I was never the “skinny girl”, the “it girl”, or any kind of “special” girl. I say this because I was always friends with those kind of girls. The ones who were always the right body type, the ones who always had all of the attention, and the ones who always had boys fawning all over them. I was always taller (my tallest friend was 5’2”) and chubbier than my friends. So naturally, I hated my body, I hated myself, and I never thought that I would ever be beautiful.

So where does this roller coaster start? At the end of high school, after graduation. All throughout my high school career, I was always playing sports. I had an athletic build, and never was quite skinny. I never wore any size small clothing, and I always ate pretty disgusting oily foods. Once school finished for me, I took a year off to work, and that is when I started to balloon. I originally was 140 pounds in high school, and I went up to another 10 pounds and was at 150 pounds after my first year after graduation. I attribute that to my constant going out (I finally had my own money, so I went out to eat all the time), always snacking at home, and never getting the right amount of sleep. Family friends have noticed, and they were relentless in their teasing. I always heard variations of “you look so HEALTHY now”, “you’re chubbier now, just don’t get any more fat, or it will look bad”, “you’re taller, so it’s okay if you’re fat”, or just the straight up, “you got fat.” My culture (Filipinos) I feel are very straightforward and blunt, so it wasn’t sugar coated at all. I knew I was gaining weight, but I did nothing about it. At this point, I kept eating for comfort, thinking to myself, “If they think I’m fat already, doesn’t matter if I don’t eat the right foods.” I went up to 165 – 170 pounds at this point, and for the next few years after that, I stayed around there and didn’t care for my health (and for myself as well, I always hated my body, and I always had to struggle with the mirror).

Another few years have passed, and during those years, I yoyo-ed between 155 – 170 pounds. I tried so many diets, went on runs, but always managed to binge and not follow my diet and balloon back up. Then the unimaginable happened. My dad was told that he had cancer, and it was at stage 3. The few months after that, I took the time off work, went with him to chemo, stayed at home to take care of him (along with my mom), and really tried to spend a lot of time with him. Unfortunately, he had lost his battle against cancer, and we lost him that winter. After that, I didn’t care about myself at all. I found comfort in food, and I kept eating and eating, finding my happiness in food, and filling the empty part of my heart with food. At that point, I was at 186 pounds.

Then, my life changed in another huge way. I spent the holidays in New York with my long term boyfriend, and he proposed. I of course, said yes, and the stressful part of planning a wedding began. A few months later, and it hit me. I have to wear a white dress. In front of PEOPLE. With only a few months left to the wedding, I started to eat more salads, and I started to go jogging a few times a week. A couple of months later, with just 3 months left to go, I had a dress fitting. It was a little tight, and I freaked out. What I should have been was happy. I had ordered a smaller sized dress, and it almost fit! After that fitting, I kept thinking about my weight and worrying about it. I started Insanity a month later to see if that can help and help me shed the last few inches so I can fit into my dress. Well, that helped, and on the day of my final fitting, I stepped on the scale, and I was down to 165 pounds. 20 pounds lost! Needless to say, I pulled it off, and I fit into the dress.

You would think that this is where I lived happily ever after, and learned to love myself, right? No. Deep down inside, I still wasn’t happy with myself or my body, and after the wedding, I went right back to eating terrible foods and not exercising. At this point, I stopped weighing myself and just ate myself silly sometimes. My husband is naturally lean, and no matter what he eats, he doesn’t gain any weight. So of course, I ate whatever he ate, and I gained weight. What made me do something about my weight? We went on a vacation to California, and one day we went to Disneyland, and I took a picture with Mickey Mouse. When we got home and looked over the photos, I singled out that photo and felt really disgusted. I literally looked like a sausage stuffed into my clothes. Enough was enough.

I downloaded a calorie counter for my phone, and for the next few months I pretty much starved myself. I ate only 1000 calories a day, and a lot of the time I was under that. There were days when I binged, and I hated myself for a few days after, and then binged again. It was a vicious cycle, but I ended up at 153 pounds. The downside to that was I was always tired (I didn’t workout at all), and I felt really gross sometimes. I didn’t eat the healthiest foods, and I just ate until I hit 1000 calories a day.

Something had changed in February of this year. I found out that I had GERD, which is basically an acid reflux condition. My diet was super restrictive the first few months, and that was so difficult for me. I did feel better, but being the binger that I was, I was having such a hard time. After a few months, the doctor cleared me to eat more of the old foods that I loved. After a month of eating terribly again, I had to go back to the doctor because I got really sick, and my acid reflux returned again. When I was there, she had a very stern talk with me. Due to my family history (which is filled with diabetes, heart problems, cancer, and ulcer problems), I have to be taking better care of myself or I can end up like my parents, who spent a lot of their adult lives in the hospital.

This was when everything changed for me. It doesn’t matter what I looked like, I needed to be HEALTHY. I wanted to live a long life with my husband, family and friends, and I wanted to feel GOOD. I started Insanity and started eating clean whole foods, and I wanted to say that I dropped a whole bunch of pounds, but because I starved myself before, I had lost a LOT of muscle, and so my weight didn’t budge for a while. My body was looking different though. I found muscles I’ve never seen before, and inches started to come off of my body all around. After 2 months of continuous exercise and eating well (and not starving myself), I can proudly say I’m at 145 pounds. A whole 40 pounds lighter than I was 2 years ago before my wedding. I still have a little more to go, but I’ve learned on my journey to health that it isn’t an overnight change, and it isn’t always easy.. but in the end, it is so worth it.

I still have body issues, I don’t ever show my arms, and I prefer loose fitting clothing, but one day, I will be truly comfortable with myself, and I will love myself wholeheartedly. I’ve already taken the step to love my body and to take care of it in the right way, and one day, loving how I look will come too. I’m sorry that it is such a long post, but my journey was a long and exhausting one, just as everyone else’s are. Here’s to another long, but happy journey STAYING healthy.

-Mae