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"I want to look like that."

Growing up, I wanted so badly to be a ballerina. I loved dance, but more than that I wanted the body…I dreamed about having long, lithe limbs…unfortunately I wasn’t born with extend-a-bones…and I have a naturally long torso and shorter legs, not to mention short muscle bellies and the ability to put on muscle very quickly, especially for a woman. I had such a bad body image that I cried a lot, feeling ugly and fat, even though I was super-skinny and incredibly strong and muscular, even as a kid. I compared myself to dancers like Gelsey Kirkland…not knowing at the time that she was plagued with drug addiction and eating disorders, and I was in complete denial of the fact that we can’t look like anyone else but ourselves. I want to be different, in a different body, to be a different person and I thought that would make me happier and more accepted.

Then I saw Terminator 2 and fierce badass, Linda Hamilton…something in my mind changed and suddenly I wanted to be like her! Yes, I was only 14, but I was fighting my own issues with body image and disordered eating and thinking already. The summer after I turned 15, I discovered the gym at the local YMCA…and my love affair with lifting weights began. I remember walking on the treadmill watching the big body builders lifting those huge weights, and I wanted to be in that room…so, little me…probably all of 115lbs and about 5’3 at the time, walked in there like a boss and learned how to lift. Who knew that that was the beginning of me finding out who I would eventually be?

I continued to dance. The local ballet master told me I was too thick and not built for ballet, but I kept going. I was determined to be the best I could to show everyone what I was capable of. I wanted to pursue dance in college and as a career. So, I did. I went on to college as a dance major. In 1997, my sophomore year into my junior semester abroad, I saw G.I. Jane and watched Demi Moore do pull-ups and one armed push-ups…and I was awe-struck. My desire to be a badass was revived…and because I was now in the “modern dance world” where body type didn’t really matter and strength was both acceptable and desirable, I dove right back into lifting. My body inspirations were clear in my mind. I wanted to be muscular and strong as heck.

When I finally moved to NYC to pursue my professional dance career, and go to graduate school to get my MFA in dance, I kept on lifting! I loved how strong I was…able to lift and throw men around…my endurance was off the charts. When the time came for me to find work that I could do while rehearsing and performing, personal training was the most viable option…and I finally found my calling.

My dance career ended in injury. I had 3 surgeries in 1 year and I could no longer keep up and be the power house dancer that I wanted to be…so I stopped…and not only continued to train others, but I stepped my own training up a notch…though I still struggled with body image and dysmorphia over the years, episodes brought on by anxiety, depression and stress, I always went back to what made me feel safe, secure, in control, and strong. It’s been a battle, but I am never held down for long.

In the years since ending my dance career, I have grown to LOVE my strong physique and what I am capable of. I have run Spartan Races, competed in and won figure competitions, and I have been featured on magazine covers…all things i NEVER imagined would be things I could accomplish. I have become a wife and a mom to 2 amazing boys…another accomplishment and success that I never thought possible for me. Thinking back to that little girl that used to cry about her body and wish that she looked like someone else, I am sad. Who knows how much I missed out on because of my fears, self-doubt, and insecurities. But, I live in the now;…and I am so intent on continuing this journey on a positive note. That little girl grew up to be me.

Moral of the story…we all have our body inspirations and role models …two of mine now are Nicole Wilkins and Ashley Horner…not that I want to look like them or be like them or do what they do…but I see these 2 beautiful badass hard working successful women….and I admire them for their accomplishments and dedication to their work in fitness. I have grown to LOVE the body I have built…and I hope the same for you…work for the body you want…but realize that you are unique and beautiful in your own way. Don’t let yourself be held back by fear or the thought that “I can never look like that”…no you can’t because that person is not you….always strive to be the best version of YOU.

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