From Darkness to Light: My Fitness Journey

When people look at me, they automatically categorize me under slim framed. You know those “girl, you can eat anything and still look great,” comments.  But there’s always a story behind a portrait.  Growing up I was a husky child. Many might call it baby fat, but if I didn’t change my lifestyle, that baby fat would have turned into adult fat.

Childhood Me

My eating habits were very unhealthy as a child. I remember coming home from school everyday and buying chips, cakes, cookies, candy. It was a junk food paradise. I’d sit in front of the television and tune into my favorite shows, and at the moment it was the best feeling ever. You don’t really see food as healthy or unhealthy as a child. You eat whatever rocks your tastebuds.

As I continued down this path, I packed on a couple of kilos and hadn’t realized it until people started pointing it out. Kids at school teased me because of my appearance and family at home restricted my food intake. I’d look in the mirror and try to see what it was that they saw, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with me. And that’s because there was nothing wrong with me. When I looked at my reflection I gazed at my authentic self, a beautiful young girl full of life and vitality.

But that beauty that I once saw didn’t last. My self esteem took a toll by the time I was 13. I hated looking in the mirror. I remember skipping meals as a freshman in high school. I didn’t need to stop eating to lose weight, I needed to make healthier choices. But I didn’t want to be healthy, I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to be worthy of acceptance, and to me that meant doing whatever it takes to look appealing.

I was driven to believe that my appearance wasn’t acceptable. I avoided going outside so people wouldn’t be grossed out by how fat and sloppy I was. And through this inner pain I slowly lost weight. Or as others like to call it, baby fat.

College Me

College me was quite the opposite of childhood me in terms of appearance. From the ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. Although I grew out of the self starvation stage, I was now addicted to the gym. I loved how much leaner I was getting after I started cardio. And I’m talking about two hours of cardio a day here.

Some envied my beauty and slimness and others admired it. But after so many years of self hate and being told otherwise, it was hard to accept that I was anything but beautiful. No matter how many compliments I received, or how many people  included me in their plans, I didn’t believe I was worthy enough to accept anything from anyone so I pushed everyone away.

Cardio became my escape. I loved feeling the rush when I was in the zone. But I became “too skinny to be a caribbean girl.” According to society, as a Dominican women I am suppose to be thick and voluptuous. I was called the white girl, because I had lost all my curves and went to a private school.  Through all of this, I had lost my identity. I was so caught up in pleasing everyone that I forgot about pleasing myself. I was never enough, and I was never going to be enough.

NOW

My senior year in college I met a couple of friends who introduced me to weight lifting. They taught me a lot about form and the science behind exercise. I’ve grown a lot ever since I started weight training, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I began working on my overall health. You can be skinny and fit as you can see in my case, but if you’re not mentally and spiritually healthy you won’t be happy.

Today, I am happy to say that I make my health a priority. I am growing mentally, physically and spiritually each day. I am learning to love my body because I am worthy of love no matter how I look. When people looked at me, they saw a beautiful girl, but they didn’t see what was going on in the inside. They didn’t see the internal healing that I so urgently needed.

Many people get lost in their journey, but you have to remember what was your purpose for starting. There are always going to be struggles, but the beauty behind it is that you learn and grow through the hard times. One piece of advice for anyone starting their fitness journey, is to allow the love you have for yourself be your motivation to live a healthy life.

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