“Stand Fast…”

Four brave individuals have decided to stand on the line with those that came before them this week.

If you aren’t moved by the stories of triumph this week I have no idea what motivates you. People finding power, love and belief in themselves through strength. This is our small way of giving back to something that has given to us. Roo has written for the Message twice. She was the first one to say she wanted to draw the line in the sand.

I’m not going to lie it was a bit nerve racking at the time. The night I posted Roo’s original article I sat up late just looking at it. This isn’t something new for me. I’m a night owl and posts go up late. But this one was different. Roo was ready to make her statement but was I ready to let her make it?

How were people gonna respond to what we had to say? Were we gonna lose our jobs posting about what we were gonna post? Did the conviction of our friends that knew what we were gonna speak for help us feel we we’re doing the right thing?

It did. The support of our friends meant everything to us.

Every time I read an article about the things you hear people go through but never expect to have happen to your friends I’m taken back. I’m taken back by peoples honesty and the fact that they will not let what they went through be swept under the table.

Our last writer has been with us since we first wrote for Strong is Beautiful. In fact she was one of the main reasons we decided that a line was needed.

Her name is Julie Liu. And her story is one of the reasons I’m proud I walked onto that line.

– Z

Consider this my own self therapy: to undo my distorted relationship with food, culture, and body image. When Zach and Roo asked me to be a featured writer for “Strong is Beautiful”, I immediately said, “yes” I felt so honored, yet, terrified at the same time. So here it goes.

 I can’t share my story without starting with my parents’ upbringing. Mom grew up in Vietnam and Dad grew up in Laos, both of which lived through different wars as adolescents and young adults. To say my parents and my family grew up poor is an understatement. They lived on very little income with many mouths to feed amongst one another, so being frugal was not just a way of life: it was the only way to survive. When you wake up each day not knowing whether you will live because bombs are firing off in your town, or whether your next meal might be little-to-nothing, it’s no wonder my family decided to flee from their war-torn countries in search of the American Dream.

As a first-generation American born Chinese; I struggled a lot with my own identity. My parents had their ways of raising us in a Chinese household. They demanded that we would never waste and would always finish our food.  At the same time, we were expected to never be overweight; and if you were, expect to be told daily that you are. To be overweight was just unacceptable and I didn’t fall into the mold of the typical skinny Asian girls I was used to seeing. I was never overweight in American standards growing up, but I couldn’t accept my larger-than-average butt and thighs.

I was raised with many contradictions, which led to very distorted body image ideals: from dieting at a young age to making myself sick, which led to Bulimia. I was as young as twelve years old when I first made myself throw up. I would binge eat until I made myself so uncomfortably full, then just stick my finger in my mouth over a toilet, after each meal. This continued on and off until I was about twenty years old. Nevertheless, I was that same girl who would continue to have an obsession about her body image and would do whatever it took to achieve the skinny figure.

Fast forward to April 12, 2010, for my first day at the gym; which, up to that point, I was doing Bikram yoga five to six days a week. The thought of giving myself more rest days in a week was unfathomable, all I knew to do was to workout all the time. I was getting stagnant with my yoga practice, so that’s when I decided I wanted to add Crossfit into the mix. Who knew that the day I walked into the gym would change my life forever. I remember that day as if it were just yesterday, when I asked Zach three different times whether “I’d bulk up”…yes I was that girl. Months passed and I began incorporating paleo style of eating, Crossfit, and full time Bikram classes. It was around June 2010 that I realized my body was the leanest it had ever been, and I enjoyed every bit of what it had become. But then a few months later, I started noticing how my clothes were fitting differently around my shoulders and that my traps were significantly bigger, so I began to panic.

It was a constant battle within myself, out loud to my closest friends, and my sister that I wanted to quit the gym and stick to just yoga, because of how the gym was changing my body–all I wanted was a non-muscular body type.

I recall approximately two years ago having a phone conversation with John Winters, where he was trying to talk me off the ledge about quitting the gym and not being comfortable with how my body was changing. Shortly after that conversation, I received an email from JW on November 9, 2010 where he shared with me his personal battles of weight and body image. His candidness in sharing his own story and struggles really allowed me to open my eyes and accept the woman I was becoming. These words guided me towards a different attitude of what “Strong is Beautiful” was all about.

A few weeks later, the very first installation of “Strong is Beautiful” Week kicked off, and each story that was told spoke to me, and the email from JW (that I turned a corner with) helped gain self acceptance and confidence in who I was becoming–and embracing the strength I had. To be honest, I don’t even know who that girl was, who walked into the gym that day and asked Zach about bulking up, or the one who contemplated quitting the gym altogether because of the fear of gaining muscles from lifting. She is a stranger to me.

Embracing lifting heavy weights in my life has led me towards a healthier relationship with food, my body, and most importantly, who I am within. Whether it is reaching my goals of doing a strict pull up, squatting more than 200 pounds, my first handstand push up, or just purely lasting ten minutes for my long cycle event in Detroit, my life with this gym has pushed me beyond limits I never thought I could ever reach and will continue to.

It was in March of 2012 that I decided to get a tattoo that translates as “Strong and Beautiful” in Laotian text on my left shoulder blade that my dad designed for me. There was no better way for me to exemplify the importance of beauty and strength in women other than having it permanently scribed on my body. I am forever grateful for this community for changing my life and continuing to always support this very important message.

Posted by: Julie

In Closing By: Z

It takes courage to say the things people have said this week. 

It takes Strength.

Strength isn’t in your size. It’s not in your muscles. It’s not in someone telling you that you have to be “lean and Strong” or your not as good as someone else. True Strength comes from a place inside your self. It comes from standing for something you believe in something you know can make a difference.

The pressures of body image on friends, family and children now a days is heavier then any weight anyone will ever lift. It’s force can crush someone worst then any Bell or Bar ever could. But the power of Strength can change a life or even save it, 5 brave writers decided once more this year they had enough. They needed to let others know something that changed their lives for the better.

It’s just a simple line without anyone standing on it. Please do not let others stand alone, have a voice.

Strong is Beautiful.

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4 Responses to ““Stand Fast…””

  1. Simply put, this all was rad! Thank you all for sharing and I feel very lucky to be a part of this community.

  2. Thank you for sharing Julie! It has been a teary and empowering week of stories. I am super grateful and humbled to be a part of this wonderful, supportive community.

  3. Julie, you continue to amaze me. Thanks for sharing such a private story. You are truly beautiful. Plus, I love your traps and your strong legs.

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