Weight loss is more than just the pounds you lose on your physical body, but also about losing the mental restraints you put on yourself. It’s about gaining confidence in yourself; mind, body and spirit!

I never worked out before I turned 21 years old. I was born and raised in New York City and my fitness included walking the city streets everywhere I had to go! I never had a gym membership, or wanted to go running in the morning like many New Yorker’s who layered on clothing in the dead of winter to jog along with East River. It was never a lifestyle I found enjoyable, so I didn’t do it.

I met my husband Ryan at Clark University 10 years ago. I was over-weight, and had no confidence in myself. I was always seen smiling around campus and had a good group of friends, but I could not say that I was happy. I had let myself go after coming to college. I had not just gained the “Freshman 15” pounds from a diet high in carbohydrates and nonexistent in exercise, but I had put on an additional 15 pounds before the end of my freshman year. My appearance and weight was not what defined my happiness, but my clothes being too tight, my difficulty breathing walking up stairs, and eating fried foods was not setting myself up for a happy future. Ryan helped me get back on track and helped me discover a better version of myself. But even after salads, fruits and vegetables became a new normal to me, the gym still never became a thought in my mind. I had lost 10 pounds after meeting Ryan and felt satisfied. I moved back to New York City after completing my Master’s Degree and I finally felt as confident as I appeared to be.

As the weight slowly started to decrease, I started to love myself more. It wasn’t because the number on the scale was lower, or the size of my pants were smaller. It was because I was taking care of myself and giving my body a chance to actually live. Years of smoking cigarettes and eating less than nourishing foods had taken a toll on my body and mind, and finding a workout routine that I loved and feeding my body healthy food was motivating me to be happy and healthy.

I clearly remember my first group fitness class in the spring of 2010. It was 8:30am on a Sunday morning in April and I was 23 years old and about to workout for the first time — ever! I don’t know what came over me or how I convinced myself to sign up for classes, but I did — and a wave of emotions followed me ever since. During my first morning group fitness class, I can remember chanting in my head: “What am I doing here?…Why are my legs shaking?…Why can’t I touch my toes?…Why are 2 pound weights so heavy!” I was looking around the room comparing myself to the other women in the class and judging myself for not being good enough. After finishing class, I could barely walk down the street because I was so sore and questioned how I would return the next day. But I did, and not only did I return the next day, I returned day-after-day and then the next month, and the month after that, and the year after that.

I took it one class at a time — and I learned to let go of those negative feelings I had toward myself and not being the best in the class, the strongest or the thinnest. I learned to look at myself as an individual and to only see how far I had come on my fitness and health journey. It didn’t matter what everyone else was doing, or how long they had been working out for; it only mattered how I was advancing, learning and growing.

I resolved to put my health first and get my physical well-being in order. I was going to do more than worry about weight-loss, but care about how I felt on the inside. I never thought that I would gain so much in a 60 minute work-out.

I gained the confidence in myself that I lacked many years ago. I gained a desire to seek out wellness in my everyday life outside the fitness studio. 
I found an appreciation in myself that I never felt before. I have embraced exercise and a healthier lifestyle and I am pushing myself to be more mindful of my body and environment. I don’t have to be skinny or toned to be happy. I just have to be proud and respectful of myself, and appreciate what my body can do now that it couldn’t do before!

A lot has changed since that first fitness class 7 years ago! I have committed to my own health and wellness journey and now I want to help others with theirs. I became a certified health coach and a reiki energy healer so that I can help inspire and motivate others. I want to give others a sense of accomplishment and confidence that I found after that first fitness class. I have stopped comparing myself to others and have focused on my own health and I want others to find that strength within them!

Originally published at medium.com