Twelve hours from now, I will be eighteen years-old–a grown woman, an adult, a true independent. It’s more than about time for me to share probably one of the most important parts of my whole entire life–and I’m not even out of school yet! It sounds completely insane for me to think so, but it really is. If it weren’t for this part of my past, I would never have the current platform I live for.
My journey is a very personal and touchy subject–for me at least–even though we’re always told to free ourselves from the past and not let it define us. It’s hard to not feel ashamed about years and years of ostracization and darkness, you know (unless if you were on top, then by all means rejoice!)? While it takes only a couple minutes–sometimes hours–for others to write this type of post, it took me over four years. If I asked myself three months ago to post this story, I would’ve refused profusely out of embarrassment. Clamming up though only made me more ashamed and secretive. I’ve finally obtained the courage to speak up about this on my blog because I feel I need to flush out the memories of my past, like a mental detox. It is a very, very meaty story, so if it bores you, I am sorry, but this would also hopefully benefit others who have the same struggles as I did and emphasize that they are not alone and are in full control of their happiness. So here we go:
They say that children can eat whatever they want without getting fat and worry about it, and that’s somewhat true. I wasn’t born with a largely built body. In my super early childhood years, I could eat anything I wanted without worrying about too many health problems because I was young and small. I grew up loving mac n’ cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheeseburgers, rainbow sprinkle oatmeal, ice cream, cookies, and lots and lots of cereal. It stayed that way for years. An everyday diet for me was Eggo waffles doused a cup of maple syrup on top for breakfast, two slices of pizza, vanilla cake and orange juice for lunch, a full package of grape, a bag of candied peanuts, or a bowl of cookie dough as a snack, eggy fried rice drowning in soy sauce for dinner, and lastly, Haagen Daaz ice cream topped with hot fudge for dessert, which unquestionably never had to be skipped. Fast forward to middle school and the sugars and fast-burning carbohydrates caught up. I also had a falling out with a few of my elementary school companions, so I basically transitioned completely friendless.
Since I was epileptic and was prone to getting seizures in the middle of a tournament (it happened several times in the swimming pool), I couldn’t join any sports, hence I would never show up to practices or games to socialize with people. I was and still am a naturally isolated person, but I still wanted to feel accepted. In hopes of getting everyone’s–especially the popular girls’–approval, I drew portraits of them and it inevitable never worked. They would praise me for the drawings, but they would eventually end up in the trash, completely forgotten. I did join a theater program, learned how to project myself onstage and met some very, very kind people I befriended and am still so grateful of to this day, but it didn’t solve the problems at school. I still came to campus every single day, ready to feel belittled and worthless while burying myself in a manga book or in my drawing pad.
Classmates spread rumors, whispered in their little cliques and called me horrible names about my appearance such as “fat lips” or “ugly mustache lady” behind my back, and when I was around I was invisible. Every day, I sat at lunch with a group of schoolmates I saw daily but they never bothered to even look at me. I was just too pitiful for them to include in their conversations. Might as well have been Cady Heron and sat in the bathroom stalls, right? It wasn’t until I looked–and I mean really looked–at a mortifying picture to understand why no one liked me. I looked swollen, disgusting and unapproachable. It was actually a bit difficult to find some photos because I deleted most of them out of embarrassment.
Even gathering these pictures made me tear up.
I can’t imagine where I’d be if my father didn’t suggest that I reflect on my health, diet and activity level. Out of everyone in my family, he was really the only one who knew how horrible I felt about myself and how I would always cry myself to sleep. I made the treadmill my best friend and immediately lost five pounds. Weight training and learning about clean eating (because abs are made in the kitchen!) shed the last inches of body fat and boosted my confidence up to a level where I could visit the gym without feeling judged. Because there was so much negativity that came from my favorite food staples at the time, I couldn’t even bear to look at pasta, cookie dough and bagels for a long time. Though I felt much better about my appearance, little did I know that losing weight didn’t change the fact I had no friends. As a result, I left my middle school. My picture of my eighth grade graduation was the only time I actually smiled genuinely because I was so happy to leave.
Enrolling into a new high school helped me immensely, for I could start a clean slate. By this time my love for health and fitness was incredibly strong. I enjoyed eating healthy, working out and researching clean recipes and fitness role models/programs, including Blogilates, Tone it Up, Kayla Itsines, Christine Bullock, Jillian Michaels and more. They all ignited me to become fitter and find a level of strength and to see a girl in the mirror I never would have imagined. I gave up the boring treadmill and learned about cool exercises such as Pilates, HIIT, kickboxing and hot yoga. More pounds peeled off and everyone started to see it. There are still photos of myself after my weight loss that shock me because I look so different.
To add some flexibility into all of our lives, my family even started to implement new healthy foods, lifestyle changes and habits such as cooking with healthier staples (the top five being olive oil, brown rice, seasonal vegetables, fruit, and 65%+ dark chocolate), walking more often, sleeping enough, etc. It made me so happy to see that I was influencing my loved ones. Family reunions became my beauty pageants. Everyone was in shock and told me how beautiful I looked and asked me how I did it. (Funny enough, these were the same relatives that also commented on how chubbier I was becoming–all in Vietnamese, of course, so that I wouldn’t be able to understand.) Every extra rep and nutritious swap was dedicated to my classmates, relatives, basically everyone who doubted me. The feeling of proving others wrong, including those who spread rumors or dismissed me, and the way the weight of feeling worthless was lifted off my shoulders was the best sensation in the world.
At the same time, it didn’t completely change that I was still shy and feared that sharing my love for health and fitness would throw others off. Only my small circle of friends knew I was very healthy, and we joked about it a bit, but that was all. There was still a fire within me that needed more exposure to this side of me. It wasn’t until I visited the IDEA World Fitness Convention in 2014 when I was introduced to an entire universe of health-conscious and inspirational people! I even ran into Cassey Ho at her station for OGorgeous and BODYPOP and even took a mini Pilates class with her!
Loneliness launched my transformation into becoming healthier but it was community and support that made me realize there was no reason to hide the new me. Reaching out and finding others in the same boat was absolutely vital, otherwise I’d feel as helpless in the gym as I did in my middle school cafeteria. Once I started my Instagram account, blog and YouTube channel, my health and fitness realm truly expanded. I connected with so many people through social media–Instagram, BurnThis and the Blogilates app are my favorite social media platforms for fitness!!–who struggled with the same problems as me, lost weight, recovered from eating disorders, transformed their physical and mental compositions or found careers based on health and fitness! We also love exchanging inspirational quotes, advice, transformation comparisons, gym selfies, and of course my favorite…food porn!
I’ve learned to be PROUD of what I’ve accomplished. For a long time, I really underestimated what impact I could have on others. I’m so blessed to be a model of a movement that is geared towards benefiting others’ fitness and vitality. The first classmate who approached me telling me that she watched my videos and was inspired by me was one of the greatest victories I’ve ever achieved and one that I could never imagine (she wasn’t the last one, either!).
Throughout the past recent years, I have struggled with other road-bumps regarding body image, food fears/obsessions and overexercising that did swerve me on unhealthy paths. However, I knew that at the end of the day, I lost more than thirty pounds, shifting my life in the opposite direction. That is all the difference.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed hearing about my weight loss story and that it gives you insight about where I draw my inspiration and ideas from about health and fitness! If you have a story of your own, please comment it down below because I love learning about others’ experiences!