Let me give you a brief intro as to how this series of posts came about. In the industry that I work in you hear horrendous stories about girls and even guys that do unthinkable things to their bodies in order to fit into this ideal that society has setup and the fashion industry seems to perpetuate. Let’s get one thing out of the way now and once and for all. We at Windsor think you are beautiful the way you are. There is no perfect size, shape, color, height, or pout. Perfection is what you already are. We truly and utterly believe this.
With that said I have been following Taralynn’s Tumblr for a little while now and let me just tell you that she is an inspiration to me. Not because she managed to attain a number on the scale but because she went through quite a journey to get to where she has gotten to today. Being a certain size doesn’t make you beautiful and neither does being a certain weight however we want to make sure that “skinny” isn’t confused for being healthy because the two things are not the same. In this day and age people can be beyond skinny but also be absolutely unhealthy. We want to promote a healthy body image in girls and Taralynn has kindly agreed to share her knowledge and her journey.
Taralynn is just a normal girl. She is not a nutritionist or an expert so please consult your physician before beginning any exercise/diet routine. She is just hear to show you that you are not alone in your quest to be healthy. She’ll be sharing her life story, her recipes and her fashion sense along with some other fun things. Now without any further ado I leave you with Taralynn’s story.
I believe happiness is always within a person, but a series of unfortunate events can cloud happiness making it hard to find. No one can take your happiness away, but you can push it away making it a challenge to chase after.
Twenty years ago I was just a baby. Happiness was all around me and still is till this day, but their was a struggle I was yet to be faced with as I grew older. I pushed my happiness away for the future while worrying about my happiness in the present. I was born in Virginia and raised in a military family. That meant lots of moving and traveling. Since I was a bubbly and outgoing child, moving didn’t seem to bother me so much or maybe moving to Hawaii was the part that made me less bothered. As a kid I was always active playing in the pool, gymnastics. I was constantly on the monkey bars, biking, rollerblading, playing tag, dancing etc. I never wanted to go inside.
Suddenly life was about to change. My dad decided that after 25 years of the service he was ready to retire and head back to the main lands. I was crushed, but being a child you learn to conform and find happiness in all of life’s set backs. Moving to Iowa may have been the biggest set back I was faced with as a child. My mother grew up in Iowa and left for the military after high school. It was hard for her to visit home. My grandpa was diagnosed with cancer leading my parents toward the decision to move to Iowa to start a new life. I’m so blessed I got to spend the time with my grandpa. I learned what a wonderful man he was in my life and in so many others. I blame him for the strength he fills me with in my life and the obsession with baking.
Starting school in Iowa was much different than the schools I attended at before. Iowa kids don’t know how to deal with as much culture or change. I had lost all my friends and it was a challenge to make new ones where no one was welcoming or willing to include you. In fourth grade kids aren’t suppose to make fun of your clothes or the way you talk, but they did. I felt so much disappointment. This was the first storm clouding up my happiness. As an outside kid who never wanted to come inside for anything, I found myself sitting in front of the television, coloring, or helping my mom cook or run errands because I had no one to play with. During birthday parties that the entire class was invited to I was bullied and cried in the bathroom where no one could see me. Everything I did was always wrong to the other kids. Looking back on it, I was never wrong in wanting to be different like my mother has always taught me to do. Encouraging originality and creativity in a child was the smartest move my mother had made. As a kid it’s hard to understand the teasing which leads to frustration and lowered self esteem which at a young age can be haunting. After an incident on the playground in fifth grade I thought about suicide, now when an elementary student thinks about suicide you know something wrong is really occurring. My parents even considered home schooling me because of the challenge it was to face these kids everyday. As a counselor with kids today in my current job I’m happy this happened to me. It makes it easier to notice the signs that the teachers never saw or bothered to deal with. Kids may be innocent but they aren’t always nice.
Middle school was next on the route. After a summer of considering home schooling my parents encouraged me to give it a chance. In middle school all the kids from different schools were joined. My parents believed I would find acceptance and appreciation with a variety of new kids, and they were right. Over the previous summer I had a lack of exercise, and formed an unhealthy eating pattern so I started to add more clouds to my happiness by becoming a tad overweight for my age. My parents weren’t too concerned because now that I had found happiness the weight would eventually even out and fade away from the activities I had decided to join. Seventh grade started to give me hope that my life was turning around. I had joined basketball, volleyball, theater, music, softball and many other activities where my friend pool was just out of control. The trauma of elementary school was being overshadowed by my new life and the memories were fading. My mother always taught me to kill people with kindness as a way of revenge. It’s more effective and lady like, so I was super nice to the bullies I went to elementary school with. I really felt like a better person.
Having new friends meant having more birthday parties, more movies, more activities which all lead to more unhealthy eating. Birthday parties every weekend meant cake, candy, pizza, popcorn, and more junk food. Away games for sports meant more fast food stops or quick fast food dinners after practice. Pizza and breadsticks with cheese were offered at lunch followed by a candy bar and a Pepsi. I also had a brother who was active more than I was, so every time it was time for him to go out to eat of course I was there. Walking tacos and nachos at baseball games followed by candy concessions, grabbing a candy pack every time at the checkout line of the grocery store, Saturday night pizza and popcorn, Friday night Mexican food at my favorite restaurant with my mom was what I looked forward to every week. Doughnuts and juice after church on Sunday followed by a home cooked meal from mom or a back yard barbeque brought on by dad. Some nights our family would hop in my dad’s truck stop at the ice cream store for a huge creamy dessert and drive around looking for deer. My family has always been very close and sometimes we based it around our appetite a little too often. Life was great my happiness was at full throttle but as I began to mature and prepare for high school my appearance sort of became a concern for me.
Starting high school was a huge deal . The anxiety of starting a new school was a little scary because of previous years. I started to care about my appearance and wanted to go to school with a fashionable wardrobe and a killer hairstyle. Fashion was about to play a huge role in my life. A week before high school started my mom gave me money to get a variety of clothes I would be needing. My parents have always done everything to keep our family happy and are our number one supporters for my brother and I. My mom dropped me off at the mall and gave me a couple hours to find what I needed before she picked me up. I went to all my favorite stores, tried on all the cutest clothes and my mom picked me up a couple hours later. I stood there empty handed with a purse full of money and a face full of shock. No words needed to be exchanged. At that point the motherly instinct sensed what had just happened. She didn’t say a word and waited until I broke down. I cried more than I have ever cried before, The question “how could I have let myself get this way? my life is over!” was running through my mind as my overdramatic teenager tantrum took its course. My mother calmed me down, took me for a walk and we set out a future plan of healthy eating and staying active.
It was the first day of high school. As I walked through the doors I looked around at all the girls wearing little jean shorts, tight fitting tank tops and tanned bodies. I looked down and saw sweatpants, a baggy T-shirt and pale arms. My stomach began to tighten as self esteem began to lower. I couldn’t understand it, I sat at lunch eating semi healthily but I was barely touching my food because I felt like everyone was calling me fat in their heads and watching me eat. The girls with the skinny bodies were eating pizza, cookies, cake and still staying thin, what was wrong with me!? My mom had explained about metabolism and how everyone puts on weight faster or slower than others. I even visited a doctor to make sure I wasn’t experiencing an over active thyroid or facing a problem with rapid weight gain. I left the doctor and was perfectly fine. I decided to keep my head up, continue to eat healthy, stay active in extra activities and the weight would eventually fall off. As my high school year was very busy again with music, sports, and other activities healthy eating became less important. I fell off the bandwagon once again going back to fast food, gas station food, boxed freezer food, and the cafeteria junk food line. I guess wearing baggy sweatpants and oversized sweatshirts would hide my weight gain in the meantime and I would just start my diet tomorrow. I still had a huge group of friends and I thought that was the only thing that mattered and appearance would eventually become a priority when I was ready.
Junior year I landed the lead roll in the musical for my schools’ Spring production. Theater and music started to become my focus and I was ready to devote myself by quitting sports. To be honest I never enjoyed playing sports because that meant showing your arms and legs in front of a crowd. Pictures in the yearbooks upset me because they were there forever. I didn’t want the weight to be there forever though. I started to find my talent through music and theater. While I was finding happiness through music I found a false happiness through going out with friends. On top of my unhealthy eating habits I began to consume calories through a new hobby of partying and drinking. When I started to drink it was the worst thing I ever allowed my bubbly self to do. I don’t regret how things were in those days because it has made me the person that I am today but it definitely wouldn’t be the choice I’d make today.
If high school doesn’t have enough fighting and drama already, then partying and new groups of friends will certainly introduce you to more, which is what happened to me. The friends I had were still my friends but just different in so many ways. I started to believe I needed to conform to fit in even though that was out of character for me. I kept up with my activeness in music but found myself going out on weekends and becoming a careless teenager that I never wanted to be. A regular weekend consisted of sleeping all day, eating late at night, partying till morning, going to breakfast, and continued the pattern all over again. Again I was the one wearing the baggy clothes while my friends were wearing the short shorts and tight tanks, while eating the same way I was.
The flashback of the first day in high school hit me one morning when I was staring at myself in the mirror. I pulled my yearbooks off the shelf and stared at the photos that were taken of me, I observed the weight change through the years and remembered what I had promised myself the week I left the mall empty handed “I will start my diet tomorrow.” That phrase became my enemy, I used it almost every time I put something bad in my mouth, I used it as a comfort. That was the moment I decided the drinking and late night partying needed to end. I lost a lot of friends over it but my health was way more important. Even when my friends were being real and meaning nothing by their actions they still were enablers to my lifestyle and a brick on my track. I was over being the girl with the “pretty face” or the “best friend” of the skinny girl.
Theater kept my mind off the loss of friends and the nights I spent at home instead of going out with everyone else, but it was for the best. Senior year was finally here and I landed the lead role in “Dark of the Moon” which was a huge deal. We would be performing this risky production for our school, for the community, in front of a panel of judges, and crowd of students at Thespian Festival. The play was very intense full of breath taking scenes and shocking effects. My drama teacher gave me so much confidence in myself when I was on stage and I felt so powerful as a performer and really gave everything I had in me. The judges were stunned by my performance, they were enlightened with my talent but told my director they were set back because I was too “fat” to play the part of “Barbara Allen”. I stayed strong while she read through the review sheet to the cast. I immediately went into my dressing room and sat in the shower fully dressed crying under the running water. The embarrassment, the failure, the anxiety that ran down my body into the drain put me on an all time low for days. This had to be the final stab at my unhealthy lifestyle, but as the days went on I lost power and determination and jumped back into eating unhealthy . Sometimes even the best motivation or the worst situations can’t keep you on a healthy track.
Even though I took a break with theater for a while I continued singing and playing music with my band. The band and I became like family. I ended up falling hard for the drummer and shockingly he fell for me. I couldn’t understand what he saw in me but I liked the feeling of being in a real relationship or the illusion of a real relationship. We hung out constantly and that put a stop to the band because of the arguments between him and another band member. Graduation came and the distance between us grew and he became distant making me feel completely insecure so we ended up splitting because I couldn’t take the anxiety I was feeling. I needed to move on.
My heart was shattered. The first heartbreak is supposed to sting but this stung a little too much. Food and friends would be the first thing I would turn to, but I didn’t have anyone left and food didn’t fill the emptiness, it just fueled the fire of my anxiety. The anxiety would come at the most random times. I remember walking through the grocery store and all of a sudden feeling nauseous and bursting out in tears. I was so confused on what was happening. One day I was sitting on the computer and noticed an email from a friend telling me how he was out with other girls and it just made me so sick I grabbed my Ipod and left the house. I walked for about two hours that day, listening to music and looking around at the world and the amazing things in it. When I was walking I felt like the world was staring at me back noticing the amazement in myself and that I needed to find my happiness again. After I got home I felt so much better. I sat down ate a healthy dinner, watched a movie with my family without crying, and realized that no medicine could fight my anxiety like the endorphins I gained through going out and walking. After taking a long walk it actually gave me a little control over eating healthier. I started changing my eating habits gradually. I ended up training my body to relate exercise as a way of relaxation.
The success of the first month of my new healthy life style was the start of my healthy life. 25lbs had fallen off through the simplicity of switching to a healthy diet and a active life. The compliments I received from the people around me kept pushing me to move forward and continue to be strong. The reason I lost so much weight the first month is because when you first start a diet you lose a lot of the extra water weight you consume through sodium and other processed foods. I finally had control over my life and it felt great. My ex and I ended up getting back together after hanging out a couple times and realizing there were still feelings there. That was the worst decision I made and my parents were soon to be right about him. I was starting to get a lot of attention as the year went on and my weight began to drop off. Getting back with him still didn’t stop me from my goals. I was finally finding the happiness I had been missing. My boyfriend wasn’t too fond of the attention I was getting and grew an insecurity within himself. As the insecurity grew so did his anger. The anger started with bickering, to emotional abuse to a physical abuse. I still decided I was going to lose weight no matter how he treated me and one day he would stop hurting me because I was everything he wanted. At that point I had fallen into a deep hole of confusion and became oblivious to the life I was living and the world around me. The relationship was different to everyone’s eyes except mine. Soon I became insecure and he made me feel like he was the only guy out there for me and no one would want a girl like me in their life. He deleted my emails, my online accounts, the numbers in my phone, cut up clothes in my closet and tried to isolate me from my family. The worst part of the situation was I was fighting to be with this guy. Catching him cheating on me should have been the stop to our relationship but it was the moment I made his mistake my fault. After all the lies and stories about the bruises on my body I just broke down and couldn’t handle it anymore. I wrote my mom a letter explaining everything that was going on in my life and she was immediately there for me. Crying for me and comforting me for the pain I was dealt with. No one in the world deserves to be treated with disrespect and relationships should be about love and happiness.
A month later I found a perfect summer job in the Hampton’s working with kids. Living in New York became the perfect escape to find myself and happiness again. I continued to eat healthy and stay active. I grew a love for baking and creating healthy living ideas. I am currently writing a book for a healthy way of life in the eye of a young adult for young adults. After the summer in the Hampton’s I returned to Iowa. No one had recognized me. I looked like a complete different person. The year transformation was shocking to everyone. I was acknowledged by people that acted as if I never existed. As I lost weight I found my happiness again as a complete person. I let myself be me and found real love called life. Today I can look in the mirror and smile and say I am truly happy inside and out. I am faced with the rumors of how I lost weight and sometimes it stings a little because my healthy journey was a challenge but I had to find the fun to stay motivated. I know exactly how I lost weight, the people who matter the most in my life know how I lost weight so I never let the words of others bring me down.
I am still in college studying business. After my book I want to continue writing and publishing health books for teens. I want teens around the world to find inspiration through healthy perspectives and not was the fashion industry portrays. Fashion is important but so is your life. Weighing 90lbs by eating a bag of lettuce to walk a thirty second runway isn’t worth the hours spent in hospitals for the damage of malnutrition, or a lifetime of a mental state. Losing twenty pounds in two weeks to look good in a bikini isn’t worth losing a baby because you messed up your body. I want girls to focus on the fun of a healthy lifestyle and find patience in the process.
Opening up a cupcake/ bakery is also another dream of mine. I am currently working in the Hampton’s this summer. I love spending time on the beach, shopping, and hanging out with the greatest people on earth. I love to blog new healthy recipes, how to eat healthy from day to day and basic tips. I even throw in the random post here and there. I love fashion, I love food, I love fitness and love to blog about it!