As a young girl, I was brought up living with my mother, although she was more than my mother. She was also my best friend. At this time in elementary and middle school, with her encouragement, I stayed active with swimming and playing soccer. But when I was 16 years old, my self-esteem took a downhill turn when I went to live with my father and stepmother in a different state. I didn’t know anybody. I felt completely alone. At that point I became depressed and unmotivated and turned to food as my comfort. I would find myself spending most days inside sitting on the couch or behind the computer screen all day, eating. I rarely worked out or did any physical activity whatsoever.

But one month starting into a brand new high school, I made a friend on the school bus. She was my first friend in a new town and I found comfort in her. One day after school she invited me to go on a hike to a nearby overlook and it was the most beautiful place I had ever been. I then thought to myself, "I want everyone to see this. I want to change my life around and in the process hopefully help other people as well."

Despite that experience, I realized I still wasn’t happy and had the opportunity to move back to my hometown. I began my senior year as a typical 17 year old, with some of the same self-esteem issues any 17 year old girl goes through. I felt as though all my friends were skinny and perfect, and I was the “fat” friend. When we would all go out for birthdays or even just get dressed up for a party, I would feel those crippling thoughts again. I’m fat. They are prettier than me. I don’t fit in.

Those emotions stuck with me for two years, until one day I was over at a friend's house when a cute guy caught my eye. At first I didn't think he noticed me and my teenage self-doubt creeped in. But two weeks later, he asked for my number. I literally couldn’t believe it. Things moved pretty fast and soon enough we were living together.  Six years later we are still together and happier than ever and am grateful for such unending support through that tough time in my life. He gave me that confidence boost that I needed to get myself back on track.

Together, we moved to California and fell in love with the landscape. And upon our arrival, I began working as a cleaner for SoulCycle.  Between the healthy aspects of working at SoulCycle, not to mention the beauty of the state, I was motivated to go on hikes, take more walks and swim.  All of a sudden, exercise didn't feel like "work" but a way of life.  

Today, I am at a point where I feel comfortable in my own skin because I have never once felt judged or looked down upon by the people I now surround myself with. At times I think California changed my life, but in reality, I know I had it inside me all along.  I just needed the help of those along this path to light the fire under me to help me get there. I’ve lost 20 pounds and gained a whole new attitude--one that allows me to live a life with constant positive energy.

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