El Paso, TX

As a pre-teen, I was captivated by the models in magazines and on TV. I yearned to be thin like them, despite not being chubby or overweight. I just wanted to embody what society advertised as beautiful. In my quest, I attempted to consume only 500 calories a day and do 1,000 sit-ups, but that rigorous routine only lasted a few days. I naively hoped to become skinny without effort, not understanding the difference between being skinny and being fit and healthy. This lack of self-awareness left me feeling uncomfortable and with low self-esteem. I didn't love myself.

When I joined the U.S. Army at 18, I had to exercise regularly, but I never embraced it as a lifestyle. I ate whatever I wanted and did the bare minimum to stay in shape. It was only after a breakup that I pushed my exercise routine to the extreme, running 6-9 miles a week, including treadmill sprints three times a week, ignoring the swelling in my knees. After gaining 50 pounds during my pregnancy with my son, my knees worsened. I discovered that my menisci were torn and that I had limited flexion when I left the Army. In 2021, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees.

In 2020, I decided to make a real effort to work out at least four days a week, although I still didn't eat well. By 2021, I took a bold step and became a vegetarian cold turkey. Last summer, I joined the 1st Phorm app and found an amazing coach who taught me how to nourish my body properly. I learned about the importance of macros, how to get more protein in my meals, and how to make exercise work to my advantage. Following fitness influencers, including vegetarian and vegan bodybuilders, inspired me further.

Since then, I've lost 20 pounds and feel incredible. I genuinely look forward to my workouts now. My osteoarthritis symptoms have lessened, I rarely feel bloated, I sleep better, and I think more clearly. My future goal is to gain 3-5 pounds of lean muscle. Currently, I'm in a bulking phase and plan to cut around July in time for a cruise in the fall. Ultimately, my lifetime goal is to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle and sustain a healthier lifestyle physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Reflecting on my journey, I see how far I've come from that pre-teen who didn’t understand the true meaning of health and fitness. Today, I embrace a lifestyle that fuels my body and mind, aiming for a balanced, fulfilling life. This transformation has taught me that real beauty comes from strength, health, and self-love. As I continue to evolve, my mission is to inspire others to embark on their own journeys toward wellness and self-acceptance. We should all strive to live our best lives every day, finding joy in the little changes that make a significant difference in the long run. Here's to a lifetime of health, happiness, and continuous growth.

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