Photograph by Jodi Lynn Photography

Many people look at me and assume that I am simply petite and have always just been small my entire life, therefore staying fit isn’t that difficult, it is just innate. They think that perhaps I am just lucky to have been born with a small frame. Yes, I am a petite person; I am 5’ 2”, 115 pounds, and wear a size 2. However, this is by no means as a result of just my natural body type. This is a result of taking control of my health, putting in the hard work, consistency, blood, sweat, and tears…and continuous dedication to my nutrition and fitness. If it had only been that easy…but that isn’t my story.

This is my story…

Growing up in a Hispanic household where food was a large part of our culture, I was raised eating the most delicious, but not always the healthiest, foods. Fried shell tacos, flautas, and enchiladas, were often enjoyed for dinner; we took pleasure in eating chips and salsa as after school snacks; and the holiday season always consisted of tamales. Those delightful but high calorie foods, along with inheriting a thicker body type and slower metabolism caused me to struggle with my weight from a very early age.

In elementary school is when I noticed that my body wasn’t like most of the girls in my classes. They were all so “skinny” and I had some meat on me. I was in dance, gymnastics, and synchronized swimming, and being in a leotard and bathing suit made me so self-conscious and aware of my “larger” frame. I always tried to cover myself up, whether it be with large t-shirts or sweats over my leotards and bathing suits. When I was swimming I felt safe and hidden in the water, but every time I had to get out of the pool, I felt so exposed. It was such an embarrassing feeling; my tummy and large thighs were out where everyone could notice them. Fourth grade is when I went on my first “diet” in hopes that I would lose weight to look more like my peers. Uninformed of what healthy eating or dieting really looked like, I tried eliminating food groups from my meals (mainly meat) and thought eating bland foods, such as plain white rice, was how I was going to lose weight. Of course, none of that worked. I look back at the photos of myself at that age and am sad that I saw myself as overweight. I am sad that I didn’t have a chance to just be a carefree child; oblivious of weight and body size.

I went through junior high and high school extremely insecure about my size and how I looked. I wore a size 7 or 9 throughout secondary school whereas most of my girlfriends were wearing a size 0. My attire consisted mostly of baggy shirts (many of which I took from my older brother’s closet), sweatshirts, and relaxed fit jeans. By the look of me, you would never know that I loved fashion, particularly the iconic and elegant style of Audrey Hepburn. She was my absolute idol and I always wished I looked just like her and could wear her clothing. Instead, my reality was that I hated shopping for clothing, it was so frustrating because I couldn’t fit into many of the fashion trends of the time. Overalls became my best friend because they were baggy, I felt concealed, and they made me feel comfortable. In PE, you would find me changing in the bathroom stalls instead of in the locker room because I didn’t want to be seen by anyone, especially by the girls who had the naturally thin bodies that I wished I had. Instead of going out to parties on the weekends, I preferred to stay home or have a slumber party where I could watch movies and relax in my pajamas, because the idea of having to find an outfit to wear and get dressed up to go out was so unpleasant and always discouraging. It seemed as though all of my friends could eat whatever they wanted and not gain a single pound. I just looked at food and gained weight. During those years I tried all the fad diets in hopes that I would be able to lose weight. I tried the Atkins diet, I drank Slimfast shakes, and I even took ephedrine weight loss pills. I was looking for that magic pill or quick fix solution that would help me lose weight. At times I would lose about 5 pounds, but it would of course come right back, and then some, leaving me feeling hopeless and that I just had to accept my body the way it was. It is unfortunate that I thought my beauty, value, and worth was correlated to the size of my body and how I looked. I know I missed out on a lot and many of my relationships were impacted as a result of that thought processes.

When I hear friends and family talk about their teen years or even their college years, and say that they remember when they could eat whatever they wanted and not gain weight or they stayed so “skinny”; I cannot relate to that whatsoever. That was never me, I didn’t experience that, though I always wished I had, but no, my body was never that way. I would go out with my friends, enjoy the same food and drinks…and while they wouldn’t gain weight, I seemed to do it effortlessly. When my peers were enjoying Spring Break by the pool or by the beach, I was happy to be at home because I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bathing suit. It would be over a decade before I would even own and wear a swimsuit again. When I reached my college years, my weight continued to climb until I hit almost 150 pounds and I was outgrowing my size 10 pants. I was 22 years old and I knew that I needed to take control of my life, my health, and my weight. I was too young to feel as tired as I did, I was too young to have the lower back pain that I felt. I hated how I looked and felt in clothes, and I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. It was at that moment that I decided to make a change.

With the support of my cousin (and bestie), I signed up for a gym membership and made moving my body a regular routine, at least three times a week. I focused on making healthy food choices and created good daily habits. I practiced self-control and moderation. I never restricted myself, but just made better decisions. Over the next couple of years, the weight came off. I felt healthy, my energy was back, and the lower back pain was gone. I was at 125 pounds and a size 4, I only mention this because I had never been that size before, I never really focused on this, but I also never thought it was possible. More importantly, I started to gain confidence, I enjoyed shopping for clothes again; I was really happy.

Nutrition and fitness became a passion of mine in my mid-twenties because it was a fascinating science. I liked that there was a cause and effect…if I did this, this would happen. I discovered that though I was born with a certain body type and metabolism, I did have some control over it! I knew I wasn’t going to look like a Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated model, I had realistic expectations, but I knew that I did have control over my health, my weight, and my frame, to a certain extent. As I continued to learn more about nutrition/dietetics and how diet along with exercise can change your body, I worked my way into size 0/2 clothing. Once again, I never in my life thought I would ever fit into that size. I didn’t think it was even physically possible, given my body type and how I had always been my entire adolescence. It was never my goal to be a certain size or weight, but as I focused on creating a healthy lifestyle of following nutritious eating habits and regular exercise, the weight just came off.

Shortly thereafter, I met my husband. He was a fitness fanatic and being with him made it that much easier to incorporate health and wellness into our life together, since we both prioritized similar healthy eating and fitness habits. We would work out together and stay active, make meals… we were two peas in a pod. However, after we had kids and I became so consumed with motherhood and sacrificing myself for the sake of my kids, my focus on my own health and fitness took a back seat. Over the next decade, I prioritized my children, neglected myself, my health declined, my weight and body fat increased, and my confidence plummeted. Being a mom was my priority, but somewhere along the way, I forgot that I was more than just a mom; I was a woman. I had lost myself in the crazy world of motherhood. Finally, something came over me, and I decided I wanted to have that part of me back again. I wanted to prioritize health and wellness, practice self-care and self-love, bring back that confidence that slowly slipped away over the years. I knew that it was not only important for me, but it was also important for my family.

Here I am now, 41 years old; flourishing as a woman, in the best shape of my life, focusing on creating a life of health, happiness, and love with and for my family! It is so important to me that I promote being active and encourage healthy eating habits for me and my family. It hasn’t been easy, there are days where I don’t feel like doing anything at all. Sometimes I listen to my body and I rest, but most of the time, I remember my “why”. The reasons why I MUST and the reasons why I get up and take care of business every morning. What I have accomplished is not a result of me being lucky or naturally small framed, but because I remain consistent, stay dedicated, and I work hard. It is possible to create the life and body you want, you just need to make yourself a priority, give yourself the love and care you deserve, and put in the work. 

I look back at my old photos and see a young girl who struggled for so long. There was a sadness behind the smiles. I see a girl who was just so insecure, no self-esteem, lacking confidence. Do I wish that my life would have been different; similar to most of my peers? Sometimes I do. However, who I am today is a result of all of my experiences; the ups and downs, challenges, struggles, failures, achievements. These experiences have shaped my character and integrity; my set of morals, values, and ethics. They have taught me to lead with compassion, kindness, and love. They have given me strength, conviction, honesty, and loyalty. I have learned self-respect, decency, selflessness, generosity, and consideration for others. Equally important, it is also proof to myself that I can do whatever it is that I put my mind to…that if I keep going and trying, and don’t give up, I will succeed.

Let me just say… I do not think that focusing on body size or weight is important when it comes to overall health. There is so much more to health and wellness than weight and size…it does not dictate worth, character, or happiness. I am so happy when women love their body and what they look like when they look in the mirror. I love to hear women say they are focusing on their strength and performance in their workouts and not fixated on the scale. I am elated that the priority is now to build muscle, feel strong, and move away from the need to be “skinny”. It is my hope that all women feel beautiful, confident, and comfortable in their own skin. I tell my story not to suggest that we must change our body or be a certain size in order to feel that way, but I tell my story as a way to inform women that feel that they were just given a certain body type, that have struggled (or struggle) with their weight, that they don’t have to settle for and accept their body the way it is for all of their lives if they don’t want to. They can change their body composition/form to what will make them feel like the best version of themselves. If they want to sculpt their arms, legs, back, waist…whatever it is, they can do it, they just have to be willing to put in the work.  

If you are like me and can relate to growing up as I did, know that you are in control of your health and wellness. You may just need to learn how or perhaps you just need to have someone cheering you on supporting you throughout your journey. Even if you can’t relate to my adolescence, and you are now struggling in adulthood, you can make changes to your lifestyle that will allow you to attain a fit and healthy body that will make you happy, proud, and confident. It is possible! It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it…and if I could do it, you can do it too!

Continue to follow me for more health and wellness information, recipes, and tips for leading a healthy lifestyle, as well as support and encouragement as you go through your own health journey! Also…stay tuned for what I have in the works! Coming soon!

Remember…Keep at it, you got this! Health, fitness, and wellness is a journey, not a destination. Don’t give up! I am cheering for you as you flourish into the best version of yourself!

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