Fitbloggin ’12: The Sessions [What I REALLY Took Away From Fitbloggin']

You’ve read the re-cap. You’ve seen the swag.

Now it’s time to talk about what I really took away from Fitbloggin’ 12- and it wasn’t just this awesome tank top.

Nope.

It was about what I got from people like this:

(Me with three gorgeous women: Lynda, Lena and Danielle. This is Lena’s photo)

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?

A story…

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!

Lynda

Jack Sh*t :)

Hank Hanna

Erin Stutland

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 inspired.

I’m a better version of me today than I was a week ago.

I’m happier. :)

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?

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more!

    The best part of these conferences is that feeling of connection. That “oh, me too!” How many times did I say that to myself last weekend? :) We’re definitely not a lone in our struggles and we all have something to offer each other.

    For the love of blogs, next year let’s take a better picture. I look totally stoned. Stoned on my massive love for you. ;) mwahahaha.

    Seriously though. You’re awesome.

    • I know… I’ve never been in a room full of people before that just GET IT. So amazing!! I’ll take “getting a better picture” as an excuse to get together! I hope it’s before Portland! xoxo and YOU are awesome.

      • Come to Iowa and visit us both! :) I’m so glad you two connected. Also, fitbloggin’ 13 is in Portland? I’m so going. I’ve wanted to visit there forever. Just hope that I don’t get stuck there (if you’ve seen Portlandia, you might already know that I probably belong there).

  2. I love LOVED this post. There was so much growth that happened this weekend… and it’s so nice to see that so many people felt the same. Makes the trip so worth it! I adore you. Can’t wait to see you soon! xoxo

  3. Your trip sounds like SO much fun!! Heck, YOU sound like so much fun, Lauren! :)

  4. This was a powerful post for me to read …. and it sounds like you had a powerful experience at the conference. That’s awesome! Keep reminding yourself of all you reflected on here–you are beautiful and inspiring! :)

    • Powerful is right- it’s hard to even describe the feelings from that weekend.
      And THANK YOU- you are beautiful and inspiring too! Now, let’s go move to Colorado!

  5. I wish I could attend a session like that. I’ve never been able to speak openly and honestly about my struggles like that and I’m sure it would help me immensely!

    • Wish you could have been there! Maybe next year? It is amazing to be in a group of people that just completely understand you in that way.

  6. Holycrapsomuchawesome! This was definitely a great year for Fitbloggin, and I think so many more people got something out of it emotionally than in the previous years. It rocked!

    As for you, you are awesome, and you absolutely right in that YOU ARE NOT ALONE in this. :)

    • YOU are awesome Steve- wish we could’ve hung out more. I really, really admired your courage to get up and speak and be so honest- it just tugged at my heart so much!
      Next year- Portland, baby!

  7. I loved reading this post, Lauren! I feel like a lot of blog recaps focus on the swag, the food, etc – which is fine – but it’s great to read about the actual substance, and your takeaways are incredible. I’m personally so much harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else. I know I’m capable of a lot, but I also know I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and it sounds like you are too. Don’t ever feel like a failure. I admire your dedication to healthy living – you’re often an inspiration to me during a hard spin or bodypump class. :)

    • Yeah… the swag and the meals and all that stuff is great, but the mental clarity I got was just priceless.
      It’s hard being a perfectionist- and I know that you and me are SO alike (and PS- we get to hang out in 3 weeks!!!)

  8. Great recap! I was very moved during the Self Acceptance session. I didn’t speak, but was really reminded that everyone has an interesting story. We are all on a journey and it never ends. I am a 100# loser and have been maintaining for about four years. But I still go up and down 20 pounds and struggle with self-acceptance. It’s the human condition, but hearing other people share their issues makes it better.

    • How did we never meet? I know I saw you a million times! I just read over your re-caps and they are amazing- I’ll be going back to comment. CONGRATS on your huge weight loss!

  9. Boy, that Jack Sh*t certainly is a dreamboat and… wait! How do I make this be from “Anonymous”?

  10. You are the most kick-ass person, and anyone is lucky to have you as their instructor. Those sessions were so great, and left me with lots to think about. Can’t wait for Portland though :)

    • Aw, thanks love! I adore you!
      And I know how much you love Portland- we will have such an awesome time (and if I’m living out in CO by then, we can fly out together…)

  11. What a great post Lauren! I’m so glad you could share at the conference and here at the blog. Not reaching your originally perceived goals isn’t failure! Failure is sticking to the wrong goals or not taking steps towards the right ones. You can’t fail as long you’re happy, healthy and on your way to the best place for you!

    • Thanks, doll! You are so sweet- and I LOVE everything you wrote here. Seriously, I’m going to frame that quote about failure!

  12. What beautiful takeaways!! I LOVE that you had the connection with SO many people. That is an incredible feeling to know ‘you’re not alone.’ LOVE this!!! <3

    You're beautiful, inside & out, Lauren!!

  13. That sounds super inspiring!! Thanks for sharing. Of course, I’m impressed by the girl who rides bike in heels. :)

  14. It’s so awesome that you had such a powerful experience at the conference. And you are so brave to stand up and tell your story to a room full of strangers – I don’t think I could do it! I’ve been in the same position with the “20 pounds running my life,” and I know how awful it is to wake up with that kind of negativity hanging over your head. Stick with it, though – you can do this!

  15. I love reading the recaps because you just never know how fitbloggin is going to affect you until you’re home and settled back into “life”.

    This is a beautiful blog post. It’s hard to share personal things in a room full of people you barely know but by the end of the weekend we leave as friends and feel stronger because of it.

    Xoxo
    T

    • It’s kind of weird just how much comfort you can find in a room full of strangers- and tell them things that you don’t even share with your closest friends. You all are my family!

  16. I loved what you shared in the session because it was simply raw, honest & open. I swear if we all lived authenticly and KINDLY each day how amazing would our world be.
    See you in Portland??
    xo

    • Right on- to everything you said! Why can’t we just be kind to ourselves (and everyone else)?
      DEFINITELY see you in Portland! Thanks for being such an inspiration. :)

  17. I heart you. Except, how did you steal my thoughts exactly?!?!?! Such powerful moments in that discussion room. I am so very glad I met you!!!

  18. I think a lot of people struggle with the same thoughts as you so I appreciate your honesty. When I look at people who are thin (I mean really thin, like almost unhealthy thin), I assume that their lives are more under control than mine and the thought of “if only I had better control about what I ate” takes over my brain. In reality, people come in all shapes and sizes and that we are so conditioned by what we see in magazines, on TV, in advertisements, etc., that we think this should be our goal. Based on what you describe your eating and exercise habits to be now, you are very healthy and you should be very proud of all the things your body can do. We need to be more accepting of ourselves. Would you ever say the things you think about yourself to a friend? I know it is hard to keep these thoughts from consuming one’s mind, but I also know that turning down opportunities for travel, fun, jobs, etc. until I get to where I want (which is totally unrealistic and unnecessary for me) to be is just making me miss out on a lot of great things.

    • What a beautiful comment- thank you!! You provide so much insight here. And I love how you said “would you ever say these things to a friend?” That’s the thing- we can be so kind and caring for other people, but it’s just as important that we are that way to ourselves! That so often gets lost.

  19. karenclanderson says:

    What a fabulous post…and thank you for your kind words regarding the self-acceptance session. Your story is very moving and you’re right, so many share it or a very similar version of it. As you might imagine, it’s hard to stand up in front of a bunch of “health and fitness” people and talk about self-acceptance and weight loss when you maybe don’t look like you “should” be accepting yourself, but the more I do it, the more I know it’s the very right thing to do. You are a kickass role model of health and fitness and don’t ever let anyone (especially yourself) tell you otherwise :-)

  20. I love you and you are brave and wonderful for sharing your story. And man there seriously must be something in the air. Honesty and body acceptance foreverrrrr!! <3

    • Reading how honest you have been has really helped me be more honest with myself. I think that I was unsuccessful in completely maintaining my weightloss because I never dealt with the issues that got me to be fat in the first place. On the second go-round, I’m learning just how important those issues are!

  21. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more jealous of Fitbloggin’. UGH!!! And I want that tank top – badly.

    2013 is in Portland?! My sister lives there. I am IN!

    • I soooo hope you are! Then I’ll get a back to back dose of you at Blend AND Fitbloggin’! Oh, I can’t even handle it! :)

  22. Damn, I wish I had been there for the body acceptance talk. I always feel so alone sometimes too about my struggles. It’s really easy to get caught up in your issues without a lifeline to pull you back to reality.

    I’m glad that you had such a good time at Fitbloggin’ and I’m glad you learned so much and met awesome bloggers. I just want you to know that I think you’re pretty awesome and I would totally take one of your classes/have you train me :)

  23. This is so well-written and speaks so clearly to the sentiments I left Fitbloggin’ with ,too. Our stories are similar, hormones, metabolic damage, and especially the “failure” bit. Ugh- that one hurts and I’m stuck with it at the moment! As for the fitness instructor thing, you should have a day where you teach “BloggyPump” to all the DC/MD bloggers. I loved BodyPump, but I’m fairly certain you’d put us all to shame! :)

    • Bloggy Pump!! I love it!! Did we meet?! Ahhh I wish we had!
      I definitely need to head right over and check out your blog. I’m definitely sorry that you’ve gone through the same struggles as me- but yes again, know you’re not alone in this!!

  24. I am so glad that you liked the social media session, and also wanted to thank you for stepping up to the mic to share your experience.

  25. this is what it’s all about. Being real, being open, being supportive of each other. That makes YOU EMBRACE your journey, your transition, your passions. So glad you enjoyed your fitbloggin trip.

    • Amen! And that support is SO important. I’m so lucky to get it from all of YOU! Now, you need to get your butt to a conference SOON (preferably one that I’m at!)

  26. I can really related to that feeling. Though I am not a fitness instructor, I do feel like when I tell people that I’ve run a bunch of half-marathons, they are thinking, “she doesn’t look like a runner.” in their heads. Obviously, this is really in my head and it might not be in anyone else’s.

    I’ve always wanted to go to Portland…

    • “I can really related?” Obviously I haven’t quite woken up yet!

    • Yup- I hear you, Lee. Those thoughts SUCK. And the truth is- no one is thinking them! How many times have you thought that about someone? Probably never!
      Ooooooh go to Portland!! I think we’re going to make a trip out of it and go for a few extra days!

  27. How amazing!! I’m so glad it left you in a better place! I’m so glad you got to connect to so many people. I felt the same way after Blend. For the record… I think you are beautiful… inside and out!!

    You better be at Blend this next year!! I just want to give you a HUGE HUG!

    • Trust me- I’ll be at Blend. NOTHING COULD STOP ME.
      You are such a sweetheart and DITTO! I owe you a big giant hug in May (waaaaah why is it so far away??)

  28. I totally agree that as much as the blogging sessions are great and what we pay for…it’s the people and their stories that leave a lasting impact! I just adored the whole vibe at the conference

    • I know! I expected to meet cool people and get some good stuff, but I had no idea that it would have such an EMOTIONAL impact. Can we go back ??

  29. It honestly sounds like an amazing weekend! I love how sometimes the littlest things can bring about the biggest changes (even just mental and emotional changes). I often have to remind myself that just because I lost the band I used to manage, I’m not a failure. They wouldn’t be where they are today without all of the hard work I put in for a few years. While that’s not about weight loss, it’s just one simple aspect of my life and not worthy of calling myself a failure.

  30. Okay, I am finally going back and catching up on the stuff I missed this week.

    I can SO relate to everything in this post. I’m not a fitness instructor, but even when I walk into the gym, I feel like I need to wear a shirt that says, “I swear I’m not a newbie! I know what I’m doing!” because I feel like people will automatically look at my size 16 body and thing I’m a first-timer.

    Body acceptance is such a crazy thing. I’m still learning that it is entirely possible to accept and love your body while wanting it to change. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive.

  31. PORTLAND? i’m there!!!! And girl, I know about struggles….hence I’ve been cutting back on reading blogs that make me feel fat and lazy. :( You are one of the most beautiful, funny, and FUN bloggers I’ve ever met!!! Be proud of everything you’ve done and will do!

Comments are welcome (and encouraged)!