Why I Barely Recognized Myself In The Mirror

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Life is going to get busier…and harder.

Obstacles will get in the way of your health.

There will be a point you will feel like giving up.

At TFW, it is my mission to continue to inspire you with stories of people who overcame the same obstacles you experience on a daily basis.   I know that Minnesota native, Val Amsden’s open and honest story will carry out that mission. Let her story inspire you to remember that your sleep, exercise and nutrition are not “expendable.” Her transformation will encourage you to take a stand, get support and show the world the best version of yourself.


In 2006, my life was turned upside down.

My mom received a diagnosis of Stage 3B Ovarian Cancer. I was 25 and doors had just started to open for me. In the infancy of my professional life, crawling had progressed to walking. I had just started dating a long-time friend, and I had finally reached an age and maturity level where I truly appreciated my mother. She was a gracious and previously healthy woman with an infectious laugh who always put others first; especially her kids. Watching her fight this hideous disease changed me and re-routed my path.

That long-time friend became my husband.

My husband stuck by me through countless trips with my mom to treatment, my return professionally to my family’s oil business, and our resulting move closer to my childhood home. We got married in December 2008, and decided we wanted to start a family immediately since time was not a luxury my mom could afford. Our son was 8 days old on our first anniversary, and my mom lost her courageous battle six months later.

In the wake of her death, staying “busy” was how I healed.

If I was ‘just’ upside down before, my life turned into a roller coaster: right side up, upside down, then sideways; and all at break-neck speed. I threw myself into work, motherhood and even started a Master’s degree program. Ten days before our second child was born in April of 2012, I presented my final MBA project. We had just moved two weeks prior into a bigger house to accommodate our growing family, and I was still working long hours whenever possible.

Everything about my health had become “expendable.”

Sleep was not something that I felt I needed. Fitness never crossed my mind. Food was just a necessity, and most of my health and nutrition was based on the mantra: “the faster and easier the better.” Why put much thought into it if it didn’t really matter, right?  Our third child was born in July of 2014. Every day was full. The problem was that it was full of stress with no time available to focus on me. But I wasn’t upset. I just thought that is the way life is supposed to go.

I barely recognized myself in the mirror.

I had been thin throughout college and up until I got married, but I had ballooned with each pregnancy, and losing the baby weight became harder and harder until I gave up on the idea. I was unhappy, tired, stressed and could only offer my husband and kids the mere shreds of whatever energy and patience I had left at the end of every day… which wasn’t much.

I knew I needed to do something about my fitness…but what?

Since I didn’t know what to do, I decided to try anything. I downloaded a couple of those seven-minute fitness apps on my phone and bought a new pair of running shoes, but couldn’t find the energy or motivation to get through those more than 1 or 2 nights in a row. Instead opting for a bowl of ice cream before bed each night was my easy way to feel better after busy days.

My friend asked, “Are you pregnant again?” I WASN’T…

I will never forget it. On Easter weekend 2016, I was holding my 20-month-old on my hip as I walked through church. A family friend stopped me to say hello and asked, the question. When I regained my composure and let the anger recede, I realized that she had simply spoken out loud the very thought I had each time I looked at myself in the mirror. Straw, meet the camel’s back.

It was finally time to take the correct action.

That afternoon, fate intervened and I happened upon an invitation on Facebook to an 8-Week Challenge at TFW South Metro in Savage, Minnesota. I knew nothing about the program, but I submitted an interest form. Within a day, I heard from Coach Reid and he invited me in to see what it was all about. I had no idea when I walked in later that week that this room would soon become my happy place. I signed up that day for TFW and decided to go ALL IN.

I learned how to willingly, intentionally make myself a priority.

Over the next few months, I committed to 3-4 workouts per week. I changed my eating habits: dropping my late-night snacks and breakfast doughnuts, and watched my portion sizes. I stopped watching TV at night and went to bed earlier. I shared my commitment with my friends, who kept me accountable. And I met an amazing group of real people that were on this same journey. All I had to do was show up. Coach Eric, Coach Reid and my TFW Familia got me through each workout. Before my own eyes, I lost 35 pounds and cut my body fat percentage in half. In the process I also gained muscles…and confidence.

I got the support I needed at home too.

My husband never wavered in his support, or stepping up to do the morning routine solo with our kiddos so I could get ready for work after getting home from TFW. In return, he got his wife back. My favorite unintended side effect of this change has been the way my children see me. My son is now 7, and loves when I get down on the floor with him and really use my strength to wrestle. My daughters, 4 and 2, aspire to be “strong like Mommy” and ask me endlessly to show them push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers and anything else they can think of, so they can copy me. Our family phrase has become, “Strong is beautiful!”

I never intended to be a transformation.

I look at my before-and-after picture, and it boggles my mind that it’s actually me! But my story is not remarkable; it’s probably like many of you out there. Simply put, life gets in the way. And as parents especially, it is easy to put yourself last on our own list of priorities. I learned first-hand it is easier to fill your time with other things, or to just do nothing at all. But time passes quickly, and we don’t know what the future holds. I have learned to make the most of every day by choosing the path less traveled, and in this way, I honor my mother’s memory and set an example for my own children. It might not be easier, but the destination is well worth it. And YOU are worth it! DOn’t waIT!

I hope you pull some of the major lessons from Val’s story below.  If you are in need of some help, find a Training For Warriors near you at www.trainingforwarriors.com

If you are interested in learning how you can have your own TFW program to help others, set up your call to see if TFW is right for you at www.jointfw.com

Yours in Strength,


This article was created by and can be viewed at: https://www.trainingforwarriors.com/barely-recognized-mirror/

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