The Renaissance of Jen: Part 1(2004)

Groundhog Day is always a special day in my personal history. Thirteen years ago today, I decided that I needed a real change in my life. I was very overweight, I had extremely low self esteem, almost no confidence, and I was in a very abusive relationship for almost 9 years (emotionally and physically as well), I just knew I was not the person I was meant to be, I felt very uncomfortable in my own skin and to be honest was scared for my life most days.

I don't quite know how I got to the point that I was at, but I do know that I had never felt worse about myself. If there was a rock bottom, I am sure that I was at it. At the time, I had been with my boyfriend for 8 1/2 years, living together for the last 3+ of those. When I met "R" I was heartbroken, and very young and naive, it was the perfect situation for a manipulative and controlling person to step in. When I met "R", he told me stories of how he was a victim of his ex girlfriend cheating on him and how she had treated him horribly. Being the nurturing type that I am, I felt that I wanted to make him happy and take care of him. I thought he was fun, charming, charismatic, and he seemed to be a really nice guy. After quite a few months of dating, slowly things started to change; it was almost like a bait and switch scam. Every time he started to say something mean, I immediately told myself, "Oh I know this can't be true because he is a really nice guy, I saw that when I met him and I've seen how wonderful he can be." I had myself so convinced that he was a good guy, that I still couldn't leave him even after he held a loaded gun to my head after walking in on him and his ex girlfriend. He convinced me days later that she came there unannounced and she was being horrible to him and he pulled the gun on me just to throw her off, and I actually believed him. Sad to say it took me 6-7 more years to recognize that it was not a healthy relationship. I know it was obvious to everyone else (and to me now, of course), and what is sad is that I never considered myself to be a dumb girl. I just feel that he was very good at controlling me and telling me how I could never leave him because I would never find someone else who would want to be with me. He often told me how worthless, stupid, ugly, and fat I was and how if I left, I would end up alone forever (I actually believed him too). There were small slivers of time that he could be nice and those small time frames were just enough to give me a glimpse of how I thought he truly was deep down inside. I felt that if anyone could bring the good out in someone it would be me, I was such an optimist, and knew he didn't really mean the things he would say to me.

My relationships with my friends and family suffered immensely, especially with my mom. She eventually gave me "tough love" and told me I had to move out if I didn't leave him. I ended up moving out, and we didn't talk for a very long time. This was a very difficult time, and yet it still wasn't enough to convince me that I needed to leave him. He was like a drug in a sense and I needed to figure it out on my own apparently, because even after nearly abandoning all of my friends and my family, I still felt like I needed to be with him.

Eventually I moved in with him in Philadelphia. When we lived together, I never went anywhere, with anyone, I stayed in by myself every night. Most nights he was out working and then on the other nights he was going out with his "friends" (of course, later I found out that he had cheated on me with at least 7 other women). Since I had no friends in Philadelphia, and he hated all of my other friends, I didn't go out, and he rarely went anywhere with me. It was definitely not a normal situation for a young girl in her 20's, but yet I still couldn't see this. Any time that I decided to speak up about how he was treating me badly or when I thought I knew he had been with other girls, he would tell me how crazy I was and would somehow spin the whole thing on me and convince me that I was not thinking clearly. He was very good at making me feel very stupid and crazy. During these 3 1/2 years of living with him, many bad things happened: he had used pressure points on me to physically get his point across, he had choked me, threatened me more times with a gun (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he was in law enforcement and had multiple guns) broke many things including my bed, while enraged as well as the verbal abuses. One of the major verbal abuses he used repeatedly was telling me time and time again how fat I was. When I moved in with him I was not fat, I maybe was a few pounds overweight but I feel like he had actually said it so many times, that it did happen. I had gained weight gradually over those 3+ years and was the heaviest that I had been in my life.

I was weak and I just simply did not have the confidence to leave. I knew that in order for me to gain confidence, the first step would be that I would need to lose some weight and just get healthy overall. I had "tried" many diets and pills and gimmicks before and of course I was not successful, I was not successful because I wasn't emotionally ready to do it. I feel from my personal experience and from others that I know that have been through it, that you have to have the mindset of changing your lifestyle, not the idea that you are "dieting". Being ready to make a change inside is actually more important than the act of doing so. So, on February 2, 2004, I actually attended a weight loss hypnosis seminar. I know it sounds funny, but it did help me kick start my journey. The program gave me the tools and some nutritional information to get me started and I listened to the hypnosis CD and self hypnotized for the next month daily. They say 28 days forms a habit and I do strongly believe this. In that first month I trained myself to drink water, eat a certain amount of calories and fat, and exercise daily. I logged and journaled everything I ate and did. I read so many books about nutritional information and memorized many facts. After one month, it became just part of me and who I was, the new Jen. Over the next 7 months, I had lost over 50 lbs. and dropped 3 sizes. I was definitely feeling more confident and more like how I thought I should feel as a person, actually, I felt the very best I had ever felt in my adult life.

In September, I had taken my first trip to the west coast for a concert in San Francisco in Golden Gate Park. I was here for 2 1/2 days, but it was long enough for me to fall in love with this beautiful city. I knew right away that this was the place I was meant to live. I also, now had the confidence to move away, and 3000 miles sounded perfect for me. It was so far away that I knew I could never make the mistake of ending back together with "R" once I did break up with him. I went back home told him that I was moving to San Francisco and he laughed at me. He told me I could never make that move and that I would never survive on my own across the country and that he guaranteed that I would come back to him crying looking to move back in. The very next day, I told my job that I was moving and I gave them 2 weeks notice. I had a few thousand saved up and then out of sheer coincidence that week, someone had totaled my car giving me an extra few thousand to work with. Aside from the money, I had no plan. I had no apartment, no car, no job, and knew no one there, but I knew I would move there in 3 weeks. My brother had decided that he wanted to head west, and asked if he could come too. While he had no money to help support and no job as well, it was nice for me to have companionship in the huge move to Left Coast. We brought only our clothes and few other small items. We arrived in San Francisco, after a few days of driving and some light sightseeing on Sunday night. We found a temporary residence hotel (pretty much like a hostel) in the Tenderloin (not a very nice neighborhood, but the owners were very lovely people) to stay in for a few days until we figured out something else (we even had to share a bed, which was weird lol ). On the way out, I had a phone interview with a recruiter and landed an interview for a job for the day after we arrived. Within 3 days, we both had found jobs, and we found a gorgeous, total classic "San Francisco" style apartment. It all worked out perfectly and I never looked back. Ever. After moving here I continued on my healthy journey and transformation into the new me and lost an additional 15 pounds making it 65 total. I became the most confident I had ever been in my life and I finally got to enjoy myself for the first time as an adult. It was the best experience I had ever had up until that point. The best decision I ever made. Hands Down.

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