Running Helped Me Get My Groove Back After My Divorce

Divorce is not exactly a walk in the park. If you thought planning your wedding and getting your bridesmaids ready for that walk down the aisle was tough| it doesn’t hold a candle to splitting apart your life| and sometimes a child’s life| like divorce does. Even the easiest divorce can be unnerving. When my soon-to-be ex-husband and I decided to separate| the world spun. How was I going to care for my child as a single parent? At the time| I was job hunting for a full-time position while working part-time. I wondered if I would be able to provide for my daughter financially. I wondered how she would cope. I wondered what the future would bring. Divorce brings upon many new changes and “what if” scenarios. I needed to find a way to clear my head when the noise inside of my brain and heart became too loud.

Let me not forget to mention that when my marriage started to crumble| my daughter was two years old. We didn’t make the clean cut until almost a year later. Still| I had a young child and had just been pregnant not so long ago. I was back to my pre-baby weight and slimmer than before| but I had gotten lazy at the gym. I did my routine but never pushed myself and simply went through the motions. My workout was an unispired habit| like having a morning cup of tea. The thrill of fitness was gone. And the thrill of fitness wasn’t the only thing that had “left the building.” As the marriage decayed| so did the sex life. Most of the time I felt invisible and as if I had no sex appeal. This was unusual; I had been very confident of my sex appeal before marriage| albeit a little self critical. But at the point in which we said| “It’s over|” I didn’t feel like a woman and a mom ¡ª just a mom without any feminine allure. I wanted to feel excited again. I wanted to be out in the world| not only as a mom but also a woman.

That’s when running walked in. (Did I just say that?)

As a kid| I was coordinated but I wasn’t the first kid you picked for dodgeball. I was able to move and get by| but I never considered myself athletic until I got older. I still hesitate to say athletic and instead would say “fit.” Running was never a passion of mine. I figured I could get by walking and using the elliptical machine| but now I wanted more from my workout. I wanted more from life. I didn’t want the status quo| but instead| I wanted the best for myself and my daughter. I wanted happiness.

It started on a treadmill and then when I went out with someone for the first time after my separation| unnerved about being in the dating world again| I hit the pavement outdoors. I was a part-time employed| soon-to-be single mom with a low income| a large amount of student loan debt| and a huge question mark of a future in front of me. Those details didn’t matter though when I put on my sneakers| sunblock| exercise gear| and earbuds| ready to face the trail around my local reservoir and all the dogs| moms| and couples walking and running alongside me.

There were many times I ran through tears. Sometimes it felt as if I were running away from my problems and my life. From myself. I remembered all the good times in my marriage and I thought of the bad times too. I remembered hitting the reservoir trail when my daughter was an infant in her stroller| enjoying the fresh air| feeling human again even with my weak post-partum core (thanks to a C-section) and my leaking breasts (thanks to breastfeeding). Here I was again| but my daughter was with her dad during his parenting time. Now I was keeping up with the wind without her.

I was alone| yet I wasn’t lonely.

Running is a companion in itself. The movement| the air| the soundtrack ¡ª they become your friends whether you’ve run one mile or three| whether you give up and start walking or whether you pound through your fatigue and trudge ahead. Running was the silent| steady| true companion I needed to remind myself of who I was before marriage and who I could be after marriage. It was the free therapist I sought counsel in. It was the way I found answers to problems and how I calmed my fears. Running was the one partner who told me without wavering: “You are strong. You are sexy.”

Running told me: “You can get through this divorce even| if for today| you believe you can’t.” I hadn’t known I needed a cheerleader to get me through divorce| but I did.

After a brief time| that running translated into energy and that energy infused my workouts. I started increasing my weights at the gym and requiring more of myself. In a split second| I wasn’t simply thin ¡ª I was slim and toned and not too shabby looking for a late-30s soon-to-be divorced mom.

I can thank it all for the one time I thought to myself| “Let me try this.”

Today| I am still not a marathon runner and have never made it to a 5K| but it’s still the one thing almost two years later that turns off the noise in my brain| giving me clarity and peace. It’s the best gift I have given to myself since saying “I don’t.”

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Ericka McConnell

How Women Pushed Body Positivity to the Forefront This Year

There may not be an end in sight to the daily bombardment of glossy images of models and photoshopped bodies we see everywhere, but without a doubt 2015 was the year of the “real woman” and a celebration of their bodies ¡ª whatever the shape or size. With the advent of social media, it’s easier than ever for women everywhere to take control. From body-positive hashtags to celebrating smart responses to routine body-shaming incidents, here’s why 2015 was the year we wholeheartedly embraced our bodies, in all shapes and sizes.

The Viral Post

Kate Willcox of @healthyisthenewskinny. Image Source: Instagram user katiehwillcox

Social media has cast a huge spotlight on just how often women have to deal with body shaming from the outside world. Over and over again, women were taking to Facebook to recount an ugly interaction with strangers, and sometimes friends. Take Emily Farrington Smith’s encounter with a woman at the gym who called her fat: “I refuse to settle in a world where [my sisters] will grow up worrying what others think of them or thinking they are lesser humans because of how much they weigh,” she wrote on her Facebook profile page, and many agreed. Comedian Luisa Omielan’s stand-up routine about our cultural obsession with thigh gaps also went viral when she posted a video of it on her Facebook page earlier this year, and with over 200,000 “likes” and 530,000 shares, it’s clear that Luisa has shared a sentiment that others feel strongly about.

“We have gone from a culture that almost seemed ashamed of talking about important issues, even body image, to a culture that is a little more open in valuing conversation and advocacy about these topics,” explained sport psychologist Ariane Machin, an assistant professor of psychology at Saint Francis University. She cites body-positive hashtags on Instagram like #effyourbeautystandards and #healthyisthenewskinny as prime examples of how social media is empowering women everywhere to “know that their current body size and shape is completely acceptable,” even when they must fight other societal pressures to look a certain way. “These social media efforts can be an amazing tool to help clients feel less alone, more normal in their experience, and more hopeful about their current situation,” she said.

The Backlash Against Mainstream Media

More and more, women are pleading for bodies of all types to be represented in ads and other media. Late last year, for example, Victoria’s Secret faced backlash for its Perfect Body campaign, which implied that the “perfect” shape was long, lean ¡ª and unattainable for most. Brands took notice. More than ever before, women of all shapes, sizes, and ages appeared in national campaigns for the likes of Target, Nike, Dove, and Panache. Lingerie company Aerie even went as far to create an ad campaign of photos not touched by the wand of Photoshop, and Women’s Running was applauded (deservedly) for putting a plus-size runner on its August cover. Plus-size model Ashley Graham’s popularity and the rise of amateur athletes everywhere who show that you can be strong, flexible, and fit at any size is even more proof that women need body-positive role models to counteract incessant media messaging.

Valerie of Big Gal Yoga is proof that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all “yoga body.” Image Source: Instagram user biggalyoga

Celebrities Do It Too

Celebrities are known for having the time and resources to whip their bodies into disciplined shape ¡ª and not complaining when unrealistically photoshopped images of them are held up as a womanly ideal ¡ª but this year, many joined the chorus of women speaking out against the grain. Demi Lovato, for example, recently celebrated the release of her aptly titled album, Confident, with these wise words: “[W]hen I call my thighs thick ¡ª I love it. I think it’s a good thing. . . . I’m not naturally super thin. I have an athletic body. I just have to embrace that. There are days when it’s hard to, but more and more, there are days where I’m actually proud of my body.”

Ariana Grande’s response to an anonymous tweeter who compared her body type to Modern Family actress Ariel Winter’s is a public reminder that anyone, curvy or not, can be body shamed. “Diversity is sexy!” Ariana wrote on Instagram. “Celebrate yourself. Celebrate others. The things that make us different from one another make us beautiful.”

Even lean-bodied athletes aren’t immune to the pressures of having to look a certain way; just look at Ronda Rousey’s powerful response earlier this year to those who criticized her body for being “too masculine.” And in ESPN The Magazine‘s annual Body Issue, strong, accomplished women like gymnast Aly Raisman admitted that it takes a lot of effort to love your body when it doesn’t look like a feminine ideal.

Ronda Rousey calls her body “femininely badass as f*ck, because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose.” Image Source: Getty / Matthew Stockman

Body Positivity in 2016

So, what’s next? If 2015 was the year that women (and men) everywhere collectively decided that enough was enough, then luckily, we can expect even more vocality about an issue that has long been tolerated. “While the terms ‘fat shaming’ and ‘body shaming’ may be relatively new, judging and humiliating people who are deemed to be ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’ has been a part of our culture for decades,” embedded in our everyday language, advertising, and media, explained psychotherapist Carolyn Karoll of Karoll Counseling. “While the shaming can be overt, like being called names, it can also be more subtle, such as making throwaway comments like, ‘You are so brave to wear that.'” By bringing this issue to the forefront of public discussion, women everywhere can help others embrace their body type and live confidently in their skin.

Of her Pirelli calendar photo, Amy Schumer wrote on Facebook: “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!” Image Source: Pirelli calendar / Annie Leibovitz

The good news: change is already happening, Carolyn said, pointing to the 2016 Pirelli calendar as an example. The highly anticipated photo collection is usually chock-full of supermodels in revealing, glamorous outfits, but the newest calendar takes a different approach under the direction of photographer Annie Leibovitz, who set out to photograph “women who have achieved something,” like Amy Schumer, Serena Williams, and Tavi Gevinson. “I’m not sure we would have seen that years ago, so it’s a much-needed shift to see real bodies in there,” Carolyn explained. “My hope is that our thin-obsessed society will accept and eventually embrace these bodies instead of judge them.” Added Dr. Machin: “People are recognizing that they have a voice.” Here’s to a year of self-love and body acceptance at every size and shape.

How Women Pushed Body Positivity to the Forefront This Year

There may not be an end in sight to the daily bombardment of glossy images of models and photoshopped bodies we see everywhere| but without a doubt 2015 was the year of the “real woman” and a celebration of their bodies ¡ª whatever the shape or size. With the advent of social media| it’s easier than ever for women everywhere to take control. From body-positive hashtags to celebrating smart responses to routine body-shaming incidents| here’s why 2015 was the year we wholeheartedly embraced our bodies| in all shapes and sizes.

The Viral Post

Kate Willcox of @healthyisthenewskinny. Image Source: Instagram user katiehwillcox

Social media has cast a huge spotlight on just how often women have to deal with body shaming from the outside world. Over and over again| women were taking to Facebook to recount an ugly interaction with strangers| and sometimes friends. Take Emily Farrington Smith’s encounter with a woman at the gym who called her fat: “I refuse to settle in a world where [my sisters] will grow up worrying what others think of them or thinking they are lesser humans because of how much they weigh|” she wrote on her Facebook profile page| and many agreed. Comedian Luisa Omielan’s stand-up routine about our cultural obsession with thigh gaps also went viral when she posted a video of it on her Facebook page earlier this year| and with over 200|000 “likes” and 530|000 shares| it’s clear that Luisa has shared a sentiment that others feel strongly about.

“We have gone from a culture that almost seemed ashamed of talking about important issues| even body image| to a culture that is a little more open in valuing conversation and advocacy about these topics|” explained sport psychologist Ariane Machin| an assistant professor of psychology at Saint Francis University. She cites body-positive hashtags on Instagram like #effyourbeautystandards and #healthyisthenewskinny as prime examples of how social media is empowering women everywhere to “know that their current body size and shape is completely acceptable|” even when they must fight other societal pressures to look a certain way. “These social media efforts can be an amazing tool to help clients feel less alone| more normal in their experience| and more hopeful about their current situation|” she said.

The Backlash Against Mainstream Media

More and more| women are pleading for bodies of all types to be represented in ads and other media. Late last year| for example| Victoria’s Secret faced backlash for its Perfect Body campaign| which implied that the “perfect” shape was long| lean ¡ª and unattainable for most. Brands took notice. More than ever before| women of all shapes| sizes| and ages appeared in national campaigns for the likes of Target| Nike| Dove| and Panache. Lingerie company Aerie even went as far to create an ad campaign of photos not touched by the wand of Photoshop| and Women’s Running was applauded (deservedly) for putting a plus-size runner on its August cover. Plus-size model Ashley Graham’s popularity and the rise of amateur athletes everywhere who show that you can be strong| flexible| and fit at any size is even more proof that women need body-positive role models to counteract incessant media messaging.

Valerie of Big Gal Yoga is proof that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all “yoga body.” Image Source: Instagram user biggalyoga

Celebrities Do It Too

Celebrities are known for having the time and resources to whip their bodies into disciplined shape ¡ª and not complaining when unrealistically photoshopped images of them are held up as a womanly ideal ¡ª but this year| many joined the chorus of women speaking out against the grain. Demi Lovato| for example| recently celebrated the release of her aptly titled album| Confident| with these wise words: “[W]hen I call my thighs thick ¡ª I love it. I think it’s a good thing. . . . I’m not naturally super thin. I have an athletic body. I just have to embrace that. There are days when it’s hard to| but more and more| there are days where I’m actually proud of my body.”

Ariana Grande’s response to an anonymous tweeter who compared her body type to Modern Family actress Ariel Winter’s is a public reminder that anyone| curvy or not| can be body shamed. “Diversity is sexy!” Ariana wrote on Instagram. “Celebrate yourself. Celebrate others. The things that make us different from one another make us beautiful.”

Even lean-bodied athletes aren’t immune to the pressures of having to look a certain way; just look at Ronda Rousey’s powerful response earlier this year to those who criticized her body for being “too masculine.” And in ESPN The Magazine‘s annual Body Issue| strong| accomplished women like gymnast Aly Raisman admitted that it takes a lot of effort to love your body when it doesn’t look like a feminine ideal.

Ronda Rousey calls her body “femininely badass as f*ck| because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose.” Image Source: Getty / Matthew Stockman

Body Positivity in 2016

So| what’s next? If 2015 was the year that women (and men) everywhere collectively decided that enough was enough| then luckily| we can expect even more vocality about an issue that has long been tolerated. “While the terms ‘fat shaming’ and ‘body shaming’ may be relatively new| judging and humiliating people who are deemed to be ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’ has been a part of our culture for decades|” embedded in our everyday language| advertising| and media| explained psychotherapist Carolyn Karoll of Karoll Counseling. “While the shaming can be overt| like being called names| it can also be more subtle| such as making throwaway comments like| ‘You are so brave to wear that.'” By bringing this issue to the forefront of public discussion| women everywhere can help others embrace their body type and live confidently in their skin.

Of her Pirelli calendar photo| Amy Schumer wrote on Facebook: “Beautiful| gross| strong| thin| fat| pretty| ugly| sexy| disgusting| flawless| woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!” Image Source: Pirelli calendar / Annie Leibovitz

The good news: change is already happening| Carolyn said| pointing to the 2016 Pirelli calendar as an example. The highly anticipated photo collection is usually chock-full of supermodels in revealing| glamorous outfits| but the newest calendar takes a different approach under the direction of photographer Annie Leibovitz| who set out to photograph “women who have achieved something|” like Amy Schumer| Serena Williams| and Tavi Gevinson. “I’m not sure we would have seen that years ago| so it’s a much-needed shift to see real bodies in there|” Carolyn explained. “My hope is that our thin-obsessed society will accept and eventually embrace these bodies instead of judge them.” Added Dr. Machin: “People are recognizing that they have a voice.” Here’s to a year of self-love and body acceptance at every size and shape.

Why I (and Everybody Else) Should Learn to Take a Compliment

I recently boarded a plane where I had a 60-second encounter I can’t get out of my mind. After a few days in Southern California, I wasn’t quite ready to transition back to my standard boots, scarf, and jeans that cool San Francisco temperatures require year round. I had a killer tan, wore a new short t-shirt dress, and rocked my favorite pair of camel wedges. I have to tell you: I was feeling pretty good.

As I stood in line on a silent jet bridge, the beautiful older woman with a long gray ponytail right behind me gave me a compliment I wasn’t anticipating. “I have to ask: how do you work out your legs? They are gorgeous. So lean and strong.” At first, I didn’t flinch and felt the rush of her praise. I told her about the combination of yoga and SoulCycle I swear by and thanked her for the kind words. But 30 seconds later something strange happened. I felt a need to follow up with the following words: “You know, I think it’s really just the combination of the dress and shoes. Wearing wedges helps.” Her face dropped as she replied, “You don’t have to do that.”

Immediately, I regretted what I had said. Why didn’t I just take this compliment? As I tried to figure out what had happened, this skit from Inside Amy Schumer played in my mind.

I really work hard to stay in shape, and I love my strong legs. There was no need to follow up an authentic compliment with any sort of half-hearted disclaimer, so what was so hard about receiving these words? This woman was being genuine, but some part of me felt I had to shrink after this encounter. A bunch of other people had heard our interaction, and I was consumed by the fear that I sounded self-centered.

There’s a quote from Marianne Williamson I’ve heard at many lectures and yoga classes over the years that perfectly sums up my thoughts on what happened: “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? . . . Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. . . . And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” These are words I do my best to live by every day, but it can be especially trying when it comes to my appearance. I have curves, and I’m muscular. My thighs touch, and I’m shaped like a “real” woman. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m getting more comfortable with myself every day. Now is a more important time than ever for me to really hear these compliments. These were not empty words.

Playing small and being timid about my beauty or strength are not doing anyone any favors ¡ª especially me. Next time, I’ll just take the compliment, respond with kindness and a smile, and use my long, lean, and powerful legs to walk to my seat with a little extra swagger.

Image Source: ShopStyle Photography

Why I (and Everybody Else) Should Learn to Take a Compliment

I recently boarded a plane where I had a 60-second encounter I can’t get out of my mind. After a few days in Southern California| I wasn’t quite ready to transition back to my standard boots| scarf| and jeans that cool San Francisco temperatures require year round. I had a killer tan| wore a new short t-shirt dress| and rocked my favorite pair of camel wedges. I have to tell you: I was feeling pretty good.

As I stood in line on a silent jet bridge| the beautiful older woman with a long gray ponytail right behind me gave me a compliment I wasn’t anticipating. “I have to ask: how do you work out your legs? They are gorgeous. So lean and strong.” At first| I didn’t flinch and felt the rush of her praise. I told her about the combination of yoga and SoulCycle I swear by and thanked her for the kind words. But 30 seconds later something strange happened. I felt a need to follow up with the following words: “You know| I think it’s really just the combination of the dress and shoes. Wearing wedges helps.” Her face dropped as she replied| “You don’t have to do that.”

Immediately| I regretted what I had said. Why didn’t I just take this compliment? As I tried to figure out what had happened| this skit from Inside Amy Schumer played in my mind.

I really work hard to stay in shape| and I love my strong legs. There was no need to follow up an authentic compliment with any sort of half-hearted disclaimer| so what was so hard about receiving these words? This woman was being genuine| but some part of me felt I had to shrink after this encounter. A bunch of other people had heard our interaction| and I was consumed by the fear that I sounded self-centered.

There’s a quote from Marianne Williamson I’ve heard at many lectures and yoga classes over the years that perfectly sums up my thoughts on what happened: “We ask ourselves| ‘Who am I to be brilliant| gorgeous| talented| fabulous?’ Actually| who are you not to be? . . . Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine| as children do. . . . And as we let our own light shine| we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear| our presence automatically liberates others.” These are words I do my best to live by every day| but it can be especially trying when it comes to my appearance. I have curves| and I’m muscular. My thighs touch| and I’m shaped like a “real” woman. It’s been a long time coming| but I’m getting more comfortable with myself every day. Now is a more important time than ever for me to really hear these compliments. These were not empty words.

Playing small and being timid about my beauty or strength are not doing anyone any favors ¡ª especially me. Next time| I’ll just take the compliment| respond with kindness and a smile| and use my long| lean| and powerful legs to walk to my seat with a little extra swagger.

Image Source: ShopStyle Photography

If You’ve Struggled With Body-Image Issues, This Is a Must Read

Curvy. Thick. Voluptuous. These are all words I’ve been hearing people call me for most of my life, and in my younger years, they all felt like an insult every single time.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been just a little bit chubby. I was a chubby kid and a thick teenager, and now I’m a curvy woman.

In high school, I was incredibly healthy. I was too busy to eat too much and didn’t have any interest in crappy food. I was a year-round cheerleader, so I had practice (which included running, weight-lifting, and tumbling) two hours a day, five days a week, in addition to basketball games, football games, and cheerleading competitions. I was strong, I was in shape, and I was still thick.

After one of my last cheerleading competitions my senior year in high school, a mom of a young girl on a different squad pulled me aside and thanked me. I asked her what she was thanking me for, and she told me I was a role model for her daughter who thought she was too heavy to be a successful cheerleader. She told me that when her daughter saw me out there, tumbling with my squad, she felt like she could grow up to do the same, despite what she weighed. At the time, I didn’t know how to take that. At 18, I felt like she was telling me I was the fat cheerleader, and let’s be honest, I already felt like I was. But thinking about it now, I realize how amazing it was to show that little girl that you don’t have to be skinny to do the things you want to do. I flipped my fat ass over my head better than half the girls in that gym, and that little girl knew it.

Once I left high school and my daily activities shifted away from constant exercise and more toward TiVo and nap time (I was a really lazy college student), I realized I needed to make some serious changes to keep healthy. I started going to the university gym at least five times a week and tried not to eat anything stupid, but nothing worked. I started down a dangerous path that I nearly didn’t pull myself out of.

But then I tried a doctor-monitored diet a few years later and lost about 50 pounds, still placing me on the “overweight” side of normal for my height by about five pounds. Maintaining that weight was not even close to manageable. I had a resting energy expenditure test done at the end of the weight-loss journey and found out that I literally have a metabolism slower than that of a middle-aged woman. With no activity, I barely burn a thousand calories a day, which surprised even the nutritionist who did the test for me. We tried the test twice to make sure there were no errors, and nope, I just have a really, really crappy metabolism.

I tried maintaining that weight. I was eating the healthiest (and littlest amount) I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I was exercising an average of an hour a day, seven days a week. No matter what I did, the weight crept back on. But I didn’t really mind, because I was still really healthy and active.

But then I had a backslide. Just like always. Just like after every other diet I’d tried in my life ¡ª and I’d tried them all. I went back to living how I was used to and how I was comfortable, which included mostly healthy eating with treats here and there and exercise a few times a week. I was happy, I was healthy, and I was still thick.

I’ve come to realize that what’s great about the world we live in today is that, even though it seems like models are getting thinner and thinner, society seems to be getting more and more comfortable with highly visible people who aren’t stick-thin. I’ve got people from every angle preaching at me to love myself and be comfortable with who I am, but my brain just wouldn’t accept that. My brain still wanted me to be skinny. It has been an unbelievably frustrating battle for virtually my whole life.

And now today, I’m what doctors would consider to be overweight, but you know what? I’m also really healthy. I even ran two half-marathons last year. I eat right, I exercise regularly, but my genes just don’t want me to be skinny. No one in my family is skinny. It’s just not going to happen. But if I’m healthy, does being skinny really matter? Sure, I’d love for shopping trips to be less stressful. I’d love to look in the mirror and not think my arms look terrible. I’d love for people to stop telling me that blaming my genes is an excuse. But I’m coming up on 30 now, and I’ve decided it’s time to stop being mad at myself. It’s time to stop constantly agonizing over the number on the scale and the number on the tag in my pants. It’s time to embrace being thick. It’s time to embrace being curvy.

It’s time to love me.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Hedy Phillips

If You’ve Struggled With Body-Image Issues, This Is a Must Read

Curvy. Thick. Voluptuous. These are all words I’ve been hearing people call me for most of my life| and in my younger years| they all felt like an insult every single time.

For as long as I can remember| I’ve been just a little bit chubby. I was a chubby kid and a thick teenager| and now I’m a curvy woman.

In high school| I was incredibly healthy. I was too busy to eat too much and didn’t have any interest in crappy food. I was a year-round cheerleader| so I had practice (which included running| weight-lifting| and tumbling) two hours a day| five days a week| in addition to basketball games| football games| and cheerleading competitions. I was strong| I was in shape| and I was still thick.

After one of my last cheerleading competitions my senior year in high school| a mom of a young girl on a different squad pulled me aside and thanked me. I asked her what she was thanking me for| and she told me I was a role model for her daughter who thought she was too heavy to be a successful cheerleader. She told me that when her daughter saw me out there| tumbling with my squad| she felt like she could grow up to do the same| despite what she weighed. At the time| I didn’t know how to take that. At 18| I felt like she was telling me I was the fat cheerleader| and let’s be honest| I already felt like I was. But thinking about it now| I realize how amazing it was to show that little girl that you don’t have to be skinny to do the things you want to do. I flipped my fat ass over my head better than half the girls in that gym| and that little girl knew it.

Once I left high school and my daily activities shifted away from constant exercise and more toward TiVo and nap time (I was a really lazy college student)| I realized I needed to make some serious changes to keep healthy. I started going to the university gym at least five times a week and tried not to eat anything stupid| but nothing worked. I started down a dangerous path that I nearly didn’t pull myself out of.

But then I tried a doctor-monitored diet a few years later and lost about 50 pounds| still placing me on the “overweight” side of normal for my height by about five pounds. Maintaining that weight was not even close to manageable. I had a resting energy expenditure test done at the end of the weight-loss journey and found out that I literally have a metabolism slower than that of a middle-aged woman. With no activity| I barely burn a thousand calories a day| which surprised even the nutritionist who did the test for me. We tried the test twice to make sure there were no errors| and nope| I just have a really| really crappy metabolism.

I tried maintaining that weight. I was eating the healthiest (and littlest amount) I’ve ever eaten in my life| and I was exercising an average of an hour a day| seven days a week. No matter what I did| the weight crept back on. But I didn’t really mind| because I was still really healthy and active.

But then I had a backslide. Just like always. Just like after every other diet I’d tried in my life and I’d tried them all. I went back to living how I was used to and how I was comfortable| which included mostly healthy eating with treats here and there and exercise a few times a week. I was happy| I was healthy| and I was still thick.

I’ve come to realize that what’s great about the world we live in today is that| even though it seems like models are getting thinner and thinner| society seems to be getting more and more comfortable with highly visible people who aren’t stick-thin. I’ve got people from every angle preaching at me to love myself and be comfortable with who I am| but my brain just wouldn’t accept that. My brain still wanted me to be skinny. It has been an unbelievably frustrating battle for virtually my whole life.

And now today| I’m what doctors would consider to be overweight| but you know what? I’m also really healthy. I even ran two half-marathons last year. I eat right| I exercise regularly| but my genes just don’t want me to be skinny. No one in my family is skinny. It’s just not going to happen. But if I’m healthy| does being skinny really matter? Sure| I’d love for shopping trips to be less stressful. I’d love to look in the mirror and not think my arms look terrible. I’d love for people to stop telling me that blaming my genes is an excuse. But I’m coming up on 30 now| and I’ve decided it’s time to stop being mad at myself. It’s time to stop constantly agonizing over the number on the scale and the number on the tag in my pants. It’s time to embrace being thick. It’s time to embrace being curvy.

It’s time to love me.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Hedy Phillips

See Adele’s Amazing Weight-Loss Transformation

As if we needed another reason to worship Our Lady of Breakup Songs, Adele has announced a massive North American tour ¡ª her first in five years ¡ª that will take place from July to November of next year. In preparation for her 25 tour, the singer has been overhauling her diet and implementing a fitness routine . . . and it seriously shows.

In her interview with Rolling Stone, Adele spoke about how she lost over 21 pounds, while also maintaining her body-confident outlook. The article read:

Adele is trying to build stamina for her possible return to the road, so she’s cutting back on sugar, though not carbs altogether (“I’d never deprive myself like that!”), and hitting the gym, “to get in shape for myself, but not to be a size zero or anything like that.” Her regimen? “I mainly moan,” she says. Small cackle. “I’m not, like, skipping to the fucking gym. I don’t enjoy it. I do like doing weights. I don’t like looking in the mirror. Blood vessels burst on my face really easily, so I’m so conscious when I’m lifting weights not to let them burst in my face. And if I don’t tour, you’ll catch me back down at the Chinese!”

Her recent health and fitness journey can be credited to her young son, Angelo, who also motivated her to quit smoking. She said, “I absolutely loved it, but it’s not that f*cking cool when I’m dying from a smoking-related illness and my kid is, like, devastated.”

We commend Adele on her impressive transformation and look forward to possibly seeing her absolutely kill it in person ¡ª that is, if tickets don’t sell out immediately.

Image Sources: Getty / Raymond Hall and Getty / Slaven Vlasic

See Adele’s Amazing Weight-Loss Transformation

As if we needed another reason to worship Our Lady of Breakup Songs| Adele has announced a massive North American tour ¡ª her first in five years ¡ª that will take place from July to November of next year. In preparation for her 25 tour| the singer has been overhauling her diet and implementing a fitness routine . . . and it seriously shows.

In her interview with Rolling Stone| Adele spoke about how she lost over 21 pounds| while also maintaining her body-confident outlook. The article read:

Adele is trying to build stamina for her possible return to the road| so she’s cutting back on sugar| though not carbs altogether (“I’d never deprive myself like that!”)| and hitting the gym| “to get in shape for myself| but not to be a size zero or anything like that.” Her regimen? “I mainly moan|” she says. Small cackle. “I’m not| like| skipping to the fucking gym. I don’t enjoy it. I do like doing weights. I don’t like looking in the mirror. Blood vessels burst on my face really easily| so I’m so conscious when I’m lifting weights not to let them burst in my face. And if I don’t tour| you’ll catch me back down at the Chinese!”

Her recent health and fitness journey can be credited to her young son| Angelo| who also motivated her to quit smoking. She said| “I absolutely loved it| but it’s not that f*cking cool when I’m dying from a smoking-related illness and my kid is| like| devastated.”

We commend Adele on her impressive transformation and look forward to possibly seeing her absolutely kill it in person ¡ª that is| if tickets don’t sell out immediately.

Image Sources: Getty / Raymond Hall and Getty / Slaven Vlasic

Amy Schumer’s Response to Her Nude Pirelli Calendar Shoot Is Yet Another Reason We Love Her

Oh| Amy Schumer| we love you because you are real| just like us. This photo of you posing half-naked in your lacy undies and heels with coffee cup in hand for the 2016 Pirelli calendar is awesome on its own| but you went ahead and amplified its awesomeness with this caption on your Facebook| Twitter| and Instagram feeds:

“Beautiful| gross| strong| thin| fat| pretty| ugly| sexy| disgusting| flawless| woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!”

This is what beauty is. Amy’s bravery and confidence are what make her stunningly gorgeous. And sexy! Damn! This photo reminds us that this is what real women look like| not the photoshopped ones we constantly see in magazines. The world needs to see more photos like these because ¡ª and this might blow society’s mind ¡ª women have belly rolls and cellulite and stretch marks. And the more we expose this real side of women’s bodies| the more women will love their bodies. So thank you| Amy| for openly loving your normal and beautiful body ¡ª you’re inspiring more women than you know. And her facial expression is just the cherry on top. She’s like| “Yeah| I’m hot. I know it. And now you know it too. Now shut up and let me drink my coffee in peace.”

Related: April Will Be Your Favorite Month After Seeing Serena Williams’s Bare and Beautiful Calendar Shoot

Image Source: Pirelli / Annie Leibovitz