Last night, I was sitting there watching The Biggest Loser. After the opening sequence of the show, I broke down into tears. The tears were for a variety of reasons. First of all, I quit my job last week to chase my dream of being a health and fitness professional. I am scared and overwhelmed, but I know that this is something I had to do. I have only watched a few seasons of TBL, but I enjoy the show. When it started and they had the kids on there, it overwhelmed me with emotion. See, ever since I completed my Basic Training to get licensed as a Zumba® instructor, I knew I would also get licensed to teach Zumbatonic® to kids. One, I love working with youth, but also because childhood obesity is something I’ve become passionate about. Children deserve a chance at life, from conception and beyond. It is sad that something so preventable is hurting our youth. To see those three kids on TBL tell their stories was at once heartbreaking and inspiring. To hear TBL challenge America to combat childhood obesity? It was like confirmation that I made the right decision. I literally broke down into tears. This is the second time in my life where I felt like The Almighty was whispering to me that I am right where I am supposed to be. I have a responsibility to help others not only reach a healthy weight but learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. I have a responsibility to help children learn how to live a healthy lifestyle so that they can have self confidence from now into adulthood. Self confidence, or lack thereof, controls the decisions we make. We choose more wisely, in all aspects of our lives, when we are confident in ourselves.

In truth, I have no idea what it’s like to be overweight as a child. I was a skinny kid my entire childhood. I became fat as soon as I became a legal adult at the age of 18. I went to college weighing 136lbs and wearing a size 6, came home for winter break a size 10/12, and came home at the end of my freshman year a size 14/16. The “freshman 15” was like the “freshman 50” for me. The largest size I ever wore was a 20/22. I don’t know how much I weighed at that time, but my highest recorded weight was 247lbs in 2002. I wore a size 18/20. That means that ultimately I gained 111lbs over the course of 10yrs (from 1992 to 2002). Whenever I look back on it, I am always amazed that I gained that much weight, but I am as amazed that I was able to lose most of it and get back to a healthy weight (I’ll never be 136lbs again; it’s just not desirable) and back into a size 6 (go me)!

Even still, I know what it was like to not be comfortable in my skin as a child and an adolescent. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re on the outside looking in. I am and have always been a nerd. It was not until I was 16 years old, in Inroads, and met a whole host of other nerds that I began to feel OK with my nerdiness and more comfortable in my skin. But even to this day, I am never completely comfortable in social settings. There is always an anxiety that I feel going into ANY social setting. People think because I’m so social that I’m not anxious or shy, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am extremely shy; I’m an extroverted introvert. I prefer to stay at home and have my nose in a book over going out. Unless, of course, going out includes dancing. If dancing is involved, then I’m down. Otherwise? I could take it or leave it. I realize that I’m different, the way I speak is different, my viewpoints are different. I am, in a word, unique. Some people say weird, but I prefer unique, OK? Thanks. At any rate, I know what it’s like to feel like a social outcast, even if the reason I felt that way when I was younger has nothing to do with weight. But as an adult, I know exactly what that feels like.

I know what it feels like to get on a bus or a train and have people look at you and you KNOW they don’t want you to sit next to them. I know what it’s like to be in a club and have all the skinny, scantily clad chicks look at you and smirk or chuckle like you don’t belong. I know what it’s like to have thoughts like, “It must be your ass cuz it ain’t your face,” when you smirk back at said chicks. I know what it’s like to go shopping with skinny people and hold their bags while they try on clothes. I know what it’s like to feel invisible in a room full of people. I know what it’s like to be introduced to the same person you’ve met 100 times who either honestly doesn’t remember you or just pretends like they don’t because, to them, you’re not worth remembering. If it weren’t for my parents, I would have thought I wasn’t worth remembering, either.

And that’s what I know these young people are lacking and what I want to help them find within themselves: self worth. I want them (and anyone I train or help to lose weight) to know that their self worth is determined by THEM, not anyone else. I want them to understand that no one else’s opinion of them matters, only what they think of themselves. There will always be people who don’t like you, who will talk about you, who will criticize you. Trust me, I know. I have a personality that people either love or hate; there is no in between. Luckily, my parents taught me that from an early age (I think they knew I was a little . . . different).

So I accept The Biggest Loser’s challenge! I hope that I already am, and will continue to be, an inspiration to others. I hope that I am able to take all that I have learned through studying and my experiences and make a truly positive impact on the lives of others. I want to be able to create ripples of hope so that those I inspire go on to inspire others in their own ways. I will live my alma mater’s motto, “Having light, we pass it on to others.”