My purpose in creating this website is to share everything I have learned in my journey from depression and poor health to being a positive, fit, happy mom. When you come to my website or social media and see my photos, I want you to see me exactly as I am. What you see is what you get. I am not perfect, I have my ups and downs, good days and bad, but I definitely have a happy life. I’ve worked hard over the course of many years to evolve into the person I am today. It was not an easy journey. But looking back, I would not change anything about it. Every moment that I spent crying over my weight, loneliness, or anxiety was a moment that strengthened my character and resolve.

It took me years to finally break past my issues and become who I am today. The most important part of that evolution for me was my mental health, emotional well being and fitness, which is the area in which I hope to inspire you. I am sharing my journey with you in hopes that you will find that spark in yourself to seize the opportunity to make a permanent change for the better.

I am sharing my journey with you in hopes that you will find that spark in yourself to seize the opportunity to make a permanent change for the better.

In The Beginning

I was one of those people who ate everything I wanted, was totally sedentary, and never gained a single pound…HA! If only! I have always felt uncomfortable in my own body, never accepting what I saw in the mirror or how I felt on the inside. Growing up, I never participated in any sports or exercise. In my late teen years, I tried to be fit and happy like I saw on magazine covers; however, with no consistency, drive, or success, I failed.  The notorious “freshman 15” in college certainly didn’t help, and started a roller coaster of fad diets, unrealistic and unfulfilled exercise goals, and ultimately a lot of time and money spent on products that didn’t work for me.

Just after college, my husband and I married and started our careers. Shortly after, we made the huge decision to drop everything and relocate to adopt my then four-year-old niece.  We were terrified to become immediate parents to a strong-willed preschooler. It was a huge adjustment, but we loved her deeply and the three of us quickly became a family‒mom, dad, and daughter.

After a year, we decided it was time to add to our family. I got pregnant right away…like literally the first month we tried. I remember thinking how easy that was as I jumped right into making plans and announcing the news. Unfortunately, the joy was short lived. I miscarried the very week that we announced the pregnancy. It was the most emotionally traumatizing moment of my adult life. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t considered it could happen to me, felt broken and inadequate, and mourned the child whose entire life I saw spread before me in my daydreams. This is where my transformation begins.

 

Rainbow Baby, Stormy Skies

After miscarrying, I used food and alcohol as a coping mechanism and put on twenty pounds in a few short months. Through it all, I still managed to get pregnant again. In the summer of 2011, we were blessed with a beautiful healthy boy. My pregnancy diet wasn’t the healthiest, but I took my vitamins, didn’t go overboard “eating for two,” and even did some prenatal yoga videos. While I stayed within the healthy weight-gain limits, my heavier starting weight put me at 185 pounds when I went in to deliver my son (I’m only 5’3”).

At the time, I still didn’t think anything of it, because all pregnant women put on a ton of weight…right? Imagine my shock when I got home from the hospital and stepped on the scale: after barely eating for three days and having a six-pound baby, I had lost a grand total of…four pounds. I still don’t know how that was physically possible, but I decided to ignore the issue and focus on caring for and nursing my son. I had coasted through my pregnancy with no clue how unhealthy a position I had gotten myself into.

Within the first few weeks after my son was born, my husband got a great job opportunity so we relocated to be closer to his work. We rented a real house for the first time, had our daughter enrolled in a top-ranked school, and my husband was thriving at his new job. All the elements to build a successful home were falling into place until…I got hives. Not as dramatic a crisis as you expected? Well, wait for it. What started as a small patch of hives on my wrist turned into a head-to-toe scourge. With impossibly itchy and painful hives covering my body from neck to feet, I could hardly get dressed, couldn’t move much or sweat, and worst of all, I had to stop nursing my son. So, without the aid of physical activity or the ability to leave my house much at all, I was stuck in a state of isolation‒overweight, in agony, and totally friend-less in a new city.

I was stuck in a state of isolation‒overweight, in agony, and totally friend-less in a new city.

I found it hard to do anything. I would drive my daughter to school in my pajamas, then come home to sit on the couch watching TV all day while my infant son played with toys or cuddled near me. Having to use potent steroid creams meant I could barely even hold my baby, which was devastating. After four months of changing my soaps, lotions, detergents, and household chemicals, I finally got my condition under control. I found through online research that it is rare but not unheard of to have these sensitivities arise after childbirth.

I was finally able to focus on getting out again and functioning like normal. However, I had already fallen far into a state of hopelessness and despair. I tried to connect with other moms, old friends and neighbors. I felt like no one wanted to make time for me, no one wanted to support me, and even my husband and kids were brought down by my negativity & self-loathing. I was at the lowest low of my life.

My Epiphany and Revival

One day as I was watching my regular morning shows, I snapped. My son was trying to get me to play with him and all I wanted to do was let myself zone out with the TV and escape. I looked down at my son who loved and needed me despite all my flaws and realized how self-centered I had become. I turned off the television, switched on some upbeat music, and got down on the floor to play with my son. I decided right in that moment that I wasn’t going to be sad anymore. I would be happy. I decided to ride a wave of optimism and allow it to guide my life moving forward.

Once I changed my mindset, I made some simple but transformative observations.  First off, I already had an amazing family and support system that I could tap into. I also realized that I was not alone in my issues. The Internet was swarmed with others like me working together to move past them. My friends that I thought had abandoned me were still there, but I recognized that they had their own lives and troubles. I realized how unfair it was to expect them to help me when I wasn’t even helping myself.

In short, I realized that no one was going to sweep in to save me, and there was no magic pill to fix all my problems. I made a conscious choice to stop feeling sorry for myself and seek out solutions to my problems. I decided that I was going to be happy, I was going to be a better person, and I was going to be a much better mom to my children.

 

Seeking Superficial Fitness

To begin this transformation, I had to start caring for myself so that I could care for my family. This meant making healthier choices in all aspects of my life. Naturally, the first step to getting healthy is telling your husband that you are serious this time. No, this isn’t like the times I did personal training and then quit. No, this isn’t like the time I said I would only drink on special occasions. No, this isn’t like the time I starting researching diet pills. This time, husband, I am dedicated to making a lifestyle change, and I know exactly what I need: a treadmill!

After my husband reluctantly agreed to this purchase, I spent a few months walking for about an hour a day. I saw no real progress and began messaging with my cousin-in-law who is a runner. Certainly, I thought, she would have some expert tips on how to become a totally fit runner overnight. While she was very encouraging of my choice to start running, she didn’t have any magic tricks to share. But she encouraged me to consider couch to 5k programs and sign up for a race as motivation. I tried as best as I could, but there is a reason runners dub it the dreadmill.

I set a goal to finish my first 5k in under 45 minutes and fit in my “skinny” clothes by summer. Though I didn’t even come close to following the training schedule, I was losing some weight. I decided to go ahead with the race but with low expectations. As the race went on, people kept flying past me. I felt discouraged and weak. As I approached the finish line, I saw my family cheering me on. I could see the excitement and pride on their faces. My husband looked at the clock and said, “44 minutes! You made your goal! You did it babe!” And I cried. I cried and laughed, laughed and cried. But most importantly, I realized that my body was more capable than I imagined.

I realized that my body was more capable than I imagined.

I read that cross-training was great for a runner. I started doing exercises videos, attempted 30-day challenges, and kept trying to improve my running. I signed up for another 5k and finished in 33 minutes… and I cried. I decided to push myself and signed up for a 10k. I can’t remember what my time was, but it was the longest distance I had ever run in my life. Can you guess what I did at the finish line? Yup. I cried.  Although I was noticing improvements in my physical fitness and losing weight, I still wasn’t feeling confident, and I hated the body I saw in the mirror. I thought that upping the challenge would help me get the body I needed to be happy. I began seeing posts for the Tough Mudder obstacle race. It seemed like the perfect event to motivate me to train harder. I found some friends to join me and starting preparing for the event. Then I hit a giant life-altering setback.

Broken Brain, Renewed Commitment

While playing with my son, I received a concussion and was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome. I had horrible tunnel vision, was super forgetful, had mind-numbing migraines, was sensitive to noise & light, had uncontrollable emotional breakdowns, and got confused at the simplest of tasks. In short, it ruined my plans. My treatment plan was to avoid jarring my head (no running), avoid alcohol, avoid eye strain (no reading), sleep at least 12-hours a day, and stay on a plethora of medications (no driving). Long naps, sleeping in, and being glued to the couch might sound like a vacation, but it was anything but. In a nutshell, I had to give up my entire lifestyle.

I was terrified. How can I avoid getting fat again if I was not allowed to run? I followed the neurologist’s orders but was obsessed with doing any exercise that I was allowed: planks, wall sits, weight lifting. Since I couldn’t do any cardio without jarring my head, I would strength train for 2-3 hours every day. I have no idea how I managed to do anything on the little food I was eating. Luckily the lack of nourishment and overexertion ensured I got in the sleep that my brain needed. Ironically, I spent months trying to heal my broken brain but my obsession with body image was destroying my mental health.

Not being able to socialize, read or leave my house also meant that I was getting more and more depressed. I couldn’t even text or use social media because it strained my eyes and gave me headaches. I was at the precipice of falling back into my bad place, but I refused to give up. Despite my negativity in regards to my social life, fitness and routine, I was dead set to find the silver lining. I stuck to my goals to lose weight, called friends when I could, and had a lot of time to bond with my children and husband. I was optimistic that this was just a setback in my plans and not a reason to give up on all my hard work. I was committed to holding onto the spark that had ignited my resolve to be happy.

I was committed to holding onto the spark that had ignited my resolve to be happy.

I was cleared for all activities just before the Tough Mudder. I still had some lingering effects from my post-concussive syndrome which manifested during the race. Mainly just mental fatigue from the sunlight. My cardio endurance was very low, so we didn’t make good time. However, my friends and I had an amazing time at the race. We joked and laughed, encouraged each other along the way, overcame fears, and enjoyed the whole experience. We made a whole weekend of the event to celebrate our accomplishment. But how was it possible to be happy after an event when I didn’t even perform at my peak? Could I have discovered the real reason so many make a life of being active?

 

Faking Fitness

While I was on the quest to become a runner and lose the pregnancy weight, I began making changes to my diet. I started hunting down “skinny” recipes, cut back on processed foods and caloric drinks, and started using a calorie tracking app. I didn’t put much effort into planning meals or balanced nutrition. I just logged everything I ate and stopped eating when I hit my calorie goal for the day. Over time, I found that the calorie tracking was time consuming and made me feel discouraged. Every time I would miss my goal, I would get frustrated, often having a week’s worth of “cheat days” until I came to my senses. This was the trend throughout my early ventures into fitness. I was malnourished, had horrible body-image issues, and was obsessed with calories.

After a year’s worth of training for races and being more active, I was beginning to regain my social life. This was mostly by reconnecting with friends already living active lives. While socially I felt less isolated and my family’s dynamic was improving, I still didn’t feel whole. I didn’t feel like I knew who I was. My delving into the fitness community was motivated not by a desire to live an active lifestyle, but merely to achieve my superficial goals.

My delving into the fitness community was motivated not by a desire to live an active lifestyle, but merely to achieve my superficial goals.

Sure, I had discovered the love for running events that I cherish today and had made many new connections, but I was merely doing what I thought I had to do to be accepted. I was a fraud.

After my first year of my new active ventures, I found myself at a weight I hadn’t been in years.  My “skinny” pants were loose, but I still wasn’t feeling happy.  I had become consumed with counting calories, nixing my favorite comfort foods, extreme exercise, and mentally criticizing what I saw in the mirror. It was time for a change.

Completing the Tough Mudder showed me how fitness can be fun. Being active wasn’t about reaching a number on the scale or the ideal body type. It was about experiencing life, sharing adventures with friends, challenging yourself, and growing as a person. I no longer wanted to pretend to be a fitness enthusiast; I was a fitness enthusiast! I wanted to step out of my comfort zone to seek new experiences. My depression and anxiety were melting away, I was focused on taking care of myself, and I was ready for my next adventure.

 

Making the Mental Shift

A friend invited me to try a Spartan Race, which would require much more endurance and strength than the Tough Mudder. Heavy lifting, burpee penalties, and more varied obstacles sounded terrifying and challenging… and I was in! We had just relocated yet again, and I was as eager to avoid falling back into loneliness and despair. I decided to change my routine, find more active friends, and make fitness my life. I didn’t want to look like an athlete, I wanted to be one.

I kept hearing that I need to get off the treadmill and outdoors if I want to enjoy running. I was hesitant because it didn’t seem possible to enjoy running. Plus, I was nervous to be accepted by “runners” when I couldn’t even maintain a jog. Nonetheless, I found a running group for moms online, bought a jogging stroller on Craigslist, and nervously joined them for a meetup. The image I had of runners being snobby, super athletes was terribly inaccurate. The moms there were very welcoming, proud of me to be taking this next step with my running, and excited to have someone new to run with.

At first, I could keep up, but in less than a mile I was lagging. I had to turn back, and I still remember how my then two-year-old old son said, “Nooo! Hurry up Mommy…my friends are getting away!” I could see that my son was just as excited to make this connection as I was. The other moms encouraged me to keep coming, and I did. Every week, I made it a bit farther, and eventually, I found myself able to keep up with them for the entire distance. It was still just as hard as building endurance on my treadmill, but I found myself looking forward to it.

While I was building my running endurance, I was also doing strength training to prepare for the Spartan Race obstacles. No longer did I toil at home doing hours of exercises. I joined group fitness classes, found video programs that were challenging and fun, and even used the playground to train. I found that my kids were watching and joining me. It became a game and I enjoyed my new activities with my children. By the time the Spartan Race came that fall, I was a completely different person. I was waking up early on weekends to meet friends for nine-mile runs by choice.  I was challenging my friends to plank contests, seeking outdoor activities to do with my family, trying out new and more challenging forms of exercise, and growing lasting friendships with running buddies…who knew that I, the girl who hated to run, would have running buddies?

Training to strengthen my body instead of achieving a superficial goal was exactly what I needed to jumpstart my lifestyle change. It was challenging, humbling, exhausting, rewarding, and so much fun. I did things that I never thought I was capable of and began to think of myself as an athlete. Since I felt like an athlete, my relationship with food changed. I began thinking of food as fuel and sought out the best things I could put in my body‒no, that didn’t mean just green salad and plain chicken. I started to get creative with food and try new things. I made simple changes and found healthy foods that I liked instead of counting calories. I still have indulgences; I drink wine and eat birthday cake. But I account for them with my daily food and fitness choices, so it doesn’t affect my body or health. Plus, treats make me happy, and fitness of the mind and soul are just as important as fitness of the body.

 

 

Happily Ever After?

I completed quite a few races in the years following that time in my life, from Spartan Races to half marathons to fun runs. After going through a total transformation of body and perception, I went into my second pregnancy with a totally different mindset. I was healthier and more prepared for what was to come. I had a big plan to keep running and working out throughout my pregnancy. However, my body had different ideas. While I did manage to get in four races and many workouts in that time, I spent most of the time on bedrest. It was hard giving up my new way of life, but in the end, I had a healthy baby girl and the sacrifice was worth it.

With my new, more positive look on life, I was much more understanding of where my body was postpartum. I gave myself time to enjoy the new addition to my family and tried not to focus on my weight. By eating well and slowly working back into my fitness regimen, I got my healthy body back and was out at races in just a few months. My body is different now than it was before baby number 2. I have more stretch marks and looser skin, but I know that I am making the right choices and treating my body well. I am dedicated to taking care of myself- body, mind and soul.

I have been adjusting my routine regularly to remain challenged and just feel good. I still love to run and cross train with a mix of weight-lifting, HIIT and outdoor activities with my family. My newest love is yoga, especially aerial. I find that yoga centers me, makes me more present and grateful, and allows me to adjust my practice to give my body what it needs each day. I am not going to lie- I still have body-image issues. But day by day, I am seeing more women embracing who they are and am inspired. My new focus is on self-love and seeking nourishment. I am more rewarded by non-scale victories and dedicated to living life… positive, fit and active.

My new focus is on self-love and seeking nourishment. I am more rewarded by non-scale victories and dedicated to living life… positive, fit and happy.

What’s your path?

Outside of my physical fitness goals, I also want to better myself as a person. As a parent, I try to be an example for my kids and encourage them to make better choices while still enjoying the fun things in life. I would like to encourage and help others learn to live active and balanced lives, both for their families and themselves. Starting this website was something that I had been working toward for years. I am finally ready to share my story in hopes that it may resonate with others out there. If putting myself out there reaches even one person‒coaxes one person through the pain I endured, inspires one person to reach out and find a fitness community, makes one person lace up her shoes and say, “Today is the day!” …it will all be worth it.

While there’s no magic pill for fitness, I have found the three magic ingredients – accountability, consistency and support. With these, I was not only able to lose weight and keep it off, I also started being more positive in all facets of my life. I started building lasting relationships with people who build me up and keep me motivated. Choosing to be positive allowed me to see the possibilities before me. I see my fitness in three components – body, mind and soul. This fitness drives me and allows me to stay happy and positive even through the most trying of times. Join me as I continue to learn and grow to be a better person, parent, spouse, and advocate for everyone to live positive, fit and happy!

If you are just starting to make a lifestyle change, I am with you…I was you once, and I know how hard it is. If you are just doing your best to maintain your health and wellbeing, I am with you… I know how easy it is to give up and cave to old habits. If you are looking to push yourself for that next challenge or overcome a plateau, I am with you… I don’t need to do anything more than I am already doing for my body, but I want to see what my body is capable of. If you want to focus on how your body feels, what it can do and not how you look or what you weigh, then I am with you.

Stay Positive – Stay Fit – Stay Happy