My earliest memories entail a heightened sensitivity of being acutely aware that I was always larger than all of my friends. My earliest memories of body shaming came from my grandmother who used to weigh my cousins and I every time we went over to her house. Time and time again, I was one of the heaviest cousins and was always told to “watch my weight” or “Jessica, you’re really creeping up the scale.” To this day, I am not sure what her intentions fueling this behavior were, but they will haunt me forever.
Life was not easier at school either. Despite my efforts to be a star soccer player, I could never measure up to the “skinnier”, more athletic girls I was competing against. I went through most of my childhood and adolescent years constantly comparing my body to my peers, never being satisfied. When I got to college, life did not get easier. The freshmen fifteen… more like the freshmen fifty! I had hit rock bottom. I was eating and drinking away my problems; I knew I needed to change, as my parents and doctor had even started making comments in regards to being concerned about my weight.
The summer before my senior year of college, The College at Brockport had just built a new multi-million-dollar athletic facility. I distinctly remember taking a preview tour with a group of Resident Assistants I was working with that year, and thinking “this is my opportunity.” The College had a promotion going on for students to receive discounted personal training; this was my sign. I called my parents and asked them to help support me with this decision. They didn’t hesitate for one second, offering monetary and emotional support through, what I didn’t know at the time to be, a very long weight-loss journey.
In the first month alone I lost 14 pounds, and gained a whole new sense of self-respect. This was the first time in my life I had been genuinely proud of myself. I was following the Paleo diet, dedicating 4 days a week to the gym, and adopting a new, positive outlook on life. My friends, family and colleagues started noticing the changes, which was the push I needed to keep going. By month 8, I had lost 60 pounds – acquaintances who hadn’t seen me in a while didn’t recognize me, I needed all new clothes (I had gone from a size 16 to a size 8), and the thought of greasy food made me sick to my stomach. I was on top of the world, my trainer and I had made great strides, but it was time to graduate; I was determined to finish this journey by myself. I continued going to the gym regularly, researching new workout regimes in my spare time, along with continuing to follow the Paleo diet. I was now building muscle tone and loving what I was seeing! Every weight loss journey, however, is not linear. I prefer to liken it to a labyrinth, with roadblocks every so often to challenge those dedicated few. Last year, I was challenged. Between teaching high school full-time, completing a Master’s degree full-time, working towards tenure, and experiencing devastating heart break I felt like I had hit every roadblock all at once. My main source of motivation through these though were my students. They encouraged me to keep fighting, and through their support I was able to embark on a new leg of my fitness journey at Monroe County CrossFit this past January. Whether it be trying to max out on a certain lift, or completing a WOD from hell while Ron Sember or Angela Captain scream at me to “pick up the bar!”, my biggest source of motivation are those students who may have just taught me more about myself than I could ever have taught them about math.