‘WHEN I LOOK IN THE MIRROR, I DON’T SEE A FAT PERSON’

Charmaine Jennings’ weight loss journey didn’t start because of a lack of confidence

GUEST WRITER INFO

Charmaine Jennings is the owner of Strategic Charm Boutique, a boutique marketing and public relations agency in Winnipeg. She also created Hustle & Charm Community, a group for female entrepreneurs and bloggers to gather, learn and grow together.

She’s an entrepreneur, marketing and copywriting whiz and all around boss bitch.

I ran into someone I went to elementary school with the other day. As soon as she recognized me I knew what must’ve been going through her mind, “Wow. Charmaine’s still fat!”

Now let me be crystal clear, I NEVER call myself fat. Not out loud, not in my head – never. I mean do you know what fat is? It’s yellow globs of gloop (that’s the scientific definition) and I can assure you, I do NOT look like yellow globs of goop. In fact, I’m quite adorable if you ask me. But I’m not ignorant to the fact fat is a word many people use to describe people who are overweight.

Anyway.

I’ve been overweight my entire life. Even when I was just a little kid and it shouldn’t have been that big a deal. Looking back now at pictures of me when I was 8, I wished being 15 pounds heavier than the other kids was something I didn’t notice. Was something no one noticed. 

Charmaine at age 6 or 7.

 

I always had a lot of friends, but there was always someone who had to comment on my weight. Although I was only called fat a few times before I hit puberty, I can’t pretend it didn’t make me sad when I heard it.

Once I hit grade 5 or 6, I started to hear it more frequently. Mostly from grungy boys, but from some of the older girls too. But you bet your booty I’ve always been able to hold my own. Sure I would get sad and upset when kids teased me, but I wasn’t the girl to bite her tongue and go home crying. I mean crying came at some point, but it wasn’t my default reaction. I dished out what I had taken, and kept reminding myself that I was cute, generally a good person (I had my bad girl moments, okay!), smart, and ambitious. And funny. Yes, I was funny as a kid too.

In about grade 7 or 8 I started to notice a bit of a pattern between the people who would call me fat or allude to the fact that I’m eating once again.

“Gotta eat to live gotta live to eat, tell you all about it when I’ve got the tiiiiiiiiime” (name that Disney movie!)

Angry Aladdin GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

By this time the older girls had moved onto high school, so it was mostly those grungy boys in my grade who kept yapping. The pattern I noticed was that these were boys who weren’t happy. Boys who had a hard time with their school work, and who would have a hard time making it to high school graduation. It’s hard to put into words, but I decided that if calling me fat was the only thing that was going to put a smile on their face that day, then so be it. Plus, I was going to spend the summer after grade 8 getting nice and skinny before high school, so who cared what they had to say now?

Grade 9 rolled around and I still wasn’t skinny. I was close to 200 pounds if my memory serves me correctly. Although I was fairly confident in middle school, I was nervous about what might be in store for me with high school kids. I was scared I might get teased more than I was before, and that someone might dump pig’s blood on me at the dance.

I watched a lot of high school horror movies growing up, okay?!

I won’t bore you with all the details of my high school experience grade by grade, but overall I had a blast! Tons of friends, new positive experiences, and I was a total joiner so I had my hand in almost everything. Band, drama, student council, yearbook committee – you name it, I was in it. And you might not know this about me, but booty shaking is one of my not so hidden talents. This talent obviously stemmed from my love of dancing. So what was one of the groups I immediately signed up for? Cheerleading!

Again, I was all about high school movies so being a cheerleader on the field at the big game was totes one of my life goals. And I did it! Sure I was nervous because cheerleaders in the movies were always thin, but thin or not, I was getting myself on the squad. And just like grade 5, the older cheerleaders looked at me with judgment. Like, how dare I think I belong on the squad? But I wasn’t going anywhere so they were just going to have to deal. I defied the odds, but not the laws of gravity so obviously, I wasn’t tossed up in the air or anything. But it felt good to be part of the team.

As far as I can remember, there were only two older boys who teased me consistently throughout high school about my weight. One of them even threw a shoe at my one day as I was walking through the halls, and you know what I did? I picked it up and threw it in the toilet. Boy, bye!

When I dished out what was thrown at me (literally!) some people didn’t know how to react since they expected me to crawl in a hole and hide in shame. Some left me alone after they realized they couldn’t shake me the way they wanted to. Others persisted but with hesitation; they waited to see if others would join in or not before making a move. A select few continued until they dropped out of school – their coping mechanism for dealing with their own anger and emotions.

Every summer in high school was the summer I was going to lose a bunch of weight and be thin and greatly desired by all of the popular fellas. But nah. All I did was gain weight year after year as if someone had put an obesity curse on me. Ugh!

My beautiful picture
Charmaine at age 18.

Once I hit my graduating year, I decided this would FINALLY be my chance to shed all the pounds and get it right and tight for university. Guess how that turned out?

Now here I am, 30 years old, still thinking this is going to be the year where I shock the universe and lose 100 pounds.

As you can see, I’ve been on a weight-loss journey my whole life. Last August I decided to make that journey very public by documenting my progress or lack thereof on the gram, using the hashtag #journeyto200 to categorize all of my posts about health and weight-loss on my way to 200lbs. For my first post of my public journey, I shared a video discussing what this journey was all about, and included a picture of me on the scale, weighing in at 327.4lbs. This is the first time I’ve ever disclosed my weight to anyone, and I decided to share it with the Internet. I paced back and forth in my apartment right after posting it, thinking I should take it down. But then I got immediate positive responses to the post, so I figured what the heck – it’s out there now for the world the see. Let the journey begin.

It’s 9 months later and I’m sitting at 315lbs. I haven’t even dipped my toes into the 200s yet. Ugh!

I’m frustrated by a number of things:

  1. I went from 312 to 279lbs in less than a year when I was living in Alberta, so I know I can do this
  2. Pastries are my weakness and I hate that I let them consume me
  3. My confidence about my body is part of my problem

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a fat person. I see a woman with curves, a juicy booty, muscles, and cheekbones that make my smile cute. I never shy away from wearing a bikini to the beach or a short skirt to go dancing. I don’t go out of my way to cover my arms because they’re almost as big as my thighs. I truly and deeply love my body. And as grateful as I am for the confidence I carry, I can’t help but notice that that very confidence sometimes holds me back from becoming a healthier version of myself.

IMG_1723
Charmaine at age 27.

I’m not waiting until I lose 150 pounds to finally wear that two-piece I’ve been dreaming of or those short shorts that show a little extra cheek. I’m already there and I’m enjoying every minute of it. And I know a dramatic weight-loss isn’t all about how I look and what I wear – it’s about living a longer and healthier life. 

There are times where I want to stop documenting this journey because who the hell cares that I’m averaging a loss of 1.3lbs per month. What I remind myself is that I’m doing this for me — but I’m also doing it to inspire others who are struggling to get their voluptuous booties over the same hurdles. And hey, the feeling of knowing there are other people on a similar journey who can feel even the teeniest inspiration from my story, might be just the motivation I’ve been looking for all these years.


WHAT COMES NEXT FOR CHARMAINE AND HER JOURNEY TO 200

Guess you’ll have to follow her on Insta and keep up with her blog to find out!

✨A N N O U N C E M E N T 🙌🏼 Are you interested in learning more about the Body Positive Movement? Do you find yourself wanting to get more involved but don't know where to begin?! If so, we’ve got just the event for you! It’s the BoPo Panel, a podcast event created by 8 other like minded people who all feel so passionately about the BoPo Movement! We're all on a mission and have one common goal: to expand education on the topic of body positivity and reach a broader audience of diverse individuals in our community, to open up a dialogue about each complex topic under the umbrella of body positivity.🤗❤️ Each time we meet, we will discuss topics such as Diet Culture, Weight Stigma, Eating Disorders, Perfectionism, Language Around Food and Bodies, Media Literacy, the Beauty Industry and so much more! We’ll also be bringing in guests when we meet who are experts/who’s voice will be crucial on the topic!! 🎙 There will also be time for a Q&A period after the one-hour podcast, where you will hear from all 8 of us and our individual thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the subjects. The first event will take place August 29th at 7PM, at @fhcoffee_ Tickets are $10 💕 And the best part??? Proceeds from this event are going to the Women's Health Clinic (@whcwpg), to support those struggling with eating disorder and other body image issues!!!🙏🏻 You can find more information on how to purchase your tickets from the link in our bios! SIGN UP MY LOVES!!❤️❤️❤️ 👊🏻👊🏼👊🏽👊🏾👊🏿 BoPo Panelists: – @tillieandtrue – @mybodywpg – @_risingstrong – @strategiccharmboutique @hustleandcharmcommunity – @jenihaileyyoga – @nakedskincareapothecary – @blondesovereign – @caseylanxon

A post shared by Charmaine Jennings (@strategiccharmboutique) on

THE STORY OF MY BODY AND MY BUSINESS

How Brooke Ryssel came back after an accident and built a health and wellness company around body positivity

GUEST WRITER INFO

Brooke Van Ryssel is the owner/creator of My Body Fitness + Nutrition, Winnipeg’s first company dedicated to fitness, nutrition and body positivity.

She is a 25-year-old entrepreneur, fitness trainer and Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

In August 2016, I moved away from my partner, family and friends to study Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver. Everything was going swimmingly, I was enjoying school, excelling and working a part-time job at a group fitness gym.

Until one morning when I was driving to work.

On May 16, 2017, someone went right through a red light and hit my car on the drivers side at full speed resulting in another impact into a lamp pole.

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 7.28.12 AM

I can still remember the exact feelings I had after the second impact: shock and disbelief, quickly followed by panic when I couldn’t open my door and realized I was covered in glass.

Am I ok?

With the help of some pedestrians I was able to get out of the passengers side door. I tapped each foot into the cement to see if I was able to stay standing, and began touching my body from head to toe as if I was giving myself an airport style pat down. As I did this, I was crying hysterically and a paramedic started asking me questions and guiding me towards an ambulance.

The woman who hit me casually walked over, travel mug in hand, and said she was glad I was ok. I didn’t say anything because I barely heard her.

I was sitting in the ambulance when I felt the first tinge of pain under my left thigh. I reached my hand underneath my leg, and when I brought it back up it was covered in blood and little shiny shards of glass.

“So I guess I’m bleeding,” I said to the paramedic.

We got to the hospital where I was assessed and laid on the table bare butt up while a medical resident pulled shards of glass out of my leg.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that I could barely walk and my body hurt all over. It was a deep aching pain that seemed to be just as bad when I was moving as it was when I was still. I went upstairs and called everyone to tell them what happened.

I told my mom that I was fine and that no one needed to fly out from Winnipeg to take care of me. She didn’t listen to me and left that evening. I am grateful every single day that she came because I was completely useless and unable to do most things myself for the following three months.

I began my recovery with a chiropractor, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. I kept attending school and I was determined to not fall behind and have to delay my certification. I missed one day of school total — the day of the accident.

My life became riding in cabs to school, home and various rehabilitation appointments. I became a recluse; unable to do anything I had done before. I went from teaching 13 boot camp classes per week, working out three times on my own and walking everywhere to no activity at all.

For the first two months of recovery I couldn’t walk more than one block without the pain becoming too overwhelming or having my leg swell up like a water balloon.

It was in the darkest period of my recovery that the idea for my business came to me. My body had started to change as a result of my injuries and lack of activity. I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time, I truly hated my body.

I felt so helpless, depressed and out of control. After about a week of this I thought to myself, “some people feel like this every single day and I need to do something about it.”

I began to acknowledge the privileges I had. First of all, I’m alive. I could’ve died in that car! Second, I am a certified trainer and almost a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with an education in injury recovery that I can use to help heal my body. Third, pain is temporary. There is an end in sight, and I’m a small-medium sized white woman living in Canada and am fairly able bodied.

Lastly, I was asking myself why I feel the way I feel about my body in the first place?

This is when I began what I now call the “research” phase of my body positivity journey. I began looking internally to discover where my feelings about my body were coming from. My body isn’t working normally and I have cuts and bruises, butI will heal. I have more squishy bits, cellulite, scars, and flaws…wait why are they flaws? Who told me that cellulite was a flaw?

Answer: the beauty industry, diet culture and other media. In other words, I realized that this was something that I was taught and not something that was true or factual. Flaws don’t exist; they were created by someone who was profiting off of me hating my body!

This was when I began to make the connection between body positivity and the health and fitness industry. This was very foreign territory because after working within the fitness industry in some form over the past six years body positivity had literally never come up. No one seemed to know how to make the connection between the two.

How can you love your body and still want to change it physically?

The truth is that body positivity and body health are completely interconnected; you cannot have one without the other. Why do you move and exercise your body? Is it because you are punishing yourself for something you ate yesterday or will eat today? Flipping the switch and changing your mindset on why you exercise and nourish your body is an incredibly difficult and slow process, which is yet another reason why the diet industry makes billions of dollars every year.

Since starting My Body Fitness + Nutrition in January 2018, I have been called a hypocrite, had someone say I’m “not a real trainer” and been told I am promoting obesity. While I strongly disagree with what was said, I can see where they are coming from, because this has never been done before.

Body positivity has been either completely absent or just unwelcome in the health and fitness industry for far too long. The focus is always on “get rid of your stubborn belly fat” or “get your summer body ready”. Essentially do this, change that, look like this person and then you’ll be happy.

On the left: Sitting up straight, flexing, smiling, digging my green smoothie. On the right: Slouched, relaxed, smiling, still digging my green smoothie. BOTH = WORTHY ❤️🙌🏼 • Learning to love your body in all the shapes it can make can be tough but try and find the beauty in your squishy bits and all those other little things that society told you were flaws! It’s all a giant load of crap in order to profit off of you hating your body.💩 Rebel beauties, Flaws do not exist! Also now I can’t stop singing this in my head. 🎶They see me rollin’ they lovin’ 🎶 and honestly I don’t hate it. 😘 Have a fabulous day Body Lovers, and remember also that WORTH has NO size, number, shape, age, gender, race, etc. There is no limit on humanity, you are worthy because you exist. 💕💕🙌🏼🙌🏼 #thelimitdoesnotexist #worthy #theyseemerollin #theylovin #worthybecauseyouexist #flawsdonotexist #mybody #becauseilovemybody #bodypositivity #bodypositive #holisticnutrition #nutritionist #fitness #bodylove #selflove #selfcare #love #nofilter #mybodywpg #mybodyfitnessandnutrition #health #wpg #mb #supportlocal #lovelocal #wpgglow #soundslikemybody

A post shared by My Body Fitness + Nutrition (@mybodywpg) on

You must start with accepting and loving yourself exactly as you are in order to make any kind of positive change in your life. It’s not about throwing away your goals, just changing your perspective. Why are you doing it? Take time to notice what your body is capable of, more than what it looks like, because in reality body positivity has nothing to do with what your body looks like. Every single inch of you is worthy of love, acceptance and celebration! You are worthy because you exist.

The tagline for My Body Fitness + Nutrition is Because I Love My Body. I am bringing the body positivity movement to the health and fitness world. My ‘aha’ moment, my calling, this was what I was meant to do!!

After this revelation my recovery became easier to deal with, and to this day even though I’m still living with chronic pain, I know that the car accident was meant to happen to me.

The moment you realize that you were born naturally flawless, is the moment you become free. • Free to not only accept your body as it is, but love it completely. • Free to celebrate your body for all that it is and all that it can do. Rather than punishing it for what it is not. • Free from all the negative images, words, and thoughts thrown your way every day that tell you that you are not enough. You will know that you are more than enough. Don’t let the people who created flaws to profit off of you hating yourself win. Say it loud for the people in the back!! Flaws do not exist!! 🙌🏼💕 #mybody #becauseilovemybody #bodypositivity #bodypositive #bopo #inspiration #holisticnutrition #nutritionist #fitness #bodylove #selflove #selfcare #love #nofilter #mybodywpg #mybodyfitnessandnutrition #health #wpg #mb #supportlocal #lovelocal #wpgglow #flawsdonotexist #effyourbeautystandards #free

A post shared by My Body Fitness + Nutrition (@mybodywpg) on


What comes next for Brooke and her business

Can you imagine walking into a gym knowing that you are already flawless as you are? Walking in, knowing it is a truly judgment free environment where everyone is there sweating, laughing, learning all with the mindset that they are there because they love their body? Sound like a dream?

🚨THE MOST IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT OF ALL🚨 Announcing the location of the first ever BODY POSITIVE GROUP FITNESS GYM!!!! Aka MY BODY FITNESS + NUTRITION!!!!!! Opening its doors FALL 2018😍😍🙌🏼🙌🏼 3655 ROBLIN BLVD, just past the Assiniboine Park + the Zoo. This has been a dream of mine for soooo long to create a space for ALL people and ALL BODIES to come together, sweat, laugh, and learn together all with the mindset that they are all there Because they Love their Bodies!! This space will host 30 minute Group Fitness classes 6 days a week Monday-Saturday, 8 classes per day, and 4 classes on Saturdays! As well my Nutritional consulting office for 1 on 1 holistic nutrition consultations! Both available for monthly memberships! Plus monthly community events hosted in the space on Sundays! Everything from workshops, Body Positive meet ups, fundraisers, other community building events and so much MORE!! To say I can’t wait to open and share this space and labor of love with all of you is an understatement!! I am ecstatic, and now it’s time to get to work!!!! I’ll be posting behind the scenes looks at the progress of the location on here so stay tuned!! And if you want a sneak peak inside check out my stories today!! My Body is bringing Body Positivity to the Health and Fitness world!! IT’S HAPPENING!!!😭❤️ Do you want to be a part of the My Body community???❤️❤️ #mybody #mybodyfall2018 #mybodylocation #bodypositivegroupfitness #becauseilovemybody #bodypositivity #bodypositive #holisticnutrition #nutritionist #fitness #bodylove #selflove #selfcare #love #nofilter #mybodywpg #mybodyfitnessandnutrition #health #wpg #mb #supportlocal

A post shared by My Body Fitness + Nutrition (@mybodywpg) on

Winnipeg’s first ever body positive group fitness gym and nutritional consulting service will be available Fall 2018. Stay tuned!

For more bo-po power and info about Brooke’s business follow @mybodywpg on Instagram.