My name is Maria and I’m just an ordinary gal who has found strength through the power of health of fitness.
I realize that you are probably looking at my photos and thinking what’s her secret? However, I’m sorry to say that I have no secret. My journey has been just like most others. A rollercoaster ride of many struggles, triumphs, and emotions.
From about the age of 6 years old I have battled with an addiction to food… Despite my parents always being active and trying to set a healthy example, this did not stop me from overeating at every meal, relentlessly snacking on whatever I could put my hands on, and secretly gorging down large amounts of food, especially in times of emotional stress. Being so young, I was unable to understand and appreciate the impact this would have on my health. It just never occurred to me how this bad habit would affect my future.
As the years went by, my addiction made my weight spiral out of control, making me vulnerable to being bullied and teased because of the sad prejudices that many people harbor towards overweight people. As a result, I developed a deep insecurity with my body and suffered low self esteem. Essentially, the bullies won. I believed I was ugly, fat, no good, and unlovable. To “feed” this insecurity, I would turn to the one thing that gave me “comfort” and made me feel “momentarily happy” – unwittingly a vicious loop detrimental to my health had started.
Between the “scars” that my bullies left me with, failing classes in school and the multiple attempts to fix myself, I grew up feeling like a complete failure. In 2008, I was at my heaviest completely lost in my own body, and completely petrified to step onto a scale. I was a Size 16 and estimate I was around 210 lbs +.
The beginning of my turning point came when a family in Hawaii offered me a live-in nanny position, which I did not hesitate over. At the beginning of 2009 I was soon flying to the opposite side of the world, unbeknown to me, an experience that would shock me into a better reality…
It was on the lush beaches of Hawaii that I saw all the beautiful fit bodies that I had only dreamed of and envied over. This, on top of the fact I had never worn a bikini or a pair of shorts in my adult life, I felt yet again out of place, embarrassed, ugly, fat, no good and like the unlovable person I thought I left behind in Scotland.
However, two months into my Hawaiian adventure, I met a U.S marine who stole my heart and would later become my husband. I thought this person was looking out for my best interests but I now see today that he was in actual fact just another toxic person who I let use and abuse me. I have been so used to playing the victim throughout my life, that his actions felt “normal”. I believed he cared for and loved me so much that he was “encouraging” me to embrace the happier and healthier individual I longed to be. When in actual fact he prayed on my insecurities, used my kindness and blackmailed me into loving him for his own benefit. He would repeatedly put me down about my weight and blatantly compare me to other women, insisting that in order for him and I both to be TRULY happy, I had to lose weight.
However, despite his abusive bully tactics, I have to be grateful for the beautiful journey that had in fact begun when I saw the reward of losing my first few pounds. This evoked a series of questions to seek greater understanding in nutrition, exercise and spiritual well being.
At 196 pounds I began the journey to a newfound me. I started to opt for healthier, nutritious foods that were free from chemicals, added sugar and other junk … Within just a couple of weeks I felt like I was on top of the world. I was oozing with energy, my pimples cleared up, I gained color in my cheeks, I was alert, and I felt happy. Most importantly, I began to understand the context of my food addiction.
Four months into the lifestyle change I realized that I was equipped to live the life I so permanently wanted.
I was determined that 2011 would be the year that I would reach my lifetime goal and finally wear a bikini in public. With my new husband having just deployed to Afghanistan it seemed like a perfect goal to work towards while he was away. Surprising him at the homecoming with my new body became my drive, as I was determined to win his approval. I worked so hard, exercising 6 days a week, and fueling my body with only the best nutritious foods.
By July 2011 I finally reached my goal and more… I weighed in at 147 pounds and slipped into a size 6-8. I even won 2nd place and $1000 prize in “The Eat-Clean Diet Makeover Challenge”. More importantly though, I was waking up every morning with boundless energy and looking in the mirror to see a young woman I had never seen before in my life. My face and body was so defined and chiseled, that it did not even look like the person I had known for most of my life. THAT in itself truly gave me the greatest feeling of success and accomplishment. To this day, nothing has filled me with greater pride than reaching that goal.
However, I was wrongly still seeking the approval of my husband. At that point, he was still deployed in Afghanistan. I had another 3 months before he returned. So in an attempt to push myself further and seek a greater amount of approval from him, I decided to train for a bikini competition. In November 2011, I proudly walked on stage in the skimpiest bikini I had ever worn in my life. It was an incredible accomplishment but It was for all the wrong reasons…
Shortly after the competition, my husband returned from Afghanistan and I shouldn’t have been so surprised that I never did get his full approval in the end. Instead, he still criticized me, and he still found ways to put me down. He would tell me if it wasn’t for him, I would never have achieved what I had achieved. He insisted that I needed to get a breast enlargement in order for my body to be in proportion with my FAT hips, butt and thighs. He said that I had manly features which was a turn off. Jeeze… what didn’t he tell me?! But the most troubling thing about all this is that I just accepted what he told me and began to believe him. No-one ever knew about the things he would say to me because it was always behind closed doors and he was great at putting on a show for others.
However, never did I imagine the story that was about to unfold months after he returned from Afghanistan…
After relocating to California for his job, I started my coaching business after the encouragement of many of my followers through my blog. As my business grew, so did my confidence and entrepreneurial skills! Not surprisingly though, my husband still failed to truly support me and it was clear that my husband was becoming more and more distant. Desperate for his reassurance, love and attention I went above and beyond to seek his approval, but I was even more disappointed when I went unnoticed and continued to be insulted through verbal & emotional attacks.
Fast forward to summer of 2013, and my husband told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore (I should have seen this as a blessing at the time!). The reasons he gave me did not make sense; they were also cruel, superficial and unreasonable, for example I wasn’t a good enough housewife, I wasn’t sexy enough, I needed to lose more weight… He would literally screw up his face in disgust when he looked at me… I couldn’t believe his reasons, especially when I was living a life and a job that oozed health and fitness. I was the fittest and healthiest I had been in my life! It screwed with my self-esteem and beliefs in myself as a mentor to other people.
My coaching business suffered greatly because of the stress I was under and the show I would put on to pretend everything was OK. I finally hit rock bottom when I found a trail of lies and deceit of infidelity. To make matters worse, ONE of the women (yes, there were multiple) was with someone whom I considered a best friend at the time. Someone that I welcomed into my life and business with a lot of trust and respect. The two people I THOUGHT I could trust most at that time in my life had conspired and had an affair behind my back. I felt betrayed.
Discovering all of this, ON TOP of the 5 years of abuse, FINALLY broke me. The most horrific part of that was when I was admitted to hospital because I literally lost the will to live. That was honestly the most scariest moment of my life, and looking back on that night now gives me chills. To see what I had become through all that stress is frightening.
After this discovery, I succumbed and came to believe all the things my husband said to me about not being good enough.
IF ONLY I WAS MORE SEXY!
IF ONLY I WAS SKINNIER!
IF ONLY I WAS A BETTER HOUSEWIFE!
I truly believed that If I was a better version of myself, my husband would never have cheated on me, and my husband would love me and accept me unconditionally. These thoughts sent me into the darkest depression. I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning and get dressed. I just wanted to sleep and I felt little motivation for anything. Even the sound of music did not excite me anymore. What made matters worse, was that my family and friends knew absolutely nothing, which was extremely isolating but I was afraid of people’s judgment and concern. I was especially afraid of my husband who was also using physical abuse to regain control of me.
However, I was born a fighter and I did finally seek help from a therapist who was amazing, and she really helped me build my confidence, slowly but surely. She assured me I was not crazy and that my husbands behavior was not “normal” or acceptable. Her help, and a course of anti-depressants helped me gain the strength to finally file a military restraining order and move back to the safety of my family in Scotland.
Looking back, I now see what really happened… My husband was just another bully in my life. Something i’m all too familiar with. My husband was always insecure, if not more insecure than my overweight self when we first met. My new found confidence and entrepreneurial skills that helped me build a coaching business made him feel like less of a person. He put me down because it made him feel better about himself. That’s what bullies DO.
Honestly? … MY STRENGTH MADE HIM FEEL WEAK.
2 years later…after struggling with some of the darkest days, crying myself to sleep for nights on end, reliving the trauma of the abuse, dealing with the disappointment in myself for loving someone who never loved me, and coming to terms with the LOSS of so much I worked so hard to achieve, I find myself in a place of LIBERATION. As toxic as my relationship was with my husband, I do not have any regrets. If it were not for meeting him I might never have learned what the TRUE meaning of love is and I would not have met the incredible people I now call my closest friends. For THAT, I cannot be more grateful.
However, I can still say, and I will still preach that when we put our health first, everything will fall into place. My journey has been proof of that. From the food we eat, the thoughts we think, the people we surround ourselves with, the environment in which we live, all contributes to the chemical balance of the mind, body & soul.
One of my dads favorite sayings is “We are nothing but a bag of chemicals”, and it’s SO TRUE!
My goals for now is to just be ridiculously happy today, travel the world, laugh a lot, enjoy the sweet sounds of music again, physically challenge myself, take part in adrenaline filled activities, appreciate culture, enjoy the company of amazing people and NEVER doubt myself as a leader & mentor to others ever again!
I share my story with you & others because I hope that no-one will have to feel as alone as I have felt during some of my hardest times. I simply hope my journey helps bring a smile, a sense of hope or a moment of courage to someone’s darkest day. My way of paying it forward for all the people who helped & supported me.