I am honored to have such an inspiring individual, Hailey Hechtman, as a guest on the blog. Hailey originally reached out to me sharing her fat loss story, and I decided that I wanted to put the spotlight on her because I know she can be an impact to others.
Hailey is a wellness enthusiast who is passionate about sharing her personal journey with others who are looking for ways to find a sustainable, long-term and strength-based approach to their health. Hailey has lost over 100 pounds and kept it off for over 6 years by finding aspects of nutrition and fitness that she loves and gets excited about.
What made you decide to want to start your weight loss journey?
My weight-loss journey really began with a look in both the literal and the figurative mirror. Throughout my teens I had always been overweight, however it wasn’t until I was 20, just out of a long-distance relationship, confronted by the important question “what do I want?” that I really became fully aware of how I looked and felt.
For a long time, I had focused all of my attention outward, on friends, family members, on the people that I supported through volunteering, rather than on myself. This felt good because it gave me a sense of accomplishment to help others and to be seen as a caring support system to so many. This role as a helper, as someone that gives of herself and doesn’t expect much reciprocity, clouded my vision of who I had become, or better yet, the person that I wasn’t living up to.
At 20 years old, I started to shift this perspective, when I looked at a picture of myself attending my cousin’s wedding. It wasn’t just my size and the redness of my face that took me off guard, but the fact that I had gotten to be that unhealthy without even thinking about it. It was my lack of self-assessment that really shook me as I thought about all the food that I had eaten mindlessly, all of the times that I had sit on the couch motionless for hours and never considered the value of getting up and going for a walk.
When I stepped on the scale that day for the first time in as long as I can remember, the number jumped at me…. 287. This number represented not only a lack of self-control, but someone who had spent the majority of her existence carefully considering the needs and feelings of others and never had thought to do the same for herself.
Now, this entire fulsome self-care revelation did not just happen overnight, I continue to look back regularly and have worked to identify where my insecurities still hide even to this day. That being said, that day at the heaviest weight was the beginning of that deeper internal conversation and what motivated me to start looking at what I was eating, and take steps towards changing my life as I knew it.
What was the biggest obstacle that you faced on your journey and how did you overcome it?
My wellness journey in many ways was an entire obstacle course. When I started out, not only did I know nothing about nutrition or exercise but I had very little sense of who I was. The food and the workouts were definitely a practical barrier to success at the onset, but they came in time with research, planning and dedication.
For me the struggle in getting to know myself was the more challenging area of growth as it required a significant mental push forward beyond my comfort zone. I had to ask questions that I had never been confident or aware enough to ask like “what had caused me to become so unhealthy?” “why did I use food to cope with emotions?” ”where were these emotions coming from?” “can I really say no to helping out a friend and instead focus on what I need?” These internal confrontations were hard to have, and sometimes I wasn’t even completely honest with myself because that was scary and vulnerable even when I was the only one to know.
Doing this however, was the key to all of the other stuff. If I could understand what caused me to eat to that extent, then I could also identify new strategies to deal with it. If I could pinpoint how food made me feel calm or soothed, then maybe I too could find other ways of getting that sense of relief. Without taking the time to interview the person that I was, it would have been impossible to become the one I am now.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
Motivation is a drive that no one feels 100% of the time. When I was starting out with my wellness journey, I was motivated by losing weight so that I could look better and feel more energetic and capable. As I began to lose weight, I was motivated by a drive to become a better version of myself, to feel strong, to be confident and to let myself catch up to the potential that I had been missing out on for so long.
Let me tell you, some days no motivation was there when I was tired or aching or felt sad but what propelled me ahead was my dedication and commitment to that woman waiting on the other side.
I think for anyone to keep motivated you need to remember what you are working towards and have it be something more meaningful, more life-validating then a specific number on the scale or on your shirt tag. Setting goals that inspires you, like becoming a stronger person, gaining personal insights, enjoying healthy food or having exercise help you to cope is so much more powerful.
Today, what keeps me motivated is the fact that it doesn’t feel like work the way that it used. I now have found nutritious foods that I love to eat and make me feel good. I have found workouts that I enjoy doing, that challenge me to get better, that fill me with excitement and that help me to relax when I am anxious or stressed. This took time, practice, switching things up but eventually the food and the fitness that I was doing, matched the lifestyle that I wanted to sustain.
What is something that you do daily for self-care?
I am a huge advocate for self-care and have found many ways of incorporating little practices into my days as a way of checking in with myself. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for over a year now, where I write down what leaves me feeling happy and thankful at the end of each day. I start off all of my workouts with a fun form of cardio and a catchy beat that always gets me energized and smiling. Most of all, I try to laugh with my husband, connect with friends and family and treat myself when I need a little pick me up.
Did you ever struggle with body image? What is one thing that helped you work through it?
I have struggled with body image at many points pre and post wellness journey.
When I was overweight, I constantly tried to hide my lack of self-esteem by not wanting to be the center of attention. I desperately wanted to feel attractive however I just didn’t and compensated by taking the light off of myself and putting anywhere else I could. I often looked at other women with fascination to how their clothing fit or what options they had when they went to a store and felt isolated.
When I lost weight, I felt a new type of self-consciousness. It was a mix of getting to know a new body, having lots of comments and compliments that felt uncomfortable and facing the fact that my body wasn’t going to be perfect. After losing over 100 pounds, I had loose skin, I had stretch marks, all of which made me feel like I would never truly see the success that I had accomplished because it was still hiding below layers of the past.
I still feel this way on occasion, but one thing that has helped me work through the body image issues I felt was remembering how far I had come, that my body was a shining example of effort, commitment and changes that I had made for a better life. That I was able to wear things I never would have, and was stronger, more agile and knowledgeable then I have ever been in this skin.
What Does Body Positivity Mean to you?
Body positivity means embracing not only what you look like but all of the elements that make you who you are. It is about focusing on your strengths, your abilities, your talents, your beauty and being accepting of all the combining factors that are involved in the person that you have turned out to be.
Body positivity means empowering other people to see beauty, power and achievement in who they are and encouraging each other to be supportive rather than dismissive. It is about sharing experiences of success and failure because we are all going to have both throughout our lives. Body positivity is showcasing the value of diversity among people because if we were all the same the world would be a pretty boring place.
What are you most proud of yourself for today?
I am most proud that I took the time to get to know myself on a deeper level. That I didn’t just make this wellness journey about weight loss or a goal size or fitness landmark, I truly made it about exploring the various facets of who I was, who I was becoming and who I will continue to strive towards each day. I am proud that I see myself as an evolution that I didn’t get to a certain dress size and then say that was it. I instead committed to being healthy, happy, to growing and learning on a daily basis which all have lead me to create a lifestyle that is enjoyable and sustainable.
What advice would you give someone who is starting a weight loss journey?
The best advice that I would want to give someone who is starting a weight loss journey is that there is no one size fits all answer. We are all motivated by different things, have diverse preferences and abilities and that you should consider yours in order to work towards your goals.
Find the strengths that you are proud of and use those to get you going. Really good at drinking water? Then make a water intake goal that you can work towards and get a sense of accomplishment from, then move on to the next one. It is helpful to set small goals at the onset so that you can have milestones that excite you rather than beginning by wanting to lose 100 pounds. Congratulate yourself when you get there and don’t discourage yourself when mistakes happen or when you don’t quite hit the mark.
The journey is not linear. It is going to have giant peaks of motivation, plateaus of no progress and dips of temptation and that is okay. Just remember what got you started in the first place and keep going towards that.
On a professional front, Hailey has dedicated herself to a career focused on promoting self-care and mental wellness through her work in distress lines, youth workshops and now as the Executive Director for a non-profit supporting adults with developmental disabilities.
She feels that in life and in work, people are at their best to give to others when they are feeling full, happy and empowered from within.
To reach out to Hailey you can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org