If you met me today, you’d meet someone who chooses adventure. A person who climbs to the top of mountains because it offers exceptional training for living life. A person who pedals miles upon miles upon miles on a bike simply because it allows me to see, both literally and figuratively, how far I can push myself. But I wasn’t always like that. So let’s rewind.
My nickname growing up was baby damulag. Now I’ll spare you the Google search and tell you that it loosely translates to water buffalo and is jokingly used as a term to describe an overly big child. And it was true. I was a four year old in a six year old’s body. A ten year old in a fourteen year old’s body. I was tall and big-boned and overweight and uncomfortable.
With the self-image of said buffalo, I remained fairly incapacitated as a tween entering teenage years and as a teenager entering into young adulthood. I had few friends and felt emotionally and socially out of place almost all the time. I watched on with envy as my peers were experiencing their firsts—dates, kisses, parties—while I was experiencing the all-too-familiar loneliness that comes from a Friday night of watching Friends and eating fries.
But the real trouble set in the summer before my sophomore year in college. I was 18 years old when I simply just broke. Plagued by both the physical weight and the emotional bulk that I had been carrying for so long, my body image issues ran straight into the arms of eating disorders that resulted in a drastic and unhealthy weight loss of 45 lbs in 8 weeks.
Of course every kind of loss comes with some type of gain. For me, that gain came in the form of body dysmorphia. There was simply not a way for my mind to reconcile the evolution of my body, nor was I emotionally or psychologically prepared to understand the shifts in people’s perceptions of my radical change. So shortly thereafter, I birthed a new life. I started over. But that’s the thing about starting over. You don’t ever really let go of your past.
Despite a leaner physique and an extraordinarily compassionate network of friends that offered me an abundance of support to go after cute boys and big dreams, the idea of self-acceptance was still very much out of reach. Until one day, when I was 23, I met a moose.
A city girl to her core and someone who had yet to adopt fitness into her lifestyle, I surprised myself by saying yes to a week long vacation to Wyoming. Before then, nature meant a quick trip to Central Park. But nonetheless, what happened was both unexpected and profound: I fell in love with what I was capable of—hiking, running, climbing and paddling (along a glacial lake where I nearly bumped into the aforementioned moose)—and learned that my legs, my arms and my body could take me on an incredible journey to places and things I would otherwise never see.
Fourteen years later, I recognize that it was that one experience that set off a positive chain reaction that would impact every aspect of my life. Because of it, I found the confidence to scale mountains, summit peaks, tackle climbs and cross dozens of finish lines—physically, emotionally, socially and professionally. Now it wouldn’t be entirely true if I said that these accomplishments kicked self-doubt to the curb. It didn’t. But when it comes knocking, I have an arsenal of experiences to pull from to remind me that I am far more than what I see in the mirror.
I’m driven at Movemeant to help young women take risks that can enable them to make bolder, better decisions. Decisions that give them an arsenal of experiences similar to mine. Decisions that allow them to expand their health and well-being and discover what they are most capable of by using the connectivity of physical strength with emotional and mental fortitude. The eventual hope? That one day they’ll be able to—without fear or doubt—climb their own mountains and reach new and impossible heights.