Everyone has a story. Everyone has a past. And everyone has a life changing moment. The moment that defines your life, sets you on the path that you are meant to take, and ultimately shapes who you will become. That moment for me was in January 2013. This was the moment I felt like my life was falling apart. I was at the point where I was so heavy that my physical health was deteriorating, and my emotional health was taking a turn for the worse.
When I decided to turn my life around, lose the weight, and get healthy, I began to realize that for my entire life, I felt like a 70 year old trapped in a younger person’s body. I just turned 28 years old, so that fact is extremely unsettling. My diet consisted of typical Syrian-Israeli junk food. Schnitzel and rice on Mondays, mejedre and spanach on Thursdays, and the typical menu on Shabbat - tons of mazza and a full buffet of grease-filled dishes. Although I was thin growing up, I was what health coaches and dieticians refer to as “skinny fat.” That meant that my BMI and weight were in the normal range for my height, but my eating habits were so unhealthy, that my fat to muscle ratio was unbalanced.
Looking back, my first hospital visit was when I was 10 for kidney stones. The pain was excruciating, and now that I've had children, I can safely say it was worse than childbirth. I had suffered from them repeatedly through my tween years. I was always in and out of doctors’ offices with my mother, and unfortunately, none of them questioned my diet.
When I turned 14, I started focusing more on my body image. I had extreme feelings of anxiety. It wasn’t fair to me to see girls who looked great and didn’t have to watch their diet, or to see boys liking only the prettiest girls. But I was a tomboy. I skateboarded, hung out with the boys, and didn’t have many girlfriends. I got bullied for this, which destroyed my self-esteem.
At home, my confidence hit some low points. Being the youngest wasn’t always the easiest. My siblings tended to tease me a lot. Although they would do it jokingly, it was hard to hear them tell me how I was "adopted." It's a classic teasing tactic for many older brothers and sisters, but it hurt my feelings more than I was willing to admit.
With barely any girlfriends and feeling isolated from my siblings, my self-respect was shattered. I was so alone, and food became my friend. It still affects me today, the fear of being liked. Of being wanted. I walk down the street with my head down, I don’t smile much in public, and it takes time for me to warm up to friends and even family.
It’s such a strange experience- being told when people meet me they’re shocked from how shy I am. I get it all the time. It’s strange because I am a completely different person on Instagram and the internet than I am in real life. Because on Instagram it’s just me in my kitchen. It’s easy to forget that there are 12,000 people watching me. I can be myself, doing the things I love. And people who can relate tag along to join me on my journey.
From a young age, I had always counted down to the day I would start high school. It’s a day most children look forward to. The freedom of your newfound independence, getting your driver’s license, hanging out with boys, seminars, and the feeling of being grown up without any of the responsibility. What I didn’t factor in, was the constant pressure that teen girls have to look good on the outside. My friends were always competing with each other. Who was on the IT fad diet of the week, who would lose weight the fastest. I always competed along with them, and I wasn’t even overweight! I was 120 pounds and 5‘2 but you name the diet, and I’ve done it. From weight watchers, slim fast, Dr. Oz Supplements, Atkins, anything and everything that you can name, I’ve tried. My friends and I lived in the gym, going to Lucille Roberts to work out for 4 hours and then munching on funyuns in the sauna while we laughed our butts off. I laugh now looking back at how crazy that is.
In 10th grade, I met the boy who would become my husband. After high school when I got a little older, my terrible food habits started to catch up with me. I wasn’t 14 anymore. Spending time with your boyfriend comes with a lot of eating time. Constantly going to restaurants and eating fried foods, bagels every morning, Mufleta sandwiches, pizza under the brooklyn bridge, carvel, etc. It makes sense that my metabolism caught up with me at that point.
By that time I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. Again, my doctor never addressed my diet. I was to take my medicine and be on my way. I did as I was told, making sure to take my medication every morning, and went back for a blood test every 4 months. And after every appointment, not one question about my food habits. Absolutely no nutritional guidance. I gained about 20 pounds, stopped exercising, and ate horribly all throughout that year.
After getting married and getting pregnant with my first baby, I had gained 50 pounds and my scale was up to 175 pounds. When I was about 6 months into my pregnancy, I had terrible chest and back pain, and my body literally shut down to protect itself from the pain. I collapsed. The ER told me I was suffering from gallstones, so they gave me strong painkillers and sent me home. The pain came and went, and I had four more attacks until I gave birth.
I finally met with a doctor to get my gallbladder removed. I was scheduled for a cholecystectomy but then was rushed to the ER two weeks before my appointment due to gallstones passing through my liver. It is nothing short of a miracle that they caught it, and I thank God every day for saving me. During the same procedure, I had an umbilical hernia repaired. It took me months to recover. I felt heavy, disgusted with myself. I was so embarrassed to even go near my husband. I didn’t even want to go to the park with my son.
Two years later, I got pregnant with my second. I gained 40 more pounds and my weight went up to 205 pounds. I felt so heavy at a point that I went to the doctor thinking I had a hernia, and it was just the pain of carrying around a huge gut. My knees felt weak, my face was puffy. 10 months after my son was born, came the moment that changed my life.
Out of context, it doesn’t sound like a big deal. But with everything else that I have dealt with, it was monumental. I’ll never forget it. On a regular cold day in January, I went into a store to buy jeans, and the store didn’t carry the size I needed. I was so humiliated. How did I let it get this far? What am I doing to myself? WHY?
At that point, I was so at a loss, so finished. I was horrified with how my life was turning out. How can I just fix myself now? Who was going to help me? Having done it all, I knew every diet out there, but none of them seemed realistic for the long term.
I loved to cook like my mother, and at that same time, this new social media platform called Instagram came out. I was seeing a nutritionist at the time, and her guidance was amazing. But at the end of the day, it is very hard to maintain self control. I couldn’t hire someone to follow me around and watch what I ate. I decided to use Instagram for help. I was going to let the public see my posts hold me accountable for everything that went into my mouth.
I was taking a chance, taking the time from my crazy schedule to become a blogger. Blogging wasn’t even big at that time. At least not how it is now. I took my final step, getting introduced to Julie Maleh, aka Jus by Julie. She was like no other person I had ever met. This person had actually taken the time, to pay attention to me and show me the ropes. How to shop for food, how to cook, how to eat, how to handle my lifestyle. Julie helped me take my first steps into my journey of health. I had lost 15 pounds after seeing her. But I became obsessed with trying drastic programs to push me even faster.
I tried a ton of diets, and I got a little closer to a good one when I came across Beachbody on Facebook. It was a program with meal replacement shakes, and a home cooked dinner consisting of lean proteins and tons of vegetables and fruits. I used my cooking skills to create recipes and posted and shared them on Instagram. If you go back 3000 posts, you will see my old days, and how far I came- which still amazes me to this day.
It took three months until I realized I wasn’t going to live off of shakes for the rest of my life. I chose to do things my own way. Cooking my own meals and exercising for hours every week for 12 months got me 65 pounds down.
It sounds like a lot of work, and guess what. It was. I wasn’t stopping there. I grew so in love with how I felt. I felt young, I felt alive, I felt FREE! I had my family, my children, and now my health- I felt like a different person. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night in pain. I became physically strong from my diet and exercise.
My husband took on this lifestyle with me. My kids were still eating the same old versions of mac and cheese, hamburgers, schnitzel and friday night meals. And I ate some too! Reinventing the classic recipes keeps my body and mind healthy. A little apple butter instead of duck sauce, a little almond flour instead of wheat, and 72% chocolate instead of milk chocolate filled with chemicals. I wanted to know how to do better, be better, know better. I strived to perfect my habits through fitness and food. I would watch the Food Network, follow the most amazing Instagram accounts, and get inspired every single day. I got my degree as a health coach, a personal trainer, and went to culinary school to become a chef. I took foods I loved and healthified them.
I finally became confident enough to take clients privately, to help guide them through their journey. Most of my private clients were coming for menus, recipes, and weight loss. Followers on Instagram wanted in on my lifestyle. It amazed to see how many people were noticing. Personal training had given me the ability to help clients achieve goals and speed up weight loss. I had over 300 steady clients, but I wasn’t stopping there. I created the FlavorfulFIT Movement, and the rest is history.
I look back at that day in the store and feel like I wasted so much time in my youth. I have a better quality of life now. I am saving my children from what I went through by teaching them what it means to be healthy. That’s what motivates me to keep going. My clients, my husband, and my children. Knowing that I am making the world a healthier place little by little.
People always ask me what made you do it? It’s very simple. That one moment. Everyone has that moment where their life comes to a crossroads. Where they have two paths in front of them and they can choose left or right. But I have to tell you. DON’T wait for that moment. Choose to get ahead of it. It’s never too late.