A Healthier Life, One Day at a Time

Fitness blogger Vanessa Morales serves up inspiration in regular healthy doses.

Too many New Year’s resolutions die with the turning of the calendar. The excitement of the holidays prompts self-refection and newfound commitments to health and wellbeing, and we begin January energized with purpose. Unfortunately, as the weeks go by, routine sets back in, and the most committed find themselves struggling with the familiarity of bad habits. Vanessa Morales, a Fort Worth fitness blogger, understands these struggles firsthand.

“I’ve been overweight for most of my life,” says Vanessa. “I had kinda hit rock bottom. I was hiding from pictures, not wanting to be social, and hit an all-time low. I guess I’d been feeling like that for a long time. I always made the New Year’s resolution, but had said it so many times. About three years ago, I committed again and just went for it.”

For the past three years, Vanessa has documented her journey online via her Facebook and Instagram accounts. As a record of one person’s journey to greater health, the pages stand as remarkable testimony. For her fans, she provides regular inspiration through a combination of personal testimony, photos, recipes, and stories that showcase the benefits of personal empowerment. Before-and-after photos document her success, and followers can see the benefits of health through the example Vanessa presents.

For Vanessa, a full-time schoolteacher, all of this began with a personal commitment. She had learned from the errors of the past, and approached her newest New Year’s resolution with a fresh will and clean slate.

“I failed because I was so extreme,” says Vanessa. “You can join the gym, cut all your calories, but by the end of March you’ll be back to your old ways. I learned to keep a balance between the happy hours, the holidays, and everyday life.”

All big journeys begin with one small step. For Vanessa, this small step was packing her daily lunch. As all teachers know, temptations are readily available. Whether it’s vending machines, cafeteria desserts, student gifts, or lounge treats, a teacher watching her weight must walk a minefield. Vanessa knew that, before she could lose weight, she’d have to lose the temptation to cheat on a diet.

“First, I made sure that I packed a lunch,” says Vanessa. “I committed to not giving in to lounge goodies, and little by little, I added other goals, like cooking dinner. As I got more comfortable, I added exercise. Successes with these encouraged me, and I saw weight loss.”

This self-generated encouragement led to further weight loss, which inspired Vanessa to push herself.

“I changed my entire lifestyle,” says Vanessa. “I was never a runner, but a year into this journey I picked it up, and have now completed three half-marathons. It all comes down to setting goals and playing with your diet to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Inspiration also came from cookbooks and lifestyle challenges. Particular cookbooks, such as Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain, helped Vanessa along. Challenges such as the Whole 30 program also provided structure and goals that Vanessa adopted wholeheartedly. Throughout her journey, Vanessa was careful to to take photos and make a record. Today, we can all share in the fruits of her success on Facebook via her page “Building a Stronger Me”, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/building.a.stronger.v/.

“I never thought that the success with the pages would happen,” say Vanessa. “I found my own inspiration from the women I followed, and saw that they had documented their journeys with photography. It inspired me, and little did i know that people would turn around and see my pages in the same way.”

In a sense, Vanessa’s online journey has mirrored her literal transformation. As someone who once hid from pictures, she has become an enthusiastic chronicler or her own body.

“I saw that I could be the inspiration for someone else, and that’s fabulous,” says Vanessa. “I document my story, and now it’s the feedback that keeps me going.”

As for advice, Vanessa has plenty. Start small, then build up to fitness goals. A healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to showcase ironman workout sessions and starvation; instead, you can simply pack a lunch and resist small temptations.

“Just start slow. I picked one thing, and though it could feel discouraging at first, in the end you lose a pound. Then it becomes four. It adds up, even when it’s not apparent. If you don’t see it, you feel it. Changing your mind is always the hardest piece.”