Between "Before & After"

I think it's fair to say that our society is pretty fixated on the idea of "improving" things. We love renovations, trash to treasure, corrective surgery, and Transformation Tuesday. Never heard of that last one? Do a Google search and check out the images.

We love that shit. 

Those side-by-side photos of dramatic weight loss do a horrible job at telling the story of the individuals journey. I know, because I am one of those stories. And I've been blessed to be an integral part of so many other people's stories. 

In actuality, my weight loss story would feature a TON of before/after images. Before I started dressing my size and I wore oversized shirts to hide the fact that my pants were unbuttoned and unzipped ( I refused to by jeans in a size 20 so I squeezed into 18s). And after I started dressing my size when I was a teenager shopping at Lane Bryant. Before I binged, after I purged. Before I I hit the gym, after 2 hours on the elliptical. Before depriving myself of energy and nourishment for a full day, after going to bed with an empty stomach and feeling proud and accomplished. And so on. Those are just a few of the small details that reveal the in-between. All the shit a person might endure before and after a substantial weight loss. 

Rarely is it ever as pretty a picture as the one we show. In fact, I deemed my images and writings so ugly that I destroyed them all a long time ago. I was disgusted with myself. Embarrassed, ashamed, and most of all, angry. So I destroyed the evidence; almost everything that linked me to my past. I have almost no photos of me from before about 2006. No journals. No old "big girl" jeans. No artifacts from my inner travels. I'm lucky when I uncover one of these rare relics in my mother's garage or a family storage unit. They make me smile now, whereas they made me sad before. There's another before and after for you.

Besides hiding the story, these images also create a sense of insatiable yearning for some viewers. I'm still, after 5 years in the health and fitness industry, shocked at how many times I receive a message, inquiry, email, or face-to-face exchange about someone wanting to look like someone else. I get it ALL the time. "I want her results!" or "I want to look like him!" It's as if for a brief moment, we forget we are individuals and have our own bodies. You will NEVER look exactly like anybody else. Nor will you EVER share the same story. I happen to think that is amazing and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Of course, that wasn't always the case. I too used to fantasize about other bodies. But most often, an extreme version of my own. I wanted to be thin. Very badly. My weight goal was far below what was healthy for my body but I didn't know that, and I wouldn't have cared anyways. All that mattered to me was the number on the scale and the number on the tag inside of my jeans. And any way I could measure a decrease in those numbers made me happy. Well, a funny thing happened when I would do anything to lose weight: I didn't lose any weight. 

So, why do I share my before and after photos then? Probably for some of the same reasons other people do. To inspire and motivate. To encourage and support. But most importantly, to educate. I share my photos to reveal just a small part of my story. A picture is worth a thousand words. Which means a before and after photo is worth two thousand...at least. My intention is to educate others so that you're not led astray like I was. Yes you can change your body, if that's what you would like to do, but it has nothing to do with buying diet books, fake food, or joining the gym. It has everything to do with being honest and vulnerable; sharing your innermost fears, embarrassments, failures, and feelings with others so that you can empower yourself to WANT to do and be better...however you define that betterment. Share your story with the world. Don't hide. Don't be embarrassed. And most importantly, don't compare yourself to anyone else. 


Why I Chose to Keep My Loose Skin

So there's this one time, and I can't believe I haven't shared this with you already, that I decided I was going to have a tummy tuck. It was just a couple of years ago, but it's something I've thought A LOT about over the past 5 years or so. Blogging about my most personal experiences, dilemmas, challenges, and achievements helps me sort through my own feelings and ride them out with raw honesty and an open-mind. I tell you this story for myself; and hope that is resonates with at least one other person.

I should probably back up and tell you why this all came back to me. I happen to have a very large and passionate interest in human sexuality (and everything about people and the human body that we don't get to learn enough about in school). So, I read a lot of research papers, articles, blogs, etc and I watch a lot of documentaries. About a week ago, I watched a documentary about the shame and secrecy behind intersex births called Intersexion, which I highly recommend. I was fascinated by the stories I heard and felt that I could relate to many of these individuals. Often they used words like "wrong" and "disgusting" when they talked about how others viewed their bodies. The narrator mentioned that when an intersex child is birthed, the standard procedure is to "fix it, shame it, and hide it." That is exactly how I used to (and sometimes, but very rarely, still do) feel about my own body. But, in order for that to be the proper procedure, it would mean something would have to be WRONG in the first place. And there is nothing wrong with my body. 

I've gone back and forth with wanting the surgery, then not wanting it, thinking it was an absolute must, to thinking it was the worse idea in the world. I've felt excited, scared, guilty, ashamed, happy, relieved, anxious, angry, wrong, and happy about the idea of not having loose skin on my body. Yeah, ALL of those feelings. But the one thing I never felt was RIGHT...it just never felt right. 

But, that one time, when it was feeling like a really good decision, I got as close as scheduling a consultation with a plastic surgeon. Mind you, I've done a lot of research about this procedure (get the gist yourself here.) And, I've researched doctors like crazy too. I've watched videos, read blogs and visited forums all about the joys of having a flat, tight, tummy. And, I wanted that joy. Even though the thought of voluntarily and surgically removing a section of my body made me ill. 

So, I submitted my info online for a consultation with a surgeon in Alameda. Within a few hours, I got a call from his office and the person on the other end wanted to confirm my appointment with me. She proceeded to tell me about the procedure from consultation to recovery and even though I already knew EVERYTHING she was talking about, when it was discussed within the context of ME, I suddenly freaked the fuck out. I kept thinking, "What the hell are you doing? This isn't what you want!" But then I argued with myself as she continued with the timeline of events..."Oh you're just being cheap, you do want this, you just don't want to pay for it! Imagine what you'll look like when it's done and you're all healed up, it's a small price to pay! Wait, what the hell?! You're seriously OPTING in to having someone put you under and cut into your body for no good reason? You're not ill, you're not trying to prevent illness, this is totally ridiculous!" 

So, I thanked her for her time, apologized, and asked her to cancel my appointment. I just could not imagine myself going through with it. I didn't want to pay $6,000, that is certainly true. But I also didn't want to be put under. I didn't want to not be able to stand fully upright for weeks. I didn't want to be in pain. I didn't want a fake belly button. I didn't want to put my life on hold. Not for the sake of vanity, at least. And it was then that I realized that having this procedure would go against everything I believed in about myself, my life, and my body. It would go against everything I teach others and work so hard to help them believe. But you know what, that's not even what mattered most to me. I give myself permission to change my mind, to change what I believe, to challenge myself in different ways, to do things I wouldn't normally do, to be different versions of myself. I do. I think that's what makes me the person I am, a self-loving mystical beast. I know no limits when it comes to personal growth and change. I'm all about it. What mattered most to me was that it just. never. felt. right

And so, after all of that was said and done, that's the only conclusion I could come to that made sense to me. And it helped me understand why so many others opt to have these procedures done. Because it felt right for them. Cosmetic surgery is such a personal thing. There truly is no right or wrong answer. It's a means to an end and some of us use it, while others do not. I chose not to. Will I change my mind later and decide to go for it? It's highly unlikely but I guess it's possible...

But for now I am super glad I decided not to do it. Since that day, I've literally changed and shaped my body in ways I never thought possible (see photo timeline below). And it feels amazing to know that all I used was my own power, heart, determination, and commitment. I feel like my body reflects who I am on the inside, and never in my life was I able to say that until now. I'm strong, nonconforming, present, and beautiful both inside and out...naked and clothed. And THAT, feels right!  

P.S. I used to think of my loose skin and stretch marks as sort of "battle wounds" of the body...little snippets of physical evidence of my journey. But, what's funny is that the more comfortable I get with my new body, and the more I accept it as perfect and beautiful exactly how it is, the less I differentiate each part. I am WHOLE, no longer broken. 

 

That One Time I Exceeded My Own Expectations

Actually, I'd be lying if I said that this has only happened to me once. I blow myself away on a regular basis. Dare I even say it happens everyday? Yup, sure does! It's because I have a ton of love and respect for myself. And I take a moment everyday to check in on my badassery and acknowledge myself on the inside and out.

That's usually when "it" happens.

Some days it's as simple as, "Wow, I can't believe I got up and made shit happen at 7am!" or "Damn, I just cooked an insane amount of food in just a few hours!" Other times it's more monumental..."Did I really just toss that cookie simply because I didn't like it and felt not even a smidge of pressure to eat it all?" or "Are you fucking kidding me, I'm at 15% body fat?"

That last one happened two weeks ago, and I'm still a little shocked about it. 

I've never had my body fat measured via hydrostatic testing before. This is also known as a "dunk tank." The last time I had my body fat measured with any accuracy at all was when I was a teenager and it was also the first time I had ever had my body fat measured. I had no idea why it was important or what the numbers meant. I just knew my results (45%) and what the technician told me (you're morbidly obese). Devastation, guilt, and shame set over me and I carried it with me every where I went. 

Am I killing myself? How much bigger am I going to get? What happens now? What am I supposed to do? How did I let this happen? Why did I let this happen?

The only answers I ever seemed to get led me to extremely low-calorie diets, a deep sense of self-hatred, and a neverending cycle of binging and purging. It was the darkest and loneliest time of my life. 

My weight has been a topic of discussion, an issue, a THING for nearly my entire life. I was almost 10lb when I was born...so I've been big since Day 1. From a big baby, to a chubby girl, to a pretty face, to nobody. People seem to get uncomfortable around fat people. Especially fat adults. Because if you're a fat kid, it's not your fault. But if you're a fat adult, you're lazy and pathetic. Even though I was fat, I used to compare myself to other fat bodies and wonder if I looked as grotesque or disgusting. I always came to the same conclusion...no. What I saw and thought never had anything to do with the person I was looking at or thinking about, it had everything to do with me. I felt ugly. My body seemed grotesque. I was disgusting. But deeming others worse off than me made me feel better. I was a bully.

Fast forward to 2006 when I left the country for 14 months and was officially reborn. It took me that entire time away to realize who I was, what I wanted for myself and my life, and why I had become the person I was. A person I was desperate to love and accept. I felt my potential exploding within me and I wanted so bad to let it out. When I finally did, my whole world changed. And it wasn't until that moment, when I just let go and embraced me in my entirety, that I became the person I had always wanted to be. 

When I returned home in late 2007, I was finally ready to reveal my true self to the world. Between now and then I graduated from college, paid off all my student loans and other debts, rekindled some precious relationships within my blood family, came out to my family as a gay woman, got certified as a personal trainer, then as a fitness nutrition specialist, then as a health coach, traveled to 3 different continents and explored more countries than I can list, met the love of my life, moved in with the love of my life, proposed to the love of my life (she said yes), adopted two furry kids, started a business, and have been financially self-sustaining and independent for two full years now. None of any of that would have been possible without my own self-love and acceptance. 

So where does the weightloss come in? Notice I didn't mention that in my grand list of achievements. Why not? Because my weightloss was a byproduct. As a result of me embracing myself in my entirety, I made my health my number one priority. And then, I defined what it meant to be healthy. It was easy for me to do that once I stopped listening to others. Health = happiness. Simple as that. What makes me happy is being outside, helping others, exploring, cooking, eating, traveling, dancing, animals, good people, and love. So, I just cranked up the volume on all of those things and left everything else in the dust. Consequently, I lost 140 lb. But because I stopped focusing on the numbers, how hard I was working, how often I was exercising, how long I was on the treadmill, etc., the weight came off of me like a snakeskin. Slow, bit-by-bit, and revealing a brighter version of the same person underneath. 

I stopped weighing myself, I stopped caring about carbs and sugar, I stopped worrying about calories, I stopped restricting foods from my diet. I ate what I want, when I wanted, and however much I wanted. Nothing was off limits. Nothing was a "bad" choice. I wanted to be free of my abusive relationship with food and that's how I did it. 

And that's why I, again, exceeded my own expectations two weeks ago. I had no idea just how hard I've been working, how strong I've gotten, how much muscle I've built, how much body fat I've lost. No idea because I'm happy as hell about everything in my life, therefore I know I'm healthy! So, fuck numbers and scales! That's not how I measure my success. But, it's an amazing feeling to know what I was/am capable of and to see the physical transformation I've made. Ready to see my results? :) 

 About to go in! We went with  Fitness Wave  for their mobile testing service and they were AMAZING! Highly recommend them. 

About to go in! We went with Fitness Wave for their mobile testing service and they were AMAZING! Highly recommend them. 

 Getting my resting metabolic rate analyzed. Apparently, I have a faster than average metabolism, SWEET! P.S. Breathing through your mouth for 10 minutes, into a tube, while your nose is plugged, is seriously difficult!

Getting my resting metabolic rate analyzed. Apparently, I have a faster than average metabolism, SWEET! P.S. Breathing through your mouth for 10 minutes, into a tube, while your nose is plugged, is seriously difficult!

 Getting weighed, something I stopped doing regularly a long time ago. 168 lbs. A meaningless number to me. 

Getting weighed, something I stopped doing regularly a long time ago. 168 lbs. A meaningless number to me. 

 I'm going in! The water was warm thank god! 

I'm going in! The water was warm thank god! 

 Getting prepared to submerge myself under water and have my water weight measured. 

Getting prepared to submerge myself under water and have my water weight measured. 

 Aeron (dude on my left)  told me that I sink like a stone in the water...which is an indication of someone who has lost a lot of weight and has a low bodyfat percentage. 

Aeron (dude on my left)  told me that I sink like a stone in the water...which is an indication of someone who has lost a lot of weight and has a low bodyfat percentage. 

And now, the numbers:

  • Previous weight: 300+ lb 
  • Current weight: 168lb
  • Previous body fat: 135lb or 45%
  • Current body fat: 26lb or 15.9%

Before the test, Aeron asked me what my body fat goal was. I promised the participants of my current 90-Day Program that I would join them on their journey every step of the way, so I knew I had to have a goal to work towards just as they do. So, I just threw out a random number that I felt was attainable in that time frame given a lot of hard work...

My answer: "20%" 

The comparison trap

It's really cool to think about the fact that no one else on Earth is exactly like you. That's over 7 billion unique souls and bodies. IN-CREDIBLE! And while most people seem to have no issues accepting and embracing this fact, so many of us fall into the comparison trap: "I wish I had _______ like hers," "If only my _______ was like his," etc...indefinitely. 

So what's the problem with this? 

Well for one, this kind of thinking is a total self-love destroyer. When you're focused on what someone else has, or how someone else does something, you quickly minimize your own beauty, talents, and uniqueness. You start to doubt yourself. Now, let's refine this for a moment. There's a difference between downplaying yourself for the likes of someone else, and using another persons success to fuel your own endeavors. We should ALL have people we look up to. Whether you aspire to be courageous like them, open-hearted like them, patient like them, giving like them, etc....is all fine and dandy. You can apply those attributes to your own personal growth and passion. But wanting their body?...not so fine and dandy. And wanting their life?...definitely not the business. 

Your physique is determined by so many unique factors. Even identical twins don't have identical bodies! The way you are shaped is ALL YOU. The way you move about the world is ALL YOU. Your energy and personality is ALL YOU. And there is no other you out there. 

The same can be said about your life in general. No two people will ever share the exact same experiences over a lifetime. Each of us are awarded different opportunities, in different environments, under different circumstances, for different reasons. That's what makes you who you are. Your life is ALL YOU.

So, focus your energy inward and let it expand out onto the world naturally. We are drawn to people who are REAL. We get to know our true self when we are REAL. We love ourselves the most when we are REAL. Don't try to imitate someone one. Embrace the body you were given. Take care of it like you give a damn. Live your life like you give a damn. And fuck what everybody else is doing! 

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How to: Love your Body

I don't claim to have all the answers to life's questions but I do have systems that work for me. Systems that help me manage everyday life in a positive way and keep smiling, laughing, and living. Perseverance. Mostly I accomplish this by living my life exactly the way I would like to. However I realize this is not reality for most people. Can it be? I believe so. But they have to believe it for themselves for it to be true. I get asked all the time..."How do you do that?" in reference to all kinds of things but often they are asking me about how I incorporate self-love into my life on a daily basis and how I carry myself with such confidence. Especially as a person who has lost a significant amount of weight and is still, by no means, considered "petite" in any sense of the word. Well, if anyone has ever told you that it's easy to be proud of your body, to love your body in it's entirety and embrace every inch of it...that person was lying big time. I could tell you that I love my body every day but that's not helpful to you or me because it's not true. Which brings me to my first body-lovin' rule:

 

Be honest with yourself.

There's a lot of pressure on us, coming from all directions, to throw the silk robe to the wind and reveal our perfectly imperfect bodies. It's a pretty popular marketing campaign right now and we see it all over the media. Those messages are great and all, but we still have a looooong way to go. Let me be the first to tell you that it's OK to be partial towards one part of your body, and not another. It's OK to think your feet are sexy. It's OK to think they're not. Whatever you think about yourself is OK because it's about you. What other people think about you is irrelevant. No matter how flawless or beautiful someone is said to be, there will always be people out there who think otherwise. Someone will think your sexy feet are atrocious. But it's up to you to decide if that's true or not. Because, what ever YOU believe, is what's true. Letting another opinion alter how you feel about yourself is dangerous. It's also kind of inevitable, especially if you are young. So, you have to be really honest with yourself. I mean that deep, raw, unrelenting honesty. What, if anything, do you not like about your body and why? The why is important. I think most people will find that their reasoning will resonate with socially constructed ideas of what bodies are "supposed" to be like. "I don't like my upper arms because they're flabby and shake when I wave." How many times have we seen those commercials or ads targeting and hunting down people who feel this way? We sell them workout programs, pills, and slimming clothing to hide that "embarrassing problem." Embarrassing? Problem? That's why so many people complain about their upper arms. Because we've learned that it's an embarrassing problem and should be treated or concealed in some way. You know what I think? Thank the universe that I HAVE an arm to wave. Some people do not. They are born without or they lose an arm (or both) one way or another. Think they give a damn about that shakey arm problem? Which leads me to my next point...

 

Put it into perspective.

I mean really. Can we all take a moment to express gratitude for our bodies? Our hard-working, miraculous, multi-talented, incredible bodies! What fascinating natural machines we are. Created by who knows what and who knows how, we are simply amazing. Every part of us, from our large bones to the cells within, have a specific purpose and function (except maybe the gallbladder). We are each a walking, talking, thinking, individual, conscious, BEING. Insanity! I for one, am grateful to be alive and have a body that functions well. I thank the universe everyday for this gift. 

 

Start with you.

Being loved and in love is incredible. No doubt about that. And yes I have an amazing partner who literally tells me everyday how much she loves everything about me, including my body. Umm...folks, yes I do realize how lucky I am. But, would her opinion or words mean anything to me if I didn't already believe that I am an amazing, beautiful, smart, strong woman? Hell no. This is something I see my friends, family, and clients deal with ALL the time. They say that they're partner doesn't make them feel sexy, that they're friends mentioned something about their thighs, that they're grandmother told them that they would be much more attractive if they lost weight. Trust me, I can relate to all of that in my own way. But, if you rely on other people to make you feel good about yourself, I assure you you will be thoroughly disappointed. Over and over again. This is a solo job. Make yourself feel sexy. Throw on your favorite outfit just for the hell of it and take yourself out on a date. Treat yourself to a spa day. Write a letter to yourself about how wonderful you are, and ALWAYS...

 

Actively Practice Self-Love.

What are you doing right now in your life to show yourself love and appreciation? It's OK, I'll wait while you think about it...

...got something? Hopefully you have a list. Would you like to hear mine? Of course you would! Here's the shortened version:

  • Reading. How is this self-love you ask? Well, simply by allowing myself free time to sit with my morning tea and start my day slowly, my way, I am practicing a very powerful form of self-love. Time is a precious gift and I give it to myself daily.
  • Exercise. Hiking, walking, stretching, lifting, running...these are a few of my favorite things (did you sing that?) Taking care of your physical body is the ultimate form or self-care. How much stronger of a statement can you make then I love me so much, I'm going to strengthen my muscles, maintain my joints, care for my heart and lungs, and sweat because it makes me feel good and it's good for me and my future. Good health is one hell of a gift to give yourself. 
  • Food. I make quality food and home cooked meals an absolute priority and requirement of my budget and time. This is of the utmost importance to me because it allows me to make a statement about my lack of support for factory farms, and unsustainable and inhumane food production. And I feel so much better when I eat my own food. Better about myself as a person and better physically and mentally. 
  • Sex. Ok folks, we're adults, so we can talk about this. What greater celebration of your body than sex? When was the last time you explored your own body? Again...I'll wait while you think about it.

Do it. Alone. 

  • Nudity. I freaking LOVE being naked! I'm naked at some point during the day, EVERY day. And I'm not just talking about getting in and out of the shower. I walk around my house naked, I examine my body in front of the mirror naked, I flex my muscles and trace their form...I check myself out! I also frequent clothing optional spas and hot springs. May I recommend Esalen in Big Sur and Orr Hot Springs in Ukiah? You should visit, especially if you've never been to a clothing optional resort. There is NOTHING like being naked in nature. To be free and raw. Does this make you uncomfortable? Good, that's even more reason to do it because on your journey towards ultimate body loving you MUST... 

 

Get Uncomfortable.

Remember that 30-Day Get Uncomfortable Challenge I did via YouTube? That was a life changing challenge for me. By forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, you gotta dig deep and uncover the real good stuff about yourself. I learned a lot about myself in those 30 days. I learned that I had performance anxiety. I learned that I put too much pressure on myself. I learned that I still hide behind my fears. You should really watch the videos or at least watch Day 1 compared to Day 30 and you'll see exactly what I mean...and hear about all the other cool stuff I learned about myself. But most importantly, I learned how to DEAL with those things, because I had to. When you're uncomfortable, and allow yourself to be present in that moment, you grow as a person. You change. You develop new skills. You become stronger. You do better. And doing better is a huge part of maturing and becoming a self-loving machine. When you do better, you feel better. And when you feel better, you do better. Did you catch that? The same can be said about your body. Put yourself in an uncomfortable position and live through the experience. You'll emerge on the other side as an enlightened, empowered being. I promise. Don't like your tummy? Wear a crop top or a fitted button down and work that shit.  Think your thighs are too big or too small? Rock some short shorts. Think you have to purchase clothes one or two sizes up or down because you're ashamed of the real number. Fuck that! OWN YOUR BODY. 

 

Say it loud and proud.

Your thoughts, beliefs, and words are your REALITY. Never forget that. If you believe you're hideous, you will act, think, and BE hideous. Do you get that? Are you really hearing me?? Speak of yourself using only positive adjectives. Praise yourself. But wait! What if I don't have any positive things to say about myself? I don't care, do it anyways. Have you ever heard the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it"? Apply it here. Tell yourself you are amazing, beautiful, sexy, strong, capable, and perfect. Do this everyday, before your coffee, and see how it changes your entire day. Magic? No. You create your own self-image, so paint yourself a pretty picture. Every day that you are blessed to wake and rise, you get to decide who you are. Why not be the most fabulous, thriving, awe-inspiring, immaculate version of yourself? The only person stopping you..is you! 

 Several years ago, I threw away any and all printed photos of myself from prior to 2008 or so. I hated my body before then. But as I started my self-loving journey I realized that I had to love and accept myself from the day I was born in order to truly love all that is me.  So, I dug up some photos from friends and family and began collecting them and sharing them.  My past is an important part of my present. 

Several years ago, I threw away any and all printed photos of myself from prior to 2008 or so. I hated my body before then. But as I started my self-loving journey I realized that I had to love and accept myself from the day I was born in order to truly love all that is me. So, I dug up some photos from friends and family and began collecting them and sharing them. My past is an important part of my present. 

 Allowing myself to celebrate my achievements and recognize the work I have done has also been an important part of my journey. And being honest about how I feel about the loose skin I have from a 140lb weightloss has been a slow, but rewarding experience. 

Allowing myself to celebrate my achievements and recognize the work I have done has also been an important part of my journey. And being honest about how I feel about the loose skin I have from a 140lb weightloss has been a slow, but rewarding experience. 

 And finally, celebrating myself as I am now, while recognizing where I've come from and how far I have traveled, has allowed me to really appreciate ME. I love my body. I love my muscles. I love my strength. And I love that I am capable of transforming my weaknesses into my strengths. 

And finally, celebrating myself as I am now, while recognizing where I've come from and how far I have traveled, has allowed me to really appreciate ME. I love my body. I love my muscles. I love my strength. And I love that I am capable of transforming my weaknesses into my strengths. 

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