who will love me for me? I WILL, I WILL!

Tonight I listened carefully to JJ Heller's beautiful tune, "What Love Really Means."  A very special person suggested I listen to this song a few months back and I literally cried as I heard it for the first time. Upon hearing this for the first time, I was in a very sad place in my heart and needed to rediscover the inner strength inside to build me back up. The words,"Who will love me for me, not for what I have done or what I will become." echoed in my head and they completely divulged how I felt for so long.

When I started my weight loss journey, it wasn't JUST about losing weight. It was about starting a new year with a new voice, a new concept, a new outlook, and a new version of me. I didn't want to become anyone new, I just wanted to rediscover the girl I knew I had always been. There have been many factors that had brought me there; bad relationships, personal battles, building a business so quickly, my fathers illness, my family relationship, the pressure of planning a perfect wedding, the stress of putting myself through college and my inability to connect with anyone on a trustworthy level. I have always been a fighter but as I got older I found myself fighting against everyone. I would ask myself why is this so hard for me? Why am I so feisty? I see others go through life very non confrontational and peaceful and yet, it felt so tough all the time {personal wise- not business wise} for ME. I could blame it on people misunderstanding me because of my personality or that I just was a realist and most people can't handle that, but it had to be something deeper than that. For so long, I have lost a little bit of myself to poor myself into other things. I watched as I turned from being a beautiful ballet dancer in 2006 to weighing 180 pounds in 2010. HOW.DID.THIS.HAPPEN!?!!?!? I watched myself not care about anything that had to do with me directly. I woke up feeling tired and I would fall asleep tired and I barely did anything physical. Because let's face it, unless you are chasing a kid at a beach or a bride at a wedding, photography isn't exactly the most physical sport. If you are like me, majority of the time is spent sitting stagnant in a chair, butt glued downwards, fingers on the keyboard and eyes on the screen. I watched my posture change from perfect to slumpy. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror because it was so painful to see the physical side effects of not caring. I completely "let myself go". I let it go from the inside, out. I remember laying in bed at night dreaming of the body I once had, but more so the confidence associated with the feeling. I would tell myself, "tomorrow is IT, this is my time to get back to it". Then tomorrow would happen and excuses would come and I was left eating chic fila at my computer screen. It was such a viscous cycle and it felt awful. I was sad and depressed and I started to hate myself, seriously.

I will side-note this: I am not putting down size 12+ women that weight 180+ pounds. But, it was how I FELT at a size 12 and 180 pounds. I wasn't confident. I was lethargic. I didn't feel sexy. I felt mushy. I didn't feel healthy. I felt crampy. I didn't feel happy. I felt depressed. I focused on everything and everyone else around me and forgot about me. Funny how that happens? You live with you but yet you so easily turn your back on... YOU. Even when I got engaged I wasn't motivated to lose the weight. I bought a dress that accented my figure the way it was and rationalized in my head, "well this is me, NOW". It never had anything to do with my fiance either. He completely loved me for what I looked like then and now and I can honestly say he never put me down nor questioned my weight gain. Because, I gained 50 pounds over the course of 3 years! So, when I decided to lose the weight it was MY effort, not his, not anyone else's. Everyone has their last straw before devoting to their weight loss journey, for me, it was the clear indicator that I literally stopped looking at myself in the mirror. When you do that, that's a pretty big red flag that HELLO SOMETHING IS WRONG!! Then, it was seeing pictures that others would take of me. That liquefy tool in photoshop was only a temporary fix and I was still left damaged. On New years eve  I closed my eyes as the ball dropped and I made an unbreakable promise to myself: "find your happy again alex." I was over obsessing over the past, the excuses, the justifications, the poor self image, the lack of control, the lack of care towards food and the lethargy. I needed this or else I would be drowning my whole life inside.

That following Monday, January 3, 2011 I devoted myself to World Gym and got a membership with a friends advice. I started with a yoga class and boy, I was pathetic and mad at my reflection. I stopped frequently between downward facing dogs, ran out of breathe, and found myself hindered with my flexibility because of my weight around my mid section- ugh, it was not pretty. But, instead of just giving up I kept at it. I pushed myself so hard that first week. I was like an addict. It was like a detox: no more excuses, no soda/diet soda, no junk food, no fried food, no fast food, no white carbs, zero to no sugary foods, and minimal salt intake. I know it sounds radical and it was. But guess what? Your MIND is way more powerful than your body. With that, I followed the mind>matter rule and just stayed consistent. I was STARVING at night and every time my stomach would wince, I would gulp down water or chew gum. I was not going to let this stupid thing win. I woke up every day more persistent, more strong, and more durable. My starting weight was 178.6 pounds and I lost 7 POUNDS in that first week! I couldn't have been more proud when I saw that scale. The following week I started involving different kinds of workouts. Creative health was HUGE for me-- it was the only way I was going to stick with it. With that being said, I now do yoga, pilates, zumba, body jam, circuit training, boot-camps, cardio, weight training, yogalates, home fitness videos and running {ack}.

Now onto the diet part; which has played an insane role in my journey. Any good trainer will tell you that you can work out until you are blue in the face, but if you aren't watching what you eat you will NEVER see the results you want. So with that being said, I also made a conscious effort when I started this: detox BAD foods from my body and portion control. That same Monday it was seriously like FATE calling my name. Right next door to where I go tanning at Planet Beach there is a Smoothie King. The day I walked in the staff was promoting this, "Lean1" product. I had never heard of it! When told about it, it sounded fabulous. As told to me, it was basically a meal replacement that has all the right balance of carbs, protein, fiber, and nutrients. I am always wanting to try new things, so I totally did. IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST GULP. No joke. If you are like I am I crave SUGAR {I am all sweet, baby!} and drinking this "smoothie" was more like drinking a milkshake but with the consistency of a smoothie-- so not that ucky dairy after effects. It was amazing and I came back the next day...and the next day.... and the next. Well, I am 9 weeks into my journey and I drink Lean1 EVERY-SINGLE-DAY for lunch and sometimes for dinner too but doubling up! Jason Luther, one of the franchisee owners of the Jacksonville, Florida stores, has followed carefully with my journey and has helped me tremendously by believing in me and supporting me! We have become really awesome friends and I am beyond thankful for his graciousness! You can find more information on the Lean1 product at http://www.nutrition53.com

On that Monday, the 3rd of January after my yoga class and my first addiction to the Lean1 smoothie, I also started a competition on my photography facebook fan page. I hadn't previously thought about this nor did I consciously put together this concept. It just started really small, a desire to get the photography community or rather my community on my page into the gear of weight loss. In the matter of 45 minutes, it was a full blown concept that it would be a competition: those interested would need to email me pictures, stats, and stories based on criteria and there would be a "group" created to stay together. The competition would only last 10 weeks and the winner would be crowned with a bunch of awesome goodies including a $500 package from Smoothie King, a modeling fashion photoshoot with me, professional hair and makeup for a make-over, and lots of little extras! I had probably 50 people submit their images and share their stories with me. It was SO hard to pick only 10 girls, so I ended up picking 15. I then decided that week to narrow it down to 10 and to drop 5. Once that was done, 2 additionally dropped out and we opted for 2 new girls the following week. It was an amazing start though! Putting all of our weights and pictures and stories on facebook was EMBARRASSING to say the least. But, it was the BEST thing we all could have done. It was about accountability and raw realizations and that we did. All of the girls were so FIRED UP about losing weight and changing their lives. The feedback from the other fans on my page was motivating and everything was going so well. Jason graciously provided them all with gift-cards and supplements and helped get everyone going in the right direction. Seriously this man was a God send to myself and my competition girls. :) And, most of the girls got into the Lean1 diet with me and have never looked back ever since!

Fast forward to 9 weeks later, there are only 5 girls left 6 including me, and the competition has evolved into SO MUCH MORE! We are a tiny group but we are FIERCE about losing weight. I am AMAZED at their transformations and their new outlook on life. We have now extended the competition to 14 weeks because we all felt like 10 wasn't enough. I am personally on a 20 week program to my goal weight; so with that said, the girls left are dedicated, committed, accountable and strong. They have moved from couches to treadmills, soda to water, depressed to energized; shedding those inches off like crazy. I could go on and on and brag but you can see for yourself. Here are their progress images :)

meet Tiffany: 24 years old and currently at a 19 pound weight loss! You go girl, rocking those curves! Tiffany now WORKS at Smoothie King-- how cool is that?! Lean for life, baby.


meet Heather: 30 years old and at a 34.5 weight loss!!! She is in first place right now with body fat% lost and looks amazing. I am SO proud of her in so many ways. She is a hot hot hot commodity, dont'cha think? :) Meet Kayla; our baby at 20 years old! She has lost 14 pounds so far and gained her groove back! Kayla is always cheerful in her posts and she is a kick-butt student and works all the time! I applause her for finding time for this and making this commitment to HER! Meet Erica, she is one hot milf! [haha, sorry couldn't resist that word is too funny!] She has lost 15 pounds so far! She is really active in youth ministries and loves chasing her kids around! meet Tessa, my bestie, my wedding planner, my workout buddy, my older sister/momma at times and my total inspiration! I LOVE THIS WOMAN!!! Tessa has lost 11 pounds and she is smokin' hott. She LOVES her family and Hawaii! She will be bathing suit ready with this new bod!



Which brings me to this blog post closing. We are 9 weeks in and have only 5 more weeks left to the end of the competition! I will continue this journey until May 23rd. I am currently 153 pounds and have lost 25 pounds so far! I have lost 6 inches around my waist, all of my jeans are two sizes too big and everything is baggy. Baggy= MORE SHOPPING! hooray :) My fingers have even lost weight. It has been a journey of understanding myself, being patient with me, and never stopping at good. If you are considering losing weight, just wake up tomorrow and DO IT. Find another person like I found my Tessa and just go go go and DO NOT LOOK BACK. You have to be realistic with yourself and always celebrate the small victories-- whether it's 1 pound lost or 5. And, fight like HELL. Go to the gym and sweat your butt off. I knew this was not going to be a quick fix and that if I dedicated myself to it that I would succeed. Always love  yourself no matter what and never say the word HATE {it's really an ugly word}. Basically, don't leave yourself any room to fail and you won't. I promise.



Bill Romanowski: the ex NFL line backer/Superbowl Champ-soon to be hall of famer- and I! He is the one that created Lean1! :)

Mr. Luther & I- owner and badass behind Smoothie King-Jacksonville, Florida