Its 2018 so it’s no surprise that I’ve made some friends via the internet, #weird. This is Morit; Morit ordered some shirts from me MONTHS ago and followed up with an insta-message—or I guess what they say these days is “slid into my DM” …am I using that right? Before we even met, she wore our NEGATIVE SPACE Muscle Tank in Shape Magazine (I was screaming), and was featured on Self.com and just so happened to be wearing our ELEMENTS Muscle Tank. A little while later, I asked her to meet me for a coffee (but she had a tea) and we got to know each other. This entire project was inspired by Morit so I need to praise her here. In telling her about the brand, concept, and my story, she pushed me to share my journey… and then I asked her to do the same! …so here it is!
Morit looking FOXY AF in our NEGATIVE SPACE Racerback
I was 8 years old when my family moved from NYC to Long Island. My best friend from the city came to visit a few months later and the first thing she said to me was, “wow, you got fat.” I was so embarrassed. I wanted to hide and never see her again.
My aunt signed me up for soccer with my cousins; I went to the first practice and again, I was so embarrassed. All I could think about was how fat I was and that I couldn’t run. I told my parents I was never going back and I never did.
I got bullied and picked on at school every day. It was bad enough that I was the new kid but I was also bigger than everyone. On the school bus, a boy in my grade I thought was so cute pinched my back fat and said, “you have boobs on your back.” In gym class, we had to run a mile and my time was slower than everyone else’s. The coaches posted all of the students’ times—except mine wasn’t there. I found my name on the list, instead of a time next to it, it said “coach’s assistant” as if he was trying to protect me from the truth but it only made things worse. I was taller, rounder, and slower, and was starting to realize it must be true—I must be fat.
Every day after school, I was either at my aunt’s house, eating our usual after-school snack of cookies and donuts, or I was at home sneaking off, hiding two extra bags of chips in secret. I was finding comfort but also feeling embarrassed eating in front of others for the first time.
Suddenly, I was 13 and weighed over 200 pounds. My mom, who I love and know meant well, brought me to Weight Watchers. I cried to her all the time about how unfair it was that no one else was fat like me. She was only trying to help but I was only 13! I didn’t manage to stick with Weight Watchers for long but at the very least I learned a few helpful things about nutrition.
When I turned 14, I asked my parents if I could join the local gym. I just wanted to get on an elliptical, away from everyone else and their judgment. I hated gym class and I hated team sports. I was lucky; my parents signed me up for the gym and could afford to get me a personal trainer. Every day after school, I took the bus straight to the gym and worked out. Life started to change for me. I loved being at the gym, I thought it was so cool and knew it was where I was supposed to be. The workouts were hard but I was seeing progress. I started to lose some weight and my body started to change—I started to feel differently about everything. The goal was obviously to lose weight so I could be as small as all of the other girls.
During high school, I found my first boyfriend. I thought I loved him and I wanted to spend all my time with him. I started to find myself at the gym less and less. This may have been the first time but not the only time this happened in my life. Different relationships, same outcomes. Somehow in my mind, I think if a boy likes me, I’m ok and I don’t need to take care of myself. So, I gained weight again and when it was over, not only did I have to pick myself emotionally, but physically, too. A few months passed and I started to work out and diet again, thinking that if I don’t get skinny, I will never find another boyfriend.
When it was time to go to college, it all clicked. I didn’t enjoy high school, learning wasn’t easy for me but I loved being at the gym and I realized I wanted to be a personal trainer. I started working in the gym as soon as possible. I worked out with a friend and finally felt comfortable in social situations that involved physical activity. I even ended up on the broomball team and we played a ridiculous sport… and enjoyed every minute of it! I loved college and found an excellent group of friends. I was finally learning and wanting to learn. I worked hard and had a wonderful time. But, issues don’t go away overnight. When my roommate and I decided to try out for the rugby team, they had us run a huge lap around the field and I almost immediately gave up. Running makes me feel so defeated! My roommate ended up on the team and became an amazing rugby player. While I was so happy for her, I was disappointed in myself for giving up.
I got an internship at Equinox and they gave me a women’s large shirt to put on and ended up in the bathroom hysterically crying. I couldn’t be a trainer; I don’t fit in the clothes. I pulled it on and sucked it up.
I graduated from college and became a full-time trainer at Equinox. My manager told me not to worry, that she’ll train me to help me lose weight. Many times, she called me fat and I was back in the bathroom crying. I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to prove her wrong! I became the top trainer at the club year after year. I trusted in my knowledge as a trainer and I cared about my clients and what was best for them. More and more clients were coming to me through word of mouth and seeing my capabilities as a trainer. So, my appearance ended up not being an issue—it may even make people more comfortable as opposed to trainers who are intense and ripped.
I lost a lot of weight, became a top trainer at Equinox, I was feeling great and boyfriend number two comes into play. I didn’t realize history was going to repeat itself. The relationship was stressful from day one—40 pounds gained.
I finally broke up with him and joined a boxing gym. Wonderful way to get it out!
Fast forward to October 2014, my friend suggested we try CrossFit. Who knew I had a competitive side and that I could be so athletic?! I have been in the fitness industry since 2006 and yet I never felt like a true athlete and like part of such an exciting community—until I joined CrossFit. I am constantly inspired there to get better and better.
My friend and I decided we wanted to get Olympic Weightlifting certifications. A coach that we know looked at my thighs, which at this point I still hated, and asked, “How much do you squat?” I told him 245. He responded, “No, 350!” He told me to stop lifting like a delicate flower and to start lifting like a graceful rhino. I was inspired! Just over a year later, I hired a powerlifting coach and competing. Did I mention I hit that 350?
Throughout my journey, I’ve realized so many things about myself. My thighs that I hated so much are amazing! My body is capable of so many things and I just have to be willing to push myself to get where I want to go. I used to make so many excuses and those excuses came from insecurities and embarrassment. I was too afraid to even try because I didn’t want to fail in front of people. It took me a while to learn and I still have to remind myself that failure is an important part of learning. I want more now than ever to be the best version of me and I won’t let my fears get in my way.
Until about 3 or 4 years ago, my goals were always about weight and my weight tended to fluctuate based on relationships and men. Now, my goals are to keep getting stronger, not just physically but also mentally. And I do it for myself. I am comfortable with who I am now and no longer find myself saying, “I need to get skinny to find a man.” I find myself saying, “It would be so huge if I could break my own personal record!” I have grown so much as a single woman in the last few years. My workouts challenge me physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are helping me grow every day.
I have been given the opportunity to change more than just a few lives. I love working with each of my clients, we joke that I am not just a trainer but a therapist as well. Working out is so much more of a mental game than people are usually willing to admit. So it is amazing that I have been able, through social media, to touch even more lives than I could have ever thought possible… now I believe that the possibilities are endless. I never wanted to be photographed, now I want to be one of the first “plus-size” or “curvy”— or whatever the word is—to be on the cover of a fitness magazine. Bodybuilders and people with no body fat have always been the people to grace the covers of magazines to promote motivation, but what if that isn’t your goal or it isn’t an attainable goal? So right now, I’m in the process of starting my own personal training business as well as trying to do things for a broader audience.
Although I have made so much personal progress, each and every day remains a struggle. I still hit major mental roadblocks when it comes to running. I also still have a complicated relationship with food. I still have times when I worry that someone will judge me for what I’m eating, so I hide it. I work hard on overcoming this but I know there will always be someone who thinks, “look at that big girl eating the French fries.” I’ve learned better ways to handle the old feeling that still sneak in. When I wake up in the morning, I try to look in the mirror and find something about myself that I am proud of.
I want to be my best self—my Ultimate Self. This is a mantra for me because when I’m not feeling so great or when I’m struggling with my emotions around food or working out. I remind myself that I can be great, that I am awesome, and to work hard to be my best self. That the girl who used to give up or sneak food can still have a lazy Sunday and enjoy some cookies but doesn’t have to beat herself up over it. Every day is another opportunity to work at being that Ultimate Self.