I am often told “you’re the strongest person I know.” It’s intended to be a compliment, but to me it means wow, I’m amazed you’ve survived; you’ve had a difficult life. It’s true, I’m emotionally resilient, but I would be the last person you would pick to be on your team in gym class.
I had every reasonable excuse to be 70 lbs. overweight. I had six-month-old twins. I was breastfeeding. I had just finished five years of fertility treatment. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. And I was grieving the loss of my first-born son Joseph Jr.
A friend asked me to join her for a TEAM class at Life Time. I had not looked in a full-length mirror in years. I remember being sick to my stomach when I arrived. I got through those first classes under the watchful eye of my TEAM instructor Marie. She saw the shame in my eyes. She would quietly give me a modification to get through the rep count. Other times, she would say “increase your confidence by 50% and try again.” After a few weeks, Marie noticed I was having difficulty following simple instructions for a lunge. I was so disconnected with my body I had difficulty replicating the basic exercise. She asked me to stand in front of a mirror and watch myself. When I looked into the mirror it took me a moment to recognize myself. A large stranger stared back at me. My eyes welled with tears. How did this happen? Who is this staring back at me? The tears poured as I struggled to balance my round self in a lunge. No one said a word. The group stood with me and finished the rep count. In this moment, my armor cracked and a stream of light came through. For survival, I had steeled myself emotionally and abandoned the body. I attended TEAM for almost a year. I built my confidence, built my strength, and built a community. But I didn’t lose much weight. I decided I was ready for the 60-Day Challenge. I knew I would need to do more than workout 2-3 times a week. Before the Challenge began I met with Life Time’s nutritionist, Morgan. We started with the Detox. She helped me plan better meals and added a few simple supplements. I was shocked to lose 17 lbs in two weeks
As I began to change, tension began to build at home. I had created a household that depended on me for every decision, every meal, every transition, every pick-up, every appointment — every moment. I began to prioritize myself and I found I could not possibly meet everyone’s needs. I remember one night when I had postponed my workout all day. I had unexpected company, a family who wanted dinner, and a grumpy husband who had never seen me abandon the family during the evening to head to the gym. I struggled to leave the house for over an hour – the guilt was like shackles. But right when I was about to give in, Marie texted me and asked me, “How was your workout today?” Sensing the tension in the house, my 13-year-old daughter Grace asked to join me when I left for the gym. We laughed, chatted, and had our first workout together. My heart swelled with pride as I watched her climb on the Stairmaster and it became clear to me why I needed to prioritize myself and my health. I had allowed the needs of my family to take precedence; serving my husband a hot dinner was more important than my workout, planning playdates more important than focusing on nutrition. Their needs seeped in to every corner of my life — I had become their invisible servant. As I watched my teen daughter break a sweat, I declared that I would model for her how to value herself. I will no longer allow others’ needs to be more important than my own. I’ll ask for help or I’ll delegate. I won’t be small, quiet and uncomplicated — I will make space for myself and for my daughter.
As the weeks went on my family adjusted. Sometimes their needs had to wait. At night, Grace asked, “What can I do to help you get the gym tonight?” I was allowing my family to support me and they were proud to do it. I was giving my workouts and my diet everything I had, but plateaued. I met with my nutritionist again. She made tweaks to my food diary. I started UCan and BCAA. I found my stride. I was able to work out longer and harder. I scheduled cardio workouts with my personal trainer to vent, stay strong, and reevaluate my goals. I suspended my own disbelief and completely trusted Marie. She never asked me to do anything that I couldn’t do. My physical abilities far surpassed anything I could have envisioned for myself. Marie believed in me until I could believe in myself.
Today I stand as strong physically as I know I am emotionally. I know exactly what it takes for me to be strong and healthy. I not only need to belong to a Life Time but I need a community of people who expect me to be there, encourage and push me — TEAM does that for me. I know what foods and supplements I need. As I dropped my excuses, I dropped the weight. I can look in the mirror and be proud of who looks back at me.