Jana Roller wasn't physically capable of chasing her son as he ran toward the road.

By By Jana Roller as told to Faith Brar
April 19, 2018

My weight is something I've struggled with all my life. I was "chunky" as a child and labeled the "big girl" in school-the result of my toxic relationship with food that started when I was just 5 years old.

You see, that's when I was first sexually assaulted.

I was molested by a family member and it went on for quite some time. The stress and trauma led me to start binge eating. I would jolt out of bed from night terrors and turn to food for comfort to help nurse me back to sleep.

As if what was happening at home wasn't difficult enough, I was also molested by an older boy in our neighborhood when I was 6 and was later raped by a boy in high school. (Related: Ballet Helped Me Reconnect With My Body After Being Raped-Now I'm Helping Others Do the Same)

While no one knew what I was going through, in some ways, I was like most girls in high school. I was always trying to get "skinny" and tried every weight-loss trick. But at the end of the day, I could never control my addiction to food and kept eating in secret-spending my entire allowance on junk food and hiding it.

Because of my size, I experienced a lot of bullying and continued to turn to food for comfort. Throughout my teens, I would go through cycles of emotional binging and restricting. When I felt extremely anxious and depressed, I would binge, then starve myself for four days to "punish" myself. (Related: Why You Should Give Up Restrictive Dieting Once and for All)

Combined, all of these things left me with zero self-confidence or self-worth. I felt damaged and often kept to myself-afraid that the other kids would find out what had happened to me, which could make the bullying even worse.

My reliance on food and disrespect for my body continued even after I got married and had my son. When he was about 3 years old, he was playing at the park down the street from our house. We were playing tag, and he was chasing me, but as I was running away, he decided to turn around and started bolting toward the gate. I couldn't catch him because of my size, and he ran out of the gate and onto the road, where a car screeched to a halt, stopping within a few inches of him. (Related: How Having a Daughter Changed My Relationship with Food Forever)

He didn't get hit and wasn't hurt, but my heart dropped to the ground. The guilt I felt made me feel like the worst mother. To this day, I can remember so clearly the panic and frustration I felt knowing that I couldn't keep up with my own child-to the point that his life was put in danger. At that moment, I knew I didn't want my habits to affect him negatively ever again, and I wanted to teach him to live a healthy lifestyle. The only way to do that was to lead by example.

So, I hired a trainer to help keep me accountable and on track, which is something I'd never done before. I wrote sticky notes all over my house to remind me to stay focused, along with positive affirmations that inspired me and motivated me to keep to my meal plan. I would also journal and read inspiring self-development books. I kept thinking back to that day when I almost lost my son, as well as the sexual trauma I had been through. It took time, but eventually, rather than using these experiences as an excuse to fuel my bad habits, I started using them as fuel to push and empower myself. (Related: 5 Legitimate Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer)

My career is also something that helped me immensely. I've been a professional photographer for nine years. One of the ways I stayed motivated was by shooting athletes and hearing their stories. Learning about some of the obstacles they had overcome to get to where they are really inspired me to push harder and fight for my health.

Today, I strength-train five days a week, which is usually followed by about 30 minutes of cardio. I also teach spin classes and cardio boxing classes at my local gym, and I'm running three days a week as part of training for my first half marathon. In terms of my diet, I've adopted a whole foods approach and have completely cut out junk food and anything packaged or processed. While it wasn't easy to retrain my brain to think of food in a completely different way, over the past two years, I've taught myself to look at food as a way to nourish my body, rather than a means to distract myself from my anxiety and depression. (Related: How to Tell If You're Emotional Eating)

Since I started my weight-loss journey two years ago, I've lost 140 pounds and feel amazing about my progress, especially when I look back at where I began. I am so proud because I am an entirely different person emotionally as well-I'm who I always knew I was deep down.

Now, I choose to love myself every single day. Changing my mindset helped me realize that my worth is not attached to my past experiences. I encourage anyone else in my shoes to ask why they want to make changes to their lifestyle and health. Your "why" is going to keep you motivated on the days you feel like giving up. For me, it was my husband and son, but also myself. I wanted to regain my inner power and be the best version of myself so I could then help others. (Related: How to Rekindle Your Weight-Loss Motivation When You Just Want to Chill and Eat Chips)

In my experience, weight loss and lifestyle changes are 90 percent mental. You need to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable. This journey will challenge you in so many different and unexpected ways-and some days (okay, let's be real, a lot of days) you will feel like quitting. Just remember that doing nothing and staying where you are takes energy, and it's hard to constantly be "stuck" turning your wheels. Making big lifestyle changes takes the same amount of energy and is hard, too. So you need to choose your hard. That's what'll push you to make a long-lasting change you're proud of. I'm living proof.

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