Posted on January 19, 2015 by Society Nine
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This is the fifth profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass women in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for. Have a story to tell? Email us at email@example.com – tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
I’ve been skinny my whole life. That doesn’t sound inspirational, I know, but stick with me. I am one of those girls who actually said, “it’s good genes.” And if you look at that family photo, you’ll see, I wasn’t kidding.
You could replace that photo with a stick figure family and it’d still be pretty accurate. Growing up I was bullied for being too skinny by family members and friends alike. “Eat a cheeseburger,” they’d say. So I would. I’d eat 2, intentionally in front of people to prove I was, in fact, just skinny by nature. I continued to eat whatever I wanted, with the metabolism of a horse to somehow keeping me thin. Needless to say, my eating habits weren’t the healthiest. Sure, I played soccer and did the normal teenager activities, but “fitness” was not in my vocabulary. Plus, I hung out with my dad and my brother, picking up nerdy, computer-oriented hobbies which ultimately led to my career path, but I was pretty sedentary. College only exaggerated that lifestyle of poor dietary choices and slothing around.
It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to move to LA for my career after I graduated that my life began to really change. I tried to carry my horrible diet with me. I was eating fast food 4-5 times a week. I was lethargic, and surprise, surprise, I felt terrible. My stomach was in knots. I never made the connection of diet to physical ailments, as obvious as that sounds. That says something about the issues with fitness media and culture. If you look skinny, you’re healthy right? I went to the doctor, got lab tests done, the whole nine yards. They couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason why I felt so poorly. They had suggested some type of drug whose main purpose wasn’t to ease stomach pain, but its side effects tended to help. I didn’t want some bogus medication that might help a phantom pain.
I decided I was going to solve my own mystery. I started by limiting my fast food – sounds like a no brainer, right? Even though I knew very little about nutrition, I knew that fast food wasn’t the best thing for me, especially in excess. Slowly but surely, as I limited my junk food intake, my stomach began to feel better. I became my own science experiment. If I could remedy a physical ailment just by diet, what else could I improve upon? I was replacing the junk with highly nutritious alternatives. I looked up recipes and actually cooked. I wasn’t just maintaining my body – I was improving it. I took ownership, finally, of this blessed gift I’ve received – my god-given body – and decided to treat it well for once. I joined a chain gym and started to get my cardio on. I felt like I was taking control of myself, not everyone else’s perception of me. Opportunities started to arise. I met a guy at work who lost over 40lbs while we were dating. We started on a journey of health and love together, and eventually got married.
We had a decent handle on our diet and we hit the gym pretty regularly, but we wanted to take it to the next level. However, we were kinda stuck. What more could we do?
As fate would have it, I stumbled across a group deal for a women’s bootcamp class at a Thai kickboxing gym. Bootcamp was the word I needed to hear, and boy was it intense. You can run on a treadmill and lift dumbbells all you want, but the moment you’re alternating sprints with hitting a heavy bag is the moment you realize your fitness level is not what you thought it was. I immediately signed my husband up for the Thai kickboxing classes and so began our journey into Muay Thai.
Once I began sparring, any insecurity I had needed to be vanquished. There was no room for doubt in the mental game of being punched and kicked. In the first few of months of sparring, any time I would get hit in the face, I would instantly start crying. I couldn’t stop it. The more I tried to fight it, the harder I cried. Regardless of how mad I was for being a “stupid girl” I could not stop the tears. All these thoughts kept circling in my head. “What are you doing? You’re not a fighter; you’re not an athlete. You’re a computer-jockey.” I couldn’t let go. But something in me wouldn’t give up. I dug deep, fought through it, and eventually I learned to take a hit. It was the biggest exercise in letting go, but I wasn’t alone. My teammates were constantly pushing me and encouraging me. This process was the missing piece to my fitness journey -getting out of my own way. I may have been skinny but I was never strong and I was never surrounded by people who supported mental and physical self-improvement, regardless of your starting point. Strength took on a whole new meaning for me. It didn’t mean the ability to bench press your body weight. It meant the ability to find the will to push on and fight through whatever is holding you down. I am a fighter, in every sense of the word, and I am proud of it. These days I feel so empowered in everything I do. I felt confident to start my own business venture. My training partner and I came up with the idea to make an almond butter geared toward athletes. We wanted to encourage and promote the healthy lifestyle that had improved our lives so greatly. It’s a balancing act, between my full time jobs as an animation editor, a loving wife, my entrepreneurial activities, and my training. While I feel like an empowered woman inside and out, I’ll always be a work in progress. In fact, my strength and conditioning coach calls me “T-rex” because of my childlike upper body strength, but I’m constantly building and improving to be the best version of myself I can be. This whole journey has taught me this: the perception of me by others is not what defines me. I define me.
Sarah DiSanti is an assistant editor at Paramount Animation in Los Angeles, CA. She is also the co-founder of Active Jars, a super infused almond butter. She and her husband, Vinnie, create their own short films and promotional videos under the company of Two Hand Films. She trains out of Robot Fight and Fitness, and is a Muay Thai blue belt. When she’s not tackling new projects, she enjoys good wine and great TV.