I’m going through some old photos of when I first started on my fitness journey, and I’ve got to say, I don’t know if I’m saddened or motivated.

My search started with me looking for any photos of me lifting a giant boomer ball. It was one of my weird goals I had when I started getting in shape. I wanted to lift this enormous enrichment toy for the elephants. It was heavy and awkward, and I was hellbound and determined to pick it up.

While I was searching for the photos, I found a whole bunch from the summer of 2014.

Let me tell you about 2014. Sit down, grab some popcorn, get super comfy. We’re going on a trip down memory lane.

In 2014, I was living the dream as an elephant keeper. Except, I wasn’t feeling the dream. I was horribly overweight, weighing about 205 lbs. My weight gave me troubled knees and even gave me back pain. Bending over to pick up hundreds of pounds of elephant waste every day didn’t help either, but being in shape would have alleviated much of that.

I’ve said it a hundred times, but the lightbulb turning on moment for me was when I realized I couldn’t provide great care to my animals if I wasn’t taking basic care of myself. My back pain, my knee pain, my depression, low energy levels, and overall unhealthiness affected the animals. I wanted to be this amazing zookeeper but I wasn’t even remotely kind to my own person. Things needed to change.

I changed things pretty drastically. Within six months, I went from over 200 pounds to just over 150. I know it sounds drastic, but it felt great. I stayed there for over six months, but as it happens in life, my weight slowly started going up.

There are a plethora of reasons. My knee issues make high impact difficult. I quit my insanely active job as a zookeeper. And I changed my diet.  I made it better for the environment, but it didn’t necessarily make it easier to eat better for me. When I lost my weight, I wasn’t concerned about plastic wrap, or if the food was locally sourced.  I didn’t make a point to get only the free-range organic meat. My diet consisted of egg-beaters, stevia, Tyson chicken, and protein shakes.

As I continues on my journey, I began to realize my connection to conservation included eating better foods for the environment. I’m not blaming my weight gain on eating green. Far from it. I eat better than I EVER have before, and honestly, I would be in far worse shape if it weren’t for my eating green habits. But it is somewhat harder to pick the healthier options when they are wrapped in plastic.

Over the past three years, I lost a little weight and gained a bit more. I lose a little and gain a bit more. It’s a vicious cycle and I was feeling maybe this is just where I am.

And then I found these photos.

I can’t get over how remarkably in good shape I was. The goals I set were not by any stretch of the imagination easy. But I didn’t just achieve all my fitness goals. I crushed them.

I find it hard to maintain the momentum to stay in shape. When I worked as a park aide over the summer, I lost a good bit of the weight. Not near the amount in 2014, but I did good. But in the month and months following Chris’ transplant, I didn’t watch what I was eating, and didn’t get to workout as much as I need. The weight increased, and I find the willpower to do what I need to lose weight and keep it off falters more than it is strong.

Chris posts his art every single day to his website. He doesn’t care if the painting is good, mediocre, or absolute shit (his opinion, not mine- if you look at his site, I’m sure you’d agree nothing he does is shit). Part of the reason Chris posts even his worst work (again, his opinion, not mine) is to show how he struggles.

Many people look at artists and say they are talented because the hard work and struggles aren’t apparent in the finished work. People look at athletes and state they could never do what the athletes do. They don’t account for the hours of work athletes put in day in and day out to stay in pique shape, at the top of their game.

I am writing a few fitness books. I have a couple out already (See here). Sometimes I feel I have to have the best body on the planet to achieve success. I want to have a sexy body, but I feel the pressure to have a great physique because I’m writing about fitness. No one wants to take advice from a fat fitness instructor.

But I also have to realize people need someone relatable. It’s not easy to get to your goal. It’s not easy to maintain once you’ve reached your goal.

I do want to get back to this. I mean, JESUS, this girl is HAWT. Who the hell is that? And can I have her number please?

I’m still a work in progress. I won’t give up on myself. Don’t give up on yourself either. Use what you want to to motivate you. You can do it.