Letting it all hang out
The power of sharing my story with the world
It’s no secret that I am extroverted and people driven. I love connecting with people in both my personal and professional life. It comes natural, and I tend to be more open than many.
That said, the decision to share intimate details of my lifelong battle with obesity and subsequent transformation did not come easy. In fact, there are still moments of uncomfortableness with being so public about something so very personal. But those moments are almost always short lived and overshadowed by the overwhelming positives of sharing my personal transformation story with the world.
Yesterday was one of those times that I had both short lived moments of uncomfortableness, feeling very exposed, followed by overwhelming joy and gratitude that I have the privilege to share my story and help so many others, including myself.
My story titled, “How I Got This Body: Climbing high, losing weight,” appeared yesterday on the cover of the Variety section of the Star Tribune. And I heard from many of you. Thank you.
When I did the Star Tribune interview a few weeks ago, I thought the article was going to be a couple of short paragraphs and would blend in with other press clips. I expected to hear from a few people.
You would think that since I worked for the Star Tribune in PR/Communications, I would have remembered that more than 300,000 people read the newspaper on a daily basis and many, many more read the online version. This includes most of my well-educated colleagues and friends, and former colleagues and acquaintances. Thus, I got a ton of feedback! Way more than expected, and it is still coming.
To each and every one of you who took the time to post or send a note or email, I thank you. It means more than you know. And to those of you who reached out for help, I hope that you are reading this blog and will go 100% all in with me because you deserve nothing less.
How my public journey started and how it fuels my succcess
The truth is, I started this blog on a more private basis in November 2010 when I embarked on a two week, live-in weight loss boot camp. It was my way of communicating with close family and friends who were curious whether I would survive the camp, if I would puke and/or cry. The answer is YES to all three!
It wasn’t until a reporter showed up at camp to do an article for the Star Tribune and I became a focus of that piece, that I realized just how important it was for me to “go public” with my story. When my photo last appeared on the cover of the Star Tribune Variety section in Jan. 2011 in an article titled, Destination Fitness, I was carrying 200+ extra pounds and whole lot of guilt and shame. That article “outed me” and told very publicly of my quest to lose weight – Biggest Loser style. The day it was published and in subsequent days, I heard from a lot of people — close to 200 to be exact. I remember thinking ” s h _ _!” when the story came out and I saw my BIG photo plastered on top of the section. “But at least they didn’t publish my weight,” I thought.
It was evident to me that this happened for a reason — that it was my job, and my gift, to share my story. Not only was the “cat out of the bag” making me accountable to the entire Twin Cities metro area, but I paid attention to how I reacted to the positive feedback and encouragement and how it propelled me forward. And I realized how great it felt to hear how many others I was inspiring with my story. People looked at me as an example. They believed that if I could haul my big butt up that mountain in snowshoes carrying 200 extra pounds, that they could walk around the block, find time in their day to get to the gym, or make extra time in the evenings for themselves.
There was only one way for me to share my story and that was to be who I am every day – real, authentic, honest, direct and 100% all in! Thus, the public journey to share my story began. It took me to the end of the physical transformation process to expose some uncomfortable facts. I remember the first time I shared my starting weight in a public setting and exactly how I felt in that moment.
It was in an interview for Minnesota Monthly Magazine titled, A Weight Matter, and then again standing in front of my peeps at my celebration party in May 2012. When I said the number the for the first time: 381 pounds — more than an NFL Defensive Lineman — I cried. In fact, I was bigger than most NFL football players. There was a tiny tinge of shame that washed over me just before the immense pride and the totality of what I had accomplished kicked in, and pride absolutely won out. The new voice inside of me tackled the old one that said I wasn’t good enough. In other words, I kicked shame’s ass! 🙂
The more I shared my starting weight and saw how many truly obese people it inspired, the easier it got. When I saw that because of my story people believed they too could do it, I was able to share the details with pride, gratitude and empathy. And when they cried and told me that I was their hope and inspiration, well, it was a no brainer! So easy to share. Easy to tell intimate details. And soon it became my new life’s work.
So for me, yesterday’s article has special meaning. It comes two and a half years after the first Star Tribune story. Here I am in the same newspaper on top of the same mountain BUT this time sans 200+ pounds and maintaining that weight for one year. Living as a fit, active, healthy and oh so happy girl inspiring others to do the same. It feels awesome. I am so fortunate. Forever grateful. I am happy. And alive. And well. And happy. And loveable. And happy. And I know deep in my heart that this is indeed the path I am meant to walk.
Today, like my mentors before me, I help others by being real, authentic, and open with struggles that most people are too ashamed or embarrassed to talk about, but so many of us experience. I help by being brave enough to admit that I am flawed and love myself anyway. I help by continually talking about the reality of tough subjects that most humans struggle with and few triumph over. I help by standing as an example and a beacon of hope and happiness — even, and especially, when I struggle and falter on my own path and get right back up and restart.
I am here to spread the message that “If I can do it, you can do it.” And in addition to helping others, I am helping me. As I stand strong in self-awareness, accountability, vulnerability and authenticity, I say goodbye to self-doubt and shame. And I continue to walk the path of health and happiness.
Thank you for being here. For reading my story. For asking for help. For believing enough to take the first step. My heart is incredibly full. I am a lucky, lucky, lucky girl. And I know even though at times it feels uncomfortable personally, there is no other way. And I am grateful.