Diana has been my fitness instructor for many years now- Les Mills body pump, fitness dancing, body combat and boot camp! She's pushed and driven me all these years. However, I had never heard her story. What a journey she's had and how much she's overcome.
I fought for years with my weight and I’ll never forget the moment I hit my breaking point. Growing up from my childhood and throughout my teenage years I was bullied. I was bullied because of the way I looked; I was always told by multiple people that my legs are to big for a girl, that I was ugly, and fat. Hearing that over and over again as a young girl just made me feel so low. I was unhappy, uncomfortable, and hated the way I looked in clothes. I didn’t have any self esteem or confidence in my own skin. I would always try to cover myself up with extra baggy clothing, I was shy and felt like I was hiding inside my own shell. Eventually I was sick and tired of feeling so sick and tired. At my heaviest I was 175lbs, and that was my breaking point; seeing that number on the scale turned my stomach and all I could think is “how is this possible”, I’ve been athletic my entire life yet I looked horrible in my eyes. At first I tried altering my foods and making healthier food choices, and got introduced to the gym. By getting introduced to the gym pretty much means just doing lots of cardio cause I had no idea what else to do there and it was a very uncomfortable atmosphere. After a couple of weeks I noticed I lost about 5 to 10 pounds and that just lit a fire inside me and gave me the push I needed. Because I was still not comfortable in the gym I was determined to find something else to push myself to that next level of fitness. So, I decided to purchase the “Insanity” workout dvd, and with the dvd you get a meal guide and I’d follow it for about 5 days then fall off and this was a repeating cycle. And I started to see my body plateauing. From that point on everything started clicking in a bad way for me, I put in my head that the problem with my weight was food.....all food. At this point I weighed about 160lbs, and I came up with this wild conclusion that in order to be skinny I had to start fearing food. I would wake up every morning and weigh myself, I started working out 3 times as much, I restricted myself to 500-700 calories max per day and if my weight went up after a meal I would make myself throw up. I knew deep down what I was doing was wrong and it didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel worse. I would stand in front of the mirror and pull / pinch my skin in the areas I considered fat. I was so exhausted and drained that I would cry myself to sleep every night because all I wanted was to eat. I dropped 40lbs in less than a month. The moment my mother found out what I was doing was when I was at my all time low and I knew I needed help otherwise I would have had to be admitted to a hospital. I was diagnosed with 2 types of eating disorders, and if it wasn’t for my mom I do not know where I would be today. All I wanted to do was learn how to do things the right way and feel happy with the way I look. I was tired of envying the way other girls looked. I knew I had to start this new journey some place. Today.....4 years later with everything I’ve been through I take it one day at a time and I’ve learned to love my body and how I am built. I am not a size 0, nor will I ever be. I found love at the gym. I love to lift weights, and now I am lucky enough to inspire others to do the same. I am far from perfect. I do slip up every once in a while except now my slip ups consist of my head stuck in a bag of potato chips; but the difference is how willing you are to fight through the toughest days that get thrown at you.
The other day I had the most amazing experience meeting and photographing Heather Hardy @heathertheheat - a truly phenomenal woman, mother, fighter. Here is her journey:
"My name is Heather "the Heat" Hardy and I am 35 years old. I am a divorced, single mom of my 12 year old daughter, Annie. I started boxing at 28, while I was right in the middle of my divorce, living with my sister and both of our kids. We were two single moms, not getting child support, doing what we had to do to get by. At one point I had worked up to 6 jobs, while my sister stayed home and cared for both of our kids. They opened a little karate school in my neighborhood and my sister urged me to go. Within three weeks I had my first fight, and it was like I knew what I was meant to do for the first time in my life. It was the first time I was good at something. Haven't been able to get me out of the ring since.
In eighteen months as an amateur I won eight titles- including the USA boxing nationals as well as the NYC golden gloves.
Since turning pro, I am 19-0 and a two division WBC international champion. I Am the FIRST woman to be signed to a long term contract by DiBella Entertainment. The FIRST woman to box in the Barclays Center. The FIRST female to be featured on a PBC undercard and the FIRST female to be televised on a PBC ubdercard. I am the "First Lady" of Brooklyn Boxing."
I had a wonderful shoot this week with Caroline Moles. She is such an inspiriting woman. We had a wonderful day together discussing life, fitness, body image- How incredibly powerful women are and can be. Nothing will keep us down!!!!
"My name is Caroline Moles. I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, went to school at University of Richmond and moved to New York just about 3 years ago. While I've been an athlete my entire life, it wasn't until about 3 years ago, when I decided to turn fitness into a career, that exercise and movement took on new meaning and became more to me than just working out. To me, fitness is all about community and empowerment. The only feeling better than crushing a workout is crushing it right next to your best friend or a coworker or even a stranger. Whoever it is, when you go through it together, you both come out stronger.
Strength comes in numbers, and success is sweeter when its achieved on a team. My goal as a personal trainer and member of the fitness community is to help people realize their strength through one-on-one individualized focus sessions, as well as through team workouts where they can be lifted by the energy of the people around them. I want to bring together like-minded individuals, especially women who can empower each other to strive for the best version of themselves through fitness. The fitness community in NYC is one of the most tight-knit, supportive and accepting communities I've ever been lucky enough to be a part of. As I continue to explore this community, I hope to expand it by spreading that feeling of acceptance to as many people as I can possibly reach."
Erica from @thelivingroombk has such a wonderful fitness space and philosophy! Here is her story :
"I was 13 the first time I “joined” a gym. I couldn’t drive there, nor could I legally sign myself up, thus the quotations, so my Dad did both for me. From that point on though, it was all mine. I don’t think I know one person who made it through puberty gracefully with their body image and self esteem still intact. However, my experience felt particularly uncomfortable and um... wasn’t too pretty. (I’ve got plenty of photos to prove it) Having been active in sports since childhood that is where I found my solace. Going to the gym, in a different town than mine, felt like my own private little hideaway. I had no clue really how to properly lift or use the many and various machines, but in the freedom to experiment I found my own way and more importantly, I found my personal power through movement. For me, THAT intangible is the true beauty of fitness. THAT is my mojo!
I opened The Living Room Brooklyn in 2012 with the mission of bringing that same sense of personal power through movement to our clients. I’ve said a million times over, “my Mom can give you a workout that will make you sweat....” But, that’s not entirely the point (No disrespect to my Momma!) Exercise is about making that investment in your longevity. You want to be able to move and know your name for as long as possible, right? It’s not about ONE workout, it’s about a lifetime of healthy and free movement. Sure, aesthetically your body will change, but there are so many more miraculous things that happen INSIDE of you that cannot be visibly witnessed. Feeling capable and self confident is number 1 on that list.
I never in a million years thought I’d be a small business owner. NEVER! But, life is a crazy and mind blowing ride that somehow always leads you to where you’re meant to be. I love working out and feeling physically strong, it has given me self confidence that I have applied to a multitude of life experiences.... The chutzpah to open a business for one. But, what I am most passionate about is helping people feel good in their own skin. Maybe that means you can wear your skinny jeans again, maybe you walk up the subway stairs with ease now, or maybe that means the elimination of chronic pain you thought you’d never be free of, whatever it is I want to help you get there! I created The Living Room Brooklyn with the expressed goal of having our clients feel comfortable while exploring their body. What that means is small classes sizes (5 ppl max), where the instructor knows your name AND your body, and supreme attention to detail so that you feel as at ease and cared for as you do in your own home.
Exercise doesn't have to be dramatic or fancy. It doesn't have to be created inside a cutting edge facility or from a high tech machine. The beauty of fitness is that you already have all you need inside of you- you just have to MOVE it! What you will discover in the process is pure amazingness!" - Erica, March 2017