Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer and received an athletic scholarship to Penn State University. After college, I worked as a TV news anchor and reporter in Florida for five years. I was totally overworked, hot and exhausted all the time and let my fitness routine go because I couldn't bear to go to the gym and sweat after working long hours in the heat and humidity.
After nearly a decade working in the TV news business, I moved to New York City and reinvented myself as a plus-size model. Gaining weight (in a healthy manner) was encouraged by my agency. I went from a size 8 to 14 in a few years. I felt uncomfortable in my body and wasn’t happy. I'd look in the mirror and think, “whose body is this?” I had high cholesterol and was overweight for my body frame. I knew I needed to make a change.
Here are a few things I can share about approaching a fitness journey when you’re uncomfortable in your own skin:
1. Shopping for new workout clothes was challenging.
I felt discrimination when I was looking for some new pieces of active apparel. LuluLemon, for example, only goes up to a size 12 and I've always found that offensive. Some would argue that women larger than size 12 don't need workout clothes because they don't workout. Yet, I know so many women who are size 14 and up who run and exercise regularly. Funnily enough, a close friend of mine is a size double zero, and has never worked out in her life. Fitness isn't about what size clothing you wear.
2. Joining a gym was actually the easiest part of my fitness journey.
It’s committing to going to the gym consistently and putting in the work. The key is finding a facility that is a good fit for you. It’s important to join a gym that makes you feel good right away, when you walk in — that way you’ll want to keep going. When you’re committing to being fit, you need support.
An encouraging, skilled personal trainer is also a great investment. He or she will provide not just motivation but also knowledge. It’s helpful to have an accountability partner to keep you on track and make workouts more enjoyable.
3. I felt physically uncomfortable working out.
I felt the impact of my size when I was doing bodyweight exercises like burpees and mountain climbers, because I could really feel the extra weight on my body. It was like doing an entire workout with a 30-40 pound belt around my waist — and that's hard!
I felt like I was letting myself down. I was a former state and national swimming champion, and I couldn't do ten straight push-ups. That was devastating, but it also motivated me to re-commit to my health and fitness goals so I could be the healthiest (and happiest) version of me.
4. I had to learn not to compare myself to others.
One of my favorite sayings is, "comparison is the thief of joy." I learned that it’s OK to compete with yourself, but not with others. I don’t compare myself to the size two girls at the gym because that has never been my body type.
You can’t worry about being the fittest person at the gym. There are different levels of fitness and everyone has a unique body type and journey. You need to focus on being your fittest self — and forget about everyone else.
5. Committing to be fit and healthy is a choice I choose to make every single day.
Some days it is easy, other days it's not. I don't go to the gym every day, but I choose to stay active and make healthy food choices. Excuses are easy — putting in the work is the challenge.
On days I don’t really feel like working out, I remind myself of the commitment I made to practicing acts of self love and care. For me, that means a healthy weight, strength, endurance and overall fitness. It isn't about looking hot in a bikini, it's about wanting to feel great, have energy, self respect and live a long life free of disease.
I haven’t lost a ton of weight, but I’ve replaced harmful, unhealthy body fat with lean muscle. I feel strong and my body is toned. Currently, I’m a size 10/12, and in a really good place with my fitness routine. It gives me confidence, and I feel more clear and centered in all areas of my life. I’m not the skinniest girl at the gym, but I am definitely one of the strongest.