Two Small Changes

Before moving to Colorado, I had so many images in my mind about how my new life would be. I thought about what it would look like, feel like, what I would do everyday and most of all, how different it was going to make me. I pictured all my old bad habits being left in Michigan and envisioned this amazing opportunity of starting over and how lucky I was to be given a “second” chance.

Disclaimer: Old habits come with you, life is not perfect and starting over takes a lot of time and consistency.

The first month was a little rough, and not just because I was in a new city, but because being taken out of your comfort zone forces you to come face to face with what has always been standing in your way: Yourself.

This was not easy. In-fact, it was really difficult. I had to accept that the image I had created about this perfect new life of mine wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought and would take major work on my end to build that life for myself.

So I made a choice. I took a really good look at my life and picked out two habits that have always held me back from making my life easier and started with those:

  1. Complete one task at a time
  2. Keep room clean everyday for 30 days

Sounds pretty simple, right? Except that nothing is simple when it’s a habit or a learned behavior you’ve had you’re entire life. It took so much patience, mindfulness and consistency.

Working on these two habits every single day the last two months hasn’t just improved my life, it’s changed my life.  Completing one task at a time requires me to move slower and cleaning my room everyday makes me better understand the concept of doing things right away instead of waiting.

I started to see other areas in my life improve. I was suddenly more motivated, inspired, organized and without knowing it, I wasn’t just changing learned behavior, I was changing my path.

I see now that changing your life is directly correlated with how you feel about yourself and what you think you deserve.

So do yourself a favor and take that walk, write down your food, make your bed and give yourself the chance to change your life.

Trust me…it feels really fucking good.

Break the weight,


Books that helped me:

1. Getting Things Done – the art of stress free productivity by David Allen

2. Better Than Before: By Gretchen Rubin

I Love Me, I Love Me Not.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self love this past week and what it really means. We’re told all our lives that we need to love who we are to become the people we want to be. And it’s true. They’re not lying to us. Loving who you are is the key to our success, but is it more complicated than that?

Loving who we are – It seems to be one of the most challenging things we can do, yet the most necessary to become better people. I guess what I’m starting to realize is that you can’t just love who you are in some areas in your life, and not others.

Everything is so connected in our lives, so if we’re only giving ourselves love sometimes, there’s this whole other side of who we are that we don’t really get to discover. We make choices all the time that reflect how we feel about ourselves.

Something as simple as eating too much when you know you’re full is one of the most common and the perfect example of lack of self love. Love isn’t feeling stuffed. Love isn’t feeling sick. Love isn’t filling your body up with foods that make you feel bad later. That’s not love.

That’s sadness. That’s pain. That’s a lack of self worth.

So the next you make a choice that you know will only make your day worse or your future less bright, ask yourself “Am I treating myself with love right now?”

Because the answer should always be yes.

Break the weight,

Best Four Years Ever?

I hated college. And I know hates a strong word, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it. The funny part about me hating college is that if you ask people who knew or hung out with me during those years, they’d probably tell you how much fun I was always having.

The truth is, I went home most nights in so much pain. It didn’t matter if I had a boyfriend or really amazing friends because I did, I had both of those, but there was always this emptiness in my life and for so long, it took over my every thought. 

I felt so horrible in my own skin and remember so vidily looking into the mirror countless times, begging the person staring back at me to feel comfortable and happy with herself. My weight went up and down between 5-8 pounds every year. It was a constant internal and physical struggle, to say the least. 

My body image was so distorted and there was much pressure to party, enagage and be wild that it was almost impossible to escape my own mind. Every other thought was “Shit, we’re drinking three days in a row? Okay, so I’ll workout…” or “Why are people pressuring me to eat pizza at 3 am?”  

I know it’s only college, and getting drunk and eating late night may not seem like life’s biggest tragedy, but the truth is, it’s not just about that. It’s about what it’s like to feel pressure all the time. Pressure to eat, party, smoke, and be a certain way just for the sake of not feeling left out. 

I couldn’t figure out how to do this. I was in so much pain. Even as I write this, I can still envision this girl sitting on her bed with such saddness in her heart, and I can’t help but think there must be so many others who feel this way. All the time. 

So many others that have lost someone close to them, or struggle daily with body image issues or can’t figure out how to say no to all the stupid social pressure that comes along with just life in general. 

When I launched the break the weight program, I made sure that anyone could use this system. I see now how beneficial this type of program could be for college girls who suffer the way I used to suffer. 

It’s not easy taking care of yourself when there is so much happening around you. It’s not easy feeling good about yourself when you skip yoga to party, and it’s definitely not easy being comfortable in your own skin when every girl next to you is a size 0. 

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t live your life and have fun. Trust me, I’m all about fun. But when does it stop being fun and start being painful?

I hope my program can help girls in college learn how to live healthy and happy lives while still going out and enjoying themselves. We go through a lot during those years and sometimes it’s hard to do all on our own, so why not build a system that helps guide you through?

And yes, it’s really okay if people don’t agree with your “healthy choices” or ask questions like “Oh my god, why aren’t you eating at 4 am with us?”

Just smile and say “I’m not hungry.”

Besides, we both know she’s not really hungry either.

Break the weight,


Things Have Changed.

The last time I wrote about moving to colorado, I was sitting in a random coffee shop (now a staple in my weekly routine) and here I am now, sitting at Green Spaces, the co-working space that I build Break the weight out of.

I guess it’s fair to say that things have changed.  When I made the choice to move to Colorado it was because I knew in my heart that this was the place I needed to be in order to grow and move forward in the ways that I needed.

I don’t know exactly why my heart has always been directed to this state, but a tiny part of me thinks it’s subconiously where I feel closest to my mother and also the place I get to have the most adventures.

I’m now entering month seven, and sometimes I still have to remind myself that I really am becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be. Because it’s easy to doubt ourselves out of becoming it.

I finally found my purpose in my work and it’s something I’ve been running away from and trying to find at the same.  Break the weight has turned into a program that can help individuals the way it has always helped me.

It’s weird to look back over the last year of my life because I can’t even recognize the person from 7 months ago. Nothing feels the same anymore (well expect, my cars a little messy). But, there’s this internal change happening and it’s allowing me to chase after my dreams.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

And that’s exactly what you should be doing.

Break the weight,


Ice Cream Wins…Again

As we begin the Sugarless 4 six challenge, I think it’s only fair that I share my own experience with trying to give up sugar.  Besides, honesty is always the best policy…right? (Say right).

Anyway, after being sugar free for 23 days, I  found myself standing in the line at my favorite ice cream shop. I guess “found” isn’t really the correct way to put it, because let’s be serious: I PUT myself in my favorite ice cream shop.

I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew that after 23 days of no sugar that I was about to break it. I knew how I would feel after, and I knew that by doing this, I would also have to tell my loyal sugar followers that the coach has officially fallen off.  And even with knowing all this information, I did it anyway.

Was I being self destructive? Maybe a little. But what I realized the most was that I didn’t even want the ice cream and my cravings were stemming from something so much deeper. The ice cream wasn’t even that good and even though I knew that, I still in this messed up way, forced myself to eat it.

I went to bed that evening thinking about my actions and instead of feeling guilty about what I did, I knew I just needed to better understand it.

It really opened my eyes to my emotional connection with food and showed me that most of the time our emotions outweigh our will power. I spent the next few days paying closer attention to why I was eating and I woke up yesterday feeling determined and a little more ready.

Eating ice cream didn’t make me miss sugar more, it made me see how much sweeter I need to be to myself and that taking care of my body and mind is so important that I can’t allow anything to stand in my way.

Not even myself.

So remember, there’s always a choice. And sometimes we don’t always make the best ones, but even when you have fallen off the wagon and can’t believe you did what you just did, remember again: The next choice you make is another choice.

Choose differently.

Break the weight,


The Magic Room

The tragedy weighs me down but his memory lifts me up.

I sometimes think of people as light beams. Some are dim, some are blinding, some shoot across your line of vision too swiftly to even notice, and some shine so brilliantly that they can illuminate your entire world.

That was my dad.  He was my best friend, my favorite person and my source of light.

A little more than three years ago he died in a car accident on his way home from giving a speech about his most recent book. It was called “The Magic Room: a story about the love we wish for our daughters,” dedicated to my sisters and me.

It was like an emotional power outage. Three years later it’s as if there are still a few lights that never came back on, casting dark shadows on some of the most critical spaces as I move through what’s left of my world.

I wear this tragedy on my mind and on my heart. It absolutely weighs me down. It looms over me and every single day I can find a new reason why it’s sad.

When any senseless tragedy strikes, it’s easy to wonder what the heck is even sacred anymore. Personally, I didn’t know what I could depend on if my very favorite person in the world wasn’t even a guarantee.  It was an injustice that I didn’t think I could ever get over.

But then I found a glimmer of happiness:

I didn’t have to get over it. I had to find a way to resolve it.

Ok, I’m not some crazy medium with magical powers to resuscitate the deceased and bring them back to life. I’m not Beyoncé. But I do believe that there’s something I can do.

There’s a beautiful saying in the Jewish tradition. It’s a turn of phrase that continues to move me to tears every time I hear it. It puts death, and part of the meaning of life, into perspective for me.

May his memory be for a blessing. 

As morbid as it sounds, I think that’s what we all ultimately wish for our loved ones and ourselves. Because, one day, we will all become memories, and isn’t that really the best-case scenario?

In the days following my father’s death I made a promise to myself: every good thing I do, for the rest of my life, will be dedicated to him. To keep my father alive in the only way modern science has been able to substantiate: through his legacy.

Of course this tragedy has weighed me down, but I can’t deny the fact that his memory continues to lift me up.  It’s the beacon of light radiating down from the sky reminding me of all of the wonderful moments that are mine forever in the archives of my own mind.

It won’t bring my dad back to life — but it will certainly give me inspiration to do a whole lot of good things in his honor.

Break the weight,


Mindful. Sometimes.

There’s something scary about learning how to stop eating before you’re completely full.

It’s one of those things that takes year and years of practice and yet, even when you have it down, you still somehow have to remind yourself to slow down and stay mindful of what you’re putting into your body. It’s not as simple as just putting down your fork and feeling “done.”

No.  It’s scary, uncomfortable, and requires complete honesty with yourself , and let’s be serious here,  who the hell wants to do that?

See, the reason we don’t put down our fork or stop eating before we feel sick is because all anyone ever wants in life is to feel full.  Full of hope.  Full of love.  Full of laughter.  Full of anything that makes us feel alive and if we’re not getting it from ourselves, then I guess the very next best thing is to just fill ourselves full with food.

But what would happen if you slowed down?  How uncomfortable would it make you feel to not finish your meal? What if you truly listened to your body?

It took me a very long time to understand my body and feel completely okay with putting my fork down even if it meant that some people would stare at me weirdly.

I kept trying to please others and  fill a void of mine by finishing everything on my plate just to feel bloated and sick after.  I didn’t want to be the only person eating less.  I didn’t want to feel bored.  I didn’t want to my friends and family to look at me weird.  And I definitely didn’t want to sit with my thoughts without a cookie in hand.

I don’t know when it exactly changed for me, but over the last two years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that every single person works differently.  If my body doesn’t agree with me about eating late dinners or completely clearing my plate of food than why would I do that?

Besides, I’m a pain in the ass when I have a stomach ache and I never feel good about myself when I’m too full or eat dinner too late.

And yeah, maybe some people have an issue with it and think my habits are somewhat a little too structured, but you know what? I’m the one that goes home with me at the end of every single day.

It’s my stomach ache and my body, so unless or until we share one, I’m going to do whatever makes me feel the healthiest and the best.

So practice putting your fork down and try really hard not to just eat a late dinner because you think your friends will judge you if you don’t eat at 9pm with them.

Be mindful. Be patient.  But but most of all, be kind.  And not just to others, but to yourself.

That’s where it all begins.

Break the weight,


This Too Shall Pass

January 8th, 2000 started like any normal Sunday for my family as we headed out to breakfast and to run other errands.  The only difference was that my brother, Josh, who usually came along, stayed at home to play video games.   This was something my dad usually wouldn’t allow.  There was one other difference, as well –  one we never could have anticipated.

We never made it home that Sunday because we were in a car accident that would forever change our lives.  A man went through a red light going 45 mph and hit our car.  Our vehicle rolled over several times and my dad was ejected from his seat. His head hit a telephone pole at the corner of the street where the accident occurred.  Luckily a fireman was outside for his morning run and was able to give my dad CPR until the paramedics arrived.

I have no memory of the accident or the few hours after, but when I came to at the hospital I was told that my dad was in bad shape.  They informed me that they were taking him by helicopter to a hospital in Detroit that would be more equipped to deal with his condition.

The next year and a half was a constant battle for my dad’s life.  He was a quadriplegic and required 24-hour care.  He would be home for a few months and then something would go wrong, sending him back to the hospital and often requiring another surgery.  My dad required an operation in July of 2001 on a bed sore, which is a routine surgery for people who are sentenced to life in a wheelchair.

The surgery was successful, but a few weeks later we started noticing signs of an infection.  He was admitted to the hospital on July 16th and on the 17th we got a call saying that his heart had stopped beating.  They were able to revive him, but he had gone a significant period of time without oxygen.  Brain scans would reveal irreversible damage, and on July 18th my dad’s battle for life came to an end.

My dad was the rock in our family.  After his death we were all scrambling to figure out our new roles while attempting to establish a new “normal.”  Unfortunately this proved to be very challenging, as my mom required a lot of care herself for injuries that she had sustained in the accident.  My brothers and I coped the only way we knew how at the time: through drugs and alcohol.

Our family went on dealing with this loss in very unhealthy ways for many years, when suddenly, we got an even more unexpected wake up call.  My brother Josh’s drug use had become a serious problem and despite a few trips to rehab, he continued to struggle.  I remember how angry I used to get at him because all I wanted was a normal family and I felt like he was preventing us from having that.

December 28th, 2006 I awoke to my mom screaming for help.  I instantly jumped out of bed and saw her shaking my brother while she was yelling for me to call 9-1-1.  While waiting for the paramedics, I was able to get my mom to sit with me in her bedroom as we braced ourselves for the worst news of our life.

Josh passed away in his sleep at 19-years-old of a drug overdose.  Losing my dad was difficult, but easier to accept because he was very sick.  Losing my brother to something completely preventable was the worst feeling in the world.  So many “what if’s” were running through my head, but what made me feel worse was that I was struggling with the same issues Josh had.  My brother was not only my a sibling – he was my best friend.  We did everything together and thinking about spending a lifetime without him was something I could not bear.

It took me six trips to rehab and years of therapy to get to where I am today.  I have struggled with depression and anxiety as I have tried to find meaning in all of the loss that I have endured.  I have been drug free since February of 2009, but removing drugs from the equation was only the beginning of my journey to a healthier me.  My battle with anxiety has probably been my biggest challenge.  I was constantly fearful that something bad was going to happen to me or someone I loved.

As a result, I cut a lot of people out of my life in an attempt to “protect” myself.  Really, it just ended up hurting me more.  I tried numerous medications for my anxiety, but what has made the biggest difference in my life has been exercise.  Natural endorphins released during exercise have made my anxiety mostly something of the past.  I know my life isn’t going to be smooth sailing from now on, but I do feel like I have more tools to deal with the emotions as they arise.

If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone struggling, it would be to never put a limit on what you think you are capable of.  Six years ago my life seemed hopeless and I was very close to dying from my addiction.  Now, I’m six weeks away from graduating with my B.S. in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University.

Not only will I be graduating, which is something I never thought myself capable of, but I will be graduating with honors.  I have decided that the best way for me to honor my dad and brother is to live my life in a way that would make them proud.  I am a huge believer that everything happens for a reason and as horrible as my life was for many years, the future is finally looking bright.

Jessica is four years sober and plans on traveling before starting a job at Quicken Loans.  She is engaged to be married and one day hopes to start her own business; one that allows her to give back as a result of her life experiences.  

For more information about Jessica’s place of recovery, visit

Sweet on the Inside

In case you haven’t heard (because we all know I let mostly everyone know what I’m up to) but JUST in case you missed it, I’ve decided to quit sugar for the next 30 days.

I KNOW, RIGHT? I feel the same.

Let’s back up here for a second because really, it’s not as wild as it seems. In-fact, I’m taking this experiment week by week and by no means have I been perfect.  But I’m VERY proud to report that I haven’t had anything sweet (cake, cookies, fruit, ice cream, or candy) for 9 days now! That’s a HUGE deal in my book.

I’ve always been a big fan of sweets and also a firm believer in eating the foods you love and not depriving yourself, but this sugar challenge for me doesn’t represent deprivation. I’m doing this to understand the connection between my body, mind and the foods I consume. I’m doing this to become better. Healthier. Wiser and, well.. sweeter without all the sweets.

I was in my kitchen last night around 8 pm (Side note: Never be in your kitchen at 8 pm) and I wasn’t really hungry, but I was having BIG time cravings.  I tried to go on a walk, snuggle with Logan and pretty much do anything to avoid stuffing my face with pretzels.

But I caved and just couldn’t help myself and started eating ALL the pretzels.  I was about to put the last one into my mouth, when it finally hit me: These cravings aren’t physical right now, they’re emotional.

I had no sugar around me and knew I wasn’t hungry, but I had the pretzels anyways. It made me realize that giving up sugar is opening my eyes to all the other areas in my life that it used to fill. Not having that to fall back on is forcing me to change old habits and take a deeper look into why I eat.

This experiment has taken on a whole new meaning to me now because it’s showing me all the sweetness that I’m really looking for on the inside.  Sometimes when we remove our crutch, we give ourselves the chance to rediscover who we are and what we want.

Those stupid (but yummy) pretzels were never going to fill me up,  no matter how many I ate and the sugar never leaves me feeling sweeter.

Because the reality is that I’m worth more than some stupid Walgreens pretzels.

And so are you.

Break the weight,


Never Ever Ever Give Up

My struggle with my weight has been a life long journey. For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched the numbers on the scale climb and fall along with my self-esteem. Today I am happy to share my story from a place of peace with my body and my mind, but make no mistake, every day I wake up and recommit to this process, and continue to work my ass off.

My weight has definitely been the result of a variety of factors. Obviously genetics is a key player, but dealing with traumatic situations at a young age has also been a huge barrier for me. When I was 9 years old and away at summer camp I was woken up early in the morning by my counselors who told me I was going home. My first response was, what’s wrong? That’s when I learned that my dad was sick and in the hospital.  Being as young as I was, I didn’t think it was anything too tragic, but I was wrong.

He had suffered a massive heart attack, significant brain damage, and was on a ventilator. He passed away two months later. At such a crucial time in my life, I was destroyed. It wasn’t long before I started wearing my emotional pain in pounds.

At age 11, I joined weight watchers. It worked for a short period of time but soon I found myself back to my old habits.  My weight was fluctuating so frequently, and my mom did everything in her power to try and help me. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t gain control over the situation. In high school, we met with a doctor who prescribed diet pills. I worked with him and lost around 80 pounds, but you can’t be on pills forever. Needless to say, as soon as I stopped taking them, I gained all the weight back, plus some.

It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I realized I was fed up. I decided that I refuse to continue being unhappy with myself and my weight, and I was going to do whatever it took to change my reality. I wanted to make changes that were healthy and would be sustainable, because there are no quick fixes to being overweight; there is only hard work, dedication, and changing your eating habits. So that’s what I did.

I reached out to Ricki, founder of Break the weight and told her I needed her help. I did the Break the weight program for 4 months and lost 25 pounds. The program held me accountable, which admittedly I didn’t always like, and taught me how to eat correctly. The most important lesson break the weight taught me was to keep moving.

However, I started noticing there was more to this journey for me that I had neglected, which was working on myself on the inside as well, I fell off the wagon for the last time.

Then, 6 months after college graduation, a totally new life venture took place; I joined Weight Watchers for the final time and told myself I was going to stick to it no matter what. I started to go to therapy and truly focus on healing my painful past.  I also kept in mind notes of what break the weight had taught me:

  • Make sure breakfast is the biggest meal of the day
  • Make sure dinner is the smallest meal of the day
  • Drink 64 oz of water everyday
  • Walk 10,000 steps everyday

I became a pescatarian and went completely dairy free (well, besides the greek yogurt I have in the mornings). The weight just starting falling off. Now, I work out 6 days a week, and never do the same things two days in a row.  My activities vary between the following:

  • Yoga at Blue Yoga
  • Cycling and Rowing at Cycle and Row
  • Boot camp at Get Some Fitness
  • Orange Theory Fitness
  • Pure Ryde

To date, I have lost a total of 95 pounds, and could not be happier about this accomplishment. I continue to see a therapist once a week to talk about how I’m feeling and to deal with my father’s passing. I still have about 15 more pounds I’d like to lose, but I know that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life.

So for anyone who might be facing a similar struggle as mine, my best advice is don’t give up.  No matter how hard it seems at times, just keep fighting. I fought every odd that was against me, through emotional pain, and through nearly a hundred pounds of excess weight.

Don’t ever settle for a life that isn’t the one you want to live. It’s never too late to get up and start all over again.

Break the weight,


*Shelby, 24, is currently living in Birmingham, Michigan. She thinks being 24 is “old” and loves organizing closets.  She can be reached at:[email protected]