When you look at that picture, what do you see? 78lbs, confidence, strength, mountains, dumbbells, and joy. That’s what I see. I see a woman who has walked a long road, worked hard and discovered things inside herself she’d never imagined were there.
I remember the day that photo on the left was taken. It was a few months after Bethany was born, we were at a co-ed bridal shower and we were taking pictures with out of town family.
That morning, I’d tried to put my pre-pregnancy jeans back on and I couldn’t even get them past my knees. It had been nearly 6 months since Bethany was born, and while I’d lost maybe a few pounds, the weight that everyone had promised would melt off, hadn’t. I had sailed past the 200lb mark during my pregnancy & 6 months later, I still hadn’t dropped below it.
For as long as I can remember I’ve felt like the “bigger girl”. Standing at 5’8″ I was taller than many of my classmates, and a little “thicker” too. Faced with numerous health struggles throughout my childhood I was often sitting on the side lines unable to participate in the activities. I was in general inactive, and overall unfit.
If I’m being honest, I leaned into those struggles too. They were real challenges, painful at times but also, really good “reasons” to not push myself. Somewhere along the way, probably about the time I got my driver’s license I became an “Excuse Girl” who soothed her poor self-esteem with slurpees & McDonald’s.
Those poor habits were only magnified as I moved away from home. Now, being alone I could survive on perogies, sour candies and drive thrus without anyone being any the wiser.
Until I met Sonia. She was a radiant mother of 3 who ate well, hiked, hit the gym, ran and rode her bike to work. She’d often pester me to join her for a hike and most times, I’d find an excuse not to go, until one day I couldn’t.
We weren’t more than 15 minutes into our “hike” (ok, walk) when I pulled out the inhaler I’d been prescribed for my “exercise induced asthma”. She waited while I used it, surveying the situation and we carried on. A few minutes later she turned to me and said, “Ashley, you don’t have asthma, your lungs are unconditioned and you are unhealthy. What are YOU going to do about it?”
I was floored. NOBODY had ever said that to me before, but when the inital shock & indignation wore off I realized – she was right. She encouraged me to join a gym and take start taking better care of myself and I did.
I did go to the gym sometimes and I was changing my eating habits kind of but it wasn’t enough. You see, I was in a very abusive relationship with a man (10 years my senior) who did everything in his power to keep me under his thumb. My confidence was at an all time low and though I had lost a little bit of weight, I’d truly never felt worse.
Fast forward through the intense drama of that relationship (one day, maybe I’ll have the courage to tell that story) to the day of the bridal shower. I had a husband who did (and does) adore me, a beautiful little girl and family who loved me. I had every reason to be happy, yet I wasn’t.
I was still an “excuse girl”, pouring all of my time and energy into taking care of everyone else, so that I wouldn’t have to face taking care of me. Focusing on them meant I didn’t have to face the parts of me that were broken. Not just the physical weight but the emotional weight destroying myself esteem.
We left the party that day and I decided I needed to start making changes. Not just for me but for my daughter(s) as well. I wanted to become someone my children could be proud of.
The changes were small at first, kicking out the junk food and addressing my consumption of Coke but the weight started to come off. Then I started walking, putting my girl in her stroller and getting outside, more came off.
Just after Bethany’s 1st birthday I was back at my (still overweight) pre-pregnancy weight and I was pumped. 2 months later I was pregnant with Audrey and thus it began again.
I didn’t gain as much weight that time, but still at the end of it all I was overweight and needing a change. I’d worked through a lot of my emotional baggage by that time and when we hit Audrey’s 6 month mark I began what has become my greatest transformation to date.
Not only did I changed my eating habits but I discovered exercise made my weight lose easier, AND it made me HAPPIER!
I started in baby steps, working out 15 minutes at a time a few days a week but before long I began increasing my time, pushing my limits and challenging myself in new ways. I used free programs, streaming websites, DVD’s to start but as the time went on, I progress to more comprehensive programs & challenging workouts.
That was just over 6 years ago and MAN has life CHANGED!
The “excuse girl” who once hid from exercise and considered chocolate bars & chips a quality lunch has disappeared. She’s been replaced with a woman who happily gets up at 5am because she loves her mornings & she needs her workouts.
Now, I sweat it out with the likes of Chalene Johnson (TurboFire, PiYo & ChaLEAN Extreme), Shaun T (um, HELLO… Insanity Max 30, T25 & CIZE!!) and of course, my girl Autumn Calebrese (21 Day Fix!). I have NEVER seen my body change like it has since I started with some of these programs. I’m getting muscle definition, increased strength and my “life exercise” stamina has gone through the roof. Hikes are easier and chasing my girls around the yard isn’t painful, it’s fun!
I can’t say that losing 78lbs doesn’t make me happy, it does! I’m proud of how hard I worked to lose that weight, the changes I’ve made and the effort it still takes every day to maintain it. My body is stronger than it’s ever been and I love pushing my limits every day to see what I can do.
But that weight isn’t the best part for me. The emotional change is the part that I’m most thankful for. Though I still have moments of struggling with my self esteem, gone are the days of feeling worthless. I no longer feel guilty when I squeeze in my “me time” exercise or feel unworthy of even making eye contact with people.
Instead I relish that time. I’m pumped when my girls come join in with my routines and even have to laugh as they correct my form or push me to “get your knees UP on the next tuck jump, Mama!”.
I am in love with health & fitness and I am passionate beyond measure to share it with others. Learning to eat healthier, exercise and take time for me changed my life. It changed the lives of my family and more than anything I want to help other people change their lives too!
And so my friends, I am SOOOO excited to share with you that, that is exactly what I’m doing! I am officially a health & fitness coach working with Beachbody (the company behind the programs that truly transformed my body) and have the wheels in motion to also be getting a certification in Holistic nutrition and my personal training certification! I’ll be creating meal plans, designing personalized fitness routines and who knows, maybe one day you’ll even find me teaching a class at your local gym.
Discovering the freedom in eating well & being active has given me a life I never knew I could have. I believe whole heartedly that God gave me the gift of that life change, so that I could take the true joy I find inside being Fit & healthy and share it with others – with you!
I don’t know where you are in your life’s journey. What your struggles are. Your dreams, your values, your fitness level or your health, but I’d like to.
Please leave me a comment, send me a FB message, an email or text to tell me YOUR story! I would love to hear it and I’m confident that together we can find a way to help you achieve your goals!
So I’ll ask you about your life, what Sonia asked me about mine – “What are YOU going to do about it?”