The Pictures You Haven’t Seen

Circa 2007-2008. I wasn’t always healthy and full of energy and all over town running fitness classes or maintaining two full time careers, a family and a fitness studio. In fact, I hated exercising back then. It was hard. I wasn‘t 20 years old anymore and able to jump around like I did when I taught fitness classes during college and summers home at the local gym.

Back a little over 10 years ago, my weight was well up over 200lbs, my cholesterol was off the charts, and conversations with my primary care physician hinted to words like “significantly overweight“ “diabetes” ”depression” ”eating disorder“ “heart disease”. People cannot even believe that when I tell them.

At the time, I was a single mom with 4 little

kids, heading down the path to a 2nd divorce, feeling disgusted with myself and like a huge failure for my family.

Owning a gym wasn’t even on the radar. Waking up to function was about all the energy I could muster up at the time.

I tell this story probably 100 times a year when potential clients stand in front of me NOW desperate for answers and some kind of magic pill to make their weight loss easy and their troubles fade away. Everytime I look across the counter, I see the same look in their eyes that I saw in the mirror not that long ago.

The story of the failed toxic relationships and lack of self love; combined with losing my mom to cancer 8 weeks after my daughter Maggie was born AND 8 weeks before I found out before I was pregnant with my son, Michael - despite my failing marriage; is a hard story but one that taught life lessons to a woman who had no business getting married or having kids or raising a family. But hindsight is 20/20.

All of the things that brought me to two failed marriages, 4 kids, a mortgage I couldn't pay for; and a rapidly declining battle with my health and weight, were finally too big for me to handle. I was desperate for help. I was desperate for change. “Tomorrow. I’ll start tomorrow.” Famous last words. I didn‘t start “tomorrow“.

Fast forward two years and another 20 pounds, I was walking through Walmart preparing for my son, Michael’s 2nd birthday party with all four of my kids… Michael, age 2; Maggie, age 3, Grace almost 9 and my oldest, Em 10 1/2. Each of the older girls pushed a cart with a ”baby” as I loaded our two carts with processed food, snacks, soda, and crap that would temporarily fill the pain of the rest of my life STILL falling apart miserably around me.

I was a 1st grade teacher at the time ( I am still teach full time - I’ve graduated to 2nd grade finally! LOL but we can chat about that later 😅🤣) Money was tight; sleep was minimal and stress was high. That day in particular, my sweatpants were too tight and hugging at my butt and inner thigh ~ the one part of my body I have DESPISED for as long as I can remember.

I think something happened between freshman year of high school and sophomore year (ummm probably my period) that took me from being a bean pole to having “thunder thighs” or like the boys on the football team used to say - my legs were starting to resemble football great Earl Campbell. (Google that guy - our thighs are pretty similar lol 😂!)

Needless to say, my trip to Walmart included a new pair of MENS sweatpants size XL. I cried the whole way home. I cried about the sweats, about losing my mom, failing at marriage (AGAIN); being a horrible role model for my kids and for feeling absolutely disgusted with myself.

That moment was a catalyst for me. It didn’t change everything immediately. In fact, it didn’t change some of the things I still do and the negative habits I find I gravitate back to when times are tough. It did, however, set me out on a journey of self love and goal setting that led me to where I stand today - hopefully an inspiration for someone who feels lost and unsure where to turn; and most importantly, a woman my four children can be proud of. My goal for this blog is to share the deep, dark parts of my story - maybe the ugly and the hard and show you that no matter what things MIGHT look like on the outside, there is always a story embedded in what people endured; the mistakes they made and the not so pretty side of success. I’ll throw in some fitness tips, food blogs and the funny stories of some of the “characters“ I’ve met along the way, lol ~ but I am finally listening to the advice of many of my good friends who have repeatedly said to me - “Tell the story. Write the book.” The people who know me well, have heard the dark and ugly and funny and sad. There are a ton of moments of my life that are laughable and raw; and others like many of us, that are very dark and really ugly. The ones no one sees. The stories you don’t have on repeat at the family holiday party. No one sees the UGLY in my “Let’s go LIVE on FB“ or on the billboard I am smiling on on the I -90 heading into downtown Buffalo.

Social media has a powerful way of sharing the highlight reels of everyone‘s perfectly posed and posted pictures with the right angle and the right pictures. ( and as long as we are being honest - Im hugely guilty of that, btw - “Don’t post that one - I look terrible“ is what I‘ll say or hear my friends say as we pass the phone for approval for our posts or pictures to be posted.)

FB and IG and Snap and the million other apps that provide facial filters and happy emojis and smiling faces have created this superficial reality that makes us believe our life needs to be presented perfectly for the likes; the affirmation; the “positive“ comments.

If only the story behind the posts could be as pretty.

What no one ever sees is the “not so pretty side“ of the journey. We see before and afters; we see the wedded bliss; the kids birthday party pictures that were taken moments after a screaming family argument about being in the picture and the “LOOK LIKE YOUR HAVING FUN!“ demand from probably the one who turns around and posts “What a great party with our WHOLE WONDERFUL FAMILY!“ 🤪

Join me on this journey and the story of what it took to get to where I am now (and just so you know - I am a freakin work in progress ~ like a trainwreck with glitter) ~ the funny, hard, happy, sad moments of the side of Shannon Connors Fitness that you might not ever have imagined ~ the pictures you haven’t seen.