• How to Stop Shrinking & Take Up More Space Instead

    I’m setting out to take up more space in 2018, and I want you to join me. Consider this the rally cry.

    I’m your William Wallace, but female…and without the face paint.

    If you’re relatively new to my tribe, let me fill you in on some back story…

    From my childhood until my early 30s, two predominant feelings constantly nagged at me:

    1) My body was always too big, and therefore,

    2) I was unlovable.

    Why not just put the deep and personal stuff right up front, eh?

    Growing Up as “The Fat One”

    While I can’t point to any singular event that caused these feelings, there was, to my perception*, a constant stream of experiences that told me my body was bad like…

    • My stepdad calling me “the fat one”
    • Starting puberty before any of my classmates
    • Being a nerdy, bookworm, perfectionist type which earned me the loathing of my peers
    • Not having the string bean body types of my siblings

    *Memories are notoriously poor and I’m sure much of this was not exactly what happened even though it felt damn real.

    Diet culture is a mindf*ck. Learn how to stop shrinking yourself down in body and mind...and how to confidently take up more space and own your power instead. | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Here’s a pubescent 10 or 11 year old me (left) with my kid sisters while on summer vacation in Maine. Sweet headgear! Don’t worry…I didn’t wear it to school.

    In any case, once I was squarely in my teen years, I was acutely aware that something about my body was different. I guess you could say I was just thick…

    …and I did lots of sports – soccer, track and tae kwon do – so my weight was “under control”, but my eating habits were terrible. If it was sugary, it went in my mouth. As soon as I stopped sports in my senior year, the weight piled on and I had no energy.

    Yay, Diets! (Said Nobody Ever.)

    So when I was in my early 20s, I started my first real dalliance with diets and exercise with the sole intention of losing weight. My mission became to eat as little as possible – those sugaryAF 100 calorie snack packs were okay though because #lowfat – and do all the cardio.

    I remember dragging myself out of bed at 5 am for spin class despite going to college full-time, working 25 hours a week, and commuting.

    I did succeed in “losing some weight” but something strange happened…

    Instead of being happier, my discontent grew.

    The more I focused on shrinking myself, the more I disliked what I saw. It consumed my mental energy and occupied way too much of my brainspace.

    My second year of college, I transferred to UMass and lived off campus which gave me enough privacy to sweat it out to Denise Austin fitness shows on Lifetime and start doing Weight Watchers. Everything I ate had a points value and a little cardboard tracker.

    Every morning, I did my little ritual: pee and poop, weigh myself, and then pinch my inner thigh fat. If the scale didn’t dip, it wrecked my entire day.

    Instead of finding freedom and salvation in quantifying my food and body, the exact opposite happened:

    I lost my power to…

    • think for myself,

    • listen to my body,

    • nourish myself,

    • use my voice,

    • see my innate value,

    • stand up for myself, and

    • honor my uniqueness.

    This rinse and repeat cycle of wanting to be smaller continued throughout my 20s and into my early 30s. And as you can imagine, if I did lose weight, it was never enough.

    The Low Point

    By 2010, I was heavily into triathlon and long distance mountain biking. I thought I knew what healthy eating was – all the whole grains, low-fat pasta dishes, fat-free dairy, and even vegetarianism – but my digestion, energy levels, and mood were the pits.

    It’s telling that my first reaction to these photos taken in June that year was, “My god, I look so fat.”

    Diet culture is a mindf*ck. Learn how to stop shrinking yourself down in body and mind...and how to confidently take up more space and own your power instead. | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Ironically, I was at my lowest scale weight in a long time: 128 pounds…and yet…

    Diet culture is a mindf*ck. Learn how to stop shrinking yourself down in body and mind...and how to confidently take up more space and own your power instead. | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Clearly, my perception was utterly off.

    Okay, Enough Depressing Stuff…

    There IS a happy ending to this all of this.

    Slowly but surely, over the course of about a year, I started making massive changes to my nutrition, following a flexible real food framework. And I got really curious about which foods worked for my body…and the ones that didn’t. (Looking at you, cow dairy, bell peppers, and raw onions.)

    I overhauled my fitness routine and eventually gave up endurance sports. The burnout was real, and it dawned on me that I was using that modality of training to run away – literally – from my problems. (Note: Not everyone has this relationship with endurance sports. This, however, was mine.)

    Sleep became my friend, not something I put as the last priority.

    Because if I wasn’t fed and watered and rested (nourished!!), how the hell could I start to address the deeper issues going on?!

    My goals shifted AWAY from shrinking my physical self toward getting stronger and healthier.

    I started strength training, and the only weight I cared about was what I was putting on the barbell. And, I stopped stepping on the scale every damn day.

    It was a process, for sure. There were ups and downs and sideways zig zags.

    But as my body healed and strengthened, my mind began to wonder about what else I could do, too…

    …but from a place of expansion and self-exploration and curiosity and growth. Not from one of self-loathing.

    It’s Time to Embrace Your Bigness

    I’m definitely not the only kickass female leader shouting the benefits of bigness – metaphorical and literal – from the rooftops.

    A quick (non-exhaustive!) list brings to mind women like:

    And there are so.many.more. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.

    While you’re at it, go follow all these women on Instagram and social media (I linked it for you)…and unfollow anyone who’s selling you thinness as the solution to all your problems. Fresh start. It’s time for ruthlessness.

    When I shared this sentiment on Instagram last week, well, apparently it resonated…

    I want to add some of my own thoughts to the conversation.

    First, y’all…we need to get clear on a few things:

    • BMI is bullshit. Just stop.
    • Focusing hardcore on body weight loss takes away from a more important focus on gaining health. Weight loss is (often) a symptom of improving health, not the driver.
    • Your mental, emotional, and spiritual health need just as much attention as your physical being.

    For me, building muscle was a key part of embracing my body. Getting smaller and playing the bathroom scale game sure didn’t make me happy, anyway. As I leaned into gaining strength, my muscles grew and so did my confidence and self-esteem.

    When I stopped trying to micromanage my body and began to trust it, I finally started feeling content, capable, and free.

    Quite the opposite of what diet culture teaches, right?

    And when are we going to realize that the consistent societal droning of “get smaller” is really a call to sit down and be quiet?

    After all the years of trying to shrink myself down to a speck where I lost my voice, my ambitions, and my courage, the feeling of expansiveness began to ripple out into other areas of my life.

    Diet culture is a mindf*ck. Learn how to stop shrinking yourself down in body and mind...and how to confidently take up more space and own your power instead. | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    What Taking Up More Space Can Mean For You

    Your journey is yours alone. Your values, desires, and purpose are yours alone. Therefore, how bigness manifests in your life may look different than mine.

    Here’s what taking up space might mean:

    • Suggesting an idea at work when you’d normally stay silent.
    • Booking that fitness class you’ve been avoiding.
    • Throwing out the g*ddamn bathroom scale.
    • Lifting weights.
    • Having a tough conversation with your significant other.
    • Amplifying the voices of others who are normally not heard.
    • Quitting your soul-sucking job.
    • Changing direction.
    • Turning a side passion into your main gig.
    • Volunteering.
    • Taking a solo trip.
    • Standing up for what you believe in.

    And there are countless others.

    I was a few years into this adventure of taking up more space when I decided I wanted to leave my 9-5 job as a high school teacher to do this full-time. And I came right up against the major rebuttal most people give when I mention bigness:

    “But what will other people say?!!”

    It paralyzed me for months.

    Luckily I had a good coach to snap me out of it and get me moving forward.

    Over the years, I’ve come to understand these truths…

    1. No matter what you choose – stay or go, do it or don’t, shrink or grow – someone is going to have an opinion either way. So why not do what your heart is called to do and let the opinions come?!

    2. As a corollary to #1: You cannot control what other people think about you. Wanna try? Be my guest. It’s f*cking exhausting.

    That’s not to say that I’m immune to worries that someone will judge me or that I’m saying the wrong thing…

    …but I’ve learned to take action even when I’m afraid…even if it’s one tiny step.

    The world needs your voice, your talents, and the fullness of your spirit.

    So, I want to know: How are you going to take up more space in 2018? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

    And if you’re ready to change it up, to build your strongest body and mind…and transform your life (without dieting), click here to learn more.

    Diet culture is a mindf*ck. Learn how to stop shrinking yourself down in body and mind...and how to confidently take up more space and own your power instead. | StupidEasyPaleo.com

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    111 thoughts on “How to Stop Shrinking & Take Up More Space Instead

      1. Thanks Max…it’s kinda nerve-wracking to put the most personal parts of my past out there like this but I’m hoping it may help someone.

    1. THIS!! ALL.OF.THIS!! Every single word of this resonates on so many levels. 2018 is the year of me stepping out from behind my comfort zone and finding both my mental and physical strength.

      This is the year I go back to school and focus on a MAJOR career change. Both terrifying and exciting beyond belief!!

      1. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your declaration. Going back to school and changing careers…I love it! So exciting for you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s when you get that mix of terrifying/excited, I try to walk toward it now instead of away <3

    2. I’ve already quit the terrible job, gone on a yearlong solo journey, and embraced so many good things (new happy job! Yoga! Meditation! More photography!). However, I’m still eating like my body is a trash can a lot of the time, so I signed up for Real Plans – thanks for that suggestion – and I’m heading down the long road toward a happy, healthy body.

    3. This year will be a year of letting go. Letting go of the remnants of my failed marriage (old mementos…. sadly this also means the dog he saddled me with and that I have cared for in spite of it being a public menace and that now in its old age, full of aches and diseased, I must inevitably put her to rest because it is the humane thing to do), letting go of the safety line that are my fears and hurl myself into the void, because you know, it will be alright. There will be a way. Letting go of my dead end job before or by September (which is scary as hell to me – I have 2 children to support on my own). Letting go of false safety nets and embrace the unknown because only then will I feel alive again and my girls need to know they can do anything they set their minds to and my example is crucial.

      1. Letting go…so so powerful. Everything you said here resonated so much with me. Thank you very much for sharing, Paula.

    4. Hey Steph, unfortunately I was in my early 40s when I “saw the light”. It was through an amazing food coach that helped me find my true peace. Through her coaching I learned that eating the right combination of foods and a throwing the scale out was the secret. I no longer strive to be the thinnest, I now strive to be the strongest. Stronger than food and stronger than the person I was yesterday. I found you the day I started my new lifestyle, and I follow you religiously. I read a lot of myself in your blogs. Continue your journey and being the voice for us women. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

      1. Hi Valerie…I’m so glad that you’ve found freedom and peace. Such a wonderful thing and I’m so thankful you’re part of this tribe!

    5. I love this. My goal this year is to have that hard conversation and get back to healthy, not only for me but for my tiny human who needs to see that living your truth is the priority even if it’s initially more difficult than staying in denial.

    6. STEPH! Wow. I love this so much. My favorite part was- “And when are we going to realize that the consistent societal droning of “get smaller” is really a call to sit down and be quiet?” I need to remember this. And this is what I want my daughter to absolutely know and resist the call to sit down. I have to lead by example!

      Thanks for being brave and sharing this part of your life with all of us. I’ve been in and out of “I wanna lose fat” mindset and at times I’m ok with trusting the process and letting go aesthetics. It is taking a constant effort. One of your podcast episodes prompted me to leave social media for a while. I evaluated a lot during that time. When I came back, I went on an unfollowing spree! So it’s funny you covered that here! It’s so important. I’ve settled into my love for strength training. I’ve realized that my 4’ 11” body will take up space. And it’s ok because that means that I’m achieving my goals. My body will reflect functionality! I don’t need to be “petite” as is expected for someone of my height. NOPE. Guess what I’m gonna do- throw away my bathroom scale. Because… Who. Fuckin. Cares. RIGHT?! ❤️
      Thank you for your work and what you bring to my personal development (and everyone else’s).

      1. Ashlee…FUCK YES. I love this whole thread. I can feel your resolve, and having a clear purpose (your daughter and perhaps other things) is huge in this whole process. I’m cheering you on…throw that damn thing out. Much love to you!

    7. Thanks for your courage in sharing so much personal information. And congratulations on taking control of your body and your life. You’re an inspiration to everyone who needs to do some work in those areas–and don’t we all!

    8. Beautifully said! As I read, the tears began to stream down my face. It certainly hit home for me as well.

      Thank you for being so brave as to put yourself on the front line and be the courageous leader you are. I’m inspired and motivated by your journey and consider myself the newest member of your tribe. I’m taking the first step in taking up more space by starting the Whole 30. My goal is to find the foods that empower me and make me feel good and to eliminate/limit those that don’t. My body and mind are screaming at me to take better care of myself. This is my time and I can’t wait to journey along side of you, Steph. Thank you again for sharing your story

      1. You’re very sweet Jen and thank YOU for sharing what’s on your mind. You’re doing it…taking action and putting one foot in front of the other. That’s big! Welcome to the family <3

    9. Thanks for sharing all this. 💞

      Do you think having a coach was the biggest reason you were able to get to where you are today?

      1. I’ve had coaches at different points along the way. They’ve always helped me find clarity through tough times…but even if you have a great coach, you still have to be willing to take action. My coaches have definitely helped catalyze the process.

    10. Thank you for sharing such an personal story!! I have definitely started listening to my body more and focusing on getting healthier since following you. Keep the inspiration coming!

    11. I can relate so much to this!! Same childhood (less sports though) then early 20’s diet cycle.

      The difference for me is that I did my first whole30 in 2015, my late 20’s, and found your site and Instagram from that. So for almost three years I’ve been following, reading, and listening to all the great stuff you say.

      I’m finishing up my last semester of college (2 kids derailed that in my 20’s haha) and working full time, so I don’t have the time to work out that I used to, which means I’m “bigger” than I really want to be. This year I’m taking up more space by being okay with that and participating in life anyway.

      You ARE making a difference, so thanks for everything that you do and share!

      1. You’re amazing Vanessa…look at everything you’ve accomplished. Remember that getting moving, even in a small way (doesn’t have to be a taxing workout) works wonders. I think sometimes we think it has to be arduous to be beneficial. You’ll find that happy medium, I know it!

    12. LOVE THIS! Seriously, thank you! I’m pregnant, so I will literally be taking up more space! I will walk away from conversations that involve talk about getting my body back (Noelle Tarr wrote an awesome article on this) and having post like this to refer back to when my negative thoughts get the best of me are so helpful! Thank you!

      1. Congrats Kim! How exciting <3 Noelle's article on this is brilliant. So glad that you have her words in your mind. Enjoy the ride!

    13. It is tough putting it all out there, but we *need* the real stories of real people to help us grow, and accept our own stories. We need to know we aren’t alone. I’m so glad I found you through GGS!

      1. Thank you so much Jenn! GGS is an amazingly supportive group and I’m glad that you found me through them. It’s my belief that through sharing, we find healing <3

    14. You are such an inspiration Steph!
      Thank YOU for all that you do and this article is so spot on and relatable to me and I am sure many women out there.
      I plan to show up in 2018 by continuing to fight the old habits and patterns of diet culture and to keep prioritizing my health.
      2017 I threw out all of the rules and hope to continue to working on healthy, sustainable balance in all areas of life.

      1. Much love to you Rachel! Thank you for sharing your commitment to speaking up against diet culture…we need more voices, and yours is so valuable. Hugs!

    15. Love all of this ❤️
      Suitably resonates with my years of ‘weight battle’.
      Utterly relatable to surging into 2018 with personal renewed vigour in so many areas.
      This year I’m going to take up a whole heapa space.
      First step yesterday.
      Opened an new IG account just to post my journey along this whole paleo, home educating mama experience.
      Who knows, maybe someone out there will like my stuff.
      Feeling both liberated and a little nervous.
      One small step right?! 👍

      1. That’s SO great…I LOVE how you’ve taken action and jumped in. There’s no time like the present…keep that momentum going!

    16. Thank you Steph for being a consistent voice in my brain for nearly 5 years now. You started for me as a resource for clean healthy recipes when I found Paleo. No “paleofied” garbage snacks, just nourishing foods. You were the voice of reason that made me see that doing repeated cycles of Whole30 challenges was just continuing dysfunctional patterns. There is so much other growth you have moved me toward, including your Harder to Kill Challenge. But putting other amazing people on my radar has been a game changer as well. Not too long ago I was trying to find something I had seen about numerical weight being a meaningless number to show someone. (It was something with pictures of two very differently built women at the same weight) I ended up on numerous different websites and pages that were horrible and the comments were disgusting. I had been free from that kind of negativity for so long I had forgotten that it existed.
      For 2018 I am going to make my needs a bigger priority instead of accomodating others first. I am going to connect and be real in my interactions with people and be honest when I don’t want to do something

      1. Miss Andrea, I have a ton of love for you. Thank YOU for sharing so bravely and with courage. I know your words will help someone out there…and I LOVE the commitment that you’re making to yourself. It’s hard to say no sometimes but you have to be ruthless in protecting your energy and time. Thank you for being part of this tribe!

    17. I could’ve written this almost word for word, including the photos from my 20s that horrified me because of “my size” and my thin sibling. Well, I still love endurance racing though 😀 For me, martial arts was the key to finding my strength, and wearing an unflattering karate gi every day to train removed some kind of burden that was there when I trained in body-revealing clothes. Now as a 51-year-old strong and bad-ass woman, I strive to set a different example for my daughters who are 18 and 21. Thanks for writing this, for inspiring the powerful voices of women who are just now starting to take up their space!

      1. Thanks so much for sharing! Oh my gosh totally…some people have a really health relationship w/ endurance…I did not. It’s all so personal. Ha! That’s true…I do BJJ and the gi makes your aesthetics disappear. Way to go for being such a strong role model for your girls. They’re very very lucky to have you.

    18. Thank you so much for this! So much about this article resonates with me. I spent my entire teenage years and most of my adult life desperately trying to become “skinny”, weighing myself daily and never feeling quite “good enough”. I quit my soul-sucking job 7 months ago;not knowing exactly what was next, and started lifting weights shortly after. I’m amazed at what my body is capable of and the strength I’ve gained just over the past 7 months. I haven’t felt this good about myself ever!! 2018 is the year that I pursue a career in fitness! I’m done shrinking, thinking small and living small. So again, thank you for this. Incredibly inspiring!

      1. Isn’t it funny how so many of us share these experiences and never seem to talk about them?! You’re doing some awesome action-taking, Celeste!! Way to frickin’ go!! Love it.

    19. Thank you for being so transparent. I am ready to be back to being strong and healthy and the best me I can be. No diet, just real, healthy food and more heavy weight . Women like you keep me motivated and focused!

    20. Hi Steph, What a story! So glad you’ve written this. I have 4 granddaughters and one is 14. I know this is on her mind even tho her figure is perfect. Next time I have a chance to spend some time with her I’m going to show her your story. Even if it doesn’t help immediately hopefully it’ll give food for thought (pun intended). Keep the emails coming, and have a great 2018.
      PS I just voted for you on the site your link took me too, so good luck!

      1. Thank you for the kind words, Mike. I’m so glad that there are caring grandpops like you out there who want to have these conversations with their grandkids…both daughters and sons. My grandpa was so important to me (he was like my dad…and he died when I was 8). I know, looking back, that losing him was something that was so painful and no doubt contributed to how I felt…lost without him and very confused about myself. So thank you for having this conversation with her. She may not need it now but I guarantee that it’ll come in handy some day. Big hugs!

    21. Thank you for this! I was always the fat girl. At 15 I lost a bunch of weight, but was still that ‘fat girl’. I turn 50 this year…..that’s 35 years of not feeling happy about who I am (actually probably more years that 35). I’ve made goals for 2018 that have NOTHING to do with a number on a scale: only weights that increase my PR! Please keep up your messages!

      1. Huge huge hugs coming your way, Jan. You are amazing and worthy and wonderful no matter what the scale says. Rooting for you!

    22. Thank you for sharing!! So many women can relate to this! I have ALWAYS seen myself as big. I was athletic when I was young… but it started early when my gymnastics coach called me “thunder thighs.” I remember that. And when my parents divorced when I was 8 there was a huge change. Food was therapy for my Mom and so it became our copping mechanism too. Me and my sister ballooned in those tumultuous years. We lived with Dad mostly so we had bad hair cuts and dressed like boys. I was made fun of at school even though I was a star athlete and had lots if friends…I wasn’t popular with the boys. All of my friends were “little.” I started starving myself and then I would binge …purge …starve…binge…purge. I never lost weight…I only gained more and punished myself with bad relationships. I was so sick in my 20’s and didn’t even realize it. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and battled past demons. I no longer binge and purge but the temptation is still there. I’ve learned to love myself and the body that I was blessed with. But I continue to seek out support and motivation from others because it helps to stay on track. So thank you again for putting yourself out there to the world…it does help.

      1. I swear, we could be long lost sisters, Erica…down to the bad hair cuts (sorry mom). Thank you so much for your courage and sharing what you’ve been through. Please yes, do…we are all in this together and like the old saying goes, we can go so much further together than we ever could alone. <3

    23. Wow, Step – what amazing thoughts to start the week. Thank you so much. I keep telling myself health is more important than the weight on the scale, yet every morning it is an automatic step up to see. Well, no more – the scale is now removed from the bathroom and is hidden well out of sight! I feel lighter already 😀 Best wishes to you on taking up more space and I will be working on taking up a bit more myself. Cheers!

      1. Hi Jennie…OMG congrats on taking action, taking that first step. How frickin’ awesome. Sending you much love right now and always.

    24. Hey Steph….does your challenge include a training plan? I am dialed in for most part with nutrition ( been my shade of Paleo for 8 years) but would love some strength coaching. When our box closed I bought a lot of our equipment, so I’m doing CF WODS a few days a week. However, the strength programing is not my forte. Would love to jump on board with your challenge and take up more space…literally I have skinny little legs and want to build some more muscle 🤪

      1. Hi Lisa! Thanks for writing in. Yes, the Challenge has two different levels of complete workouts…level 1 is based on bodyweight/dumbbell work. A lot of our more experienced folks use it for travel or when they want to mix things up. Level 2 is a full basic barbell program 🙂 Hope that helps! We’d love to have you!

    25. Such a great blog post Steph. Resonates completely. In 2018 I am working on changing my mindset about my ‘ideal’ body … and instead of focusing on trying to be thin, trying to be healthy and sort out some imbalances as a result of years of over-exercise and under-nourishment. I am taken a break from my full time work as a high school teacher to just practice some self-care, and hopefully pursue some passion projects.

      1. Sending you lots of hugs and healing vibes, Mel. I’m excited for you…I did the same thing in 2013 and took a break from the classroom (I didn’t go back haha). What are some of your passion projects?

    26. I’ve almost always felt disappointed in my body. It has been particularly challenging lately with a rapid, confusing weight gain. I would wake up and weigh myself and cry to my husband. I would cry over 10 lbs. What kind of world is this where a woman feels worthless because she gained 10 lbs? What are my daughters going to think of themselves and their worth based on what the scale says? No more. No more weighing myself in the morning. No more starting my day feeling depressed and disappointed in myself based sheerly on a measurement of the Earth’s gravitational force on my body. It’s insane! I’m going to try to replace that behavior by looking in the mirror and finding something about myself that I love, like my amazing shoulders and my long eyelashes. Both of those are pretty big. 😉

      1. Oh my dear Leslie…I know you’ve been through some challenges with your health and thank you for letting these raw, real emotions come out (and for sharing them). The questions you pose are powerful and need to be heard. Much love and I’m here for you. xo S

    27. Hi Steph! I’m not usually one to comment on things, but I feel the need to comment on this post because WOW. Thank you for sharing your truth to help those of us who keep getting stuck in our own heads.

      I started CF 4 years ago this month and I was really consistent for a couple years, then switched to powerlifting, got bored, and switched to Oly. I lost a ton of weight very quickly thanks to leaving my sedentary lifestyle and eating more healthfully (Paleo for awhile) and thought I was finally over my unhealthy habits…but alas, that wasn’t the case. I took an extended break from lifting and breaking a sweat in general, as well as eating healthfully (with the exception of a couple Whole30s/“low carb” fails) and I’ve since gained back all of the weight and feel awful. I think I gained the weight, anyway…I tossed the scale 2 years ago, but my jeans are confirming this). I’m now I’m terrified to start again, even though I have a membership at a CF box and am prepared to prepare healthful meals again. This post came at a crucial time in my overanalysis of my lifestyle – thank you again for sharing! I’m heading back to CF and making more nutritious food choices in earnest moving forward.

      1. Hi Lauren…okay first, hugs. Second, you’re not alone. These personal journeys usually have some ups and downs, ya know? Think about the next meal, getting moving today, and not about the huge end point. Little changes add up. You’ve got this!

    28. Thank you for sharing! God, so much of that resonates. Why do we try to force ourselves into the box that society demands. We are so programmed to look at calories, macros, the scale, that when one someone tells you “you need to eat more – more protein, more calories – because you’re starving yourself at 1700”, you (ie – me) argue with them! And they’re the trainers who know what’s what and base that on the body composition test! It might be time to hide the scale! Thanks for the honesty and the steady drum beat of self-empowerment and acceptance!

      1. Yessss…get that scale out! Not even worth having it in the house. If these trainers are not looking at a DEXA scan, most other body comp tests are highly inaccurate. Thanks for sharing Beth!

    29. I love this. Thanks so much for sharing it. At the end of 2017, I quit my soul-sucking job. First week of 2018, I started my new job with the non-profit I’ve been volunteering with for 15 years… which affords me the flexibility to work toward turning a side passion into my full time gig. So I’m working on being big! This article helped me see how I can take the same perspective on my body image and my training. Feeling inspired!

      1. Ahhhh I frickin love that Heather! I can feel that surge of energy and I’m so glad you’re seeing ways it can carry over to other aspects of your life. Way to go!

        1. I’m recovering from frozen shoulder and haven’t been pushing as hard as I could in the gym. Kept you in the front of my mind last night at the gym and had the best chest/shoulder workout I’ve had in a long time. Building momentum!

          1. Hey Heather…defo take care of that shoulder. I know how tough it can be coming back from injury and trying to respect both your body and your mind. I’m so glad it helped…I’m rooting you on!

    30. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was always larger (mostly tall) as a kid and I hated it. I wasn’t athletic at all though. When I was in grad school I started working out and spiraled out of control and was hospitalized two and a half years ago. While I’m now at a healthy weight I still struggle so much every day, I just want to disappear somedays. I hope (and am working my ass off – figuratively not literally) that one day things will get better and be easier. This was just what I needed to read today and so inspiring

      1. Sending you hugs, Candace…and thank you for sharing. It’s okay to get professional help…I know there’s a stigma about that sort of thing but sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed. <3

    31. Wow! I have struggled with all those same feelings since I hit puberty. As I kid I was so skinny then puberty hit & I got thicker & of course people had to comment on it which led to 20+ years of yo-yo dieting and extreme excersising but I never actually lost weight. It wasn’t until I started lifting weights that I slowly began to love my body (but I still felt too thick). Then at 35 I got pregnant with my first baby. When that happened I “allowed” myself to eat whatever I wanted (meaning listening to my body) which turned out to be the best thing I have ever done for myself.I felt free for the first time since hitting puberty. My son is now 15 months and I have never been happier with my big self. Thank You for sharing your story. It helps to know that other women have similar struggles and that you help create a positive place to support one another.

      1. Hi Cin! Oh my gosh what an amazing journey to finding freedom. I can feel the lightness in your words and it’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing <3

    32. This was so good. I was always the really skinny one. I was a vegetarian by choice (treatment of animals) but ate a lot of sugar. Somehow when I met my husband he was cooking soul food vegetarian went out the door and I gained a lot of weight. But like you if I look at that time I wasn’t happy at all.
      I’m with you 2018. This can be the Get healthy year.

    33. Thank you, I’m finally realizing what I’ve been doing was hurting me, not helping me, eating to little, too much cardio, I was miserable but needed to get low numbers. I didn’t know how to talk to other people about it without feeling judged, so the cycle continued. Injured my hip and cant run, I’m trying to change my relationship with food, haven’t weighed myself lately even though I know it’s going up. I hope day I can stop tracking my food (4 years…😦) it’s all a journey, never a destination. thank you for putting yourself out there, I can empathize. So happy you have found your path, I admire you. Go girl!

      1. Big hugs, KD. I know the feeling of being alone, but I promise you, you are not. If you need a safe, encouraging space, come join my closed group on FB: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1834428026586002/ (absolutely zero pressure). I’ve worked with folks who have been serial food trackers (one had counted and logged for 1000 consecutive days). And for some of them a cold turkey break did the trick…but for a majority, it was like a slow weaning off, one meal at a time. If you need help, there are professionals who can assist you with this transition…and I just have to say that there is NO shame in getting that kind of help. You can do this!!

    34. OMG I love this. I started In June with an intuitive eating coach and through out my scale after 3 years of dieting like a body builder competitor. And before that years and years of not loving who I was. This resonates so deep with me! Please keep the amazing info coming Steph 😍

    35. Good stuff Steph!! It’s interesting how my life has paralleled yours! (with a few twists at the end) Big kid since birth, played all the sports, and even dealt with trying to ‘make weight’ as far back as pop warner football where I weighed 145 and the cutoff to play was 115. I got the rubber suit the wrestlers used and lost 15lbs. I never got to play in games, just practiced. Growing up in rural PA and doing a lot of farm work I was naturally strong and ate all of everything…didn’t help my Mom would always push for us to clean our plates and a large appetite was a sign of being healthy. Fast forward to after college football where all the bodyweight wasn’t what I wanted. I dabbled in dieting, all the fat burners (ephedrine, caffiene) and was constantly up and down and everyone loved the big man but I wasn’t healthy at 270lbs at 5’11”. Dove into competitive bodybuilding as it was a way to drop weight, get lean. But, fostered an unhealthy eat, diet, eat, diet concept and my weight was bouncing up and down all the time depending on competitions. Then kids came and time constraints, and the focus/lose focus/focus/lose focus continued. Ugh, back to 270lbs again and gut is a mess. I’m getting help from a number of avenues and getting healthier, and learning to understand I don’t need all the food, I don’t have to listen when people say…wow, you’re really active and you only eat XXXX number of cals? You should be eating more! Eff you, I should be eating what MY body needs to support what I do. So, while my goal is a little bit opposite – I don’t need ALL the food to do what I need and be healthy – it parallels your journey in ending up where you need to be, and learning what your body needs and what is really excess. And in this process, I am learning how to make healthy choices and be efficient in meal prep and manage my time. Always enjoy your NO-BS approach….Later! -Dwayne

      1. I super appreciate you sharing your story Dwayne. When I wrote this, I knew it would resonate with men too (albeit perhaps from slightly different angles like you mentioned: being encouraged to eat and be big). I really wish there were more men out here in the online fitness/health space talking about their own struggles. In any case, I’m totally with you with eating what my body needs. Thanks for being so candid and open. Hugs!

      1. Mrs. Leahy, WAY TO GO! That’s so amazing…and you did it. I think about you guys often and how welcoming and kind your family was to me. Many thanks and I hope you’re well!

    36. Awe Steph! I just want to give you a big hug. I’m sure writing this out and letting yourself be vulnerable was hard but apparently it’s something you needed to do. We needed you to do. I have struggled with self image all of my life and still do. I have a weird body shape and feel unloveable at times. I know that taking care of myself both body and mind will help alleviate that. I’m so grateful for women like you in the Paleo community that I can look up to. Keep it up!

      1. Thank you Lacey…I like hugs and will gladly accept. I’ve been on this path of peeling back the layers lately…and this was definitely one of those layers. One foot in front of the other…I explained it like this the other day…me “becoming okay” with myself wasn’t like an on/off light switch where one day it all clicked. Instead, it was like a light switch on a dimmer…gradually, things got brighter. There’s no “right” or “normal” way to have a body, my dear, so yours cannot be “weird.” Hugs back!

    37. Your story is similar to mine, at least at the start. I was the chubby kid and clearly remember one of my father’s co-workers calling me “heffer” on more than one occasion. I was probably around 10 years old. And I remember my father chuckling along. I seriously restricted calories in my early to mid teens and was definitely underweight and undernourished. When I saw a picture of myself at 14 and saw how hollow my face looked, I decided I’d try to eat a little more. And when I tried and literally couldn’t swallow it, that was my OMF moment and it scared me. I did regain a few pounds but I still had the diet mentality for many, many more years. It still resonates somewhere in the back of my head at times when I’m feeling less strong/worthy/etc. than I ought to … I’ve been a gym rat for several years now and was overly obsessed with that for awhile. I wasn’t afraid to eat anymore but I had to work it off … If I couldn’t make my 6th day of the week at the gym, it put me in a tailspin and, God forbid, I take a vacation as how would I ever catch up? Ridiculous. My 50th birthday is looming and it’s really only been over the last couple of years that I’ve relaxed in these unhealthy attitudes and have tried to maintain a more reasonable approach. That is thanks in large part to you and a few select others whom I’ve found through Internet searches, podcasts, websites, and online summits. So, thank you! It’s amazing – when you stop focusing on what your body can’t do, you open yourself up to what it can do!

      1. Thank you so much for your courage and sharing your story, Janice. It’s crazy how those early experiences at those tender ages can shape so much of how we see ourselves. A potent reminder that words can hurt…and also, that they can heal. I’m so glad that you’re on the path to feeling much better and living into the truth of your goodness. Much love!

    38. Hi Steph,

      Long-time reader and fan but first time I’m commenting because you need to hear from more voices rather than fewer, particularly for this post. How brave and vulnerable of you to share this story and pictures, to boot! Thanks for sharing it, your truths with us and for being inspiring in how you’ve found and led yourself through your journey. I find that my daily weigh in strongly influences my mood for the rest of the day. One of the many things I need to re-think if I’m going to learn to trust my body.

      Please continue to be brave, bold and sharing,

      1. Thank YOU for adding your voice, Trish…and you’re right…the collective energy will help so many. My challenge to you isn’t to think about it anymore…it’s to act…to move that scale out of your bathroom, put it in a closet, or throw it out. You can do this <3

    39. Steph, What an inspiring post. I felt like I was reading a page out of my own diary. Our lives are so similar. Thank you for sharing how you went from shrinking to playing it BIG!! For 2018, I am NOT playing small anymore!!! I am moving forward even if I am scared and I am taking back control of MY life and MY health. I am learning to discover what makes me happy and what feeds my soul. I am becoming authentically ME, and realizing that there is freedom in that. In fact, I just got my first tattoo (at 52 years of age).

      1. Thank you so much Lori…there are many women (and men) who have echoed this story…there’s power in that collective experience as we all move toward healing on various levels. I LOVE your rally cry here. So frickin’ awesome. Cheering you on 100%.

    40. GAH! I’m so glad you’re doing this! I’m so glad I loved your food photos enough to follow you (srsly.. you were one of the only paleo peeps I followed for awhile bcs your pics are so great and I’m slightly jealous of your food photography skillz. I’ll teach you landscapes/fine art if you teach me food? =P jk)

      I digress…

      So I definitely resonate with a lot of what you said and I KNOW I was saying you’d be an awesome rower but… no…. bcs I feel ya. I’ve recently learned I was driven to competitive endurance athletics not just to numb but also as a form of self punishment. I actually had days that I used to call “Beat Myself Info Physical Submission Day” and I’d do just that. I’d row 2 hours in the morning w/ my highly competitive team, run a 5k at lunch, run a 10k after my 8hr work day and THEN go to some insanely difficult 90min power vinyasa flow… go home… die in bed. I’m still not entirely sure how much was body weight centered but it was definitely a tactic of avoidance and punishment.

      I left my corporate gig and moved to India in 2011 to study yoga w/ the intention to “learn all I can about yoga.” Well.. that’s a lifetime(s) worth of work but while doing 4-5 hours a day of yoga in it’s various forms (some of that was intense pranayama… not all active) for 2 1/2 years I got completely dismantled spiritually, emotionally, in self identification, in all the ways. I came home the summer of 2013 and all of a sudden my body STOPPED working. No movement I did brought me joy and my motivation was non-existent. That was ALSO when I realized how empathic I was and basically from the moment I set foot back on US soil, “the real work began,” (as my panchakarma doc in India said in the middle of my month long treatment in Kerala, which felt apt upon my arrival).

      India dismantled everything I thought I was, being back here I have spent the last 4 1/2 years diving into my deep inner self work like it’s my damn job, healing trauma both recent and childhood and ancestral, learning my toxic patterns and then slowly shifting each, healing my relationship to family, and just becoming, what I hope to be, a better human. It’s been a few VERY cathartic years and during that time I learned WHY my body stopped working. I needed to see it was one of the ways I numbed, one of the ways I punished and now that I’ve healed so much inside and I’m starting to move again, I’m learning to do so in a very intentional and healthy way. Nothing is complete… it’s all a process and I’m so happy you’re being vulnerable, sharing your story and taking this deeper step into that which makes us all the beautifully wounded, imperfectly perfect humans we all are. *zen dude emoji*

      Anyway… how I’m going to be bigger in 2018
      – ask for what I need
      – ask when I need help and support
      – show up unapologetically as me in everything I do

      That’s enough for this year… 🙂

      Thanks for being you, Steph!

      1. Wow, what a story!

        (and p.s. I totally peeped your site and all your photography…gorgeous! I’m still a newb to landscapes.)

        Thank you so much for so candidly sharing some of what you’ve been through, lady. So much of it rings familiar in my brain. It sounds like your trip to India created a huge shift for you. Absolutely gave me goosebumps to read it and to hear all your insights.

        I love your intentions for 2018 and you sure AF know I’ll be cheering you on.


    41. I’ve heard this message before from other trainers I admire, but thanks to this post of your it came back to my mind this morning at a time when I needed it. I’ve been working out more consistently and energetically for the last month or so, after I discovered I feel amazing if I do it before work rather than after. I’ve had a couple of unprompted comments about how I’m ‘leaning out’, which felt nice (I mean, ngl), but it’s been a happy side-effect more than anything.
      Then this morning I put on a pair of work pants I hadn’t tried on in a while and they felt just that much more snug – but it’s all in my legs and butt, areas that I’m genetically predisposed to being smaller in, compared to my middle. Although I had a feeling of ‘frick!’ at first, and I’m noticing the fit as the day goes on, the message of ‘It’s ok to take up more space’ came to my mind and I immediately felt better. All signs are pointing to the choices that have lead to my pants being a little tighter as good ones, so my project now is to really shed those old markers of ‘good’ (e.g. fitting into the same size as always – or smaller) and focusing on how ‘great’ the other aspects feel – including ‘bigness’. 🙂 Thanks for the refresher on this important message!

      1. I love that, Kate…”a happy side effect.” The pants thing can be a totally mind screw…for sure. I’m glad that you were able to reframe it. Takes some practice to not indulge those thought processes that we’ve come to know and live by, but you’re doing it. Well done!

    42. Thank you so much for sharing. I think what you said is so true, women are not taught to be strong when they are young. I remember being a teenager and in my 20s, dieting myself to death, being a cardio/endurance junkie all for a number on the scale. Since finding CrossFit, and the Paleo lifestyle I don’t care about the number on the scale as much, and if I do I quickly remember I am freaking strong. Thank you so much for sharing. You are awesome.

      1. You’re so welcome, Meghan. I’m so dang glad you’re finding a new, healthier, happier way for yourself. Strong for the win!

    43. Thank you for this blog article! It does resonate with me and I hope there were more women sharing their story just like you do. I very much appreciate your honesty!

      1. Thank you Maxi! I’m so glad it resonated. One thing is clear from the comments…we are definitely not alone <3

    44. So much of this resonates with me, I love that you put it into words because most of us have been through some version of this! I remember I went on my first “diet” at 13… and it’s never stopped. However, these days…. paleo/keto life feels like freedom instead of restriction & I’m happy than I’ve ever been with my body & eating choices/options. Cheers to an amazing 2018!

      1. I’m so happy you’re finding more freedom Shaden! Isn’t it crazy how some of us stay “on a diet” for decades?! I’ll cheers to that!

    45. Steph,

      I bookmarked this page a couple of days ago after you shared the post on Instagram; I wanted to read the whole thing, take notes and journal about it a bit. I’m glad I took the time this morning over breakfast and coffee.

      I always try to take up less space. I don’t speak up at work, and even though I don’t weigh myself, I’ve been at war with my body for years.

      This article didn’t flip a switch for me, but I know it put me in the right direction. I don’t need to be skinny to have value as a human. (The last sentence took me a solid minute to type.)

      Thank you for all you do for your community. Your strength and wisdom is really inspiring.

      1. Hey Lia…thank you so much for sharing what’s on your mind and what you’re going through right now. Big love for that statement right there: “I don’t need to be skinny to have value as a human.”

        You’re already moving and taking action, step by step. Hugs!

    46. Hi Steph, been following you for a few years now and I love your honesty and your willingness to share personal stories with us. I am 58 years old and just recently retired. I am at a crossroads in my life and not sure what direction to take. I have battled my weight and insecurities my entire life and am also a part of #metoo and I am just so mad about it all !! But I am determined to keep positive people like yourself in my life and make the changes I need to make to find my own personal path <3 Thanks for being you and teaching us that there is a better way xo from Canada

      1. Hi Lori…thank you for sharing what you’re going through. I know you’re tough, and you’ll get through this. My coach Allegra always helped me through periods where I was stuck, not knowing which direction to take, by reminding me that maybe they’re both going to work out but I’ll never know until I start walking one direction or another. Staying stuck/still rarely brings about the clarity we need to see which is the “right” choice. Small (sometimes very small) steps are what’s often needed. You’ve got this!

    47. Fabulous post, thank you. This is the year for women to stand up and be counted. Personally, I’m going out there to find the job that will reward my life experience and expertise and count instead of ignored and undermined.

    48. Really inspiring Steph, love your story, and cut through the BS style!
      I’ve been wrestling for awhile about needing to start lifting weights for my long term health, however I’ve never found that as enjoyable as say a game of Ultimate 🙂
      Your articles and podcasts have helped me understand that I need to something in this area so thank you !
      This is the year !!!

      5.0 rating

      1. You’re very kind, Manu. Thank you for the very lovely words. You know, it might be a way to make your ultimate game even more deadly 😉 with just a couple quick sessions a week 🙂

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