It was a moment I’d never forget. Sitting with Movemeant’s now Founder Jenny Gaither on uncomfortable faux logs at a campfire themed bar having an equally uncomfortable conversation about how we felt about our bodies. As I look back, it was all very ridiculous. We were literally pouring our hearts out about body image issues and sharing our stories of feeling less than adequate in our bodies—all while drinking cocktails and eating s’mores.
That night, I was shocked to have learned that someone as beautiful as Jenny had struggled with the same things that I did. And it was then that a light bulb went off—that it wasn’t just me or Jenny, but thousands upon thousands of women that battle with body image issues. So when Jenny came to me years later to start a movement (no pun intended) to change the way women feel about their bodies, I was in. WAY in.
I feel as though I’ve struggled with body image issues since forever, but I can pretty clearly pinpoint the time when they started. When I was 15 years old, I found out that I had a thyroid disorder. For those of you who don’t know, your thyroid gland is the like battery that controls your metabolism. And mine is slow.
As a kid, I was always active and never really thought much about my weight. Between riding bikes, rollerblading, and playing sports, I was always healthy and slim. However, once I found out about my underactive thyroid my sophomore year of high school, I gained 40 pounds by the time I graduated. Needless to say, this made going through puberty pretty, um….not great.
In addition to maintaining my 4.0 grade point average, learning how to talk to boys, and trying to make it home every day in time to watch TRL, I was struggling physically and emotionally to cope with what was going on with my body. Friends and family didn’t know how to deal with the sudden weight gain, and in an attempt to be supportive and help me lose the weight, opted for fat jokes and criticisms that still live with me. It was hard for me to cope with what was going on in my body, so I understand why it was also hard for them.
In my most formative years, I became insecure and lost all confidence in myself rather than focus on my interests and strengths. I stopped playing the sports I love (and therefore all physical activity), would avoid eating in front of others (but secretly binging behind closed doors), and beat myself up for years over the way I looked. These insecurities carried into college and so did the consequences – I dated a little but not a lot, I didn’t join as many school activities as I wanted, and my confidence was at an all time low.
About a year after moving to New York, I stepped into a SoulCycle class that was being led by the indomitable Jenny Gaither and it was probably my first real step towards changing the way I felt about my body and myself. Slowly, moving my body through fitness started to make me feel like an athlete again. Those body image issues that held me back started to fade and I found new confidence.
And not just in the way I looked but how it made me feel—strong, athletic, energized. I quit my sedentary day job and began working in the fitness industry. I ditched my daily subway commute for a shiny red fixie. I’ve ran 5k and 10K races. I began to like what I saw in the mirror. I'm not saying that every day is easy and that all my insecurities are gone forever, but I will say that I've come to love parts of myself that I didn't before and I am not afraid to challenge myself in new ways.
Exercise was the catalyst for the most positive change in my life and I cannot wait to share that with Movemeant Foundation.