Working out helped with my depression, weight loss was secondary

Weight loss story from @sophiebeya

We asked Sophie a set of questions in relation to her weight loss journey that consisted of a few ups and downs with an overall loss of body fat and new career

What led you to want to make a lifestyle change? 

After experiencing sexual abuse as a child; depression, anxiety & suicide attempts crept into my life at a young age. Weight and body image per se were never my “struggle” but more so it was the struggle of not feeling I had the strength to continue on each day with the curves that life would throw at me. I didn’t have coping skills for life’s trials, and so my knee-jerk reaction was always to want to “get out” of the pain & not have to face it anymore.
Fast forward to my mid twenties & I’d just gotten married. It was two months after our wedding and my husband told me that he was going on an errand and would be back. But he didn’t come back that day. He didn’t come back that night, or the next morning; he never came back.  A few days later I received a call from an airport across the country, notifying me that he’d purchased a one way flight & that I wasn’t who he wanted to be married to.
Immediately all of my poor coping mindsets were triggered & I fell into the thickest cloud of depression I’d ever faced. For 3 days I didn’t move, eat, drink or bathe.  I laid in one spot & googled “the fastest ways to commit suicide”, “least painful ways to commit suicide”, “cheapest materials to use to commit suicide”. I didn’t know how to live through the pain I felt in the face of fierce rejection & disappointment. I had been feeling horribly sick and thought it was just because of the distress of my husband leaving me… 3 days later i found out: I was sick, because I was pregnant. As ready as I was to let go of my own life calling & destiny, just to get out of the pain- my suicide plan changed once I knew someone else’s destiny was now involved.
My family & friends enveloped me and carried me through that next season. There was a lot of crying. But somehow, God got me through that season and I birthed my BEAUTIFUL amazing little baby girl. 🙂
Something in the following weeks told me though, “Sophie you made it through this trial. But if you don’t change from the INSIDE, out… if you don’t SHIFT the way you handle, tackle and process through life’s curves: this depression & suicide thing is going to come back for you”… I just knew that if I didn’t do something to shift myself long term: there would come a day when my daughter would have to tell the story of ‘how her mom ended up committing suicide’.
So I set out on a journey.
I remembered from playing college sports that after long runs, the endorphins would make me giddy & hyper. So I thought “maybe if I start working out it will help boost my moods” (even though I HATED working out: my daughter not losing her mother was of greater value than my likes & dislikes).
That’s what set me out on a journey of finding a workout plan that worked for my schedule, my personality type & my goals. As a single mom working 4 jobs, I wanted something I could do at home and not take up hours and hours each day. I needed whatever method I used,  to be a sustainable one, long term. I wasn’t doing this to lose a few pounds for a few weeks. This couldn’t be a short lived phase. I was literally doing this to Save My Life. I decided to go with hard, quick, at home workouts that I could do while my new baby napped or played nearby. I committed to an online accountability coach and online group that kept me going after hard days. I tracked all of my workouts & non-scale victories there in that group & eventually I became the leader of that group & have kept the ripple effect going in the lives of hundreds of other women now, for the past 3 years. I now facilitate a growing group of women to exercise their way out of depression 🙂
What did you do to achieve your results? Tell us about your workout routine

I began doing 30-40min at home workouts (taught & designed by professional trainers), 5-6 days a week. My life was incredibly busy. I was working 4 jobs as a single mom with a 4 month old. I would do the workouts while she napped, or at 5am, or sometimes at midnight if that’s what it took. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t convenient. But the root reason for why I was doing all of this was worth my inconvenience. When I finished one workout calendar, I would move onto the next. Workout style wise, I did whatever it took to keep me engaged. I would do weight lifting in one season. Then Pilates in the next season. Then Dance. Then kickboxing. Keeping the workout type fresh, helped me to not grow bored and fall off track; and the at home online workout catalog I purchased gave me all of those workout options. While I’m UNBELIEVABLY impressed with the women who chisel their bodies for bikini competitions: that just wasn’t my story or my aim.  I truly wasn’t in it for an impeccable figure or the weight loss, though the latter did happen. I was in it to keep myself from wanting to die; I was in it to keep my endorphins pumping. Working out to jumpstart my endorphins & life motivation. To pump hope back into myself day by day. And it worked.

How did you change your eating habits?

Before this season I literally didn’t even know which foods had ‘protein’ in them. I was CLUELESS about nutrition and I shamelessly ate whatever I wanted, Whenever I wanted. As instrumental as the workouts were for my moods and mental victories: the FOOD is what shifted my weight and boosted my energy. I didn’t start counting my calories. I didn’t weigh my food like some super cool hardcore & impressive people do. I didn’t eliminate any one food group. I just followed a simple plan that made sure i was getting the right amount of the right types of food every single day. BALANCED Nutrition.  And what do you know- the weight fell off and my energy skyrocketed. I had NO CLUE how much the foods I had been eating were RIPPING the energy out of me. And we all know how much easier it is to get discouraged, sad, angry etc when we are sleep deprived or short on energy. All of that was playing into my depression. Changing what I ate majorly played into my mood & weight breakthrough.

What was your starting weight? What is your current weight?
With my initial weight loss, I dropped 15lbs of fat. I dropped from 160lbs to 145. Then i began building lean muscle. I now healthily fluctuate between 150-155
The comparison between starting weight vs now, is anything but drastic & impressive. Yet my body composition looks ENTIRELY different now. This is why I implore my clients that I now mentor through their health changes to GET RID OF THEIR SCALES while I work with them. People work so hard for weeks and weeks on habit changes and then hop on the scale and it tells them that they haven’t lost as much weight as they expected after all that hard work and immediately all of our zeal and motivation is gone. We think, “why work so hard, when it’s not even working!?” So we give up! And then start the cycle over again 6 months down the road after remembering the depths of how unhappy we are with our current health status.
The truth of what happened with the scale is that it doesn’t account for the stunning lean muscle mass that’s being added. So while the scale says you “only” lost 7lbs, perhaps you’ve lost 10lbs of fat and have built 3 beautiful pounds of muscle. You know… that whole “toned” thing that every woman wants? Well it costs. It costs pounds and they’re worth it. If we can break our mindsets around the scale validating the effectiveness of our labor. I urge my mentorship group to guage changes based on Side by Side comparison photos from when you first started vs as the weeks go on; how clothes fit; and Improved energy levels, since most of us struggle with fatigue.
How long did your transformation take? 

My initial 15lb weight loss took 3 weeks , and since then, for the last 3 years I have been on the journey of transforming the way I live life (my self talk, depression coping skills, mindsets, habit consistency) That part of the journey has been FAR more rewarding and fun 🙂

What was the hardest part about your transformation? How did you overcome it?

The hardest part was the one thing that had ALWAYS tripped me up in all the years prior of trying to “get healthy” in the past. That moment once you’ve started & you’ve been working out & eating better for a couple of weeks, and then you mess up.
For me- this always felt like failure and my mind would immediately sink into “you messed it up so now you might as well ‘get all of your cheats out of your system’ and then start again tomorrow”. Well a day would turn into a weekend. A weekend would turn into a week, into a month, and six months later I would be back at square one. The hardest part was finally stepping into a belief that I wasn’t in this for a good 3 week run. I wasn’t in this for a flawless stint. I was in this because it would be a better LIFE than the one i had. So when that moment came 1 month in, 2 months in, 2 YEARS “in” when I felt like I was “falling off” the wagon- I had to give myself permission to jump “back on” with the next BITE, the next meal, the next morning. Not needing to wait until the next Monday, or the next January.

I looked at the women in my accountability group and they were moms just like me, busy, working, in school: and when they “messed up” on a saturday… to see them Jumping RIGHT BACK IN that next day completely shattered the cycle my brain had been in for years that i had to “start all over again, to get it perfect”. Living differently was simply going to be the way now, and the “slip ups” were going to happen, but they would be the ‘sometimes’ not the norm. And no way in hell was I going to let a ‘sometimes’ deter me from the breakthrough my new norm was giving me. It was all about shaking off the shame and refusing to play “I can’t do this- pity parties”. I CAN do this. And the way to do it, is to just keep doing what is good, even after moments of messing up and doing what you hadn’t intended. I simply had to keep putting it back in front of my face every single month WHY I wanted to be doing this. To be alive and well for not only the role of motherhood so my daughter could live out her purpose, but also so that I could live out MY passions and callings. I needed health and energy to be able to even THINK of doing things outside of standard household chores. Now I was fighting for the vitality it would take to go after my Passions.

How have things changed with you in general (health, relationships, self)

Emotionally, I don’t even look the same as I did 4 years ago. THE  biggest change has been who & what I have to give to relationships now. I would love to tell you that losing the weight is the greatest part of this transformation. But it’s not. When I set out on a journey to tackle my habits: it gave me the option to face my mindsets, emotions, beliefs, attitudes and bitterness. As intentional as I became about not eating 5 donuts a day, I became just as routinely intentional about not nurturing the bitter and angry feelings I felt toward my ex husband. I worked JUST as hard, if not harder on THOSE Life changes. It all went together. Self improvement was the focus. Not exterior ‘beauty’. Because I didn’t just mask my inner pain with focusing on the outside, but rather combined the quest of the two: yes I’ve lost weight, but more importantly, I am now able to support, pray for, speak well of and edify my ex husband and his new wife. I’m able to welcome the influence and help of another woman in my daughters upbringing because I went on a FULL journey of bringing health to all parts of me. Not just food. It meant that fostering thoughts and attitudes that would cultivate a healthy atmosphere for my daughters upbringing MEANT MORE than my entitlement & right to be mean and nasty. THE most empowering part of this past 3 year journey is to now be able to shake off any bitter thought any time it tries to jump onto me. That skill will keep me FAR healthier than any workout ever will.
Who or what helped you along your journey?

My online crew that I checked in with each day, as well as documenting my journey publicly online (which is what birthed my now full time, fully sustaining career) was a major help in keeping me from giving up. The integrity of my word has always meant a lot to me. So when I went on public record and put it out there that I was challenging myself to learn consistency and “needed to get my workout in by the end of the day” or “wanted to follow x meal plan”… it heavily amplified my motivation levels. You’ve got to learn to use your personality type IN YOUR FAVOR. I knew it would push me to do something I’d otherwise be prone to give up on- if I gave my word. I’ve used this OVER AND OVER for the last 3 years, knowing it will mentally keep me going. Leaning into community is a STRONG choice, not weak. It shows wisdom and humility.

Is there a product that helped you or anything in particular you’d recommend?

I’m absolutely obsessed with an all natural mix of superfoods made by Beachbody called Shakeology. The recent “protein shake” trend drives me a little bit crazy (unless you’re competing/aggressively building muscle) the majority of our culture is NOT protein deficient. But as was the case with me, most of us are incredibly NUTRIENT deficient. This gave me a sure fire way I could stay “on plan” nutritionally, satisfy my sweet tooth naturally, and daily detox my body. It kept me from cheating & doing the downward spiral I was so accustomed to, and saved me time & money which as a single mom, working 4 jobs, living on food stamps:  I was short on both. This daily go-to and the online streaming library of workouts I plugged into with Beachbody – gave me NO excuse to not be able to do SOMETHING everyday even when I was traveling. It was the key I needed to stay engaged when life got irregular: the habits could remain the same; and thus is became a lifestyle and stopped being a phase. No matter what life threw at me. Now I had the tools to stick with things & I couldn’t play powerless victim anymore. Though I felt like a  weak and undisciplined person by nature: I just didn’t want to LIVE the life of someone with no drive & no discipline. So I learned to walk according to the footsteps of someone with those mindsets, even when I didn’t “feel” like it. It was always my goal to get OUT of the defeated place I had found myself. “Do it anyways” became my daily motto.

What piece of advice would you give other women looking to start on their own lifestyle change / fitness journey?
As much as you commit yourself to practical changes: allow your mind to also face and dig into the personal emotions this journey stirs up. Weight loss can be a deeply emotional process and can be deeply mentally transforming if we let it “get” that deep. The worst thing would be to lose the weight and still hate yourself because you never learned how to actually love your personality & strength along the way and have understanding for why you are the way you are. I highly recommend implementing Reading/Listening to Audiobooks as a part of your new life changes. When I started exercising & eating healthily, I committed to listening to no less than 10 min per day (while I drove, did dishes, washed laundry etc) My focus was books that would train me to stand up faster, after failure. Books that would equip me with skills for the workplace. Books that would heal my bitterness and influence me out of my insecurities and into self acceptance. Books that would sharpen me where I was weak and excel me where I was mildly gifted. My spare time became time to listen to “personal development” books and this changed EVERYTHING for me. It was the soil that all of my other health habits were growing in.
 (Some book recommendations: “No Matter What” by Lisa Nichols, “I thought it was just me” by Brene Brown, “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero, “Present over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist)
Get surrounded by a group of people who will be pushing through the hard changes just like you are. It is SO easy to fall off track when you feel like no one will notice & are convinced its impossible to keep going. There’s no better way to demolish that lie than to surround yourself with people who are pushing forward, every day, in every season, even through their own struggles. For 2 years I have been working full time as a facilitator of these online groups for women to be surrounded by exactly this sort of community; so that they DON’T give up. Giving up is literally the only fatal act in the pursuit of our improvement.
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