I believe people are born with happiness. Happiness is always is inside of us, but a series of unfortunate events cloud that happiness, making it harder to find. No one can take your happiness away, but it can be pushed away. When it is pushed too far, it’s a challenge to bring back to life.
I’ll take you back to the beginning. Twenty-one years ago, I was born in Virginia. I was raised in a military family, which meant lots of moving. As a kid, moving didn’t bother me too much. It was actually exciting. I was a pretty outgoing 5 year old. I was always outside: playing in pool, doing gymnastics, swinging on the monkey bars, biking, rollerblading, dancing and anything else that kept me from going inside. I was living in Hawaii at the time. Life couldn’t get any better. As a kid, the word “future” meant nothing to me. Sure, I always said “I want to be this when I grow up”, but never thought past that. I can’t blame my childhood lifestyle for not being cautious of what I was doing to myself, but I can still learn from it. My childhood may have been a highlight in my life, but it was also building a cloud over my future happiness.
Suddenly life was about to change. My dad decided to retire from the Navy. After 27 years of service, he was ready to move back to the main lands and settle. I was crushed. I remember laying in the front yard kicking and screaming when the for-sale sign went up. After my fifteen minute tantrum, I was over it. Being a child, you learn to conform and find happiness in all of life’s setbacks.
Not only did my parents want to move to the main lands, they wanted to move to Iowa. Moving to Iowa was one of the biggest setbacks I endured. My mother grew up in Iowa. After high school, my mom left to join the Navy. My grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer. His condition led my parents toward the decision of moving to Iowa. I’m so blessed I got to spend time with my Grandpa before he passed. He was such a wonderful man and loved by so many. I blame him for giving me the obsession to bake. I also feel him giving me strength every now and then.
Starting school in Iowa was much different than the schools I had started at in the past. The kids were much different than I was used to. No one was welcoming, or willing to include me in anything. I had lost all my friends during the move, and it was an incredible challenge to make new ones. I started to think it was me that was different, not the kids. In fourth grade, kids aren’t supposed to make fun of your clothes. Kids aren’t supposed to criticize the way you talk, but these kids did. I was disappointed. I tried to be open minded about moving to Iowa, but school was making it hard. This was the first storm clouding up my happiness.
As an outside kid who never wanted to come inside for anything, I found myself sitting in front of the television more. I was more attached to my parents, running errands with them, cooking or cleaning. I wasn’t being my normal self, but I had no one to play with. As the school year went on, I was invited to a couple birthday parties. These parties were supposed to be fun, but I caught on to the whispering and exclusion from the kids. I remember going home from these parties and crying until I threw up. Everything I did, wore or said was wrong to the other kids. Looking back on it, I was never wrong. Kids tend to select one target and fire until they are thrilled by their destruction. I just happened to be the new target in class. It was hard for me to understand the teasing, which led to frustration and lowered my self-esteem. My mom always encouraged originality and creativity, but it was hard to find myself with self-esteem issues haunting my every thought.
Now, when an elementary student contemplates committing suicide, you know something is wrong is occurring. I was in fifth grade when I thought about it. That night my parents and I sat down for a long talk. They were aware of everything I was going through. They didn’t sit out and watch it all happen, they always tried to intervene. I begged to be home schooled but my parents never encouraged giving up. They always shot me back up with pep talks and made me feel so strong the next day.
Finally, elementary school was over. Middle school was next on the route. I can’t put in words how much anxiety I had. I was so afraid of going to middle school. 10 elementary schools coming together as one didn’t comfort me. My parents believed I would find acceptances with a new variety of kids. The summer before middle school, I had a lack of exercise and formed an unhealthy eating pattern. Going through summer without friends started to add more clouds to my happiness. I was becoming a tad overweight for my age. My parents weren’t too concerned. Usually kids go through a little “chubby stage” and eventually balance out as they get more involved with activities.
My parents were right. Seventh grade started to give me hope that my life was going to turn around. I joined: basketball, volleyball, theater, music, softball and many other activities. I started to make so many friends. The trauma of elementary school was being overshadowed by my new life. The memories were finally fading.
Having new friends meant having more junk food. Birthday parties every weekend meant: cake, candy, pizza, popcorn and soda. Away games for sports meant more fast food stops. During school lunch, pizza and cheese bread was offered every day. Soda machines were on every floor. Candy was sold after school before getting on the bus. Bagels were offered in the snack shack during study hall. My brother was active in sports which lead to more concession stand food, baseball grub and fast food stops. Walking to the gas station to grab candy with friends became a pattern. I spent every Saturday night going out to dinner and a movie with my mom. We always had popcorn at the movie, followed by a box of candy. Doughnuts and juice were offered every Sunday in church. Sunday night dinners were always cooked by mom or grilled up by dad. My family has always been very close, and sometimes we based it around our appetite a little too often. Life was great. My happiness was at full throttle. As I began to mature and prepare for high school, my appearance sort of threw me off my happiness wagon again. After all of the pigging out and extremely unhealthy eating habits, it shouldn’t have come as a shock to me.
Starting high school is a huge deal. The anxiety of starting a new school was high, because of previous years. Like most girls, I wanted to enter high school looking the best I could. I mean, it is high school, the biggest four years of my childhood life. I was going to need a new wardrobe and hairstyle. A week before high school started, my parents gave me an allowance for clothing. My mom took her lunch hour to drop me off at the mall to shop. She told me to call her when I was finished and she’d pick me up. I went to all my favorite stores. I tried on all the cutest clothes. Three hours later, my mom picked me up.
I sat in the passenger seat empty handed. I had a purse full of money and a face full of shock. The exchanging of words between us was unnecessary. My mom knew what had happened without even asking. We’ve had this problem in the dressing room before, but I think this was the final straw that broke me down. Tears rolled down my face. They were the kind of tears that make you feel under water with your eyes wide open. How could I have let myself get this way? I felt like my life was over. My mother let me have my “over dramatic teenager tantrum”, then she called me down. She pulled over at the park and we went for a walk. As we were walking, we created a future plan for healthy eating and exercise.
The big day had finally come. It was time to walk through the high school doors. As I walked in, I noticed all the girls were wearing: little jeans shorts, tight tank tops and summer dresses. I looked down and saw sweatpants, a baggy t-shirt and pale arms from a lack of sunlight. My stomach dropped and that giant lump swelled in the back of my throat. Looking at these beautiful girls made my self esteem fall hard. I was confused. As I sat at the lunch table, I barely ate my food. I felt like everyone was watching me eat, and felt disgusted by my appearance. The rest of the girls at my lunch table were skinny. These girls were eating: pizza, cookies, cake, bread sticks and not gaining weight. What was wrong with me? I had heard about metabolisms, and how weight affects everyone differently, but I needed more detailed answers. My mom made a doctors appointment to have my thyroid checked. The doctor said I was perfectly fine. There wasn’t much I could do other than diet and exercise. I decided I’d continue to eat healthy, stay active in school and the weight would eventually fall of.
As the year went on, I was extremely busy with music and sports. The more busy I was, eating healthy became a less important to me. I fell off the bandwagon once again. I was back eating: fast food, gas station breakfast, frozen pizza and junk food in the cafeteria. Once again, I hid my weight gain with baggy sweat pants and over-sized t-shirts. Every time I ate something unhealthy, I told myself “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”. I still had a huge group of friends and felt like my weight was not going to change who I hung out with. I have seen overweight people who love their bodies and love who they are. Maybe I was destined to be one of those people. I found myself making a lot of excuses for my unhealthy lifestyle.
After a couple years of surfing through high school, I made it to Junior year. This was a big year for me. I landed a lead role in my high school’s Spring musical. Theater and music started to become a huge priority for me. I wanted to devote myself 100%, so I quit sports. To be honest, I never enjoyed playing sports. Sports meant I had to show off my arms and legs in front of a large crowd. The pictures in yearbooks upset me. Those pictures were going to be there forever, but I didn’t want the weight to be there forever. Sometimes, I tried to convince myself that I was skinny. That obviously didn’t make me skinny, but lying to myself helped me get past uncomfortable situations. My talent started to show through music and theater.
While I was finding happiness through music, I began to find a false happiness through going out with friends. On top of the unhealthy eating habits, I began to consume calories through drinking. Getting involved in the high school drinking crowd was the worse decision I have ever made. When people ask the question “if you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?”, drinking would be my answer. If high school doesn’t have enough fighting and drama already, then the drinking crowd will certainly introduce you to more. That is exactly what happened to me. I started to believe that conforming to fit into this crowd was necessary Conforming was out of my characteristics as a person, but I was already changing into someone I wasn’t. Although I was going out more, I kept up with my activeness in music during the school days. On the weekends, I was a careless teenager. A regular weekend consisted of : sleeping all day, eating late at night, partying till morning, going out for hungover breakfast and repeating the same pattern for the next day. Again, I was the one wearing the baggy clothing while my friends were wearing the jean shorts and tank tops. I was eating the same way they were, but I was the only one gaining the weight.
One morning I woke up and looked into the mirror. The flashback of my first day walking into the high school ran across my head. I pulled my yearbooks off my shelf and stared at the photos that were taken of me. I observed the weight change through the years. Suddenly, I remembered what I had promised myself the day I left the mall empty handed. “I will start my diet tomorrow”. That line because my worst enemy. I used that line every time I put something bad in my mouth. I used that line every time my jeans wouldn’t button. I used that line as a comfort. That was the moment I decided the drinking and late night partying had to end. I lost a lot of friends over it, but my health was more important. I loved my friends, but they were enablers to my new lifestyle. They weren’t intentionally trying to hurt me, but they became bricks on my track to health. I was SO over being the girl with the “pretty face” or the “best friend” of the skinny girl.
After walking away from all of my friendships, I spent a lot of nights at home. Theater kept my mind off of all the parties I was missing. It was senior year and I wanted it to be perfect. All of the hard work I was doing with theater finally paid off. I landed the lead role in “Dark of the Moon”. This was huge for me. This was a risky performance. It was to be preformed in front of the school, community, panel of judges and crowd of students at Thespian Festival. My drama teacher filled me up with so much confidence. When I was on stage, I felt so powerful as a performer. I gave it my all and never held back. During our reviews, the judges said they were stunned by my performance. They were blown away by my performance, but thought I was “too big” to play Barbara Allen. When I heard that my stomach dropped, but I didn’t want to break down in front of the cast during our review. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe that was even said in front of the cast. I went back to the dressing room, and sat under the running showers fully clothed. I was incredibly embarrassed. I felt like a failure. All my anxiety ran with my tears, down my body and into the drain. I thought this was going to be the moment that put me on the right track towards a healthy lifestyle. After a couple days of trying it again, I lost power and determination. I fell right back into my unhealthy eating habits. Even the best motivation, or worst situations can’t always keep you on track
After feeling discouraged, I took a break with theater for a while. I continued singing and playing music in a band. With most bands, complicated situations occur. I started to fall for the drummer. Shockingly, he fell for me too. I was a little confused, most guys only looked at me as a friend. We started to date and hung out constantly. This put a end to the band.
The last couple months of high school weren’t the best. My boyfriend and I became distant. I’m sure you girls can relate. The only text I received were: “okay”, “lol” and “ya”. Sounds silly, but those were easy signs that it wasn’t going very well. I couldn’t take the anxiety any longer. It was making me feel insecure. After the long periods of not talking, we decided to split up. I ended up going to prom with one of my good friends. Finding the courage to wear a sleeveless dress was so hard. I didn’t want to look back and regret not going to prom, so I sucked it up and put the dress on.
Graduation day was finally here. Graduation is supposed to be one of the happiest points in a person life. I can honestly say it was one of the lowest points in my life. It was almost 100 degrees outside and I refused to wear shorts, or a t-shirt. I hated myself so much, I didn’t even want to walk down the aisle to get my diploma. The graduation rehearsal day still haunts me. I was extremely humiliated earlier that morning in the gym locker room. Changing in front of 50 girls is frustrating when you have a low self esteem. Girls are mean, and love to make themselves feel better by bringing others down. After putting away my gym clothes, I headed to the mirror to put my contacts back in. Something wasn’t right. My eye started to burn. It felt like a thousand needles poking at my eye. I couldn’t see anything. I just stood there in panic. No one asked me what was wrong or acted concerned. I heard laughing, but that was all. Twenty minutes went by and I was the only one left in the locker room. I continued to flush water in my eye until I could see again. As I was rinsing my contacts, I noticed the smell of perfume coming from the case. I figured my perfume leaked in my bag. I went the rest of the day walking around with one eye shut. Later that night, as I was changing my gym clothes for the next morning, I found a note. The note read “I hope your eyes still hurt, now you know how we feel when you change in front of us”. I knew exactly who it was from, the same girls that were always laughing and whispering in the corner. They had replaced my contact solution with perfume After reading that note, I crawled into bed and refused to go to school the next morning. Those were the last couple days of my high school life. I walked down the aisle to get my diploma for my parents, and never looked back.
Even though I was finally done with graduation, I was still heartbroken. The first break up is supposed to sting, but this one stung a little too hard. Usually food and friends would be the first thing to turn to. I had no friends left, and food didn’t fill the emptiness. Food just added fuel to my fire of anxiety. My anxiety levels were very extreme, and would attack me randomly. I remember walking through the grocery store and suddenly feeling nauseous, bursting into tears. I had no idea was was going on. My anxiety attacks felt like someone else had control over my body. During the summer after graduation, I logged into Facebook and saw that my ex had been hanging out with other girls. He was still texting me at the time, feeding my brain with hope that we’d get back together. I started to feel sick again, but this time I grabbed my Ipod and left the house. I walked for about two hours while listening to music, and looking at the world around me. So many endorphins were entering my body that the anxiety was finally fading. After I got home, I felt so much better. I sat down with my family at the table and ate a healthy dinner. I had asked my mom to make: steamed broccoli, salmon and brown rice. Later that night, we watched a movie without me having an anxiety attack. I came to the realization that medicine couldn’t fix my anxieties, but exercising could. Even going out on that walk helped me control my appetite and food choices. Gradually, I started to change my eating habits. I started to train my body to relate exercise as a way of relaxation. During that stressful month, I had finally found the balance that I had been looking for.
The first month of eating a healthier diet and going out for long walks was a success. I had lost a little over 20 lbs in 30 days. I was eating: oatmeal with eggs for breakfast, wraps and soup for lunch, and whatever my mom had made in proportion for dinner. I was also walking a couple hours a day. These little changes didn’t affect my personal life. They were simple changes that made a huge impact on my body. People started to notice. The compliments I received from everyone kept me motivated to push forward and continue my journey. I finally had control over my life, and I felt amazing.
If you haven’t noticed, I have a weakness for falling back into old habits. Luckily it wasn’t the unhealthy eating, but it was the unhealthy relationship. My ex and I ended up getting back together. I was so happy to have him back in my life that I didn’t care about how I was treated. It seems pathetic, because it is. I was still dropping weight as the year went on. I walked a couple miles to class every day and a couple miles home to fit my workouts in. I also loved college and the new group of classmates. I studied hard during the days, and then spent every second of the evenings with my boyfriend. We were literally like those magnets that are impossible to pull apart. It wasn’t healthy. When we did go out, he noticed the attention I was receiving. He wasn’t too happy about it, and grew insecurities within himself. My insecurities grew into anxiety, and his grew into anger. He started to make new rules for our relationship. Rules that made no sense like: no wearing contacts, make up or looking in another guy’s direction. If another guy said “hi” to me while I was with him, he would squeeze my hand so hard I almost screamed. That was his way of saying “not okay”.
As the months went by his anger began to increase and more rules were made. If I wanted to be with him, I was no longer allowed to have Facebook or any guy’s numbers. I was still somehow motivated to lose weight. I thought that he’d finally be happy with me once I reached the goal. I became oblivious to our relationship. The more he treated me like crap, the harder I tried to make him happy. It became an on-going pattern with us. Our relationship was different in my eyes. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I didn’t see it. His aggression continued to grow. He started to break things of mine when he was upset. One night we were sitting in my car and he thought I was hiding something because my phone was dead. He took his fist and punched out my windshield. I didn’t even know that was possible. I lied to my parents and told them it was hit by a golf ball at the country club. I’m sure they knew I was lying. Lying to my parents was also new. After he isolated me from my family, lying to them became easier. I had no idea who I was becoming. He constantly threw my phone or ripped clothing off my body when it was “too revealing”. I still thought this was normal. At that point, I was too insecure to realize that it’s not right for girls to be treated like this. After the emotional abuse and verbal abuse took its course, physical abuse started to play a role. The worst part, I was fighting to be with him. I wanted him to love me more than anything. I still wanted to be with him no matter how many times: he hit me, pinned me to a wall or ripped out my hair.
Catching him cheat on me should have been the stop to our relationship. I always ended up blaming myself, making his mistakes my fault. Our relationship started to become toxic. I started going to church on Sundays and praying for help. Something helped me realize I needed to get out of our relationship. I just didn’t know how. I was terrified. One Sunday morning I came home with a black eye. Now, how do you explain a black eye to your parents? I told them I hit it on a chair. They yelled at me and begged me to stop lying. So I did. I couldn’t handle it anymore. All that was built up inside of me poured out and my parents finally knew the truth about everything. My parents weren’t angry with me, which I was afraid of. They were there for me, and ready to build me back up. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect. Relationships should be about love and happiness, not fear. I lost contact with him. I changed my number and my dad let him know what would happen if he tried to contact me.
A month later, I had the opportunity to leave for the summer for a job in East Hampton, NY. I thought it’d be the perfect way to escape and find myself again. That summer in the Hamptons is one of the best summers of my life. I have friends that will be in my life forever. I continued to eat healthy and stay active in New York. No one knew my story or what I looked like in the past. It was nice to start fresh. Eventually a couple summers later my blog introduced them to the past, but I don’t mind. I’m glad they got to know me, as me. The first summer I met a guy, who you could call a “summer fling”. He treated me how a guy should treat a girl, and I’m so happy I got to experience that. It was a good start to a healthy new look on life.
After that summer, I decided to stay focused on my health and on myself as a person. I needed to detox my life after going through a rough time. I kept my health, school and family on the top of my priorities. I stayed away from relationships too. Sure I went on a couple dates, but I still wasn’t ready and it didn’t feel right. I spent a lot of time with my best friend, Beth. She helped me overcome a lot of hard times.
I started to find a love for cooking and photography. I also had a lot of people asking me about weight loss and for help. After sending the same emails to different people, I decided to create a blog that could help. At first, I wanted to keep my blog to a small group of people. I was still uncomfortable with my before pictures being seen. Now, I am very comfortable with my blog and love that it is helping others with their struggles. My blog is my baby.
A lot of people are facing the truth behind weight loss and how it works. I know a lot of teenagers are under the pressure to be thin, but don’t realize you can be thin without starving yourself. I just want teens and everyone to find inspiration through healthy perspectives, not what the media portrays as healthy. What we see in magazines or in the media really changes our perspective on “dieting”. Weighing 90 lbs by eating a bag of lettuce to walk a thirty second runway isn’t worth the hours spent in hospitals for the damage of malnutrition, or a lifetime of a mental state. Losing twenty pounds in two weeks to look good in a bikini isn’t worth losing a baby because you messed up your body. I want people to focus on the fun of a healthy lifestyle and find patience in the process. It took me over a year to finally reach a comfortable weight. If you are here to lose 20 lbs in ten days, than this is probably the wrong blog for you.