My confidence is at an all-time high and I genuinely feel like I am living in a dream, being paid to do what I absolutely love.
I was a blonde hair, blue grey eyed, soft spoken, yet articulate child. At age four, I was asked to model for a local pageant advertisement. I was given the title of Little Miss Richmond Charm. I never had to compete, only had to model for publicity. As four-year old’s often do, I developed an ego. I made a big mistake one night, and said to my grandmother and her friends, "I'm not going to get fat like my sister! I'm going to be a model." Those are words I had to eat for nearly 4 decades. By age 7, I was not just overweight, I was obese. In middle school, I ballooned to over 200 pounds. I was wearing size 20 clothing. I played no sports.
Every opportunity my grandmother got, she retold the story of when I was four years old. She would tell anyone who would listen. I was constantly reminded of how I had failed. I was ridiculed if I ate sweets, but equally ridiculed if I turned down the food she offered. I had a great-aunt on the other side of my family. From when I was age 7 until she died, she never called me my name. She only referred to me as "Fatty." This was my reality. This is what I used to measure myself worth. My parents never tried to make me feel bad. Instead, they did all they could to attempt to bring up my self-worth.
They were both overweight, however, so there wasn't much focus on helping me develop a healthy lifestyle of proper nutrition and exercise. My father was extremely active playing and coaching sports. My mother stayed very busy with her singing, teaching and church. My sister became a teen and lost all of her weight. People kept telling me that once I became a teenager, the weight would come off as I hit my growth spurt. Unfortunately for me, my growth spurt was both in height and weight. I never leveled off.
As a teenager, I dealt with a lot of hurtful comments from peers. I learned to medicate with food. I would hide food in my drawers in my room. I'd eat cake mix straight from the box... yes POWDERED CAKE MIX! I'd buy Little Debbie Nutty Bars and consume all 12 bars in one day. No one saw this side of me. They saw me getting fatter, but I ate very little in front of people, lest they judge me for how I ate.
It turned out that I really enjoyed exercise. I had NO idea, because no one had ever really encouraged me to try a sport. I just started doing the Denise Austin exercise classes on tv, but no amount of exercise could combat the awful eating habits I had developed. I dreamed of becoming a cheerleader and in my senior year of high school, I lettered in cheerleading, but I did it through becoming the school mascot and hiding in the costume. I also tried Weight Watchers for the first time in high school. I was ashamed that I needed to be on a program and I often missed meetings.
I went away to college and in my 3rd month of school I ended up in the ER with a diseased gall bladder. I was barely 18 years old. I spent one more year away at school, and in that year, I developed even worse eating habits. When I came home to attend college in my hometown, I started to get a grasp on getting healthy. I hired a personal trainer and I worked out at the gym as often as I could get there. I was eating healthy and I dropped from about 235 lbs down to 216. I was back in "normal" clothes, not plus size and I felt really good about myself. Then I met the man who would end up as my husband. That changed everything. I no longer wanted to go to the gym, I just wanted to be with him. And we were always going out to eat. Before our wedding, I had ballooned to 275 lbs. I decided to try Weight Watchers again. I lost only 15 lbs before our wedding. My husband, on the other hand, looked amazing on our wedding day having lost a lot of weight through exercise.
We struggled with having our first child. My doctor told me I had to lose 100 lbs before he wanted me to try to get pregnant. I didn't. I lost our first baby. Our second attempt, I used fertility medication and delivered a beautiful baby girl... but I was over 320 lbs. and my 66+ hour labor ended in a c-section. I went on to have several more miscarriages and 3 healthy babies and I was on and off of Weight Watchers.
My last child was born with two congenital heart defects that went undetected, even through a high-level ultrasound. I was over 320 AGAIN! Thankfully, even though she had CHD and a spinal defect, she's perfectly perfect in every way now. Her CHD diagnosis kicked me in high gear for wanting to get healthy. I started a chapter of a foundation for CHD research and I began attending a boot-camp for moms. We were encouraged to eat healthy and attend our workouts. I lost 75 lbs in the first year. Sadly, the gym closed and I lost that support. I went to a local gym, but just could not get into a rhythm. And then my baby was faced with having spinal surgery. I completely lost focus on my health.
By 2016, I had spiraled out of control, gaining every bit of the weight back that I had lost. I decided to join the local YMCA. I went to orientation and found out I was 301 lbs. I was devastated and embarrassed. I decided I wouldn't go back until I lost some weight. Here is where I tried Medifast/Optivia. I quickly learned that was unsustainable for me and our family. I did lose 15 lbs. It took no time to put back 5 of those pounds.
We went to Disney shortly thereafter and I could hardly fit in any of the ride seats. I was mortified. I just wanted to have fun with my family, but I was MISERABLE!!! I began to get very depressed and it spiraled out of control that winter. I had to go to my husband's work Christmas party and NOTHING fit me. The longer winter went on, the less I could function. I scarcely got out of bed. I homeschooled my kids and would just teach from my bed most days.
My tipping point came when I finally decided my family deserved better than me. I felt I had failed them on every level. I devised a plan to disappear from their lives, so that they could find the mom and wife they deserved. I knew what I had to do. The morning I intended to put my plan into place, God laughed and set HIS plan into motion with a simple group of sentences from my husband, "I know something is wrong. I don't know what it is, but I know we will get through it together." I shot daggers at him with my eyes and told him "You can't fix me! GO TO WORK!" and He left! Shortly thereafter, he sent me this text, "I'm not trying to fix you. I just want you to know I am here for you." And right then and there, I knew I had to find a better way.
A friend had posted her Weight Watchers (WW) journey photos on instagram and I asked her about it. After talking with her, I went straight to their website and signed up, making myself a promise to go to meetings NO MATTER if my weight was up or down, just be accountable. I figured, this is my last attempt. I went to a meeting that night, January 24, 2017, weighing 291 lbs.
A week later I returned to the Y, doing all of the water fitness classes I could possibly do in a week. I have a passion for the water. And with-in 3 months, they asked me to consider becoming certified to teach the classes. I started changing things up at the gym combining my water classes with cardio on the wellness floor. Then in July of 2017, I decided to add weight lifting to my routine.
I started teaching water fitness classes in September and by January, I'd lost 110 lbs! I had DONE IT! I still had 30 lbs left to go, but I felt amazing. I decided to have skin removal surgery. In March of 2018, I had lost 120 lbs and went through with a mommy makeover: tummy tuck, thigh lift, breast lift with fat transfer augmentation. Recovery was arduous as I had a complication arise in one of my legs. Even so, it was one of the best things I had ever done for myself.
As I slowly made my return to the gym after surgery, my wellness coach asked if I'd ever considered bodybuilding. I had not. He said that he thought I might enjoy it and that my body was the right type for it. I laughed him off. I continued losing weight and really fell in love with weight lifting. The more I lifted, the more I thought about what he'd said. In September of 2018, I made the decision to compete in figure. The training has been so much fun. I am about to begin prep for my first OCB Natural Body Building show. In December of 2018, I became a lifetime member of WW, having lost over 140 lbs.
My story is a long one, because it's been an almost life long journey. I have never felt so good in my life. I have a new career in the field of health and wellness. I am currently studying to get my Personal Training Certification. If I can help one person find their self-worth and change their life, every bit of this has been worth it. God has been the constant in my story. God has seen me through every challenge. My faith means everything to me. God put the people in my life to get me where I am, and He gives me the strength to put one foot in front of the other each day. This isn't easy, it's worth it!
My life today is so different from where I was just two years ago. I am a certified water fitness coach a wellness floor coach for the YMCA, studying for my Personal Training Certificate and prepping for my first bodybuilding competition. My confidence is at an all-time high and I genuinely feel like I am living in a dream, being paid to do what I absolutely love. I can’t wait to see what is next on my journey!