from Sara: Today’s post is written by Jill Csillag, a certified Personal Trainer in Dayton, OH. Like me, Jill has also lost over 100 pounds! She is certified through the Kenneth Cooper Aerobic Institute. She has a personal intimate connection with Auto-Immune diseases, specifically those that target women. You can visit her website, www.thefitcoach.biz, to learn more about her story!

Jill Csillag picture

Real Beauty, Defined

(shared with permission from Jill’s blog, Coach’s Corner.)

They say writing is cathartic, healing, a form of self-expression at its finest; the sharing of intimate thoughts, soul bearing.
I guess it’s time to promote some self healing, as I have attempted to hide my struggles for too long. Now is the time to come clean. Why not put pen to paper and see what happens?

All my life I have struggled with the concept and definition of BEAUTY. Webster defines beauty as such:
“Beauty: a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.”

My own self realization of beauty was flawed, and I struggled to find where I fit in.

It’s no secret that I have struggled with my weight most of my life. I heard “But you have such a pretty face” followed by “if only you lost weight” so many times I flippin’ lost count. Back in those days, beauty equaled thinness. Having a Mom who was thin, statuesque, and striking didn’t help matters much. Thanks for the genes, Dad.

Fourteen years ago I began a wondrous weight loss journey and felt as though I had finally discovered my true self – Jill – the person I had longed to be all those previous years. As the weight dropped off my body the attention I received grew, and I felt fabulous. Suddenly I was human, worthy, no longer the “fat girl“ sitting in the corner. I grew fit, strong, healthy. I vowed I would never ever go back to the hell that I was bound to all those years prior.

I was able to maintain my weight loss and fitness for quite a while with relative ease, and discovered a passion for running. I couldn’t get enough of it, 5ks, 10ks, 20ks, half marathons, full marathons. I had aspirations of running an ultra marathon before I hit the age of 50. I was golden, set for life….or, so I thought.

Then the auto-immune disease bus rolled into town with a ticket just for little ole’ me. It started innocently enough – hypothyroidism. Please! No big deal, take a pill every day, problem solved. Next came asthma – Pfft! Asthma Phasma! Suck an inhaler, pop a pill, and I’m good to go. Done! (Please note that I do not mean to imply that any of these conditions aren’t life changing and serious, they are — I was just fortunate enough to get a handle on them with assistance from some great doctors.)

Well, that wasn’t the end of that. After the bus left town the auto-immune train chugged into the depot. Months of excruciating abdominal pain accompanied with the worst case of non-stop Montezuma’s revenge plagued me for several months. No answers, just a plethora of tests that left me even sicker and bathroom-ridden. I must have read 4 novels in the “library” while waiting for an answer to this riddle. Finally, a diagnosis was made- Collagenous Colitis. To be more specific, a form of Inflammatory Bowel disease, closely related to Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis – just more rare. Lucky me. I should buy some lottery tickets.

This took more effort to conquer, and some days it still tries to get the better of me. But – I win! Post diagnosis, my belly full of meds and a modified diet, I was back to working out and pounding the pavement. Only major difference was now I knew to scout out all the bathrooms on my route, as well as carry a baggie full of Imodium pills, just in case.

Ha! I am invincible, nothing can stop this girl, right?! Little did I know that my strongest foe thus far was lurking in the shadows, just waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Hiss! Rheumatoid Arthritis struck like a cobra, along with a smigden of Lupus for good measure (actually they are both intertwined into mixed connective tissue disease). This foe entered my life last year, and down I went.

RA is some seriously nasty stuff, and I am no where near to an answer to this puzzle – YET. Trial and error, with a cocktail of drugs that are wrecking havoc on my body is the game plan for now. Incredibly frustrating in the fact one day can be vastly different from the next. Pain in some fashion is the NEW norm now in my life.

Here is where the perception of “beauty” and its challenges comes into play. With auto-immune diseases, you don’t look “sick” on the outside, but there is a war waging with your body. Your very own cells are literally attacking each other, and it ain’t pretty.

I can see the subtle changes that RA has made to my body already – fingers & toes swell, new nodules blooming on my joints causing pain that makes simple tasks daunting. Puffiness and swelling from the drugs and disease itself, stiffness, malaise…..just to name a few. My body was so dependent upon and now craves the vigorous cardio I was once able to do with ease. As a result, 8 pounds have appeared and it’s hard as hell to get them off. But, work I must – as hard as I can to fight the fight.

I see pictures of myself and cringe, so afraid the 115 pounds lost all those years will come back to me, especially considering my current physical state. However, I know deep in my heart that outward beauty is totally superficial. True beauty is present in so many forms and cannot be easily defined.

True beauty can be present anywhere and anytime, from a simple loving gesture between friends to an exchange of wedding vows between lovers. I see the beauty in the moment as I scoop up my puppy so he can give me “puppy kisses”. I have witnessed a dear friend go thru a cancer diagnosis & subsequent chemotherapy treatments, lose her hair, and blossom into an even more beautiful woman than she was before!

I am privileged to witness inner & outer beauty blooming in my clients as they push thru a hard workout session. Inner beauty reflects their pride and outer beauty showcases their determination and sweat for a job well done! Nothing can compare to that, nothing!

I am always preaching that our weight does not define us, and now I guess it’s my turn to literally practice what I preach. I will work as hard as I can to keep my weight consistent, yet at the same time not lament about 5, 8, or even 10 pounds.

True beauty has little to do with outward appearances, and is much more evident in our hearts & souls, our actions, and our behavior towards one another. True beauty shines thru no matter how thick the clouds may be.

I will do my very best every day to nourish my body, exercise as hard as I am able, and most importantly, to feed my soul.
I will not let RA define me as a person, nor will I allow it to take ownership of my life. I will strive to be the very best I can be, every day of my life.

Life is too short to do otherwise. Don’t you agree?

Do you struggle with health issues that hold you back from what you want to accomplish?  How do you define true beauty?