The story of my body and the outdoors.

I have never talked about my body on this blog. I have never discussed my weight loss here. I've talked about it on many platforms and I even have done national interviews on it. But this always felt like a space where talks of weight didn't belong. And the reason for that is super simple: I didn't want anyone to feel less-than or insecure because of their body. It seemed to me the best way to make everyone feel included was to avoid the topic completely. But I have changed my mind! I now feel like it's an important part of my life that others can relate to or learn from. And it's perfectly relevant to what I am doing with this site. Trying to inspire people to be the best they can and to live fully. To have fun and play hard. 

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I was never a thin person. Or a particularly healthy person. Or anything else you may correlate with being in shape. I never fit any sort of beauty standard or ideal “look”. I was always just... fat. And before anyone says I wasn’t fat, or that it’s mean to say I was fat or that being fat doesn’t matter at all, I’d like to stop you right there. I like to call it was it was. My body was mostly made up of fat. And it mattered. In high school I weighed somewhere around 220lbs, and at my heaviest, I was pushing the scale at around 320lbs. I got that way by eating unhealthy foods and eating way too much of them. I was not super active, but I always had a strong passion for hiking and spending time outdoors. My problem was a food problem. And it correlated tremendously with my level of happiness. 

There were many reasons I was unhappy. Many of those reasons, I didn’t understand until I was an adult who’d figured out my life. And by that, I mean nutrition counseling, therapy and more self-reflection than I can say. I took all of those negative feelings out by eating terrible, processed and sugary foods. At my biggest, I was getting fast food upwards of 8 times per day. I once ordered Applebees to go for an after work meal. Care to know what I ordered for dinner for just me? Buffalo wings, a burger and fries and a massive blondie for dessert. I had eaten breakfast. And snacks. And more snacks. And I still found myself eating three meals for dinner. It was not a rare occurrence. 

My health deteriorated over these years. Sepsis, misdiagnosed lymphoma, C. diff colitis, full renal failure. Those were some of the ailments I dealt with in a relatively short span of time. I don’t think I realized the constant pain and discomfort I was in until my kidneys failed. When that happened, I was hospitalized for over week. During this time, I discovered my allergy to pain killers and dealt with a misplaced IV that ended up filling my whole right arm with a weeks worth of liquids. All of these problems were not caused because I was fat. They were caused by the choices I was making. Being fat was just another one of these problems. And being fat did not help my body to heal in any way.

After the kidney failure, I started seeing a nutrition counselor. She pulled me off of gluten and introduced me to cooking. She encouraged me to go very basic. Real, whole foods. I felt much better after a short time and I began to lose weight. But life was still stressful and I was not happy. I fell off of that wagon after a few short months.   

What turned my world upside down was two-fold.  

  • My family went to the Olive Garden to celebrate something- an anniversary or graduation or something. Everyone was there; my boyfriend, parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, the whole gang. When a waiter came to take our plates, I still had food on mine. He asked if he could take it and I said yes. To which he responded with a snobby laugh and a “I bet you’re not done”. Unfortunately, people are massive assholes to fat people and this type of dickishness was not new to me. What was new to me was that he had done it in front of everyone who mattered to me. It was humiliating.
  • I broke up with my boyfriend at the time. We had been together for years and had purchased a home and adopted a puppy not more than a few months prior to me calling it quits. It was an emotionally abusive relationship that I should have never been in. Live and learn, right? At any rate, when I broke up with him and moved out, I thought to myself “Wow. I haven’t been single for years. I don’t think anyone will date me if I’m this fat. I wouldn’t date me.” And before anyone says that isn’t true, being fat gives you a different perspective. Especially being a fat introvert. You learn real quick that people are judging you and care a great deal about how your body looks.

So those two things are what gave me a massive kick in the butt. A bunch of humiliation and a bit of craving love. I started to eat the way that nutrition counselor taught me and I began to count calories. I had cheat days once in a while and I tried to be more active. I lost my first bunch of weight relatively quickly. From 320lbs to 180lbs in the span of about six months. I believe quite a bit of that weight was bloat. But it was a very drastic change in a small block of time. And people started to treat me different almost right away. I started to be treated with some respect, a little bit of kindness. And I was even asked on some dates, which I declined. You see, the people asking me out were men who knew me when I was fat. And now I had the perspective to weed through some of that bullshit. I was still the same “me” at that time, so it was purely physical what had changed. Much of my soul searching hadn’t happened yet. 

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To try to put some pep in my step, to help make me happier and get back into the groove, my mother and I started to go on little vacations frequently. Just weekend trips to spots in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Places where the air was clean, views were beautiful and hiking was all over the place. My mom helped me to stay on track with the nutrition and always planned active things to do. Which I loved, because during all of these times, I was active. And I loved being in nature- always have! I was born and raised in nature. So much like my nutritionist wanted me to get back to basics, my mom helped me to get back to nature.  

These trips were not enough. I craved the wilderness and outdoors. And a few times per year was not enough. I started finding times to escape weekly. Hauling ass to the woods whenever possible. And then I discovered running. Something I never really had interest in or thought I could do. I could hike for miles. But running? When I first began running, I would get shin splints almost always. Bad ones. My thighs would rub together and burn holes in my pants or create painful chafing. You know that weird numb-tingly-icky feeling that happens sometimes when you jiggle? My whole body would feel that. Side stitches too. It was hard. But I loved how it made me feel- like I did something. And overcame something. I don’t know how it started, but I got into barefoot running. It changed my whole entire life. I was always told I had terrible flat feet. I used every arch support on earth for 20 years. And much like the other challenges I faced, the answer for me was to go back to basics. I took to barefoot running like a real champ and became... a runner.

I would run every day. For months. It didn’t matter how long the run was, I would push hard and I would do my best. And at the end of the run I would feel glorious. I even was screamed at by someone in a car during one run about how fat I was. Didn’t matter, kept running. Ran harder. I started to listen to podcasts about running and reading books about running. These media sources correlated running with various diets, and I took all of that to heart. I started fine tuning my diet, kept on running and I started to feel different. Confident. Purposeful. Inspired. I could see something clearly for the first time ever: I can do anything.

A couple years passed. I was more social. I was happier. I was discovering myself and the world for the first time.

After a couple months of getting way more serious with running, I decided to go vegan. And just like how I was with my running, I went all in. Within 4 months I went from 180lbs to 140lbs. I was... dare I say... lean. Never thin. I realized during that time that my body wasn’t meant to be thin. I am a muscular lady and in order to have that “ideal” body, I would actually have to starve myself. Bitch, please. 

Being vegan and diving deeper into the world of podcast and nutrition taught me to stop eating processed foods, which in turn taught me how to cook. A skill I am outrageously thankful for every single day. It also taught me that while yes, taste matters, nutrition matters way more. And food should be nutrition first, taste second. I started having some issues with my health and it was because of my diet. Although it was a mega nutritious diet, it wasn’t fueling me properly. I reintroduced eggs and some meats- but it was different now. Now they were cage-free, or grass-fed, or organic. If I was going to start eating animal products again, they were going to be animals that were treated right- fed right and free ranging. Killed with compassion. I would shop local and invest my hard earned money in farms that care about animal welfare. Because you are what you eat. And you are what you eat ate. And that is the truth. 

At this time, I got into powerlifting. And I realized that this was my sport. That my body was incredibly capable. I started to cross train in every way possible. Running, hiking endlessly, powerlifting, HIIT training, yoga, and so much functional fitness; box jumps, chopping wood, kettlebells and sprints. 

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I had discovered passion in fitness. And I saw how it translated into enabling me to do rad shit. I always wanted to paddle and hike forever. I always wanted to rock climb and backpack. And now I could do all of those things. And not just do them, but enjoy doing them. And I could push limits doing them. Not just my own limits, but really epic limits. This is when I decided to start doing whatever I could to motivate and inspire others to get uncomfortable, push hard and never give up. 

Because they sky is the limit. IT IS. 

I got really into rock climbing. And it gave me a new found confidence. It transformed my body into an outdoor machine. And I could not get enough. I started to have bigger goals and plans, and realized that I was changing on the inside as much as on the outside. I was still going into the wilderness frequently. To explore and immerse myself in nature. But still, it was not enough and I knew then that it was never going to be enough. Nature was everything to me and it always had been. I just got off track for a while. I needed wilderness like I needed air. I started to have frustrations and dissatisfaction with my life, because too much time was spent doing things I deemed pointless. Going to work, coming home to clean, going out to eat and watching TV. Getting away on the weekends and fitting in workouts each day. I needed to find a way to flip my weekdays and weekends. I needed to be wild. Nature sparked this change of lifestyle and now I needed to change for nature. 

And that’s when I met Jon.  

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And he got it. He understood. He felt the same. 

We managed to struggle and grow and explore the future together. We had adventures constantly and got away weekly. We got married after a short time and worked our asses off. And then we realized what we had to do- live our dreams. Move into the wilderness. Live in a place where we could hike, mountaineer, trail run, paddle and rock climb anywhere. At a moments notice. And we did just that.

Now fitness is simple. There are few excuses and it’s exciting. It is what I’ve worked for years and years. My body is something I am in love with. It does amazing things. Things that I would have never imagined. I never have to question if a physical activity is too hard or long or taxing. Because regardless of anything, I know I can do it. With dedication and research and grit, I will do it. And you can too!

What I didn’t expect when getting into fitness and losing weight is how much it would impact every single aspect of my life. From confidence to knowledge to passions to love. Love of others and self love. It has impacted my health in immeasurable ways, both physically and mentally. Let’s not forget that this weight loss started off to make people be nicer to me and to get laid. As it turns out, I had to be nicer to me. And that didn’t just mean treating myself gently. It meant moving my body and fueling myself with good things. It meant playing bad-cop with myself once in a while, dishing out that tough love and being real. Running that extra mile when I didn’t want to. Putting down the fork after a really stressful day. Thinking long term instead of now-now-now. All of these things taught me grace and appreciation for things I have and am in control of. Which is a pretty short list. But my body is on that list. And my body is all I will ever have for the whole rest of my life. That is certain. 

I cannot explore the wilderness without my body. And yes, I could still explore and be fat. This is true. But I could not explore epic things. I could not say “yes” with zero hesitation to most anything. I’ve been on the opposite end of the health and fitness spectrum. I know these things.  

You should love your body regardless of its size, shape, color or anything else that makes you YOU. You should live a life you are proud of and feel at peace with yourself whenever you think “am I doing good?” Self love is important no matter where you’re at. And a big part of self love needs to be taking care of your body. Because it is what you have for the rest of your life. Your body doesn’t want to be winded going up some stairs or numb or cramping because you walked quickly for a couple blocks. What’s the fun in that? Very small changes can lead to very big changes.

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Excuse the bathroom selfies. 

They were a part of the process. The process of rediscovering my body and falling in love with it. They’re narcissistic and silly. But they also mark an incredibly important time in my life and I am still very proud of them.  

I don’t take many selfies these days. And certainly don’t take shirtless ones at this point. Because I don’t need to. At those times in life, I needed to. 

Through fitness and nutrition and a strong desire to go back to basics, my world changed. Nature was the catalyst to motivation to become healthy and it is still the driving force in my life. It is an ever evolving relationship. The boundaries are always being set further out and the desire to push for them grows constantly. And it is all made possible by my body. 

No matter where you are or want to be, be thankful for the body you have. Because it can do amazing things. So many epic things. 

I don’t know how to end this. I don’t know how we ended up here. This isn’t an advertisment for clean eating and lifting weights. I guess it’s an advertisement for “your body matters”. For “nature heals and inspires”. And a wish that each and every one of you can find whatever it is you need to find in yourself to live the life you dream of. And to keep pushing for that.