Alyssa's Story: from childhood obesity, to bulimia, to the battle to find herself

Loving myself was never a focus of mine. My goals have always been things like being a person of integrity, and being the type of mother to my girls my mother was for my brother and I. Putting my focus on those things helped me leave the house. Knowing that I am a good person has always seemed to be enough for me to hold my head high. Loving myself seemed too obscure of an idea for me to fully grasp. So far fetched, that just getting by daily sufficed.


Being the size of an overweight ten year old at four was the first time I remember trying to find things I liked about myself, despite having to live in the large, uncomfortable body I occupied. I know what you must be thinking, It's true- I am an optimist.

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Add to that ten years of sexual abuse, and I was screaming inside of the prison that was my body by the time I was fifteen. Undressing to shower one evening I caught a glimpse of my body, and paused. Staring, I realized I was looking at myself alone and completely naked for the first time. I wasn't disgusted like I would have thought. A deep sadness swept me. My body didn't deserve any of the hate I felt towards it, or any of the pain; for that matter.
That week I joined weight watchers. In 10 months I lost 115 pounds and thought that this had made me brand new again. As a Junior in High School, I felt a second lease on life.

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While my parents completed their divorce, I paid that no mind. I was ASB Vice President, had a great boyfriend and was absolutely killing it on the basketball court. I told my abuser enough was enough and avoided family functions. I also stopped going to church. My social life and basketball were my new religion, and were what fueled my life at that time. I began spinning out of control with the insanity that was taking on everything that came my way to stay busy. By my Senior year, a close friend of mine taught me how she ate Cheetos and Pizza at lunch and was still thinner than me and my chicken breast, whole grain eating self.


This new freedom of being able to control such a large aspect of my life turned into a disease quickly. In one area of my life, I had emailed enough coaches and sold myself to earn a full ride basketball scholarship to a Division II school in Tennessee from a tiny High School like Hilmar High. I was nominated Homecoming royalty and was basketball team captain. In the other area of my life, I was hiding out in my house, preferably in the dark. I was numbing my PTSD and depression with thousands of calories at a time and then violently purging the sinful foods that I knew I should be staying away from, out of my guilt ridden, hated body.


Bulimia took two full ride basketball scholarships from me. After Tennessee failed, another small school in Arizona did as well. I was taken to treatment in Rancho Palos Verdes, California two different times where I received treatment along side Anorexics and was able to learn a few tips and tricks from them on how to abstain from food.


Once treatment was over and I didn't have the courage or energy to give college, or basketball another try I decided that I would attend the brand new Paul Mitchell School that was opening here in Modesto. Inspiring women in their own natural beauty would be rewarding for me and I loved making personal connections with others. Turns out, I was a natural for the field and thrived at the school. The owner took a liking to me and sent me to countless leadership conferences and classes and pushed me to work for Paul Mitchell myself. Her only problem was she couldn't figure out where I always disappeared to and would get angry at me for it. Bulimia kept me home some days and I lost another golden opportunity.


I went on to do hair and loved it for years. I gave into Bulimia for the early part of my twenties and along with Bulimia came alcohol and drugs and that was ok. I avoided my family who loves me so much and I avoided God and just stayed busy with being intoxicated and...just busy.


This was all fine and dandy, until I became pregnant with Rori. The day I discovered I was pregnant my whole world changed. I considered abortion and hated myself for it. But I had tried to change my life before. Like, had really tried and couldn't do it and I refused to be who I was being, as a mother. The morning after I found out about my pregnancy I was drinking coffee and I hear God speak to me for the first time. It was simple, I was twenty-four years old and I could do this. I wasn't fifteen or without support and possibility. That moment changed my life forever. I never looked back on my own behaviors.


I began attending a Christian church. After being raised in a traditional Portuguese Catholic family this was an entirely different experience. Jesus began chiseling away at my heart. It's the only way I know how to describe it. I would take my daughter Rori to the daycare that New Life Christian Center provided and would sit in the back row during service and tears would just stream from my eyes. I would let my head hang low and just cry and listen. My body felt over come with the love that was the Lord for the first time and all I could do was be grateful that I was finally being recognized by Christ. I remembered being a child and begging God to save me from what I was going through and feeling abandoned by him. Finally, as a grown adult I felt his love for the first time.


Three years and another baby girl later, I are now living in Modesto. Doing hair was not fulfilling my heart. I cannot make any woman feel better about herself just by doing her hair and I wanted to do more. I obtained my degree in Psychology with a focus in Children and Adolescents. I am the administrator of a Residential Treatment facility for foster youth. My heart is pleased with the work that I do and who I am for those in my life.


The only thing that has been missing is from my life is- who I am being, for me. The moment I learned I was pregnant the first time, Bulimia was not an option. Binging was still happening, without the purging. I put on 100 pounds during my first pregnancy. It was ok to tell myself I was just pregnant and would take off the weight after the baby was born. In December of 2011 Rori was born and I was no longer pregnant. Morbid obesity met me at the beginning of a long journey of dealing with postpartum depression. Somewhere in becoming a mom I was both granted the biggest blessing ever bestowed on to me and lost myself completely- all at the same time. I had to face my Bulimia for the first time, knowing I could never go back to being that person. I began a boot camp out of Turlock and slowly lost 60 pounds. I restricted my food intake at times and over indulged at other times and figured that was balance. While doing boot camp I felt like I was stranded on a deserted island at times and it was lonely.


I quit boot camp when I decided to have a final child. I basically prepared myself for weight gain and a second and (hopefully) final struggle to lose the weight. After gaining another 80 pounds in my second pregnancy, I was unable to get myself off of the living room floor by myself. I had a three year old and two month old and could not get myself off of the floor at 29 years old. To say I was angry at myself would be an understatement. I found myself looking at the intangible things I liked about myself everyday just to try and summon the courage to get out of the house. Countless times I would pack up my family and cry in the parking lot of a public place and have to turn around and go home. I began making grocery lists for my mom so that I wouldn’t have to leave my house.

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Getting by is not how I want to live.


One of my closest friends experienced tragedy over the summer and has found strength and purpose through God and through the motivation and community of Get Fit. As I have watched her journey, it was imprinted in my heart that Get Fit is where I needed to be. As with all things in my life, I waited for the right time- a sign even.


While I was at work one night, a post on Facebook caught my attention that a boot camp was starting the next day. I signed up before I could think about it. I found myself showing up late and walking by spandex clad- size 20 butt, into a sea of beautiful fit people all sitting around and talking about working out six times a week. I shook my head and laughed a little, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

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I cannot yet put into words what this past month has done for me. Something happened when I put my faith into people and a process I did not know, and the people and process did not reject me. For the first time in my life, I was welcomed with open arms AND incredible results. I have been able to not only sweat and grunt my way through workouts I truly did not think I was physically capable of- but I have also shared a large part of my heart and who I am with my coach Rachel, and a few other wonderful people at Get Fit and they have touched my life by their encouragement and love. I guess what I am trying to say is, at thirty years old I am finally learning that by putting myself out on a limb I am learning how strong I really am. I am learning to love myself by putting in some serious work and by sharing the experience with beautiful individuals who are guiding me and loving me the whole way through. Thank you Rachel and Get Fit.

If you would like to sign up for the next season of Boot Camp or have questions, email bootcamp@getfitmodesto.com