Hello A+A Wellness friends and followers! 🙂
Where do I begin with such a post? I have learned so much in this past 10 years of my life it is incredible! I started my journey (as most of you know) at 208 pounds. I grew up with various types of abuse throughout my life and the final straw I believe was being entangled and trapped in a physically and verbally abusive relationship for 5 years. It was singlehandedly the worst (and best) thing to happen to me because the awful predicament I was trapped in forced me to take ACTION in my life! During this time I found pleasure and peace in nothing. The only thing I could (or could not now that I think of it) control was what I chose to put in my mouth.
I ate away my feelings. I found pleasure in nothing but food. I could not go out, couldn’t have friends, couldn’t even walk next door without calling my abuser to tell him where I was. Seeing my weakness and knowing I could not say NO, my abuser often made me cookies, bought ice cream and continued to try to keep me OVERWEIGHT (morbidly) and unhappy! Until the very end (even when I started pursuing health, he would make cookies and hold them in front of my face saying “You know you can’t say NO”).
Couple this horrible situation with a tremendous amount of emotional pain that I carried in my heart from “life” itself, left me completely spiraling out of control. I had not only allowed my physical self to go, I was denying that I had pain in my heart just festering inside of me and it was only a matter of time until it destroyed me.
I will never forget the day that I went to a local store (one of the few places I was “allowed” to go alone) and on the way in decided to weigh myself. The # that spit back at me stopped me in my tracks. My life flashed before me and I was left standing there in complete shock staring at the big bold “208”. What had I done to myself?
I remember clear as day making a decision in THAT MOMENT. I turned and walked out of the store and cried the entire way. I sat in my car for 30 minutes just bawling. Years of frustration, pain, emotional hurts, ANGER (LOTS!) just poured out of me. I put the keys in the ignition and started that little red car and beelined for home. I had NO earthly clue how I would do it! I had ZERO support or resources (and you could FORGET a gym membership!).
I was paralyzed with fear from my abuser who threatened to kill me (explicitly told me how) if I left and I knew that getting healthy was going to be a journey of which he absolutely would not support. I remember telling him that I was going to get healthy and there was nothing he could do to stop me. For me, it was about taking back control. I FELT SO OUT OF CONTROL.
What happened next was sheer desire, will and determination. With no tools, no gym membership and absolutely ZERO clue as to how, I decided to lose weight and get healthy. I made a CHOICE. I decided that I was much too tired of feeling the way I felt to continue to stay there. This leads me to my first point.
1) You do not have to have it all together! Just take the step! If you can hire professionals great but if you cannot this is fine too! Do not allow this to be a crutch or excuse for staying where you are right now. This world is full of information online, websites, books, gyms. You CAN if you want too! I strongly believe that part of my journey was to not have the resources, just the sheer will. I found a way. Even though it was not optimal, it was a start and because of this start, I gained strength, confidence and COURAGE to face my abuser. When I say “getting healthy saved my life” I mean this very literally.
2) I had to put down the cookies and stop buying the ice cream. I had to stop frequenting the places that caused trigger reactions in me. So many people mention “moderation” to me in the beginning of their journeys but for some, there is NO such thing! It takes overcoming these triggers and cravings sometimes before you add them back in. Take for instance an alcoholic, you won’t say ‘Just one beer a night’ or take a drug addict, you would not say “Just one hit per night” …. NO! They must abstain! The very same thing goes for food addiction. It is a serious thing.
I can honestly say that today, I have overcome food addiction but it took saying NO for a long time! Guess what else too? If I ate the conventional junk that I used to LIVE on, I would literally get sick! Seriously! Today, I enjoy grain free baking, clean eating and pure wholesome foods (and yes desserts) that feed and nourish my body.
3) Ask yourself the serious questions. When I faced my life and my health.. I had to be HONEST with myself, brutally honest. What had I done that contributed to where I was? How was I going to overcome it? What were my reasons for living? You better answer these and know these answers because they are the very things that will keep you going when you feel like you cannot! They will be your reserve when your gas tank is on E friends.
4) Stop believing the lies. Oh my goodness, to think of it makes me want to scream at shout! I was fed soooo many lies my entire life! I believed that I was not worth it, that I didn’t have what it took, that I was weak, unloved, unworthy… you name it! These were like little signs that just hung over my head (all day…. every day). What are your signs? What are the lies that you are being told or that you are being told? It is time to confront these head on! You will never get healthy (emotionally or physically) if you do not. You have to get to the ROOT of the problem and the root for me wasn’t food. Food was an effect. What was the cause? I had to really dig deep and make some very serious changes in my life.
5) You better surround yourself with those who love, respect, encourage and build you up! My abuser was horrible and each day that I got healthier I got BOLDER until one day, I had the courage to face him and tell him that I was done with him! I meant it too. Despite the threats of killing me and all. Heck, I even asked myself THAT question. Would I rather die than stay with him? When I answered YES, I knew I had to go. I was willing to flip the coin and I told him so. To this day, I can’t believe what a coward he was as he slithered, squirmed and begged me to stay.
6) Forgive yourself and forgive them: sometimes the hardest times we face with forgiveness are not for others but for ourselves! Allow yourself to forgive (whatever it is that is holding you back) or continually feeding the lies in your head. Forgive those who hurt you. Forgiveness is about YOU, not them. It sets YOU FREE. I had to go back and forgive many people in my life. People that I loved dearly, people who were supposed to love and protect me. That forgiveness what the very thing that started to allow God to penetrate my heart and bring healing.
Long story short, getting healthy gave me the courage to take my life back! It allowed me to open myself up for the GREAT things God had planned for me (and my goodness were they great!) like meeting the love of my life, Alex.
When I met Alex I was “broken”…. this is the best way I can describe myself. I opened myself up to loving and being loved again but I was terrified, scared and just a mess. I was malnourished in a BIG way and I was pretty depleted but remember, I did what I could, with what I had, right where I was at.
This is huge peeps! Sometimes we feel we need it “all together” to start. This is so false. After meeting Alex, I look back and know that God had this plan all along for A+A Wellness. He knew that our strengths and weaknesses were perfect for each other and that together, He (The Lord) would use them ALL to help others. He used my testimony and my struggles to relate to others (He will do this for you too!) and He used Alex’s knowledge to help people truly change.
Allow yourself to start fresh and anew. You have great things planned for you and you can do this. I think that my STRONG belief in others is because I lived through the worst of it and God brought me through. ONLY through Him ultimately did I achieve true health and healing. Today, my passion, joy, love for life and gifts are simply because I trusted Him and He gave me the best.
Allow the “best” of your life to be right now. Choose to be ALL that you were created to be and value your health. If I can end with anything, it is this. Health is not selfish. It is not about vanity. It is about quality of life, longevity, true vibrancy and giving your BEST to those you love. Do it because you care for those in your life.
I hope this helps. Just a few things I have learned along the way!
Hugs, health and tons of blessings.
About the Author:Alex & Ashley Poptodorov are owners of A+A Wellness in ATL, GA. They have over 30 years combined experience with 14 years of running their own fitness facility in Tampa & ATL. They relocated to ATL in 2013 and now offer Fitness, Nutrition, Lifestyle & Traditional Naturopathy programs including Online Coaching and their online Forum called the A+A Wellness 'Inner Circle'.