself and life are immense, as with life there will always be ups and down, but overall, I can say I am happy. My weight loss has allowed me to be there for my children, it has given me confidence I have never experienced and has made me want to help others that are experiencing struggle and challenges in life.
I am proud to say I attended 2 different fitness events as well as 2 5 km obstacles courses, one with my daughter this past summer. Although the thought of doing any of these activities were beyond frightening, I did it. I always think back to being told “you will be nothing without me” that comment would always hold me back, now I know I can be everything I need on my own.
I have recently taken the step to start my Holistic Nutritionist certification; I aspire to assist other women to see their worth, to be able to set up boundaries in their life and demand the respect they deserve. I want all women to be able to love themselves and experience how I feel; every woman should feel empowered and know how it feels to feel strong and empowered.
Being overweight has never held me back to be honest, it was my environment, my mental health and my inner thoughts that were limiting. Once I changed my mindset and acknowledged my mental state, I became a completely different person and the results are endless. If I could pass along one message to that women that is thinking about making a change but is scared, it would be to just try 1 new thing, make one small goal for yourself and I assure you that you will surprise yourself.