A lot of you have followed my health journey on social media for the last 2 1/2 years and know how hard I struggled and what I go through on a daily basis to get healthy, stay healthy, etc. Most people look at girls who are overweight and think they’re lazy, unmotivated, over-eaters, etc. but that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially in my case. This post is going to be long, but it’ll be worth reading, I promise…stay with me. 🙂

For those of you that have been following my journey, thank you. You watched me learn, you saw my (mis)adventures in cooking, you watched me lose 70 pounds, you watched me travel by myself for the first time in my life, you loved the progress photo shoots that we did and you saw me and my husband be interviewed on the news for losing over 100lbs together when we ditched gluten and excess sugar for a healthier lifestyle. But we didn’t come this far to ONLY come this far. Every day still matters, this was a lifestyle choice for us, not some fad diet.

My typical day goes something like this…weigh in after waking up, wonder why the scale went up .2 or whatever when I ate less calories than I burned the day before (hello, I’m OWED that weight loss, right?!) then I shuffle into the kitchen where I pull out my 6 Fiji waters for the day, to make sure I’m getting 80-100 oz of water in every day. After that, I go to my supplement schedule, where I take all of my morning pills for digestion, adrenals, vitamins, fish oils, anti-inflammatory, allergy meds, trace minerals, thyroid support, PCOS support, methylfolate, immune support, ATP energy, etc.

I used to make myself eggs for breakfast but now that I have histamine intolerance, that’s not an option, so it’s now gluten free corn Chex with flax milk for breakfast. I then do some sort of exercise, usually weights, followed by about 10 minutes of meditation. I work all morning then stop for lunch, which is usually a protein shake or a grilled chicken salad or a hamburger (no bun), take more vitamins, drink more water, etc. Same for dinner, same for bedtime. I’m also logging EVERY piece of food that goes in my mouth…the time, calories, amount, what it is, etc. (And since I have adrenal/blood sugar issues, I also must eat every 2 hours and try to stay between 1250-1750 cal/day)

This takes WORK. This takes EFFORT. This routine is not for the weak, lazy, unmotivated person. When I leave the house, my waters come with me and my snacks and vitamins are packed in my purse. This takes PLANNING too. Was I always like this? No. Will I always be like this going forward? Yes. Is it worth it, even if the weight isn’t coming off like it used to? Yes. I tell you all of this because people need to know the STRUGGLE behind the success. And while I’m at it, let me dig a little deeper into my past with this topic…

As some of you know, last month I was fat shamed. I didn’t post the entire story on Facebook at first because I was too livid to even talk about it but when I was leaving the grocery store (with a cart full of organic healthy food) this guy pulled up SO close to my driver’s side door that even a thin person would have difficulty getting in their car. I was shocked as I watched him do this and when he got out, I nicely asked him to move over. He was probably in his 60’s or 70’s. He looked me up and down and told me if I wasn’t so fat, maybe I’d fit between the cars. Would he have dared to say that to me if I was a man? Probably not. Needless to say, we had quite an exchange of words, which I’ll leave to your imagination, but I certainly got the last laugh.

As I sat in my car afterwards, I was MAD as hell & crying because what that man didn’t know was that his words cut so deep and he had NO clue what I’ve done to get this far and what I still do on a daily basis to try to lose weight & get healthy, nor does he know where I started from. My first memory of being fat shamed was when I was about 5, I had to ask my dad what the word “chubby” meant because a little boy told me he wouldn’t be a boyfriend to a chubby girl. Fast forward to high school when someone in my family actually said, “what’s that tire around your waist?” and eventually, the same person told me that my soon-to-be husband would leave me if I didn’t finally lose the weight. (Needless to say, she was cut out of my life) While we were planning our wedding, I walked into a dress shop and the sales girl just looked up and said, “Plus size dresses are to the left.” (Didn’t even say, “Hello!” when I walked in!) A few years later, one of my doctors gave up on me and told me that gastric bypass was my only hope. My desire was stronger than my fear and I did NOT give up on myself though, nor did I believe her.

That fat shaming episode was the last straw, and you know what? I am PROUD to make that known. Just 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have even said anything or asked him to move. Or if I had, I would’ve cried my way to a donut shop after he called me fat. But no, not last month. I got the last word and the last laugh. I’m a totally different person than I was 3 years ago and I’m proud of who I’ve become on this journey. After all of this transpired, I went to my favorite dinner spot before heading to a client meeting and when I walked in, the guy said, “You want your usual salad?” Oh, the irony. Yes sir, I’ll have my usual salad.

Then as I sat there, eating my usual grilled chicken salad, I opened Facebook and read so many wonderful comments from all of you, who helped pick up the pieces of my shattered heart, so for that, I thank you. Then I had notifications coming in from my group, and it made me laugh. You see, I started a HEALTH group on Facebook a few years ago (Gluten Free Low Sugar Living) where almost 6,000 people from around the world were inspired by my health journey/story and more new members were requesting to join the group while I was eating my salad after being fat shamed. How funny that to one man, I’m too fat to squeeze between two cars but to 6,000+ other people, I’m an inspiration. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess.

The night of the fat shaming episode I laid awake in bed for hours processing all of this and feeling like I needed to DO something with all of this. But what? The very next day I kept seeing #nobodyshame posts and #fatshaming posts and posts about #ladygaga‘s (non-existent) tummy (you GO GIRL!) and I decided it’s time to join the movement against ridiculous people whose definition of beauty does not define who WE are. I’m so over it, this is NOT ok. I’m done with people who think that a few extra pounds means that the person isn’t trying or doesn’t know their own size. We’re not idiots, we all own mirrors.

As a photographer, I get to photograph people of different shapes, sizes, ethnicities and from all walks of life, I truly have the most amazing job. One of the most rewarding moments is when someone who thinks they’re not photogenic or that they’re too fat, too thin, not pretty enough or whatever, finally sees what I see through my camera and their confidence soars. This happens a lot with my beautiful plus size brides and also during boudoir shoots but even just a typical family session can be a life changer for someone. I know that I’m not alone in my struggles and so I challenge every photographer out there to see every person & client for the beauty they have within, not just their outer appearance.

I posted this story on social media and lots of women shared their similar stories with me. I gifted three amazing women with mini sessions as a way to pay it forward and I’ve shared their photos and stories below in hopes of bringing awareness to the body positive movement going on. Please consider sharing this post so that more people will see others for who they truly are, beyond their appearance.

Kaleigh’s story:

“So, a little about me. When I was born, I had to be rushed into surgery because I had a large bowel obstruction and colostomy, fancy doctor speak for pooping in a bag (gross, I know). The doctor came out of surgery with nothing but great things to say. However, about 12 hours after that, they had to go back in because I had another bowel obstruction. Nine months later, I had a colostomy reversal (cool! no pooping in a bag anymore!) At 11 I had my tonsils removed. In school, when you’re in 5th grade, they test for scoliosis. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had a 20 degree curve in my lower spine. I went to three or four different orthopedic spine doctors and tried everything from chiropractic care to back braces, which are the literal worst. Two years later, the curve in my spine went from 20 degrees to 45 degrees. My doctor was very frank, he told me that if I didn’t have surgery, I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 21. In the time between scheduling the surgery and going under the knife the curve had gotten worse. I had a 67 degree curve. And my final surgery was 5 years ago. I had knee surgery. I went in for a torn meniscus.  Turns out I have the best or potentially worst pain tolerance.

Alright, with ALL of that being said, I have scars. A lot of scars. And quite frankly they make me nervous. I don’t particularly like to be out around anyone, other than family, in anything that showcases my scars. I was at a beach once, I was maybe 16 or 17 and I was asked by a man who turned me into a cutting board. Around that same time the guy I was dating told me that I was pretty but my scars made me ugly, and that I was more attractive when I was completely covered. I turned my insecurities about my body into a bitchy, devil may care attitude. I would even make fun of myself first so that others wouldn’t. That was how I dealt with things until I met my fiancé. I had never felt comfortable or called beautiful, stunning, perfect. He makes me feel larger than life and that I can actually be me for everyone.”


Lindsay’s story:

“What started as a weight loss goal became an even more amazing journey…

My story may start out as a familiar one. After being in a long-term relationship, my boyfriend proposed to me in June 2015. This meant many things… we were establishing our own family, I was gaining new family, we were going to get married and I was going to be planning a wedding.

I was so excited that I immediately started doing my research on venues, pricing, food… and the dress. The dress. This meant dress shopping, trying on gowns, finding the right one so I could have my “Say Yes, to the Dress” moment and don’t even get me started on all the dress consultants being in a fitting room with you while you’re practically naked and squeezing your ass into said gown. Can we say, ”Awkward”?

I have never really considered myself conservative in any way, even when nudity is concerned, but after being in a loving long term relationship of 6 years (at that point in time) I weighed in at my heaviest at 178 pounds. I told myself that I wore it well on my 5’7” frame, but I really had no idea how much weight I had gained because I think scales are the devil (they really, truly are). All I knew was that I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I know every woman has an issue with body image to a point. It’s ridiculous, but it’s something ingrained into us by the insane beauty standards established by our society. It’s so deep seeded that many of us don’t even know it’s there, but we feel it and it affects us nonetheless. I needed to take action. I needed to be more active. I had to start somewhere.

One of my best friends was getting married on Halloween 2015. She asked me to be one of her bridesmaids and or course, I accepted. I was the “biggest” girl in her entourage, not only in height, but girth as well. I started being proactive about weight loss only two weeks before her wedding. I tried the ever-so-pleasant cabbage soup diet. This is basically a flush of your system because practically all you eat is cabbage soup. Can we say, “FUN”? I lost 8 pounds. I was pumped! I still had so much work to do and I could see the excess weight on me in her wedding photos.

This helped push me more. I started going to the gym EVERY DAY. I was watching what I ate every time I ate. I started drinking protein shakes. I was taking a multivitamin every day. I didn’t even think I was capable of doing these things. I’m so forgetful, but I was determined not to look like a mess when I got married, let alone have it be documented as evidence in photographs.

I had already known who my photographer was going to be and we had hired her and had our engagement photos taken by this point as well. They were amazing! I look at them now though and sometimes cringe because of how heavy I was in them. Was I morbidly obese? No. Was my health at risk? Maybe. Diabetes runs in my family. I had been carrying extra weight for a while, which is a precursor to adult onset diabetes. I had to work harder.

I changed my routes. I started weight training more and doing less cardio, which was awesome for me because I HATE cardio. I set personal goals and tried to break them regularly. Going to the gym was now a HABIT and I was going at least 5 days a week. I found a gym buddy in my Maid of Honor, who I’ve known since I was 6. We held each other accountable.

From November 2015 to September 2016 I was a BEAST. I tracked progress through the scale and found nothing but disappointment, but when I tracked with photos I was impressed with myself. My clothes were the best measurement of my success since I went from a size 12 to an 8 (and on very rare occasions a 6). I looked great and more importantly I felt really, really great. My motivation was up, my mood was elevated, I felt like Wonder Woman. This journey left me over 25 pounds lighter, but most importantly I’m more confident and comfortable in my own skin. It helped me change not only my body, but my lifestyle. You need to make time for yourself because if you don’t, no one else is going to. The icing on the cake is my wedding photos turned out amazing and I can’t stop looking at myself in them and thinking, “Wow! I really did lose weight… and I’m gorgeous!” I will definitely give some credit to the photographer on that part though!”

Vanessa’s story:

“I racked my brain for different stories; do I talk about how I had my hopes up for our wedding to be featured on a national blog but those were shot down because I’m considered plus size, or how my pinup photo shoot boosted my confidence, or some other life experience? I ultimately decided the most important story I could share was the moment of clarity I had regarding my size and how my worth is not depicted upon numbers on a scale. I’ve always been a woman who empowers, who compliments other women, and works hard so others see the value in themselves. When it came to myself though, that wasn’t the case.

I’ve always been stout; I take after my father (who I never knew). My mother described him as sturdily built, as am I. You could also say that I’m bold and brave which are other definitions of stout but those descriptions of myself did not become realized until I was older. My siblings took after my mother who weighs 100 lbs and is barely 5 feet. It was common for my mother to serve me more food than anybody else because I was a “growing girl” she said.  I internalized that as early as 9 years old, that there was something different about me because I was thicker than the other members of my family.

It wasn’t until 2015, that I recognized I have been embodying that thought for almost 25 years; that my size warranted different treatment.

In 2015 while on Instagram, I began looking at pages of people shaming others, viciously attacking strangers on social media based upon their weight. I was nauseously appalled and quite confused. I took some time and racked my brain for how/why people can think these things, let alone have the brazen ignorance to share them. I never came up with a solid answer, however, the wretched trolls brought an awareness, they were rejecting people solely upon their size-I have been rejecting myself for years for the same reason.  I love my curves, yet I’ve been cursing them for as long as I can remember.

This was a powerful revelation for me because that’s when I realized I feel the same about my body as a size 16 as I did when I was a size 8 so there’s no way it has ever been about my size. As a matter of fact, it has NEVER been about my size but rather my lack of self-acceptance, my internalized belief that my thickness did not deserve to be loved just as fiercely as I love others.  I’ve been berating myself with self-criticism instead of being warm and understanding. I’ve been rejecting my human-ness and by doing so I’ve been thwarting my power.

I’d love to say I’ve reached a point of enlightenment in my journey but my story does not have an ending yet.  I am still learning and exercising not only self-compassion, but EMBRACING MYSELF, and in turn gaining back my power.”

If you share this blog post, please use #nobodyshame #nobodyshaming #nofatshaming #youareloved #coexist #selfcare #selflove #beastmode #underconstruction  #healthjourney #erinhessionphotography 



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