When I tell people that I used to be almost 200 pounds, they usually don’t believe me. And at one point, I myself did not believe that my statuesque five feet nothing body had ballooned to 189 pounds. Now, I was always a little heavier. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s during the boom of excess. You know, Costco, Super-Sized everything, the more the better. Growing up, eating-out happened more often than eating-in, and when we moved to Hawaii our vacations back to California were planned around places to eat. True story.
Exercise? If you consider occasional performances in church plays exercise, then yes. A few attempts at some sport-ishy activities and surfing in high school, but nothing that stuck.
Until, I got my very own flashy job working in the fitting rooms at Gap. I immediately, fell in love. I loved helping people find their perfect pair of denim or the look on their face when I had helped them put together an outfit that briefly reinvented them. Not only did I love my after school job, my new diet of a Venti Mocha and Plain Frozen Yogurt with Strawberries and Almonds was totally working and I had gotten down to a size 6! What?! I was a size 10-12 since 8th grade, and amongst a sea of tiny Asian girls, I was the equivalent of a short Godzilla. I vowed to stay that size forever. And, I didn’t.
I had amazing opportunities in Hawaii after being fired from my first job out of high school and was finally ready to put focus on college. With a Rock-Paper-Scissors decided move to DC, I focused on a couple of things during my first couple of years at school. 1. School. 2. Food. I tried every new thing I could get my hands on and very often-ended late nights with a Giant Falafel Sandwich with French Fries and Peanut Sauce aaaaand a Jumbo Slice. Literally, a Jumbo Slice of Pizza. It is sinfully delicious.
If you would like to gain emotional strength, go to art school. You give everything you have, to possibly to start over, with the reward of strength that could only come from failure. With my dedication to school came the lack of attention paid to my own health. Before I knew it, I was trying on the largest sizes that most retail stores carried, and loosely fitting into size 16’s. I wasn’t comfortable and really didn’t know how to be comfortable in clothes anymore. I had so many restrictions for what I wouldn’t wear, that I hated shopping and getting dressed. Something, I had loved doing since I four and looked up to the flashy church ladies covered in oversized costume jewels and every animal print imaginable. So where did I start?
I was eating a buffalo chicken wrap with french-fries and a side of blue cheese (I totally associate experiences with food obviously), when I was asking friends how I can get in better shape when one of them said “Well… YOU can make better choices.” I continue to break that down in my life to this day. Ohhhhhh…. I, Me, Heather, has the ability to make choices over my own life about what I put into my body and what activities my body does. Got it.
So, I started making better choices. I lost my first 30lbs by learning about basic food choices with Weight Watchers and started to buy smaller clothes. I was finally a little closer to where I was comfortable and decided to get active with walking. There was a middle school with a track exactly 1 mile away from my house and my first goal was to walk there and back. The next day, I walked there, 1 time around the track, and back. And continued until I was running.
I was beginning to finish up my classes, I had a ton of energy, and was ready to start interviewing for Design Internships and get serious about graduating. So, I was kind of forced to go back into very full closet of clothes I had shipped from Hawaii! I pulled out my heels, and dresses, and skirts, and blouses, and began to cry. Actually weep. Nothing fit. Not only did nothing fit, I had no idea whose body this was…but it wasn’t mine. My cheekbones now exposed along with my collarbone and parts of my shoulder in a certain light now peaked out. My shirts and dresses draped on my shapelessly, and my shoes. Oh, my shoes. It was like I was trying on really cute pairs of shoes in a store that I knew were too expensive and too big for me. Except, they were my 20 something pairs of really cute shoes that no longer fit. I had kind of realized that my size 10 clothes were a little loose, but hadn’t tried any of these items on since I had changed my lifestyle.
So, I headed out and to my own surprise, I was buying size 6’s and a few size 4’s. Not only did I have to have a complete wardrobe overhaul, the size 7.5 sized shoes I swam in were replaced for 6.5’s. Even my feet were fat! I was lucky enough to find an amazing opportunity right out of college that help me build a new wardrobe that not only fit my new body but also pushed and continued to motivate me.
At the age of 26, I got my very fist gym membership and a trainer Dewey. In retrospect, I paid Dewey pennies to what he is worth in patience. Besides running, I had not touched a piece of gym equipment. Terrified is probably how I would describe how I felt before (and continue to feel) before each workout. But, he worked with me and patiently helped to ignite a confidence that I didn’t know existed.
Feeling motivated to try something new, I decided to try this new thing I had heard about called ‘CrossFit’. So on a casual Saturday morning, I opened Pandora’s Box with Jeff Tincher at CrossFit Fairfax. He took me through a 5-minute workout and I literally thought I was going to die. Now, most people that try CrossFit for the first time will tell you that. And, it’s true. You honestly feel like someone should be called because your heart is actively beating outside of your body on the floor next to you while you try to pick it up out of the sweat puddle. I know, classy.
The only expectation that I have of myself is that I try. So, I did. I tried jumping on boxes, swinging from bars and rings, going upside down, and opening myself to an amazing community of health conscious friends. I even got crazy enough to move to Colorado to try things outdoors.
When I joined the CrossFit Verve community, I wasn’t really prepared for the infection motivation of others. I saw the drive in others and wanted to challenge myself. So, on December 31, 2011, I signed up for the Iron Girl 2012 in Las Vegas and swim lessons at DU. The least I could do was try. So I took swim lessons and more swim lessons, and ran, rode a bike, and then finished my very first Sprint Triathlon.
During the bike portion of my race, a picture that I had taken a week prior with some friends after a workout with Crossfit Verve at Red Rocks plagued my mind. We finished bounding up all 69 rows of the amphitheater, and took some pictures to commemorate our work. I was on my bike and trying to do a side by side of what I pictured myself as and what I actually looked like. In my mind, what I looked like to other people was the girl in the fitting room that would have panic attacks about trying to fit into a size 14. What everyone else saw was a vibrant fit-woman. I thought about this long and hard. I thought the journey that I had been on and what I wanted to do next. My ride seemed like the longest and shortest time period. I knew I had neglected my wardrobe a bit and need to address it once I headed back to Denver.
So, I got home and started in my own closet. Back, on the floor, with clothes piled around me, mascara running down my face, and a notepad full of items I need to replace that didn’t fit, with three questions. How could I possibly be any smaller than a size 4? How am I in better shape that I was 15 years ago? And what the heck do I do with the toned arms that are now attached to my body?
Here are the answers to myself:
- Healthy fits everyone. Size does not.
- You are healthier than you were 15 years ago and YOU choose to be healthy for the rest of your life.
- You embrace the results of the choices you make.
So, I did and do. I’ve learned to love the body that I live in, dress the body I have with pieces that fit me and my personality while having a ton of fun! And although the sizes in my wardrobe may vary from a 0-4, it’s the journey to a healthy lifestyle that was the spark to reigniting my love of fashion and helping others light their own confidence through clothes.
Cheers to living life and looking chic.