Now it’s time to talk about what I really took away from Fitbloggin’ 12- and it wasn’t just this awesome tank top.
It was about what I got from people like this:
As with other blogging conferences, Fitbloggin’ had a schedule of different sessions to choose from to attend each day. The sessions basically fell into two different categories: how to better your blog or how to better yourself. Before attending the conference, I had looked at the schedule online and made a mental list of the sessions that I thought I would like to attend. There were a few that really weren’t relevant to me, and then others that seemed to have my name stamped all over them.
I’m not really going to talk much about the “how to better your blog” type sessions here, because while they were helpful (and the presenters were great), they weren’t what benefited me the most. My absolute favorite session was the very first one that I attended on Friday, which was called: Self acceptance and weight loss. Hmmm… could that be one of the sessions that had my name written all over it?
As you may know (or maybe you don’t), I was quite overweight as a teen and young adult. It wasn’t until around age 23 that a light suddenly came on and I decided that I was sick of living in my unhealthy body and wanted to change it. And I am thankful every day that the light did come one- because who knows where I would be right now otherwise. I lost about 30-40 lbs. initially (I can never be quite sure, because I refused to get on a scale when I was at my heaviest) and stayed there for a few years. At age 27, I lost another 30 and got to my lowest weight ever, which was a healthy 140ish lbs. I maintained that weight for about a year, but then became so consumed with just losing a few more lbs. that I began exercising obsessively, multiple times a day, and restricting calories. And all of that craziness wreaked havoc on my hormones and made my metabolism pretty much slow down to a halt. I started piling on the pounds. Not what you would expect, right? After about a year of the 2 or 3 a day workouts, I had a little intervention with myself and started to back off on the exercise, cutting it down to once a day with one or two rest days a week. However, the damage was already done. My body was so stressed out and storing fat like crazy, and at this point, where I am today, I’ve gained back 20 of the lbs. that I had lost.
Those 20 lbs. can run my life some days. I know it seems silly, but it’s true. Sometimes I focus so much on my extra body fat, that I forget about all of the things that I do love about myself. It’s pretty much reached the boiling point lately, and the past month has been really tough for me mentally and emotionally. And there’s been so many times where I have felt like no one understands why I feel like this or that I’m all alone.
Back to the conference…
The Self-Acceptance and Weight Loss session proved me wrong. I am most certainly not alone. There are many other people (women and men- of all different shapes and sizes) that share my struggles, and know exactly how I feel. And it’s not that I want anyone to go through the same struggles… but man, it feels good to know that I’m not the only one.
For the session, we gathered in a conference room that was set up with chairs and various microphones stationed around the room. The discussion was led by Karen, Mara and Shauna. Each woman began by introducing herself and had an opening statement. The intention of the session was to have an open discussion about the fears associated with accepting and loving yourself before/during/after weight loss. One by one, women and men stepped up the mic to share their stories. Each story was special, unique and touching- and there were a lot of tears shed. It was really powerful- and there was such a sense of love and community in that room. Eventually I got up the nerve to speak. It’s not that I’m shy or don’t like talking in front of a crowd- I really have no problem with that. But when it comes to sharing something so personal… I get really nervous. My heart pounded as I spoke, and I tried to just spit everything out as quickly as possible because I knew the inevitable was going to happen- and it did. I got choked up. Talking about my issues with my body is very emotional to me. Sure, I can talk to Ashley or Brie about them all day long- but in a room of strangers, I felt very vulnerable.
I talked about my insecurities with my body, and how I battle with feeling like the “fat” group exercise instructor or the “fat” trainer. Yes- on a rational level, I know it’s silly. I even thought that people would think of me as the “fat” Spinning instructor when I started teaching… and was a size four. I wanted to say a lot more, but I stopped myself short. Once the tears start, I just need to sit down and collect myself.
I got so much support from people in the room. Mrs. Fatass came up and gave me a big hug when I was done talking and told me that I “stole her topic” that she was going to share. (And FYI- She is NOT a fat ass.) I sat and listened to all of the beautiful stories that everyone was sharing, and found myself able to relate to each and every one of them. Everyone was so open and honest- it was really beautiful. There were people who had lost hundreds of pounds and had been able to maintain the weight loss, but still dealt with the issues of not fully loving themselves. There were others who had just started their weight loss journey, and had a long way to go. And then several others, like me, who had lost weight and gained some back.
I remember one of the women who had lost a lot of weight and gained some back saying that she “felt like a failure.” And damn, that just hit me hard. I guess that’s what I’ve been feeling like… a failure. For some reason, I’ve been believing that because I have gone a little off course on my journey to be healthy and happy- that I’ve failed. Never mind that fact that I am healthy, strong, fit and now have my dream job of teaching other people get healthy and strong too. Never mind that I have a great life with an awesome husband and the cutest dogs on the planet. Never mind anything good that I have ever achieved in my life… but because I have this layer of body fat and weird issues with food, I’m a failure. WOW. That really made me think about just how darn silly I’ve been!
Sometimes you just need to hear your thoughts out loud to put them into perspective. And man… that’s exactly what I got. Some perspective.
I met so many beautiful, amazing people that spoke during that session, but these are a few that really stood out to me:
Dawn from Prior Fat Girl (she was one of my best buddies all weekend- I instantly smiled whenever I saw her!)
Susan a.k.a. Foodie McBody (man, what she said reminded me so much of my own mother!)
Thea from It’s Me Vs. Me (who is from FREDERICK!!)
Emily from Fit and Free Emily (we are definitely connected- I love this girl to death!)
Samatha from Simplifying Sammie (she used to weigh 470 lbs, and has now under 300- and is a ZUMBA instructor. And a damn good one, at that!)
Julie from Am I There Yet? (when she shared her story, I swear it was like hearing myself speak!)
Sheryl Yvette a.k.a. Bitchcakes (she rides a bike while wearing 4″ heels. I’m not joking! Check her out!)
Tara from A Life Changing Journey (just a really beautiful person, inside and out)
and Tara’s wife Meegan from Redstar5 (her words literally gave me chills)
Lynda from Hit the Road Jane (love her story- and love her, period. She made me feel instantly comfortable.)
Steve from Steve Gray FTW (Yup. He made me cry.)
Danielle from Elley Exposed (such an intelligent, articulate woman- and a great new friend!)
Really, I could go on and on. Every single person was amazing- and I am SO blessed to have met all of these incredible people.
There was a similar heart-tugging session on Saturday that was moderated by Tara and Meegan called When You Have A Lot To Lose. Since I enjoy a good, cathartic cry fest, I attended this one too. I won’t go into all of the details and emotions, because they were pretty similar to the session that I wrote a book about above. Just know, it was pretty amazing. People are so brave!
Another session that I really enjoyed (that was more on the “how to better your blog” side) was called Using Social Media to Drive Blog Traffic. This session was presented by beautiful Emily, who blogs her weight loss journey at Skinny Emmie and has lost over 110 lbs. so far!
She was a GREAT speaker and had amazing slides – and I learned a lot of useful information about how to utilize social media to get my blog’s name out there more.
And then there was MizFit- who is just a freakin’ empire!
She talked about how to get your writing published- something that I have never really thought about before, but haven’t stopped thinking about since I heard her speak. MizFit has really worked hard to build a name for herself, and I really, really admire her!
My second favorite “session” overall was really more of an event: Ignite Fitness. For this event, each presenter had five minutes to give a presentation (to share their story) while showing a series of slides. It was SO much fun- and each speaker was amazing!
Unfortunately, I completely missed Janet Oberholtzer, because I got up to use the restroom and then got caught up in a conversation with someone outside of the room. I really wish I had seen her speak- her story is absolutely incredible and inspiring (and pretty unbelievable)!
So, yeah. The swag was great- and so were the workouts. But the most valuable thing I took away from Fitbloggin’ was the personal connections that I made. The people that I met, the stories that I listened to, and the love that I received without judgment was worth every single penny.
I’m a better version of me today than I was a week ago.
Can’t wait for Fitbloggin’ 2013- in Portland!
Have you ever met someone that has changed the way you think (or just really given you a new perspective)? Are you too hard on yourself?