Tag Archives: Body Builder Mom

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PUMPING IRON AND BUILDING ATHLETES

Jeffersonville High School takes different approach to weightlifting

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Story and photos by Jen McNelly

It’s 7:45 AM at Jeffersonville High School and the first bell rings. A group of students shuffle into the weight room. It’s early. Some kids choose to snooze during first period, but not these students. They are ready to attack the day with full force.

“Alright, focus!” yells coach Daniel Struck, right after instructions are given. The music starts and the lifting begins.

Struck, now entering his 15th year of teaching and coaching at Jeffersonville High School, has created a program that takes a different approach to weightlifting. They call it Jeff Sports Performance.

The fully-stocked weight room is equipped with free weights, squat racks, landmines, benches and much more to fit the needs of athletes. “When I first started here, everything in this weight room was broken. It looked like a yard sale. So, what did I do? We literally had a yard sale to get rid of it,” explains Struck. “A lot of other sports and programs have come together to help donate and pay for the equipment that we have here right now.” screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-2-47-22-pm

Students involved in Jeff Sports Performance lift five days a week for the 180 days of school. The program caters to every sport in various different ways.

Brandon Wellington, a senior who recently signed on to play football at the University of Louisville, first heard about the class when he was in middle school. “I knew that I needed to get bigger to play football and I didn’t have much experience in weightlifting. This class was perfect to get me started and has been really convenient because I don’t have that much time after school.”

Athletes from the class have gone on to not only play sports but can be found in every single branch of the armed forces. “We have had athletes from this class score the highest in the PT (physical training) scores in their basic training classes, as well as athletes come back from big programs and say ‘I was the only freshman able to go straight into weightlifting with the older guys because I already understood and performed all the lifts correctly,’” says Struck. “I’ve had college coaches ask what we do and send them videos on what we are doing, but it’s hard to capture unless you are here.”

As a multi-athlete and wrestling coach, Struck has traveled to 23 different countries, “grabbing ideas” from professionals everywhere. “One of the most widely used methods to increase athleticism at many of the world’s Olympic Training Centers has been gymnastics. So, we copy that. It’s really cool. We’ll start off day one with maybe one or two kids that can do a backflip and end the year with maybe 30 or 40 kids that can do a back flip. It’s a huge confidence builder for them. I have offensive and defensive linemen that can do flips. It’s pretty awesome to watch.”

This unique program also has aided in unifying the school. “It has helped to get all sports on one program keeping their progress year-round instead of switching programs every time they switch sports,” Struck explains. “Typically, we start class celebrating what kids in all sports have done, how the weekend went, spotlighting kids and letting each sport know how other sports are doing.”

“You’re a team here,” says Ethan English, a senior who play baseball for Indiana Wesleyan. “It’s not like baseball team, football team, basketball team – it’s the whole school. When you’re working out with other teammates, it makes you just want to be better. We represent Jeff High. I really look forward to that every day.”

“We’re all working together,” Wellington adds. “When you see one person hit their max, you’re just hyped for them. Even if you didn’t hit your max, it doesn’t matter. This class is helping us all get bigger and better.”

However, unlike most weightlifting classes in high school, Jeff Sports Performance is about far more than just lifting weights.

“One of the things that sets this class apart is how we work on the entire person,” says Struck. “The weightlifting or sport is what we have in common, but we come together to try and create better futures for the kids.”

Every nine weeks, students are required to write three colleges – that makes 12 colleges per year with a total of more than 48 colleges over four years. “Most kids write more, though,” says Struck, “and it works. That’s one of the biggest draws to the class – learning to market yourself to colleges.”

Jaylynn Brown, also a senior who will be on the women’s basketball team at Lincoln Trail College, says writing colleges is her favorite part of the class. “There are millions of athletes who don’t get to play Division I sports after high school, but you get a chance to make it happen for yourself in this class.”

Not every student wants to go to college to play sports, and that’s alright. “But I guarantee they save that college letter,” Struck says. “Just the simple feeling of knowing that they are wanted by someone else outside of here makes a big difference in their life, so we make a really big deal of it when a student hears back from a college. It just really feels good.”

Struck also understands the importance of character development by teaching students how to be coachable, work with others and simply be the best person they can be. In a society where high school students are prone to determine self-worth by the number of likes they get on social media, Jeff Sports Performance has been a big confidence booster to many students.

Struck keeps track of every student’s personal weight-lifting goals. “I work hard to make sure they reach their goals, and I’ll push them. We make a big deal when they get it. It’s really cool to see when a kid reaches their max. Their confidence goes way up.”

To deal with everyday stress and anxiety of teenage life, Struck has worked yoga and meditation into the curriculum as well. “Recent new back pain has really got me into yoga, so I’ve started to do yoga with our athletes here. … Learning to move your body without weight is more important than learning to move big weight with an unathletic body. As for meditation, learning to meditate, to think and be by yourself can really help with what some students deal with each day.”

So, what does Coach Struck hope his students will remember most from their time at Jeff Sports Performance? “More than anything, I want to them to know that you can be good at multiple things.”

At the end of every class period, Struck and his students can be found chanting “Every day!”

“It’s a reminder to them that every day you have to do something to get better,” says Struck.

Follow Jeff Sports Performance – @jeffsportsperfo – on their Instagram page.

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Six Things I’ve Learned in 2017

screen-shot-2017-12-05-at-3-47-18-pmBy Angie Fenton

Numbers matter…and don’t. I weighed nearly 180 pounds when I gave birth to my daughter in January 2016. Saying, “I want to lose weight” was easy, but what did that really mean? To be healthy, for my 5-foot-2 frame, I was told I should weigh between 110 and 140 pounds. But thanks to Ryan Schrink of Schrink Personal Training, who reminded me weight is just a number. But lowering my body fat percentage is key to getting healthy. I also need to be cognizant of my blood pressure and cholesterol levels. My goal now is to get down to 20 percent body fat by February. I couldn’t care less what I weigh.

Plan ahead. Spending time once a week to make meals for me and my husband, and then putting them into single serving portions, saves time and aids in a mission of healthy eating. Also, put your workouts on your calendar and treat them like appointments with one of the most important people you know. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you truly take care of anyone else?

Don’t let setbacks set you back. I’ve failed a lot this year. I’ve also succeeded. So, I screwed up yesterday. That doesn’t mean I have to wait until next week to start again. When I do mess up on my quest to get fit, I’ve (finally!) begun to start again the next morning and assessing what led to my temporary setback.

Find your motivation. Mine is my daughter, Olive. As an older mama, I want nothing more than to be healthy so I’m around as long as the good Lord allows it. I owe it to Olive and myself to get fit.screen-shot-2017-12-05-at-3-44-12-pm

Set a goal and keep vowing to stick to it. Sure, I’d like to fit into my pre-baby clothes, lose body fat and decrease my rising “bad” cholesterol level, but I also really want to compete in a bodybuilding contest, too. I let life and an injury get in my way in 2017, but not in 2018. I WILL compete, decrease my body fat percentage, get my cholesterol under control AND fit into those old clothes I used to love wearing. I’m going to keep saying that out loud until it sticks.

Just do it. Sorry to borrow from Nike, but this is the simplest of all: You either do something or you don’t. Enough with the excuses. Just do it. And I will.

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Editor’s Note | November 2017

screen-shot-2017-11-06-at-12-44-42-pmThe past month has been a tough one for many sports fans, especially fellow Louisville supporters. It’s been a constant game of “But Wait – There’s More.” So, what happens next for the local sports landscape? We asked Howie Lindsey of 790 KRD to tackle this question, which undoubtedly was a challenging task for our cover story, but he handled it with his signature professionalism, optimism and ease. If you want to weigh in with your opinion, send an email to extol@extolmag.com. We’ll print as many responses as we can in December.

Though, of course, this could change any moment, as of now New Albany High School senior Romeo Langford has yet to name where he’s going to college, though he and his family were thrilled with their reception at Indiana University. We caught up with Romeo’s father, Tim Langford, in this issue and, like everyone else, can’t wait to see what happens next for the talented teen.

Make plans to stop by the Frazier History Museum sometime soon to see the new exhibit celebrating 125 years of Norton Children’s Hospital. It’s a lesson in history and a beautiful reminder of how much the hospital has meant to our community.

In December, we’ll feature some of the most talented college and high school female basketball players and teams, and Zach McCrite, who writes The Final Say on the last page of each issue, will return.

Until then, enjoy this issue and thanks for giving us a read.

Truly,

Angie Fenton

Editor in Chief

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Stop Sitting on the Sideline

acr90762040082432888058-copyForget your goals for a moment: Getting physically fit can be fun.

Last month, I reported that I’m now facing a little hiccup in my quest to compete in a bodybuilding contest because of what’s informally called “mommy thumb” but is technically known as De Quervain Syndrome.

My left hand has lost strength and mobility, and I’m experiencing some serious issues with wrist pain because of holding my now rather large 19-month-old daughter and have for the past year. Add making a living spent mostly typing on a computer, iPad or my phone, and I’ve got an issue that needs dealing with now.

After my third trip to Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, I was given a brace that immobilizes my thumb to wear around the clock except when showering. That has put my bodybuilding quest on hiatus for a few more weeks, but I’m grateful. It could be so much worse.

In the meantime, my coach, Ryan Schrink of Schrink Personal Training, continues to provide motivation and encouragement, as do many friends (and even complete strangers on occasion), and I’m now focused on eating right, upping my cardio and increasing physical activity with my family.

As an older mom (I’m 42) of a toddler, it’s important to me that Olive sees fitness as fun. That’s why I signed her up for a six-week session of soccer at Mockingbird Valley in Louisville. One day a week, my little one dons her indoor soccer shoes and shin guards and spends 45 minutes running around the field.

At least that’s what she’s supposed to be doing.

Some sessions are better than others, and she’ll use her feet to propel the ball instead of hugging it to her chest. Depending on her mood (again, she’s not quite 2), some of those moments are spent pressing her face against the glass in tears as she searches for her parents in the stands or on her back in a full-on toddler tantrum.

After posting photos of Olive “playing” soccer on Facebook, a well-meaning friend implored me not to force my daughter into organized sports at such an early age. While I had to swallow back my initial knee-jerk reaction – can’t we all stop judging each other for a moment? – the rational me stopped to explain.

One, there is nothing organized about a toddler-filled session of any sport. The point, at least for me, is to impart physical fitness as a fun way to socialize and learn (eventually) to follow the rules.

Two, despite my best efforts, my tot already knows how to swipe and scroll on a smart phone. I’m hopeful participation in athletics – should she choose that when the time comes for her to make choices for herself – will teach her to look up and outward instead of down and at a phone, like so many of us do now.

Three, I want my child to understand the importance of hard work, failure and commitment. These lessons will bode well in many future aspects of life.

Lastly, when she looks at me, I pray my daughter will understand my quest to get physically fit is the only thing I can do to ensure I’m alive and well for as long as possible. Nothing is promised. There are no guarantees. But, I’m going to do everything I can to wake up prepared to enjoy and appreciate each day for Olive and myself.

Sure beats sitting on the sideline.

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Fam Fitter | Moving On

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By Adam & KristinKleinert 

Several months ago, we were privileged to meet with Case Belcher of Four Barrel CrossFit concerning our family wellness. Case developed a simple, efficient workout that could be done in the comfort of our home and adapted for the differing ages and fitness levels within our household. We shared it with our readers and received a great deal of positive feedback.

This month we are excited to announce that Extol Sports and FamFitter have teamed up once again with Four Barrel. This time, Coach Case has created three full-body workouts designed to be completed at home. As before, these movements can all be adapted for different strength and age levels. In addition, they are meant to be utilized over a week’s time, with free movement days and rest days included, which is perfect for busy families. We are excited to put it to work with our own gang and we know you will be, too. screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-5-13-27-pm

The Important Basics 

All three workouts include warm-ups and flexibility work. According to Coach Case, they are designed to:

1. Prime the body and correct movement through the warm-up. 

2. Give an effective dose of strength and conditioning through the WOD (workout of the day). 

3. Increase flexibility and help reduce injury with a post-WOD yoga/stretching session. 

“Each workout is designed around efficiency … for folks looking for maximum results with the minimum effective time and dose, “ says Case. “Each day can be completed in 20 to 30 minutes.”

In addition, Case recommends: “These workouts can be repeated for a few weeks. After that, reps should be added and movements should be mixed to keep progress moving forward.”

Below you’ll find a description of each workout described in an easy, daily format. Remember to visit Extolsports.com for detailed descriptions or videos of proper movements.

The “Catch” 

Avid readers know that FamFitter is committed to implementing wellness into the lives of busy, active families. You may remember that we’ve mentioned we aren’t looking (or even willing) to purchase expensive exercise equipment in order to develop fitness levels among our family members. However, you’ll note that the workouts listed below include movements that involve resistance bands and gymnastics rings.

In working with Case and Four Barrel Fitness, we’ve learned how difficult it is to train one’s back in a home environment without the use of some type of equipment. Case says rings and resistance bands are the most versatile AND economic options available. “What’s more, rings and a band are the best way to correct the postural and shoulder issues that plague most of our population,” says Case. Therefore, we’ve agreed the investment (approximately $18 for a set of bands and $55 for rings; see links below) is well worth the cost.

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BodyBuilderMom | August 2017

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By Angie Fenton

In January 2016, I gave birth to the little body I “built” inside my own. Months later, I made a commitment to get fit and – eventually – compete in a bodybuilding contest for what will be the fourth time. Yes, the latter is going to still happen, though not as soon as I thought, and you know what? I’m ok with that.

I’m no longer clinically obese, I’ve lost body fat and inches, I’m slowly but surely learning to balance life and work while taking time to exercise, and I don’t feel pressured to fit anyone else’s timetable.

screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-5-05-55-pmMy coach, Ryan Schrink of Schrink Personal Training, continues to provide motivation and encouragement, as do many friends (and even complete strangers on occasion).

Still, I’m now facing a little hiccup because of what’s informally called “mommy wrist” but is technically known as De Quervain Syndrome.

My left hand has lost strength and mobility, and I’m experiencing some serious issues with wrist pain because of holding my now rather large 18-month-old daughter and have for the past year. Add making a living spent mostly typing on a computer, iPad or my phone, and I’ve got an issue that needs dealing with now.

Whether I’m prescribed physical therapy, complete or partial rest, surgery or a combination of all three, my bodybuilding quest can wait. It has to. But that doesn’t mean I’m down for the count.

Here is how I’m staying the course – mostly – and you can, too:

Keep a sense of humor. My wrist hurts and what I feel isn’t funny, but the fact that this has been caused by my daughter makes me laugh. But only because I am so going to be able to use this someday when she is a teenager and blames for everything that goes wrong.

My wrist didn’t make me fat. I didn’t gain weight by having a bum wrist. I did this. And while some of my weight gain was due to having a baby, most of it was due to not caring, falling in love and eating whatever I wanted to, which was fun. But, I’ve already lost a bunch of weight and have started to get healthier. Sorry, bum wrist, but you’re not going to set me back.

So, what’s next? I’m meeting with coach Ryan as soon as I meet with the hand surgeon. I guess I’ll know what happens next then. For now, these feet were made for walking and that’s just what I’ll do…while ensuring I give my wrist a rest.

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Liar, Liar

screen-shot-2017-07-05-at-11-08-06-pmLiar, Liar 

The other day, my electronic scale lied to me. 

I knew I’d had some losses – which translate into gains – in terms of body fat and weight, but I wasn’t prepared for what the scale said amounted to an almost 15-pound loss during the two-month period when I essentially plateaued due to my inability to make time for consistent exercise and stick to a healthy eating plan.

Amazed – and skeptical – I stepped on and off the scale three times. Still, the darn thing stuck to its proof I’d somehow melted away the pounds. Liar. The next day, when I awoke, disrobed and stepped back onto the scale, the truth was revealed: I’d lost half a pound – not nearly 15.

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Yet, instead of getting discouraged, I was instantly energized: Even though I’d failed at hitting it hard for weeks, I had done enough to result in a (miniscule) loss instead of gaining. This was progress.

Since then, I’ve come back with a passion and am actually looking forward to the next time my coach, Ryan Schrink, measures how much weight, inches and body fat I’ve lost since beginning this quest to get fit and – eventually – compete in a bodybuilding contest.

So, what am I doing differently?

Make time for me. I have a flexible – albeit full – schedule that allows me the luxury of scheduling workouts when they work for me, since I primarily report to myself. That being said, in addition to my full-time job as editor of Extol Sports and Extol Magazine, I also work part-time at a few other freelance gigs, am a mom and wife, have six animals in the household and commit to other engagements. Still, I’m making “me time” – my workouts – a priority. And I’m a better mother-editor-writer-TV correspondent-wife because of it.

Be accountable. I may lose a few Facebook friends because of it, but I’ve started checking in to the Louisville Athletic Club in New Albany almost every time I workout. Sure, gym check-ins can be annoying, but I don’t care. It keeps me accountable and is a public, tangible record that I am doing the work. Thus far, it’s helped keep me on track.

Reach out. I went off the grid for a little while but now stay in contact with Coach Ryan on a regular basis. He’s a great motivator and celebrates the little gains. That means the world. I also share my exercise exploits with friends JD Dotson, Julia Danzl Williams and Morgan Sprigler. In turn, they share theirs with me. Reaching out has made me feel like I’m part of a team instead of going at this all alone.

Eat more often. Thinking of my body as a furnace and food as the fuel has helped me digest – no pun intended – the necessity of eating more often. It takes time to plan what I’m going to eat and when, but it’s becoming part of my regular routine. Most days, I eat three meals and have two snacks. And, for the most part, I’ve cut out eating after 8 p.m.

Make it a family affair. My husband wants to get fit, too, so we’ve started walking with our 17-month-old daughter a few nights a week after work, in addition to our respective workouts. We also shop at the local farmers market and Kroger together, plan our meals as a team and talk about our goals, gains and losses. That has enhanced every aspect of our relationship.

Use the scale. I struggled with an eating disorder for 10 years from eighth grade into college. Part of my recovery involved throwing my scale away. It worked for me then and helped me to understand weight doesn’t define you. It still doesn’t, but now I am able to use the scale instead of it using –and devastating – me. Now, it’s a measuring tool and nothing more. When my body fat gets to a healthy level, I’ll use it far less. For now, the scale helps keep me honest (and I bought a new one that won’t lie to me).


SCHRINK AND GAIN 

Since I started writing this column, I’ve had numerous people ask for feedback about training with my coach Ryan Schrink. He’s amazing, and I mean that. If you’re interested in seeing what Ryan has to offer, go to www.schrinkpersonaltraining. com or call 502.216.9475.

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Excuses Are Like…

By Angie Fenton

I recently saw before and after photos of a 40-something-year-old woman who had gained more than 60 pounds while pregnant and, a year later, was fitter than she’d ever been. You go girl, I thought, feeling inspired by her success.

And then I saw she was a mother of five, worked full-time, active in her church, a member of several charity boards and cared for her home in a way that would make Martha Stewart proud.

Suddenly, my inspiration turned to embarrassment. If she could juggle all of that and get into the best shape of her life, what was wrong with me? That’s when the excuses started flowing.

There aren’t enough hours in the day.

I’ve got to do the laundry and vacuum the house.

I’ll work out tomorrow.

I have to work late.

I have to get to work super early.

I have an online video meeting.

I am SO exhausted.

I need to sleep.

I’ll start next week.

I am overwhelmed.

I have to take care of the dogs and cats.

I’ll get back to it just as soon as __________ is over.

If I work out in the morning/night, that’s not fair to my husband. How is he supposed to get ready for work with a toddler and six animals who need us both?

I’ll start my workout and diet regimen again as soon as I get rid of these allergies.

My daughter needs my time.

I just can’t right now. But I will soon. Seriously. I mean it. I will be back at it soon. I committed to getting fit. I started getting fit. I lost weight. I began to get healthier. And then I didn’t, and I started to make excuses and accepted where I was.

I’d done enough. I’d lost weight.

I’m fine where I am, with who I am.

I can’t fit in anything else in my day.

I need a day off.

My family/colleagues/pets need me and THAT is my priority.

But here’s the thing: Excuses are like opinions — everybody has them. The aforementioned ones? They’re all mine. I have made every excuse in the book and then some to stop me from my goal of getting fit so I can live a longer life with my child, husband and those I love.

“I may not be ready to compete in a bodybuilding contest in October like I’d hoped, but I am ready to start anew,” I text my trainer Ryan Schrink. “It’s time to go hard and heavy. My heart and soul and health need this.”

No excuses this time.

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On Being Perfectly Imperfect

In the April 2017 issue, I shared my struggles with body image and received much feedback from readers who battle with negative self-talk, too. In the words below, Rebekah Hilbert of Norton Sports Health offers a few valuable suggestions to help you refocus and start celebrating yourself. –Angie Fenton, Editor in chief

By Rebekah Hibbert Coordinator of Sports Medicine Norton Sports Health

It’s 2016. Stop being so hard on yourself and celebrate how beautiful you are. Yes, you!

You just finished a great workout, and you’re feeling invincible. The sweat, the endorphins, the stress relief were just what you needed.

And then there it is again. The negative self-talk creeps back in. The doubt and criticism. Maybe it starts after being on social media or when you see a fitness ad, or maybe after flipping through a magazine. All of the sudden you don’t feel as good about yourself.

My arms don’t look like that. I run all the time but I feel like my legs never change. I do yoga but I don’t look like these ladies on Instagram. I need to stop eating this. I need to cleanse for 10 days. I need to work out more. I’m not pretty enough. I look terrible. I am fat.

Now everything that felt good after your workout or when we made healthy food choices disappears and you’re left feeling frustrated and unworthy. Have you been there? I have.

Deep down we know that no two bodies are alike, yet we still compare ourselves to others around us — whether a friend, a stranger on the street or a model in a magazine. And the media isn’t helping. They might change their headlines, but they don’t change their images of women.

Sometimes what we need to see is something like the All Woman Project to remind us that being healthy and happy has nothing to do with the size and shape of our bodies.

The All Woman Project is about realizing that women are more similar than they are different — embracing beauty in our diverse body types and reminding us that no singular size or shape defines health or wellness any more than another.

I also believe it serves as a reminder that even as we work out and eat healthfully, our bodies will never look like anyone else’s no matter how hard we try, and that should never be the aim. In fact, we need to encourage, celebrate and promote our differences.

Believe me, I know it is not easy — I deal with my own body issues. Too often I fail to celebrate the work I have put in or to simply appreciate the body I have and all the things it does for me. It’s time we refocus and celebrate how perfect our so-called “imperfections” are.

Here are a few tips to refocus your positive self-image: Take a break from social media. We have never-ending access to and are bombarded with hundreds of photos each day, and I don’t think we always know how those images can affect us. Unplug, give yourself a break and return to your own reality beyond that smartphone screen. Find things that promote a positive body image.

Tune in to people, groups, books, stores and the like that celebrate all body types and don’t encourage fad diets or unrealistic beauty standards. Spend your time on people and things that encourage and appreciate the uniqueness in all of us. Appreciate the work. Too often we strive for a certain size or number on the scale in order to be happy. Delete that mindset. Instead, congratulate yourself for making healthy choices or for meeting your workout goals.

Be kind to yourself. Some of the worst things we say are about our own selves. Harmful thoughts, even your own, fester into negativity. Make it a point each day to say two or three positive things about yourself!

 

 

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I am Enough. And so are you.

By Angie Fenton

“I am worthless.”

“You are an embarrassment!”

“No one will ever love me.”

“You are fat and lazy.”

“I am so stupid.”

“You are so ugly you should kill yourself.”

These are only a sample of the statements hundreds of freshman girls at Assumption High School (AHS) in Louisville have shared when I’ve asked for audience participation during a body image presentation I’ve given to AHS ninth graders annually since 2006.

Even though it’s evolved over the years — thanks to ever-changing technology and the recent increase of cyberbullying — my presentation always starts out light-hearted.

I introduce myself to the girls seated before me. Then, after we laugh at a few old photos (of me) and questionable fashion choices (by me), I tell them the truth: I began a 10-year battle with anorexia and bulimia – and, thus, a war with my body image – when I was in the eighth grade.

While eating disorders are complicated, and I’m nowhere near an expert on the subject, I confide in these young women what, in part, fueled some of my behavior: the belief that I was not enough.

I am not enough, I told myself for years. Not smart enough, skinny enough, strong enough worth enough, not enough in so many ways. And I often interpreted others’ words and actions as affirmation that I was right.

After more interaction with the crowd of students, I invite anyone who wants to, to share that negative “thing” they feel about themselves or how the words and actions of others have affected their body image, which encompasses far more than what someone looks like.

It usually only takes a few moments until, one by one, girls step up and share. And they break my heart every time.

Whether they speak the words out loud or put pen to paper (or, sometimes, marker on a large mirror) and I read them to the audience, the impact is the same: words can be powerful and destructive.

“You’re such a slut.”

“You let everyone down.”

“You do know we all hate you, right?”

“Your thighs are disgusting.”

“No one cares about you.”

“You were a mistake.”

“Even God wouldn’t love you.”

At this point in the presentation, I try my darndest to hold my composure, though I usually fail and choke back tears.

Eight out of 10 women and girls admit to not doing something they love because of how they perceive themselves, I report to the girls, many of whom nod their heads. So, do a number of the adults in attendance.

Eighty percent of girls under the age of 10 worry that they’re fat, I say.

And, many of us — regardless of age, race, religion or gender — think, at some point, that we are not enough, we’re unworthy of love and acceptance, and so many of us actually believe that this is true.

I am not enough, we tell ourselves, and we believe it.

“This has to end,” I say to the few hundred girls seated before me. “This has to end. And it starts with you.”

When I finally decided to get help for my eating disorder, I weighed about 80 pounds and could barely stand without passing out. Medical professionals and my faith in God helped me recover. So did a little trick I once thought silly but still use it even today.

Every time I allowed a negative thought inside my head, I countered it with a positive one.

The girls are skeptical, at this point, but some are willing, and so we try together.

“I am enough,” I tell them, and say it again. “I am enough. And so are you. Who’s willing to give it a try?”

It always takes a moment, but then the response is overwhelming. The girls — young women who are our future — line up to share something positive about themselves.

“I am beautiful.”

“I may not be perfect, but I love myself anyway.”

“You are not who anyone says you are.”

“I am proud of me.”

“I love my strong thighs.”

“People can judge me but I don’t care.”

“I am me and that makes me proud.”

The changing mood in the room is palpable. Some of us even wipe away happy, hopeful tears.

In early March, I spoke yet again to the freshmen of AHS. This time, at the end of the presentation, I tell the girls about my 14-month-old daughter, Olive. On the day I gave birth to her, my weight, which had already been beyond the healthy limit before I was pregnant, put me in the clinically obese category. But I have never felt more confident, prouder or more at peace with who I am. I’ve also never been more determined to do everything I can to help end this body image battle. For Olive and other little girls and boys, too.

I’m an old mama, I tell the young women just before we part, and I want to live a long, healthy life with Olive, which is why I’m training to compete in the Kentucky Muscle Bodybuilding Championships in Louisville in late October. Regardless of what I weigh, what I look like or what anyone else says, I tell the students, I am enough – and so are you.