Get to know our February Self-Love Manifestor, Steph Shames! Steph and MoMa’s journeys collided at Flywheel and the rest is history! We instantly fell in love with Steph’s #Shameless movement, which preaches body positivity, self love, fitness, and wellness...all of which we love here at MoMa! Steph is here to share her personal journey and helps guide us towards a better relationship with ourselves and with our bodies.
Steph was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After a few months of studying abroad in Israel after high school, she made her way to The George Washington University where she majored in Exercise Science, and became certified in indoor cycling in the meantime. She continued her studies in Health and Physical Education at Teachers College, Columbia University before moving to Miami to pursue her passion in fitness. Since moving to Miami, Steph has been recognized as one of America’s Most Inspiring Trainers because of #Shameless, and recently got chosen to be a Lululemon Ambassador. Steph has made it her personal mission to use her platform in the fitness industry to spread an important message about body positivity and self-love.
What made you decide to finally speak truthfully and publicly about the personal body image battles you were fighting for so many years?
I can speak for anyone who’s dealt with an eating disorder and/or body dysmorphia. We try to keep these issues to ourselves. It’s shameful and embarrassing to admit that you hate yourself and your body. I started having body image issues when I was very young, around 8, and it just got worse as the years went on. When I started teaching fitness I didn’t want to deter people from taking my class, so I only posted about healthy eating and fitness motivation. But as hard as I tried to seem like a good role model, I felt like a liar and it made me really anxious and depressed. After two years of teaching, my loyal community of riders started becoming like friends and family to me and I was finally able to build up the courage to speak openly to them about my struggles in class and on my social media. I figured if they were coming continuously to take my classes, then I owed it to them to be completely honest about who I was.
If you don’t mind sharing, can you take us through your journey from being an eating disorder patient to becoming a body positive warrior?
I like to share my story in hopes that if someone reading this is in a similar situation, they can see that there is a light at the end of their story too. I developed a bad eating disorder after years of struggling with my body image. I was never happy with how I looked and I think society played a large role in that. When I was 16, I severely restricted my eating and became anorexic. After several attempts with therapy and nutritional guidance, I got back to a healthy weight and I found an escape at a small spin studio in Puerto Rico. It was the only place that quieted my negative thoughts. A year later when I moved to Israel, I tried to beat my eating disorder and I ended up gaining over 50 lbs in a short amount of time. I thought bulimia could fix that issue but everything just spiraled out of control from there. Because of my experiences with being both underweight and overweight, I decided to pursue a degree and a career that could help people in similar situations like I was in. I even volunteered at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline to gain a better understanding of how to connect with those suffering the same way I was. Today, I feel very fortunate that I get to use my story to bring light to a situation I think isn't spoken enough about. Through fitness, I want to help people fall in love with themselves and their bodies instead of turning to body shaming the way I did for so many years.
Do you think speaking your truth helped manifest some of your dreams into reality?
It’s crazy you ask that because I had no idea what some of my dreams were UNTIL I started to speak up about my issues. I always envisioned myself as some kind of role model or community influencer, I just didn’t know in what field. Shortly after opening up to my riders about my struggles, I was asked to give a speech in front of of hundreds of men and women at a motivational event. And shortly after that event, my speech was submitted to Well+Good and I was chosen as a finalist to become America’s Most Inspiring Trainer. If you had asked me two years ago if I envisioned any of that for myself my answer would have been ABSOLUTELY NO. I can now say wholeheartedly that speaking your truth will materialize into everything that you want and everything thats meant to happen for you.
What are some rituals that help you stay committed to your personal, body positive journey?
The most important ritual I partake in every single day is acknowledging my body and taking some time to thank it for getting me through another day. Whether it’s partaking in my favorite workout to sweat or spending extra time on the couch to let my body relax, I listen and respect the signals my body gives me. I’ve put my body through so much and I used to punish it for so long, whether it was by restricting calories and driving it into starvation mode, or over-exercising to the point of sickness. I think it’s important to celebrate your body and give yourself constant reminders of all the physical and emotional qualities you like about yourself. The kinder you are to your body, the kinder it is going to be to you. Period.
Any books or speakers that have inspired you lately?
I recently finished “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. The book inspires you to stop doubting all the greatness you are capable of and start living your best and most authentic life yet. For years I would doubt myself and my abilities because of my low self-esteem, and the book definitely helped me put some important things into perspective. I’m just about to start reading “Beautiful Bodies” by Kimberly Rae Miller and I’m so excited. I’ve been holding on to the book for a few months and I think this month of Self-Love is the perfect time to finally start it.
Lastly, can you give us any hints of what you’d like to manifest with your #Shameless movement?
The possibilities are endless! Right now I’m in the final stages of completing my official #Shameless blog and website. I’d love to speak at more conferences and motivational events. It would be the biggest honor to participate and share my story at a National Eating Disorders Association walk someday. Maybe even a TED talk. Ultimately, I want to share my story and spread my passion for fitness and body positivity to as many people as possible and make a positive impact on a larger scale.