"I never knew I was a prisoner until I was free"
That was the first thing I said to my mother as I exited a roller coaster- the first
one I'd been able to ride in over 25 years. At over 300 pounds most of my adult
life, I had been living in a world of things I dreamed of doing, but couldn't
because of my size. Two of my greatest joys, riding roller coasters and horses,
were out of the question. I'd experienced the public humiliation of being asked
to get off a ride, and of booths and chairs being too small, or worse, breaking
when I sat on them.
Anyone who has lived with long- term, even lifelong, weight problems knows
how to lose weight. I lost and gained hundreds, if not thousands of pounds over my life. I struggled with disordered eating at both extremes from early childhood, subsisting in morbid obesity for most of my life. Depression, anxiety, self- esteem issues and PTSD from physical, emotional and sexual trauma combined to keep me in a vicious cycle of self- destruction and unfulfilling life choices. Until I healed my relationship with myself, it simply was not possible for me to have a healthy relationship with anyone or anything else; most obviously, food. After a lot of work using a variety of healing modalities, I was able to find peace, forgiveness, and freedom from the negative emotions, thoughts and habits that kept me locked in a prison of food addiction, apathy and misery for 45 years.
As I started to believe that I, too, was worthy of the same level of love and care I showed others, weight loss came naturally, and I lost 165 pounds in about 15 months (I'd go on to lose another 25). For the first time in my life, I felt FREE. I adopted the motto "I have no shame", and just 15 months after starting my physical transformation, finished a Sprint Triathlon, the first of many similar events I'd complete- accomplishments that were unimaginable only a year before. And then I went horseback riding! And got a motorcycle! And rode roller coasters until I was sick! And met and married the love of my life! AND LIVED! For the first time in my life, I was truly alive, and finding ways to be true to my self and my purpose in this life.
I've always gotten joy from helping others. From Service Clubs in elementary school, to Peer Counseling in high school, to Suicide and Crisis Intervention Hotline counseling in college, the desire was always there, but the confidence wasn't. I chose a career that allowed me to hide from people most of the time- dog grooming and training- and fell into owning a dog training school. While I loved coaching and helping dogs and people understand each other, my anxiety about my appearance and lack of self confidence led me to cancel lessons and classes many times. It wasn't until my own physical transformation was well underway that I discovered a hidden talent and passion for helping and motivating others on journeys similar to my own.
After almost five years of keeping the 190 pounds I'd lost off, I embraced my true purpose in this life: helping people transform their bodies and lives. I earned certificates in Sports and Weight Loss nutrition, and became certified as an Integrative Wellness and Life Coach, Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Specialist. It is my greatest joy and passion to be able to help others find their path to the healthy, balanced, abundant and joyful life they deserve.
Jen Oppenheim, CPT, IWLC, WLS