EveryBODY Has a Story

jl-18As of late, there’s been a new movement in the health and wellness industry, and as a personal trainer, and advocate for everybody having a story, I’m all for it. In my industry I deal with all shapes and sizes, and I teach and preach to women that no matter what skin they’re in they should embrace it and accept themselves for everything they not only love, but issues they seemingly hate.

We’ve turned body shaming into something more powerful; body love, self acceptance, and vulnerability.

Finally.

Yet I don’t think the playing field is all that fair. Personally, I’ve fully embraced the new movement, until now…

As women begin to feel more uplifted and encouraged by others that they are accepted in all their glory, skin, rolls, pudginess, excess booty, and a less than flat midsection I can’t help but to feel we’re heading in the right direction of how we view beauty, sex appeal, and the new norm. Yet, as my social media feeds become inundated with images of women in their underwear that may not be a size two, who are clearly willing to bare it all (mind, body, message) I can’t help but feel as though other women in various categories are being short changed.

For some of us with physiques that are viewed as perfect, having it all, not having to put in much work, or choose to show off the work we have put in; it’s too much. Often times being proud of your body (myself included) can automatically mean being over sexual, or sending out the wrong message to some. This is where I call bullshit. If we’re going to teach plus sized women (whatever that definition actually is), to love their bodies and strut their stuff, then a woman with a six pack, tight ass, and well trained physique should be able to do the same without feeling less than.

Through years of learning to accept myself (this is an ongoing process), I’ve learned that no matter what-my body is mine, all 130-ish pounds of it. My body is one that I worked damn hard to get to where it is. Often times it’s a daily struggle to accept myself, flaws and all because sometimes I’m not accepted because my body appears to be the perfect figure for some. My body, just like any body has been through hell and back, it’s endured heartache, divorce, rebuilding, building a business (soon to be two), injuries, surgeries, and everything else in between that we’ve all suffered through at some point on another.

Rewind to 20 some odd years ago when my body was one I wasn’t proud of. I never struggled with weight in the sense that I had too much, but rather too little. I struggled because I was too skinny. For no reason other than not being able to keep weight on due to food allergies and not hitting puberty until later in life, yet I was made fun of on a consistent basis. I was called a tomboy and not because I was always into sports, but because my physique resembled a boy more than a 10 year old girl.

It wasn’t until I started really getting into sports and weight lifting that my body began to change. I put on a very little bit of muscle and worked hard at it year after year because I wanted to see what my body was capable of transforming into. I’m now at a point in my life where I’ve come to accept my body for what it is, and I’ve learned to do that because I realized no matter what, no one was ever going to accept me for all of me the way that I knew I deserved.

Just as we accept, and at times are now flaunting everybody overweight or not, let’s remember that every shape, and every size needs to be celebrated. I will never apologize for the skin I’m in- even if that’s too skinny or too muscular for some. And you shouldn’t either. So lets give credit to everyone and not just some for their boldness and courageous efforts because truth be told everybody has a story, and everybody has fought a few battles we know nothing about.

Jayel_Sig

“I Did.” > “I Do.”

jl-14I’ve had a lot of recent successes- what feels like success to me, and I suppose what looks like success to others. In the past few months I was invited to give a keynote speech to hundreds of women about my journey (big moment for me), I landed the cover of Be Well Philly’s annual health and wellness magazine, and I graced the pages of the New Balance Women’s catalog as more than a fitness model, but rather a role model. I’d say I’m well on my way to making a name for myself in the fitness industry.

I’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of “congrats” and “I’m so proud of you” moments, and I so appreciate them, but…there’s more, more that you probably won’t see me gracing any magazine pages for- more that may be passe to speak of because my exterior paints a much different picture than my interior. It’s an image of seemingly doing well that people are proud of, yet it was not doing well that has led me to the point in my career that is now considered successful.

Too often people fear sharing the not so pretty side of their seemingly glamorous life, but I truly believe that to be a mistake.

As I’m sure you know, and it’s rather apparent- I haven’t been blogging as often as I once did, for various reasons but one in particular that makes me feel like a phony, because I’m not practicing what I preach.

I preach the importance of making time for yourself, and to make time for what truly matters. Yet I’m failing time and time again to realize how much matter. The phrase “I matter” is something I still struggle with because I’m so used to putting others first; their schedules, health concerns, and feelings. Yet as I tell each client the importance of giving back to themselves, at the end of the day I find myself with nothing left to give.

This isn’t something that happened overnight, it’s something that I’ve allowed to happen for years. When returning back to the sates (three years ago) I threw every fiber of my being into my business, allowing me to solely focus on the present, without truly facing or dealing with my past. As I’m reminded by my past I force myself to be grateful, and thankful for my present and my future- yet I struggle with allowing myself to just be, whether that’s here or there.

Yesterday was, or what would have been my sixth wedding anniversary. I didn’t really speak much of it but I felt (the memory of what I once imagined life to look like) staring back at me.

Please believe me when I say I don’t want that life…I did then, but I don’t now. I’ve learned so much about myself, and continue to do so on a regular basis and for that I’m thankful. Yet taking time out for myself is something I need to make a priority. Often times I don’t deal with my feelings as they arise, but later on when I have no other choice but to confront them. I’m just like everyone else who struggles with negative coping mechanisms. Moments of drinking too much, attempting to eat my way through feeling better, and overall just feeling bad about myself-but I know I’m not alone, and as cliche as that may sound, I believe it to be true. I know I’m not the only person that struggles with demons from the past and that’s why I continue to share the realness of my life.

It’s so important for me to be transparent in a world of people that are driven by fear (I’m often one of those people too), to allow others to see that their journey and what they feel may be a failure is indeed not that. It’s an opportunity for change.

I think sometimes because something happened years ago we think shouldn’t discuss it, that we should automatically be over it, and no longer have any feelings associated with that memory. I call bullshit. In fact, I think it’s important that no matter what you’re feeling, you address it, and remind yourself that there is no right or wrong here, there just is.

For me, it’s reassuring myself that it’s ok to invest in my personal life as much as my business. I’ve grown my business with purpose and through potential, and I’ve learned to be ok with the ups and downs of that, yet I still need a lot of work when it comes to being fully capable of giving myself permission to potentially fall on my face and be less guarded in my personal life.

This is mainly for me, but also for all of you reading this- as long as you’re moving, you’re creating. Take time out for yourself and begin to create. Forward motion.

Jayel_Sig

What’s Your Biggest Fear?


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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for an incredible event that brought nearly 700 women together through fitness. I was asked to share my journey and how it’s impacted my life.

In Philadelphia Magazine, and on social channels it was displayed as such; “In the face of unexpected hardship and pain Jayel Lewis learned that the only way to overcome obstacles and rebuild the pieces of her life was to quit pretending to be perfect and just get real- with herself, her friends, her family. Through her inspiring story, Lewis will share how that one decision indelibly changed- perhaps even saved- her life.”

While preparing my speech and trying to find the right words that would connect to an audience that knew little to nothing about me, I found myself having a difficult time. Should I introduce myself, should I go right into my story, should I start from the beginning, or maybe the end? These were all questions that I didn’t necessarily have an answer to, but as time went on, I was left with one question…

What is your biggest fear? 

That’s how I opened my speech because it would get people thinking about what they were afraid of, it’s something we can all relate to.

As I went on to share my journey, and my story, my heartbeat began to slow down, my breathing was no longer shallow, and I didn’t have this sense of urgency when it came to explaining every little detail. I was at peace, I was in a place were I actually felt comfortable, and empowered to share how my story and how my biggest fears have lead me to where I am, and to who I am today.

Just a few years ago I was so incredibly uncomfortable telling people about where I was in life, because at the time I saw it as defeat, I saw it as something negative and was unable to see the possibility of it becoming positive. I was in a very dark place and didn’t know the “right” way out. I was so accustom to holding my feelings in and not sharing them with anyone, but by doing so; that made me sick. Not only physically, but mentally as well. Whether I liked it or not, I was living a lie, a lie that would eventually become my truth…

Although it often takes a lot of guts, and a lot of balls to share your truths, now matter how difficult they may be, that’s what will ultimately set you free. You see, we all have a choice- how we comeback, how we suffer, and how we overcome some of our biggest fears, whether they’ve already happened to us or not. What we take from those situations, and what we choose to apply to our everyday life is up to us.

It’s on us so we begin to pave the way for others; for others to find their voice, and to share it. We all have a voice, believe me, we do…we just have to have enough balls to speak up to whoever is  listening, and by doing so we begin to create a cyclic cycle, a pattern of positivity, of acceptance, and other women embracing one another for it all. Although the struggle may be real, we have to understand that we don’t have to struggle alone.

At the end of the day, most of us are fearful of the same thing – experiencing pain. Although the cause may be different, we fear suffering the same effect.

My fears…? At the time they were relevant, they ended up becoming my own worst nightmare, but it was also those individual fears that taught me lessons of how to overcome unexpected hardship, what success means, what triumph takes, and what defeat feels like. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to continue to speak my truths.

For the full speech: Click Here 

Jayel_Sig

Recycle Your Pain

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I’m usually very focused, and my vision so clear, yet life got me. I lost myself and could no longer hear my voice. We get inundated and saturated with what should be, what our priorities should look like, and how we ought to feel, and then we shift. Often times we shift without even realizing we’re doing so, yet we feel it.

As of late there’s been a lot on my mind…a lot. With family members getting sick and people close to me losing their lives too soon you begin to focus on real world issues. Issues that you don’t necessarily want to put your energy towards but ones that won’t otherwise disappear.

I’ve also been working on forgiveness. It’s something that I 100% believe in, yet something I struggle with on a daily basis. It’s somewhat similar to the story of the boy who cried wolf. You never want to keep talking about the same old thing all the damn time-yet sometimes that’s life, that’s your life, and it’s part of my story, and I bet yours too.

Yes I was married, and yes I’m divorced. It’s behind me, yet also standing directly in front of me. There are obstacles and hurdles I must tackle to be the whole person I’m capable of being. Is this an overexerted topic of discussion? Perhaps, but it’s my topic of discussion and I’m owning it 110%. No, my divorce doesn’t define me, but it does allow a lot of issues to come to the surface. Issues that are ongoing that most choose not to discuss.

You hear it a lot;

“Forgiveness is for you, it’s not for them.”

“By forgiving someone you regain the power.”

“Forgive yourself first, and the rest will come.”

Although I realize it takes two to make a relationship work, as humans we have a tendency to blame ourselves for the downward spiral, and eventually the demise. Various scenarios will play out in your mind time and time again of how you could have fixed the situation, made it better, or done something differently. Yet the outcome still remains the same. For me, I think a large part of beginning to work on forgiveness is allowing myself to be both vulnerable and honest. Being vulnerable means putting yourself out there, but it also means dealing with the truths of what may come. Truths you don’t necessarily want to confront, but must deal with head on.

My husband was my mirror. I looked at him for happiness, for stability, for everything I couldn’t find within myself. I became so insecure because of his actions; infidelity, and lying. Truth is- I was insecure from the beginning of the relationship because I didn’t quite fully know how to trust myself, my truths, my emotions, my intuition, or my own personal journey. I didn’t want to know the truth because I knew it would hurt. I didn’t want to deal with the pain so I allowed myself to let him play the leading role of my doubts and my fear, when in reality, I should have taken a closer look in the mirror, because I too, was a lead actress. In a sense, he was me, and I was him. We mirrored one another; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What I’m working on now, is forgiving myself for everything I feel I’m entitled to let go of. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you forget what they’ve done, it means you allow yourself the ability to move on in a positive direction without them having so much power over you.

Recycling pain occurs in various forms, it’s a cyclic cycle for someone that is suffering from it. They pain others because they too are in pain. Yet by learning that in certain situations there was nothing you could have done better to change the situation you learn (slowly) to recycle your pain in a more constructive and positive way. Recycling your pain doesn’t mean that the struggle isn’t real, and reoccurring, it means that you’re aware of it and able to focus your energy on letting go of the life you thought you should live, and embracing the one you are living.

Jayel_Sig

 

 

 

 

Photography: Michele Suits

Recommend Listening: Let it Go- James Bay

Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear

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If you’re like me, or any other human for that matter- you probably have a hard time finding balance. I fee like I’m constantly playing defense and I never get to play offense. I am so incredibly fortunate, and often feel like I can always save the day by fixing things. Yet, at the end of the day I come to realize that’s not always a role I’m capable of filling. I know I can’t fix everything in someones life, but if I can fix a part of it, I feel like I’m doing something right- on the flip side I fail time, and time again, at fixing myself and giving myself the same things that I tell others they need. 

If I can’t make my dream work then no one else can. Owning your own business means you get to be creative, but it also means you talk through things with yourself, structure your own budget, make the final cuts, and decide where to allocate the funds. You also decide (in theory) where your energy goes, and who you allow to draw from it. It’s not always easy, yet you see the refined product, so you keep going. I don’t struggle with sleeping on Sunday nights because I don’t love what I do, I struggle because I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue to fix something, or someone. Including myself.

We’re wired to be emotional beings, but when we’re advised to shut part of that system down, we no longer function as a whole. In our culture we’ve been conditioned that feeling pain, or an unpleasant emotion isn’t something we necessarily have to endure. Sadness is something we’d rather sweep under the carpet and deal with…never. It’s become part of our belief system, that we can simply “fix it”. The problem at hand, is that negative feelings are normal (to a degree), and they allow us to internalize what’s really going on. Without much thought we typically go the the pharmacy and pop a pill to ease the pain, control the uneasy feeling, or mask our negative emotions. The Greek word for pharmacy is pharmakeia; when broken down means both healing, and poison.

Whether we turn to medicine or not, we do this sort of healing, and poison on a regular basis. We pretend we’re not effected by whatever the origin of the problem is, we fail to look so deeply within ourselves because we don’t want to address the root cause. The real issue at hand is that the majority of the time we deflect our emotions onto something else, and choose to not deal with the negative emotions that are often associated with the truth. This cyclical habit applies to pretty much everything in life. Negative relationships, overeating, toxic people that we allow to stay in our lives…and all because we don’t feel like addressing it. We’re supposed to feel, yet we’ve been brainwashed to believe that feeling hurt, anger, or sadness, can all be washed away by something else.

For me, it’s the white noise that I can’t handle. Constantly staying busy is a numbing tactic I use to ease the pain. We must realize that however we choose to numb the pain, we also numb the joy, the true feelings that are warranted and necessary for us to function as a whole.

I’ve fought this battle long and hard, and continue to do so on a regular basis. I’m no superstar, I’m a human that’s managing my own problems. Not with ease, but day by day because I know I’m not comfortable succumbing to what our culture has made us to believe. We have to realize that we’re more than what society tells us we are. We’re human, with feelings of happiness, sadness, and everything else in between.  It’s much easier to have a glass of wine, take an anti-anxiety pill, or keep ourselves so incredibly busy that we don’t have time to process the truth, when the truth is- it’s going to hurt. Whatever it is that you’re dealing with- you have to face it. It’s going to hurt, but that’s natural. What isn’t natural is being numb for an extended period of time and not facing your reality.

No matter what we think, the grass is in fact not always greener on the other side. Addiction happens in various forms in our quick fix, consumer culture.

Truth: all of our problems cannot be solved by an image that claims something different, it’s time to look in the mirror and face it. 

Jayel_Sig