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I am Taking Charge of My Life and No Longer Merely a Passenger

I chose to be fat

I did not make this choice consciously…

But all my choices put me in that place – uninformed and unaware.

I have always been a people pleaser, this attitude led me to put others first and not evaluate priorities for the person who most needed my help – me. Through the years, I hid behind helping people at work and those in my personal life. I thought this would work – that I could have friends, excel at work, and god forbid, get a boyfriend – if I was always helping, even if I was unhealthy, overweight, and unhappy. When it was evident that this strategy was not working, I finally realized it was time to take control of my life. I got very lucky that Google pointed me in the direction of MABC back in February and the Slam Bam challenge soon thereafter.

When I chose to take on the challenge, subsequently making myself a priority, the reactions were not encouraging. Colleagues wondered how my work commitments would be affected, family worried that my grades would suffer, and I wondered if I was up to the challenge. Over the past 16 weeks, I have taught myself that I am more than up to the challenge. My days began at 4:30 am and end at 9:30 pm – bootcamp, work, graduate school four nights a week. I still wonder sometimes how I made this all work!! There is a thrill in knowing that I am taking charge of my life and no longer merely a passenger. If you were to ask what kept me so committed, I don’t think I would have an answer. Let’s be honest, the physical results were wonderful and the compliments were great. But I think overriding all of that was a new found respect for myself and a realization that I deserved more than I had allowed myself before.

I recently found a quote in Self Magazine from Jillian Michaels that really encapsulated what I have learned about myself and the lifestyle changes that I have implemented.

“I am not the girl who loves the gym, wrong girl. And I am not the girl who loves broccoli either. But I am the girl who feels potent, capable and confident when she feels strong and I don’t want to give that up. To me it’s not about building a better body. It’s about building a better life. And if your health is your platform for life, it’s got to be rock solid. If you want to take on the world, you need a good foundation.”

I have come to realize that it is not about the shape or size but about the mental and emotional changes and what is learned through the process. I always preach to the teams I work with in my professional life that real success comes from learning from your mistakes and taking enough risks to make mistakes. I never practiced this – what a hypocrite I was! I now can say with confidence that I have allowed myself to take major risks – personally and professionally – in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle – and they have paid major dividends. Not only am I happier and more confident but I have allowed other people in to experience life with me! I have been craving that rock solid foundation that Jillian spoke of and never knew how to get it, I know now. Laser focus, hardnosed determination, unwavering dedication, unfaltering support, and motivating goals have helped me build my foundation for change and the new lifestyle that has begun.

Back in late April, a co-worker asked me if bootcamp helped because she couldn’t see a difference. Harsh! This question came after I had lost around 50 pounds and was constantly being asked “what’s so different? You look great!” The individual who asked the question is incredibly fit, very judgmental, but overall not a very happy person. Rather than feeding into her question or negativity, I took a moment and thought about what was different, realizing that maybe it was something she just couldn’t see. My response was that I was dedicated, accountable, and persistent. The fact that I was up at 4:30 on a cold wintery morning to drive to a high school gymnasium or the beach, to run, lift, and challenge every muscle I had was different. Maybe she couldn’t see the physical difference, but when I articulated what I knew the biggest difference was, she sat back. I had described something that she never had experienced, she signed up for bootcamp the next week!

After this experience, I continued to struggle with the questions of “Have I truly changed to others? Have I become a better person? To me, the answers to these questions have the potential to make this process a huge “win.” So, I sent an email to several trusted colleagues and friends and asked them a simple question…have I changed, if so what is different? I was shocked at the heartfelt responses that came pouring in from people who I am surrounded by every day. (I have included the responses at the end of the essay.)

This experience has been humbling and incredibly rewarding. It’s not just about the size, the weight, or the muscle – but how people who experience you daily interpret those modifications, changes, and enhancements. I did not do this for anyone else, selfishly, I did it for me. I am incredibly grateful, however, that so many others have been able to be a part of this journey and experience life with me.

What will change when the challenge is over – nothing and at the same time everything! I will continue to wake up early and go to bootcamp, I will eat healthy portions of the right types of food throughout the day, I will not have the “big girl” attitude and I will drive towards results. My journey is not done, not even close, yes I have accomplished SO much in the past six months but the next six months hold even more. I am ending the challenge with a renewed sense of self, confidence, inner strength, and some nice muscles. Most importantly, I have taken back control of my life. I thought I was happy before I started, but now I know true happiness. I know that this understanding will allow me the confidence to build true and lasting relationships. I look toward the next six months of my journey with excitement, determination and a desire to be the best me that I can be!

Sixteen weeks ago I chose to be fat.

Today I choose my health.

Today I choose myself.

~ Joanna Marker, 2009 SLAM BAM Winner

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