Some women sit in a doctor’s office chair, shut off to the world around them, with the echoing voice of reality and bad news pounding through their minds. Some women look down at a new photo of last week’s family vacation, cringe and ask themselves,
“How did I ever let it get this bad?”
Then, there are women like me: tired, yet full of joy and life, looking down at a soft, peachy-skinned newborn baby girl thinking,
“Baby, I’ve got so much to show you.”
Women come in all shapes and sizes, but we all have something in common: there are moments in life where we find ourselves forever changed. For me, it was the day my second baby girl, Madelyn, was born. I looked down at her and glanced over at my little Hannah, barely two years old, with her perfect ginger hair and her big, curious blue eyes, and thought,
“So THIS is my life.”
And I gushed.
I had spent years trying to figure out this puzzle I called my life, and never once did I feel like I had a purpose until that day. I am not sure why I did not feel that sudden worth when my husband and I brought our first daughter into the world, but I definitely felt it after Madelyn arrived. I saw the instant love in Hannah’s eyes for her new baby, felt the overwhelming amount of love in my own heart, and I knew something needed to change. This is my story.
At the spunky, impressionable age of 7, I walked into the living room one early morning to find my father’s belongings packed into suitcases. For the first time, I felt my heart break. I remember him walking out the door, and the rest was a blur. From that day on, I felt it was my duty in life to make sure that I made my parents proud – that if I could just keep them both happy, everything would be just fine.
I felt this way even when they decided to give it another shot, and it continued on through my teenage years. Every last breathe I took was devoted to making someone other than myself happy. My parents, sisters, relatives, friends, bosses, coworkers, boyfriends…they all had one hundred percent of my attention, and it was not until eighth grade that I realized that there was something wrong: my weight.
I was only bullied by one person in my life: myself. I was so aware of how horrible I thought I looked, that as I let my mind wander during Spanish class my junior year in high school, I felt this empty space in my heart and told myself I would never live to see my high school graduation. I felt like I was letting everyone down, because of my weight. I even tried to make myself feel better by bragging about how I finished my physical fitness test’s mile run in less than ten minutes. I had tried every diet, every ab stimulator belt, and every pill you could imagine. I just wanted to be thin – as if it would make it all go away.
By senior year in college, I tried Pilates and even attempted to run several times. My roommate eventually convinced me to go to the gym with her, and I quickly became a regular. You could catch me throwing on my gym clothes and making the jaunt over to the fitness center at 11 o’clock on a Friday night, in the snow, just so I knew I had not missed a workout for the day.
I lost about 15 pounds in those last three months, and when I graduated, it all changed. I met my husband, Herrick, two days after graduation when I thought I was temporarily moving to Virginia. It was not love at first sight; it took a lot of hard work, but nothing could separate us. We got engaged a year later, married the next, and 10 months after that, we welcomed Hannah into the world. I basically ended my relationship with the gym.
After Madelyn was born, and I saw that I had these two beautiful little girls, with their whole lives ahead of them, looking to me for direction. I knew I had to change one thing: my own self-image. If I didn’t, who was going to be their role model? Who would show them how to love themselves? So, I turned to the one thing that I had lied about in high school: running. I signed up for my first 5K in November 2009, in hopes that I would not let myself down, and downloaded the Couch To 5K app. I pushed. I struggled. I cried. I started over again – three times. I talked myself up, and I talked myself down. I will never forget how it felt to run for five minutes straight for the very first time. It was the first time I didn’t feel like a failure. By April 2010, I ran my first 5K.
There have been some bumps in the road since then, including a lay-off from a long-time job, but I’ve run five races, and I have plans to run my first half marathon this year. I even took the opportunity to go back to school: to become a wellness consultant and a certified personal trainer. I had one sister with a severe case of bulimia, and I had always had a deep passion for wanting to help adolescents take control of their lives. In December 2011, I was accepted as a FitFluential Ambassador, a privilege I do not take lightly, and I haven’t turned back since.
I am currently 100% committed to an active and healthy lifestyle. I follow the Body for Life program for a way to organize strength training and run days as well as incorporate cross training during school hours as I work toward my certifications. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating healthy meals, and I love sharing them with others. I have lost a total of 58 pounds, and despite the fact that I still have more to go, I have never felt better. I have accepted myself for who I am, and that has been my biggest feat yet. All too often we are focused on making others around us happy, risking our own sense of self. What my readers can gain from me is simply EMPOWERMENT: empowerment through fitness, healthy food, honesty, support, positivity, and openness. Knowing that I never wanted my girls to grow up feeling the heavy weight of self-doubt with which I had lived, I took charge and changed the way I saw myself. Today, I make it a goal to help other women, like my readers, as well as my own two little girls to see themselves as strong, incredibly gifted individuals. It’s never too late to make the change you’ve been dreaming of. That is what Live, Love, & Run stands for.