Throughout my entire life I was always a “bigger person.” It was something that never really seemed to bother me. I had a family that loved me and a great group of friends that were always there for me. They respected me for the person I was on the inside and not what I looked like on the outside.
Having said that, my weight was something I struggled with daily and something I still continue to struggle with to this day. I always knew that I needed to do something to change my life, but was not sure what or how to begin. That quickly changed two years ago when I went for a routine doctor’s visit.
I had just come home from college and knew that I had gained weight. I have always been a stress eater and every time I get stressed out, I tend to turn to food for comfort. To be honest, I don’t understand why I do. The food usually makes me feel good at first, but after, I’m mad at myself for eating it so I would eat again. It was a vicious cycle that I knew I had to break. Needless to say, I did not know how to do it on my own. Even though I knew my doctors were going to say something about my weight, I made the appointment. While I tried to prepare myself for the lecture that I knew was coming, I could never have imagined the actual news I was about to receive.
At this time not only was I at my heaviest weight of 316 pounds, but my doctor told me that I was pre-diabetic. That’s when reality hit hard and quick. Diabetes runs in my family and it was something that I did not want to have to worry about at 27 years old. I knew that if I did not change, I was going to become diabetic too. That was the breaking point for me. That’s when I decided to do something about it. Little did I know, it would change my life forever.
After joining Weight Watchers, I really started to pay attention to what I ate and how much I was eating. At my first weigh-in, I lost 5 pounds and thought to myself, “Wow I can do this!” I didn’t realize how much of a struggle it would be each week. I would lose, then I would gain and this went on for about six months. I knew the next step was to add-in an exercise routine but I was not sure what to do. I hated going to the big box gyms. I felt as though everyone there was always watching you, judging you and I did not feel as though I belonged there. It was that discouragement that made me want to give up on my journey. I thought to myself “I’m happy, why do I need to change? Why should I care what other people think?”
Those are both great questions and I am sure they are questions that many overweight people ask themselves. The truth is, no matter what, we want people to accept us for what we look like on the outside, just as they do for who we are on the inside. When we feel as if we are not being truly accepted, even when we are trying, that’s when it is easy to quickly give up on any journey. When you feel that way, I want to ask you to please push forward. It is when we want to give up that the unexpected happens and you find that passion to continue again. That is exactly what happened to me.
About a week after all of the up and down fluctuation, I was ready to throw in the towel and quit. I wanted to give in, I wanted to just accept that I was always going to be a bigger person. That’s when one of my friends asked me to attend a Zumba class with her. I thought that she was crazy. I told her I couldn’t do it. I told her that there was no way I could make it through an hour aerobic dance class. So I didn’t go. However, she did not give up on me, she was determined. I got tired of her asking me, so I finally told her that I would try it. I assumed it would be a one and done class for me. However, I proved myself wrong.
When I walked into my first class, I did not know what to expect. I wanted to hide in the back, but my friend stood in the second row, so I stood with her so I would not be by myself. Just a few minutes in and I found it hard to breathe, I thought to myself “There is no way that I am going to make it through an hour of this!” We were only about ten minutes in and I was about to drop. I figured if this was the only time I was going to do this I might as well make the best of it, so I pushed through. The next thing I knew, the hour was over and I was drenched in sweat but I felt better than I had all day. At the end of the class, the instructor, Rebecca Ocel, came up to me and asked me how I liked it. She made me feel as though I did a good job, like I belonged in their group, even though I thought I looked like a mess.
The next day, I woke up and for the first time in a long time I felt truly happy again. I called my friend, thanked her for taking me to class with her the other night, and asked her when we were going to our next class together. After the expected “I told you so” comment, we planned to go again.
At first, I was going once a week, then before I knew it I was going twice a week. Each time I went, I felt better and better about myself. I also found that I was pushing myself harder each time because I wanted to learn the routines and do them to the best of my ability. About three months in, I asked the instructor if she taught anywhere else. She told me that she also taught at a gym two days a week so I decided to join the gym to continue taking her classes. I loved it so much, I started going four times a week!
I began receiving compliments from people at work and at the gym. They noticed that I started to lose weight and looked good. This made me work even harder. Soon after, I started seeing results myself. So I started taking even more Zumba classes at the gym and the weight just kept disappearing.
I found something that I loved to do and the happy person inside of me that I used to be. I soon realized that I could do anything, as long as I believe in myself. I can honestly say that it’s not always easy, but if you believe in yourself, I promise that you too can accomplish anything that you put your mind to.
Here we are, two years later, and I have lost 140 pounds, gone from a size 32 to a size 12, and have become a certified Zumba Instructor. I am currently a full-time substitute Zumba Instructor at the Rudy A. Ciccotti Family Recreation Center and a full-time instructor at Full Circle Fitness NY. I honestly can’t believe how much my life has changed over the past two years and I have my amazing family and friends, Zumba and most importantly myself to thank for that.
I would not be where I am today if I didn’t believe in myself. Honestly, the struggles are worth it. It may not seem like it now and trust me, there are days that I still ask myself why I’m doing this. Then, I look at how far I have come. I am more confident than I have ever been and believe more in the power of myself now than ever before. Life is truly a journey but it is your journey and you can do anything that you desire if you only believe.
To this day, only a handful of close friends and family know my story and every day struggle. They have seen the ups, the downs, the good, the bad and everything in between. While this process may not have been easy, it is one that I have embraced every step of the way. My hope is that I will inspire others to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. I have learned that anything is possible and if I can do it, you can too! I know it is easy to feel as though you are alone sometimes, and at times I still feel this way, but have come to learn that my family and friends are always there no matter what. They always believe in me and now it’s my time to believe in myself. I was given a second chance at life and you can have that too! It is within you, it is just something that you have to find and bring it to the forefront of your life.
Special Thank You
I would like to send out a special thank you to the people listed below. You have all had an impact on my life and I love you all. You all believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and wanted to give up. You pushed me to succeed and I can’t thank you enough for that. This is your story as well!
- To my family: Thank you for always believing in me! My weight has always been a struggle for me and no matter what, you have always been there and love me. This has been and will continue to be a crazy journey and I am so lucky to have a family who loves me beside me.
- To my friends: Thank you for being on this journey with me. You have seen everything and have always been there. It has not been easy at times but your belief and support in me has always encouraged me. I love you guys!!!
- To Rebecca Ocel: I would not have been able to do any of this without you. You have been on this journey with me since day one and have seen everything. You have been by my side through the good and the bad. You are truly my inspiration. I would never had had the courage to get my Zumba certification if it wasn’t for you. You are an amazing instructor and one of my best friends!!! Love you lady.
- Zachary Halloran: Thank you for letting me share my story. Our friendship goes back a long way and I am so glad that you have gotten to experience this journey with me as well.
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Author: Amanda Shea
Editor and Contributor: Jessica Sims from: 518 Bites and Sites