"All of my life I have always been “little.” While I did not always view my weight as little, my height and strength were viewed by myself and others as “little.” I distinctly remember helping a friend move, when someone jokingly said to give the light boxes to Lauren. While it was a joke, it was rooted in truth.

Aside from my lack of physical strength, I have always struggled with mental strength. I would worry often, think everything negative would happen to me, and when faced with a difficult situation, I would either shy away from it or be unable to get through a conversation about it without being in tears.

On top of all this, I struggled with disordered eating, which really manifested itself in college. In an ever-changing world, that was something I could control. Eating as little as a half an orange for “lunch,” I would go about my day waiting for the next time I could eat again, because I was constantly starving.

This led me into exercise. But not yet lifting. At this point in my life, I was a cardio junky and running miles upon miles daily. I drove myself into injury and could no longer run with chronic knee tendonitis.

This is when I found lifting and it quite literally saved me. I started with a Beachbody program, and while I’ve learned more about nutrition since that time and do not follow their programs, the workouts do deserve credit because they helped me get going.

In a matter of time, I was no longer facing knee issues because I was actually strengthening my legs and the muscles around my knee. I started practicing pull-ups and building some true upper body strength. (Pass me the heavy boxes, please!) I worked with an amazing physical therapist on my knee/legs and an equally amazing personal trainer who helped me learn how to structure my lifts for optimal benefit.

And because I wanted to get stronger and truly healthy for myself, I relearned how to eat a well-balanced diet, including dessert, which is not a reason to feel guilty.

Today while I still struggle with anxiety, I am way more confident than I used to be. I am not the strongest in the world or even in my little bubble of life, but I am my strongest self. Physically & mentally strong.

Now as a newborn mom, my lifts are more important than ever. I want my son to learn normal eating habits from me. Nothing disordered. I want to be able to hold him as he grows and keep up with him when he starts running around. I want him to learn confidence. A significant way to teach those things is by example.

Additionally, exercise sets my tone for the day. I am my best self for others when I get my exercise and stress relief in. I lift so I can be my best self for my son, my family, and of course, for myself. I will continue to work to be better and stronger than I was yesterday. Me against me, and so far I think I’m doing pretty well."

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