Size 18 jeans.
I’ve been, I would consider it, severely overweight, since my fourth child was born which was 17 years ago.
I could tell you so many gym memberships I’ve paid for and never used, how many classes I’ve attended, how many boot camps I joined; I’ve tried everything under the sun. This shake, that drink, this medicine, [that] supplement.
I’d drop 20 pounds but then I’d gain 30 [back].
I think the biggest thing is I never made myself a priority. I never thought I was important enough to take care of myself.
I was in an extremely unhealthy marriage where the effort that it would of taken to explain where I was and what I was doing wasn’t worth the commitment to take care of myself, so I just never did.
I’d felt like I’d spent so many years not being seen, not being important.
I was never one of those women that you look at and you’re like well she’s happy in her own skin. I admire those women; I admire that they can be happy exactly where they’re at. I was [never] happy.
I’d been overweight for 17 years, S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore; I didn’t want to look like that anymore.
I wanted to be healthy.
I wanted to not get annoyed when my boys asked me to come upstairs and pray with them at bedtime. I’d be downstairs sitting on the couch watching television and they’d ask me to come pray with them and I’d be like, ‘Ugh! I gotta go all the way up the stairs.’
I wanted to not feel that way; I wanted to be like, ‘Oh up the stairs? Let me run these stairs twice because I haven’t gotten my steps in yet today!’
That was the mind shift I wanted to change.
I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to get healthy. I wanted to get smaller. I wanted to take care of myself.
I’m not worth it…
365 days later.
In September of 2016, my ex-husband moved out and right away I dropped eleven pounds just because I was so stressed, [not knowing] what life was going to look like.
In January, [my friend] Corie had been hassling me to come with her to yoga, like hassling. We shared an office and she would say, ‘Come on, let’s go!’ all the time and I’d be like, ‘Uhhh that doesn’t even sound appealing to me,’ and it was expensive. In my mind, I’m like how in the world can I afford this because I just went from a two-income family to a one income family and the one income was not nearly what’s required [with] 6 boys at home.
[But] one day, [Corie had just] come back from class and was back at work, sitting there like, ‘You may not be able to defend yourself, you may not be able to talk bad about him but you sure as hell can get a smokin’ hot body that he has to look at for the rest of his life!’ and I thought well, I mean… that could be good motivation.
Literally, the next day I came with her to class.
I was extremely intimidated to go. I felt like everybody’s going to be looking at me; everybody’s going to be judging me; I’m twice the size of most of the girls in here.
Corie was so funny because she’s like, ‘Trust me, nobodies paying attention to you. Nobody cares what you’re doing. Everybody’s focused on themselves and what they’re doing.’
[So] I said, ‘Well show me something that they do.’ I’m not even joking, she got up and she showed me breathing.
So, I came.
[The yoga instructor] took time out to welcome me, to talk to me and just to tell me, ‘Don’t push yourself, don’t judge yourself off of the person standing next to you. This is your practice, you’re just going to be better the next time.’
That initial intro, just knowing that, is probably what kept me coming.
Don’t judge myself off the person next to me, just focus on myself in the mirror and judge myself off of that: what I did last time compared to what I did this time.
[The instructor] said, ‘Just stay in the class; stay in the room. Don’t leave. If you get to a point [where] you can’t do something, just sit down.’
That was my goal; my goal was to stay in the room, and I did.
I was so freakin’ proud of myself that I stayed and I did it.
I remember at the end of the class I laid down and I put the lavender hand towel over my face and I literally sobbed, I just cried.
‘Give it your best, your best is always enough.’
That whole thing just settled in…
Maria was noticed for the first time in seventeen years.
I did one of those intro things: 2 weeks for $40 or something like that. I’m cheap and so I thought I’m going to get as many classes in for this $40 because I can’t keep going after this. So, I went to probably 10 classes in 2 weeks, maybe even more I don’t know. I went like every day.
I remember always noticing in the mirror how much better I was getting.
Marie tried every single class on the schedule in 20 days.
I felt like I can do this.
I. Can. Do. This.
Before my last day, I just took a step of faith and I didn’t know where the money was going to come from… my brother helped me the first month and he helped me the second month and he helped me the third month.
I just made that commitment that I’m worth $100 a month; I’m worth the time to come here and take care of my body.
My eating habits were horrible.
I would starve myself.
I would eventually eat; I would binge eat.
I would get to the end of the day and I would be starving and all my babies would finally be in bed so I’d eat this huge dinner and a big ole’ bowl of ice cream because I finally got to eat today. I would excuse it in my head [as] well, I haven’t eaten anything all day so if I put down these 3,000 calories right now it’s really not THAT bad because I didn’t eat at all today.
That’s how I would justify it.
Because I was working so hard in the studio, it made me make better food choices I [was] like, ‘I’m not about to eat this burrito and waste 2, 2 classes worth of calories, that’s not about to happen right now because I just sweat my ass off in there. I’m not about to eat this burrito and cancel it out.’
Just One More Step
Marie got in her car and drove 3,000 miles.
Next stop: self-discovery.
I remember in March which was three months, no two and a half months after I started yoga, I went on this epic road trip, this self-discovery. My job [at Grace Church] told me I needed to take time off, not as a discipline but as a we love you; go take care of yourself.
Just me by myself… like, just go get in your car and be alone with Jesus and wherever my car took me is where I went.
I stopped at the Grand Canyon.
I had a very emotional moment. [I had climbed] to the highest point I could find and [in] that moment I was remembering something in therapy that my counselor told me: ‘You might not know what it looks like 10 steps ahead but just take the next right step.’
When I got to the top I cried because the whole way up I was like, ‘The next right step.’
‘Just one more step.’
‘You can get to the top.’
‘Just one more step.’
‘Just keep going.’
I got to the top and I literally felt myself fall to my knees. I sat up there and I just cried.
But before that, there were these girls up there that were visiting from Europe and I asked if they would take a picture of me doing yoga while I was up there. I don’t know why, it wasn’t like I went there with that plan… I just got up there and I felt like I had just reached this pinnacle of believing in myself, like I can do this.
I had them take a picture of me in my Standing Bow, which I was so proud of, and that’s what’s so important to me about the transformation is that two and a half months in I could hold a Standing Bow. My form was ridiculous, it was not anywhere near correct, I wasn’t even really doing it, but I was, I was doing it.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was as perfect as I could be in that moment.
Size 5 jeans.
Level 8 self-esteem.
Level 10 self-confidence.
Every single day something in my practice is better. It’s not always the same thing, it’s not always the same pose, but every day I can notice a difference in something.
High School Jeans
I set goals for myself through this process but even every goal that I set, it was out of fear that I wouldn’t reach it. I would set a goal of what size I wanted to wear because I never wanted my focus to be on the scale; my body’s just not built like someone who can focus on the scale, I have to focus on other things. So, my focus, my goals, were always my jean size.
I would get to that jean size and I would be like, ‘Psshhh! I’m not done here!’
Right now, I wear the same jean size I wore in high school.
Now I’m at the spot where I’m going to take the teacher training. I haven’t even told Brandon that yet; he was the one trying to talk me into it.
I’ve been thinking about it and praying about it and at first I’m like how in the world do I pay for this? I don’t even know how much it is, but I know it’s a lot. Like what am I going to do? How am I going to do this?
And I’m like, well God is like, ‘You ended up with the money the whole last year. Somehow you made it every month. Every month you paid that $100 and every month you were just fine. You trusted me in that, trust me in this.’
So, I’m going to do it.
I’m going to take the class in April, which seems insane to me, because you know what’s so funny is, on my blog I have a bucket list that I keep up with and after I started yoga, like way back in January, I went and edited it and added that I wanted to teach one, at least one, yoga class, to my bucket list.
Holy Shit Marie Just Got Real
I was worth more than what I had believed my whole life.
[It wasn’t] just yoga practice, but practicing my worth.
Forcing myself to go was telling myself I was worth it; I was practicing believing that I was worth it.
Marie jokes that now her self-esteem might be a little too high.
[On] College Day I was so freaking hot I wanted to take my shirt off; it didn’t even cross my mind that there were so many girls in there that were smaller than me.
That didn’t even cross my mind.
I took my shirt off.
Thinking about that… that in itself shows me how much my self-esteem has changed. I wouldn’t let who else was in the room control my choices.
I was freaking hot; I wanted to take my shirt off.
Corie: “I was behind her and I’m usually not and when she took her shirt off I was like…”
Marie: “Holy shit Marie just got real!”
Corie: “I was like damn girl! You go!”
Marie: “Now I might take my shirt off every time just because I can…”
Corie: “I want you to whip it around your head and run around the room!”
I’d say my self-confidence is a 10.
I just freakin’ committed to doing the teacher training!
I know I can do anything I try… if [it’s] something I want, my body is capable of it.
I have 4 [kids] I gave birth to and they’re 24, 20, 19 and 17; and then the 4 that were adopted are 17, 14 and 9-year-old twins… I was their foster mom for a little over a year and then adopted them.
[They’ve gotten] to watch this develop in me: the self-esteem, the self-confidence and the perseverance.
Remember that road trip… the night I came home from that road trip, I got home kind of late and all my boys came down into the kitchen because I was home. They were messin’ around… they all gave me hugs… and they got up on the counter [and were] doing push-ups.
We had an island and then a kitchen counter, they had their hands on one counter, their feet on the other and they were doing push-ups, and I’m all like, ‘I think I could do that!’
They’re like, ‘No no no no no mom don’t!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m going to try!’
I got up there and my two oldest boys were under me like, ‘Mom you’re going to fall!’
They had no confidence what so ever.
I got up there and I did push-ups.
They were like, ‘Ohhh… You did more than Jakeem!’
They were making a big deal out of it and I’m like, ‘Told you I could do it!’
I would of never tried something like that and it’s not like at that point I had dropped a bunch of weight. I mean I had, but not enough to get my butt up on the counter and do push-ups.
That same exact night Najee, who is the oldest of my 4 adopted ones, came and gave me a hug and said, ‘Mom I’ve never seen you smile so much.’
The only reason I shared is because my hope is that someone who thinks they can’t will see that they can.
Someone who thinks, ‘There’s no way I can do that, there’s no way I can walk in that room, there’s no way I can put those pants on, there’s no way I can stand on one leg. I never want to do that to myself. There’s no way I could sit in a hot room for an hour, let alone do any kind of physical activity in that room.’
I want those people to know that they can.