Wellness influencer Chelsea Culbertson has spent most of her life struggling with her weight. "I was always chubby and always heavy," she tells Shape. "I can't remember a time I wasn't insecure about my body. I just hated how I looked and had the worst self-esteem."
Chelsea battled these emotions for years, not knowing how to overcome them or what she needed to do to make a change. Then, at 17 years old, she had a daughter and lost her father to a heart attack the same year. "That whole time I kept eating like I was still pregnant and my emotional eating got out of control," Chelsea says. "My husband sat me down and told me I needed to get healthier, if not for me then for our daughter."
Chelsea decided to lose weight—but this created other problems. "I became focused on 'looking better,' not being healthier," Chelsea says. "I was losing weight to be skinny like the girls I had gone to school with and the model girls I'd see on social media, not because I wanted to create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle or form better habits."
I truly truly wish that I would have learned my true value with or without losing the weight. But I am glad that I learned it regardless. You are powerful, capable, and so much more. Now I just glow on the outside as much as the inside. And I hope more than anything that no matter how dark life can seem, that you find your sparkle
By counting calories, restricting certain foods, and spending hours in the gym, Chelsea managed to lose 60 pounds over the course of a year.
"I was at my best body personally and the leanest I'd ever been in my life," Chelsea says. "But I was obsessively counting my macros, I was going to the gym six or seven times a week, and then I started nursing school."
Being a mother and going to school full-time made it difficult for Chelsea to keep up with that rigorous routine, and she slowly started to gain back some weight. (Related: The 10 Rules of Weight Loss That Lasts)
"I put on 20 pounds in the blink of an eye and no longer looked the way I wanted to," Chelsea says. "Yes, I was stressed because of life in general, but seeing those numbers go up on the scale made me absolutely miserable, and I had a mental breakdown."
That's when Chelsea realized she needed to redefine what it meant to be healthy. "I'd lost all this weight, completely changed the way I looked, and was doing my absolute best at being the healthiest I could be, but when I looked in the mirror, all I could do was pick out my flaws," Chelsea says. "So I decided to stop. I decided that I was no longer going to say negative things about my body—to myself or to other people."
Took this silly little pic on the right this morning for no reason and it reminded me of this gem from when I was 13 and awkward AF. I grew up with horrible eating habits, awful health, terrible self esteem, and overall self hatred. But I GREW UP. I DIDNT GIVE UP. AND I CHANGED MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER. Now I'm healthy AF, happy AF, and loving myself. Life is a CHOICE. Make the most of yours
From there, Chelsea changed her intention toward healthy eating and fitness by coming at it from a place of self-love as opposed to self-hate. "I started doing things that made me feel good and stopped doing things just because I thought I should do them, because they're 'good' for me," she says. (Anna Victoria: "My Transformation Wasn't Just About Looks")
I get asked allllll the time how I avoided stretch marks and loose skin while loosing weight. How I got such a flat stomach. Well, GIRL LEMME TELL YOU; ITS ALL THERE. I GOT IT ALL. I have the stretch marks, the loose skin, and a very NOT flat stomach. And that's all good! Because you know what else I got? MY LIFE BACK. I gained a healthy, active lifestyle. I got my vital signs within normal limits. I gained muscle. I gained a new mindset. So let me ask you; who cares about all that other stuff that ends up happening when you are able to gain so much more?
She lost 10 of the 20 pounds she'd gained by doing workouts she loved like HITT and bodyweight training, with no strict plan. "I do whatever I feel like doing any particular day," Chelsea says. "I go to the gym and set a goal to be better and push harder than last time so I'm always challenging myself, but still having fun and enjoying my workouts."
She also eats what she wants as opposed to what she thinks she should eat. "I've stopped counting my calories and macros and stopped restricting myself," she says. "For the most part, I eat what makes me feel good, which ends up being healthy food—but if I'm craving pizza or a burger, I don't deprive myself. It's all about having balance."
Today, Chelsea weighs more than she did when she first lost all her weight, but she's happier than ever. And even though she still has difficult days, she's learned to love and appreciate her body just the way it is. (Related: How One Woman Learned to Love Her Body After Weight Loss)
"I spent my whole life hating myself and that's not a switch that can be flipped," she says. "I still struggle sometimes, but you just have to realize that getting to a place of self-love is a journey and truly a step-by-step process that takes a time. You need to choose to love yourself every single day."
Be negative and keep your head down. Or be positive and hold your head up high. It's up to you. It's your CHOICE. There are so many things in life we can't control, but we can at least TRY to control how we feel and handle situations. I've always struggled with being a really negative person. I have generally seen myself as a realistic person (something I like about myself, and I did then). BUT this "realistic" view I had always ended up leading me to being negative. And when you're negative, people don't want to be around you, you don't even want to be around yourself. So I decided I had to cut the bullshit and try to be fucking positive for once. And it's the best choice I've ever made. I'm happier than I've ever been because I'm deciding to be so. Was it easy? No. Do I still tend to have a lot of negative thoughts? Yes. But I don't let them control me nearly as much as they used to. You can choose how you handle your life. So make a good choice
Chelsea says: "You can either talk yourself down and make yourself feel miserable, or you can change your mindset and bring back the joy. Take your pick."
Because our bodies are badass and feeling strong, healthy, and confident is for everyone! Help us spread the body love and be a part of our #LoveMyShape body confidence movement: Post a photo or video on social sharing why you love your shape. And check out Movemeant Foundation, our partner in empowering women and girls to be body positive.