Believe me when I say that this will be the first and LAST post that is ever this long. I feel as though this is an important story that needs to be told, as it illustrates how the bullies don’t always have the last laugh…
A lot of people who meet me now, have no idea what I’ve been through. They think I’ve always been this fit, healthy eater, and gym enthusiast, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Since I can remember I’ve been an athlete. From the first day of kindergarten to the day I graduated high school my parents had me enrolled in an activity. Dance, t-ball, soccer, basketball, and the sport that came to ignite a fire in my heart, softball. That’s not to say I was the healthiest or had an athletic bod – I was round and proud. I had been over weight all of my life, and it became a problem in high school.
Are you shocked to know that? That self-esteem issues started during the most vulnerable years of a teenager’s life… well there is a little bit more to my story than the typical insecurities we foster. In school I was constantly bullied because of my weight. My freshman year in Portuguese class we had an assignment to describe a peer using the adjectives we were just taught. I’ll never forget that day as the boy who had to describe me stood up and said: “Ela e gorda”. English translation: She is fat. Later that year I tried out for the school’s softball team and little did I know what was coming next…
Following in the steps of my older sister, I made the team. She went off to be a track star, and set records throwing shot put – I stood on the field or tried to anyways. There were a couple of guys in my class who would attend practices/games, take pictures of me in my uniform, and upload them to Facebook for everyone to make fun of how fat I looked. This was the first time I experienced cyber bullying, and I can’t tell you how many times I would read through all the comments on that post – engraving one by one into my brain. It didn’t stop there; the locker room and my gym class became another chamber of hell. It was only after I saw a Twitter thread created by two girls who saw me working out at Work Out World calling me fat and disgusting that I told my mom what was going on. At the time, cyber bullying wasn’t recognized as a crime or nearly taken as seriously as it is now. The school told my parents they couldn’t police the internet or outside of school grounds, and the “kids will be kids” thing. That’s when my mom pulled me off the team. I was going home crying every night, and just re-reading those comments that I was making myself depressed.
I still played softball for the town’s recreation team during summers, but it wasn’t the same. High school only got worse as the years went on as far as the bullying goes. Nothing that I will continue to dive into, I just remember going into my sisters’ room one night in the middle of my junior year crying to her about how badly I wanted to transfer and get out of the district. Then, I lost my best friend, my grandma. Each day I woke up dreading what would happen in school that day, I felt alienated, and was lacking physical activity. All of which led me to start binge eating. After school I would go to the nearby gas station and demolish two bags of chips and other snacks before going home to then stuff my face at dinner, eating myself sick. I’d purge, but sometimes I would sit on the bathroom floor over the toilet and thought I’d always be fat and disgusting, so why bother?
While I was battling these disordered eating habits, someone close to me lost a lot of weight. Their parents tried to impose on my parents traditional Portuguese/Italian cooking regimen to get me to eat like their child had, but my parents never really pushed me to diet. Right around Christmas time that year those same people gave me a present… diet pills. I can still feel how flushed my face got, and the chest pain I experienced in that moment, but most of all, I remember how hard I cried in my mom’s arms that night. Between the bullies at school and the ones within my extended family – it was like I couldn’t escape the topic of my weight. I felt like I HAD to do something. Being the vulnerable and desperate teenager I was – I tried just about every fad diet to ever exist, took Hydroxycut, and was doing marathon YouTube workouts/cardio several times a day to try and lose weight.
There had come a point where I had restricted myself to 500 calories and was doing 2-3 hours of cardio a day. After going “all in” during the week and not seeing “enough” progress, I would binge and purge on the weekends repeating this cycle. It took a MAJOR mental breakdown for me one night to realize I needed to address all of this in a professional setting. There was so much I was bottling up from school and comments my family would make that I ended up having an anxiety attack. But I’m glad I did because I ended up calling a bunch of therapists in my area, found one that took my insurance, and started seeing her immediately. Once I felt that I was in a good place mentally, I started looking for a personal trainer. One of my friends at the time knew someone and her recommendation led me to experience the following best four years of my life.
Hercules Performance’s coach, Sam Forget, was someone who not only led me to have a successful fat loss journey, but a man who recognized the mental state I was in and took the time to understand the bulling I had been through. He is a professional in this industry that prioritizes mental health along with your physical health. With his support and guidance, I lost 75lbs working with him. Learning all about nutrition, laying off the cardio, and strength training not only made my confidence soar but that’s where I found the next sport to pour my heart into. And that my friends, is powerlifting.
My Instagram page transitioned to being all about the gym, and that’s when the bullying resurfaced. Someone close to me called me a slut for posting progress photos, family members would mock me and tease I would never find a boyfriend when I was “as strong as a man”/ “had legs like tree stumps”, even someone I went to high school with started referring to me as “naked Instagram girl” for posting photos in a bikini with my newfound confidence. Except this time, these situations had no impact on me.
From my days of feeling worthless due to bullying and binging, I finally felt empowered with a barbell in my hand. The women I was meeting online were nothing but encouraging and uplifting – while it wasn’t a team per say, The Girls Who Powerlift page WAS that team I wanted to be apart of all along. Four years into this sport and I am the strongest AND healthiest I’ve ever been. I hold a couple state records, and my best numbers to date are a 140lb bench, 300lb squat, and 325lb deadlift. Never in my life did I think I would be a powerlifter, or where I am today.
To everyone that ever ridiculed me, thank you. If it hadn’t of been for all of the negative remarks, I wouldn’t have risen to where I am today.