My Journey In Fit

Warning: This post contains vulnerable moments! 

We all want to find that thing that really makes life spark for us. We all want to view ourselves as beautiful, in shape, good enough, accepted.

Does it really exist?

At a time where I felt completely lost, this story shows that when you believe in what’s possible, the rest falls into place. This is my journey in fit!

Let me take a step back...

Growing Up

Just enjoying life before body image was ever on my radar!

Just enjoying life before body image was ever on my radar!

I remember one ballet class in the first grade thinking my thighs were a little bit bigger than the other girls, and wondering, “Is something wrong here?” In a single moment, I decided that what was wrong was my body.

I've always been what you could call “in shape.” Never too far from what was considered average, always active with sports growing up, stayed away from Wonder Bread… you know the drill. Most of the time though, I erred on the side of conservative clothes, rocked the beach cover-up, “knew my angles,” all to look good and hide my insecurities around my body.

I didn't want anyone to know that I was secretly always judging myself, not to mention other people (which is ugly to admit but necessary to call myself out on).

I'm definitely not alone. There's a body-shaming spectrum, but no shaming less severe than another. There are countless women who decided in one moment in time that they are not good enough, and use external sources (pounds on the scale, number of miles ran, Facebook likes, you-name-it) to get that feel-good approval, connection, or sense of belonging that we all so crave.

Nothing too extreme happened in my time with body struggles. Yet I don't discount mine as being any less important. Just a deep insecurity, which to me, was depressing and confidence shattering. 

This love-hate relationship with body acceptance lasted about 18 years… I’m excited to say it doesn’t have to go on forever!

The only REAL thing to be ashamed of here? Not my body... Those jorts and a gray t-shirt while hiking. Haha - rookie mistake!

The only REAL thing to be ashamed of here? Not my body... Those jorts and a gray t-shirt while hiking. Haha - rookie mistake!

Losing Touch With What’s Important

When I first moved to Atlanta, I was doing all the drinking and all the eating!! After all, that's how I made friends in a new city - and it was amazing! At the same time, things were getting out of control with my body-image.

Eventually, the scales tipped (no pun intended). I can't quite remember the moment, but I remember looking in the mirror one afternoon and not recognizing this person in the mirror as ME. I realized that what was missing the whole time was any sense of confidence and acceptance in myself… And all the partying in the world just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Shortly after I hit rock bottom. Not big, not thin, just unhappy and unsettled. Pro: Lots of fun and friends with drinking. Con: Completely shattered sense of self-acceptance.

Shortly after I hit rock bottom. Not big, not thin, just unhappy and unsettled. Pro: Lots of fun and friends with drinking. Con: Completely shattered sense of self-acceptance.

Finding Fit

What now?! I had realized something needed to change, but had no idea where to start. Enter: Tone It Up.

Co-owners Karina and Katrina exuded such confidence, beauty and happiness which really made being healthy, working out and eating well seem really effortless! They even encouraged wine and dark chocolate, all things that I knew I could never give up completely! 

It definitely took time. I was starting to see changes. 

Baby steps!

Baby steps!

Eventually, I realized that while I was working out consistently, it was time to tweak my eating habits, too. I was a vegetarian at the time so I opted in to the Tone It Up nutrition plan. I could do a whole post about this program but - Wow! It is incredible. Not only is it completely delicious but I also learned so much about how eating food at certain times of the day really does affect our whole body! I also learned a ton about protein which was especially helpful as a vegetarian who thought I was getting enough, but I realized there are nine aminos and I was not getting all of them with my current eating habits. Who would have thought that "enough protein" in quantity was really different from quality?! To this day, I plan my weekly grocery list and most of my recipes around this nutrition plan. It is super flexible and fun!

October 2015 versus March 2016 - the power of Tone It Up's nutrition plan.

October 2015 versus March 2016 - the power of Tone It Up's nutrition plan.

When I combined the power of food and exercise, things took off for me. No surprise there, duh. Isn't that the recipe (pun intended) to stellar health? Why was it so effortless this time around, when all my diets before were so difficult?

Community. 

Finding a Family in Fitness

Community was what I had been lacking before; all of those Saturday late nights were spent with people, but was there a real sense of connection or community? With Tone It Up, I found myself excited to do their weekly workout plan and posting on Instagram. Social media strangers quickly became my accountability partners (and now real-life friends, by the way!).

Putting myself out there to find my #FitFam!

Putting myself out there to find my #FitFam!

Thank goodness for that TIU community, because having someone else see progress in me helped me start to see it for myself. 

In May 2015, I stopped weighing myself. Why? I was getting so much more satisfaction from being connected to fitness friends than any number on the scale could give me validation for. I was part of a community that valued acceptance and confidence the way that I did, but I never knew how to practice it in my every day life. Showing up for my girlfriends to take a class at a studio together, going on walks with friends… That’s the connection that kept me excited about my health and my life!

No more scale - woo hoo! It's amazing how accepting myself allowed my natural fit to shine through with just a little bit of patience and time.

No more scale - woo hoo! It's amazing how accepting myself allowed my natural fit to shine through with just a little bit of patience and time.

It was also right at this time that one of my TIU friends, Leighanne (Read her kickass blog, Yes Girl), introduced me to a studio in Atlanta called FORME. FORME hosted an event at their studio followed by brunch at Corso... and who doesn't love a good brunch? The class was so much fun but what I was most surprised by were the women taking the class. They were all SO fun and easy to talk to, we all shared similar goals and real life struggles; this was a real community that I was so excited to be a part of!!

When I walked through the door, the instructors knew my name, knew something about me, supported me. There was never that intimidation factor. No, no. FORME was truly a studio for every kind of woman. {Editor’s Note: I’m seeing a real shift in how the entire fitness community has begun to eliminate that intimidation factor, and it's studios like FORME that make me so proud to see where that shift began!}

Wow - One year into my journey and right after my first FORME class! This was so not about the appearance (even though that's an amazing perk!)... I was so happy to be strong and confident.

Wow - One year into my journey and right after my first FORME class! This was so not about the appearance (even though that's an amazing perk!)... I was so happy to be strong and confident.

Going After A Dream: Becoming A Fitness Instructor

In fall 2015, things were getting a little crazy with my work life. Let's just say there wasn't a ton of balance and I really needed an outlet where I could be myself.

I reached out to the FORME studio owner, Donna, with some super dry, professional email inquiring what it would take to be an instructor at a studio "some day.” To my surprise, I was invited to grab coffee to chat and learn more. In my chat with Donna, my heart was so lit up by the thought that I could pass forward the gift that a fitness community gave me: confidence and acceptance!

Donna took a shot on a girl who just a few months prior was relying on the scale for her self worth, but I’m so glad she saw something in me (passion, confidence, acceptance) to go after this dream.

Being a fitness instructor has been the perfect way for me to fully express confidence and acceptance - the fit body is just a really great side perk. 😃 

Today

Here we are today! It's been eight months since I started instructing at FORME Studios and about three years since this whole journey began; when I started building a life around health, community, connection and fun.

Bringing together two incredible communities! My TIU and FORME girls. 

Bringing together two incredible communities! My TIU and FORME girls. 

The bigger moral of the story? This is so not about losing weight, not about what workouts to do to make you get fit, not about what food to eat to make you thin. It’s about accepting myself in this moment, every day, and the rest falls in to place. I no longer have to build my life around circumstances, expectations of others, or fear. And when I do, I have the ability to notice it and course correct.

In a world where every woman can feel that acceptance and confidence... Wow, that trumps fear and self-sabotage every damn day. 

Keep seeking what lights you up. It definitely could be health and wellness, it could even be becoming a fitness instructor like I did. Follow your own crumbs of inspiration on this journey. Take a tiny action today in the direction of your dreams. Your dreams are bigger than your fears, after all. 

xoxo, Lauren