Carla's brave journey to recovery and self-acceptance

Two years ago, Carla developed an eating disorder that wreaked havoc on her health. "I looked skeletal - you could see every bone in my body," she recalled. "I strived for unreachable goals until I damaged my body. And for what? Surely not happiness. I wasn't conscious about how good we were designed to feel." The ever-elusive 'thigh gap' mentality drove Carla's weight to a dangerously low point. "I thought that having a thigh gap would make me happy because so many girls had one," she elaborated. "My body isn't built for that, and it's okay. Now, I feel happier, stronger, and full of self-love." For Carla, the hardest step was making the decision to prioritize her health over all else. The more she endangered her body, the less support she received from her closest friends and family members. "As I was getting weaker and skinnier, none of my friends or family members supported my activities or my goals," she mentioned. "Now, I know why. They were protecting me."

The road to recovery wasn't obstacle-free— far from it. "It was so hard to fail and fail again," she lamented. "Finding the strength to get up [after failure] was even harder. The struggle was worth it and I got stronger every day. I accepted the way I was built and no amount of self-hate could ever change that. I got through this alone. I struggled with my eating disorder alone and I thought that I could fight it alone."

But now, Carla is no longer alone. She joined PumpUp in 2014 because she wanted to share about the ups and downs of her journey with a supportive community. "I loved it from the very first moment," she gushed. "The people I met on PumpUp welcomed me, supported me, and most importantly, they didn't judge me. I thought it would be fun to share about my routine. The support from all over the world really motivated me to continue with my journey to get fitter, stronger, and healthier: both mentally and physically."

Carla hopes to help others on PumpUp who struggle with disordered eating. "I earned my health back," she started. "I want to reach out to anybody who has been through something similar. I know that having a well-built and strong body is possible - it's just [circumstantial]. It won't be achieved in the same way by everybody else, but it is possible."

This plays into Carla's vision of what a healthy mindset should be. "A healthy mind starts by accepting yourself," she said emphatically. "If you don't accept yourself, you won't be able to be and feel healthy. Balance is the key, too. Working out everyday for hours and eating only lettuce is as harmful as stuffing yourself with burgers and being a couch potato. We are human, not machines."

Carla's best advice for other PumpUp members

Never compare yourself to others..NEVER! Everyone is built differently, so don't compare your chapter 1 to somebody's chapter 6. Next,  starting slow. Expecting too much can lead to frustration. Set realistic goals and exercise because you like it. Don't like jogging? Hate the gym? Try different sports - just take your time and stick to something you enjoy. That is, in my opinion, the key to success: Enjoying what you do and doing what you enjoy.

How Carla takes care of herself, both mentally and physically

Working out is the most relaxing part of my day (even if my day isn't stressful at all)! I kind of need it as a way to just focus on myself. It's 'me time'. To [relax my mind], I love to take a bath, or read a good book while sipping on hot cup of tea.

How Carla feels body confident

I feel the most body confident in my workout clothes! I feel 'well' in them and I think that's the most important thing.

Carla's potential superpower

The first thing that came into my mind was"flying"! I've always wanted to be able to fly. Though this isn't a superpower...there's nothing that an amazing arm workout can't achieve.

Connect with Carla on PumpUp @carlamaria1 and on Instagram @carla_maria_1! Have you been through a similar journey? Share your story in the comments below and give Carla words of encouragement!