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Being real about who I am: 5 lessons learned along the way

I'm a woman who has grown up in a time where society has been infatuated with how women look. A time when women obsess over how we think others think we look.

I have been concerned with how I look since I was 13 years old. The past 20 years have been a roller coaster ride of highs and lows regarding how I look and how I feel. Like many women, I have to try every day to remain positive and think about all the wonderful things that make me who I am as a person. I don't have an answer to the question: "How does one not care what others think?" I still care, but I'm learning to keep it in perspective.

So far, this journey has had some heart-dropping-into-your-stomach moments, and it’s also had some I'm-so-happy-I-could-fly moments. And I’ve learned some good lessons along the way. 

My Journey

I would never have called myself thin. I wasn’t crazy heavy, but I wasn’t thin. Through high school and college, I went up and down. I constantly battled the mental demon of envy. Every day my inner voice was saying: "She's more popular than you. She's thinner than you. She's prettier than you."  The "she" was every other girl out there.

I did crazy things to my body: vomited, starved, diuretics, binged, drank, ATE. I was lucky to have a few close friends from childhood who kept me grounded. When I was with them, I felt safe. I wasn't insecure. I got to be me.The inner dialogue started when I was branching out and immersed with new groups of people. That inner demon was loud. I wanted to be someone better than who I actually was. If I couldn't be that person, I'd pretend to be or I'd die trying. My weight went up and down, as well as my self-confidence. The roller coaster was in motion. I was insecure about everything. Life. My body. Myself.

In graduate school at the University of North Texas, I worked hard. I ate and drank even harder. In Texas, the food is good and the drinks are cheap! The weight came on and stayed on. The problem was that I didn’t see it. I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t notice how bad it was getting. 

Bar Room Melt Down

Right before leaving graduate school in 2005, a male "friend" called me fat in front of a group of other friends. I cried right there in the middle of the bar. I wasn't fat. I wasn't rail thin, but I thought I was good looking. I als

o thought that I was a smart woman with a lot going for me. My looks were included in that package. When he called me fat, my heart fell in to my stomach. All my insecurity came rushing back… "I'm fat, which means I'm not good looking. I must not be desirable. I’m not the full package." My intellect wasn't necessarily observable, but everyone could see my body. In that instant, I became the woman who was once again obsessed with what others thought of my outward appearance.

The other thing about weight is that not only is it observable but it’s measurable. For any 

of you familiar with behavior analysis, losing weight was my way of measuring myself -- with data to support it. I went home, took off all my clothes and looked in the mirror. I saw it. I saw the bulges, the rolls, and the look of disgust on my face. I felt the disappointment and sadness.

The Loop

This was also about the time of my sister's wedding. I was a bridesmaid. I thought I looked good. I can remember the day I saw those pictures. I couldn't believe I looked like that. Was that really me? My beautiful sister had a heifer by her side on her most special day! Even now, I look back at those pictures and feel the insecurity creeping in. It was the first time that I had photographic evidence of what had happened to me physically.

The day after my middle-of-the-bar melt-down, I put on my shoes and headed to the park. There was was a 2.5 mile loop. I walked and jogged.

I walked/jogged around that loop in that park in Texas almost every day until I could go all the way around in a jog. This was also observable and measurable. But the insecurity about my body persisted. 

I joined a gym. I got a personal trainer for a month. I learned how use fitness machines and started incorporating things like medicine, yoga, and bosu balls in my workouts. I felt great. I was dropping pounds and finding muscles. I felt hot. I felt like I was finally arm candy for my husband. I also noticed that I got second glances from 

people.It was also time to move on in life. Get a career job and make something of myself. Chris—my fiancé at the time—and I moved to suburban Connecticut and our complex had a gym. I did cardio a couple times a week. We got married. So far I had lost approximately 25 pounds. I felt great. I kn

ew I needed to lose more to have a safe BMI. I decided to add some elements to my routine.

I began to incorporate a full weight routine into my cardio mix up. I was down another 8-10 lbs. I finally felt totally secure about my body.

I remember going dress shopping for a wedding. My friends, Aydrien and Megan, encouraged me to try on a bando dress. I tried it on. It looked awesome. I walked down that aisle as a bridesmaid with pure confidence. I felt smart and sexy.

In total, I had shed more than 50 pounds.

Oh Baby

Then I got pregnant.

I walked a lot during pregnancy to keep up cardio, but no weights. Obviously, I gained weight.

After I had our son, I hated my body, but didn’t do anything about it. I was now a 

working mother and wife. I was learning how to balance this new schedule. I thought I would be amazing at it and I thought I was prepared. Now, I can look back and laugh at myself. I really thought I'd make being a working parent look easy breezy.

I was a hot mess.

Even after the pregnancy hormones wore off, I was struggling with the demands of motherhood. I also thought that I wasn't putting in enough effort at work because I had to leave on time every day. I worked on my eating, but no real exercise. A random jaunt to the gym was as consistent as it got. I was insecure about my body again—very insecure.

I got pregnant and had my son right around the time it was popular for all the celebrities to have babies and get their bodies back in a public way. I thought that I would be that mom about whom people said: "I can't believe she had a kid. She looks awesome." I looked and felt so good before pregnancy. I wanted that body and that mentality back.

Arm Candy Ambitions

Mind you: I knew that I was married with a kid. Why should I have cared? I cared because I wanted to be a hot mom and wife. I wanted to be arm candy. I wanted the second glances.

By the time my son was 3 years old, I could barely keep up with him. He wasn't a baby anymore and he liked to run! We're not big on television watching for our little man, which means we're outside a lot. I didn't have the energy or drive to be playing with him constantly.

We signed up for the YMCA. They had child care, which allowed my husband and I to work out together. It was good for about 2 months and then work picked up. I was busy. I was not going to the gym. I was wasting money.my son was 3 years old, I could barely keep up with him. He wasn't a baby anymore and he liked to run! We're not big on television watching for our little man, which means we're outside a lot. I didn't have the energy or drive to be playing with him constantly.

Poolside with old buddies one day, my friend Frank started talking about this new program coming out. He had just done Insanity and lost almost 100 pounds. He said this new program was an at-home program that was only 25 minutes a day. We could do it on our schedule and in our home. No gym membership necessary. The program was called T25. Shaun T, the Insanity trainer, is also the T25 trainer. The videos are based on muscle progression and high intensity interval training (HIIT). My husband and I looked at each other--both in our bathing suits--and said we'd do it.


The workouts weren't easy at first. There was a lot of jumping and initially I hated it.

But I kept pushing play.

My first week with T25, Shakeology, and a cleaner diet, I lost 5 pounds. I needed that information and progress to keep going. We did daily check-ins, posted sweaty selfies, and when we skipped a workout, we had to own up to it. I was in a competition with myself. I was motivated and I was feeling better about myself. I was taking action. I was in control of making me look and feel better. It was also nice to have my husband by my side for that first round. I was feeling confident in my body, and my focus shifted from feeling thin to wanting to feel strong. I ended up completing 2 rounds of T25 and 1 Round of T25 Gamma, which incorporates more weight training. I’ve now have started P90x3. These are 30-minute workouts. They incorporate weights, cardio, plyometrics, and yoga. Every day is different.

I’m down about another 15-18 lbs in less than a year’s time. I feel excellent. I feel healthy and strong. I don't have any weight loss goals now. I now have goals related to strength and flexibility. I want to keep beating my pull-up numbers. I want to be able to touch my toes when I bend in half. 

I do want to maintain my weight loss. I've done it in the healthiest of ways and I don't want to ruin the progress. When I eat like crap, I know I'm going to feel like crap. However, I don't kill myself if I slip off track. I haven't been getting off track and staying off track for long.

Lessons Learned

Right now, I feel confident in knowing how to get my endurance and strength back up. I continue to experiment with different exercise programs to see which ones suit me and my personality.I like to sweat. If I'm sweating, I feel like I'm working. After all, you can't fake sweat.

I've got a good balance right now. But I know that this is a roller coaster, and with age come new challenges, and with life come new setbacks and steps forward.

I'm always going to be learning something, but here are a few things I've learned so far:

1) I follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to eating. 80% of the time, eat clean; 20% of the time, eat what you want—but in moderation. If you want Chick-fil-a nuggets, have a small pack. If you want a cookie, have a cookie. Just don’t do that every day.

2) If you want to lose weight, you need to eat right and move your body almost every day. This means finding something that you like to do and that keeps you motivated. Walking, jogging, joining a gym, or doing an at-home fitness program. It doesn't matter. You just need to move your body regularly.

3) You are the only one in control of changing how you feel about yourself. This goes for anything in your life. For me, I'd like to put that responsibility on someone else, but it's mine and mine alone. And for you, it is yours and yours alone.

4) If you want to make a lifestyle change, you have to let people know. Let them know that you have started a journey or are on one. You'd be surprised at how supportive people can be. It's such a personal thing, but people who love you want the best for you. When you have a team with you and behind you, it helps—a lot!

5) It’s not going to be like this always. Personally, I’m not okay with that, but I know I will ha ve to deal with the journey and learn from it. But for now, my plan is to always pick myself up if I fall. I’m going to lead by example. I encourage you to do the same.

So, you’ll keep seeing the Sweaty Selfies of me as I continue to learn about different ways to move my body that keep it fun and exciting, different ways to fuel my body, and different things I learn about me on this journey.

There’s a rumor that stand-up paddle boarding is in my future.

If you’d like to keep up with the journey, find me at the following:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/victoriawhiteryan

Instagram: victoriawhiteryan42

Victoria Ryan
Victoria Ryan




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