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    Weekly Spotlight

    Fitness Helped Her Overcome an Eating Disorder

    Fitness Helped Her Overcome an Eating Disorder

     Photo from SHAPE


    Unlike many eating disorders, Sophie Vershbow’s didn’t start with dieting to lose weight. Instead, she went on a senior trip to Ecuador and had so much fun that she didn’t realize she’d lost 10 pounds in a month’s time. When she got home, she received lots of compliments from well-meaning friends and family members who noticed her weight loss. This confidence boost fueled a strong desire to maintain her new, lower weight, and an obsession was born. In no time, her weight had dropped to just 98 pounds.

    Sophie’s eating disorder took on the hauntingly common characteristic that many men and women experience: she felt that eating was one of the few things she had control over, while in reality, the disorder was rapidly taking control of her. As she ate less and less, she had less energy, and she quit working out altogether, further fueling her need to desperately cut calories to keep her weight constant.

    At this point, Sophie finally realized she needed help. Antidepressants boosted her mood, but combined with plenty of the alcohol and junk food so common in college settings, the pounds began to return. Gaining 40 pounds was just what her body needed, but her eating disorder wouldn’t let her accept it. To counteract this weight gain, she turned to bulimia. Once she graduated, her unhealthy cycle continued. Although she appeared healthy to outsiders – eating an apparently nutritious diet and going to the gym regularly – she was trapped in a cycle of bingeing and purging when no one was looking.

    A life-saving new perspective on working out

    Around this time, Sophie says that her workouts consisted of “sweating joylessly” on the elliptical trainer until she reached her calorie-burning goal. However, one fateful New Year’s Eve, she resolved to try a new workout class each week. This goal turned out to be the incredible catalyst she needed to change her dangerous habits.

    As she tried new exercise routines, she rediscovered how fun working out could be. She particularly enjoyed strength training and how its aim involved getting stronger, not just burning calories or punishing herself for eating. Zumba was another favorite, and she began to create healthy friendships while participating in these exciting classes.

    As her fitness increased, Sophie signed up for a race. As anyone who’s ever done any serious running knows, you can’t starve yourself and train hard as a runner. She was determined to reach her goals, and she began viewing food as fuel for her body, not reward or punishment for anything she had or hadn’t done. She even survived a devastating breakup without regressing, channeling her emotions into running instead of food.

    In 2015, Sophie completed the New York City Marathon. It gave her such a sense of accomplishment that she began to feel like she had control over her body again. She had begun to appreciate her body, including how strong and healthy it was and all the things it was capable of – and she found herself wanting to protect and nourish it rather than hurting it. Her new, healthy way of thinking has given way to more races and a passion for exercise and its ability to encourage and empower women and men with body positivity and greater overall happiness.

    Experimenting with different types of exercise helped Sophie build a positive self-image and transform an unhealthy and self-defeating lifestyle. Which goals will it help you reach?

    A Broken Back and a Crushed Dream

    When Victor Williams was just 15 years old, he developed a pain in his back that grew gradually worse. He fought through the pain, continuing to play football on a daily basis and attend boot camp classes with his mom and sister several times a week. Eventually, however, the pain became too great, and he stopped participating in the physical activities he loved so much.

    Victors’ mom, Lisa, knew how out of character this was for the scrappy teenager and took him to the doctor. After an x-ray revealed nothing unusual, they were referred to a sports doctor who ordered an MRI. The MRI revealed worse news than either of them had been prepared for: one of his vertebrae was fractured in two places in an injury the doctor called “bilateral spondylolysis.” It had most likely happened while playing football. The vertebra was in danger of slipping out of place if it didn’t heal properly; if this happened, he would need surgery.

    Victor had no choice but to quit playing football and working out for several months to give the bone a chance to heal. He wore a brace to keep him from moving his back unnecessarily and wasn’t allowed to move around any more than he absolutely had to.

    Compounding Problems
    With his dreams of a football scholarship crushed and exercise not an option, Victor became depressed and began gaining weight. In a matter of months, the 6’3” teenager gained 30 pounds. His doctor warned him against gaining more weight, but keeping the number on the scale down seemed impossible without being able to move. Eating became entertainment and solace as he waited for his six-month follow-up to see how his back had healed.

    Unfortunately, more bad news was to follow. Tests revealed that one of the fractures had healed well, but the other hadn’t – and likely never would. That meant that to protect his spine; he had to say farewell to football for good. He couldn’t run or jump, the doctor said, and he couldn’t participate in strenuous workouts such as Crossfit, which he had been looking forward to taking part in with his best friend.

    He was allowed to participate in certain physical activities that didn’t jar his back, such as walking, biking, and yoga – but depression sank in, and Victor continued gaining weight, reaching 280 pounds within a year of sustaining his injury.


    A Glimmer of Inspiration
    As he focused on school and physical therapy and filled his free time with gaming, however, the now-16-year-old realized that he wanted pocket money – he wanted to build a computer and buy some new games, so he began searching for a job. He quickly found work at the sandwich shop two miles from his house. His mom drove him sometimes, but when she couldn’t, he walked.

    As he began to walk more, something interesting happened – he noticed that his mood began to lift and he began to look forward to walking. The exercise and fresh air were therapeutic, and his body began to feel better than it had in months. On days he didn’t work, he walked anyway – alone or with his mom or sister. He also used some of the money he earned to buy a bicycle and spent plenty of time riding it around the neighborhood.

    Inspired by his physical and mental improvements, and motivated by the paychecks he was now putting in the bank, Victor went on longer and longer walks and bike rides and added weight training to his routine. He focused on the back-strengthening exercises the physical therapist had given him and lifted weights each night.

    Success was a snowball – the more he accomplished, the more he wanted to accomplish. He began eating smaller portions and drinking water instead of sugary beverages and continued walking and lifting most days of the week.

    Now nearly 18 years old, Victor feels better than ever and weighs a healthy and fit 205 pounds. He’s seen how important exercise and fitness are to his life and plans to remain active to avoid returning to the place of depression and excess weight where he spent so much time. He’s learning to cook healthy meals, looking forward to college, and formulating new plans and goals for his life.

    Fitness is freeing – what do you need to be freed from?

    Weekly Spotlight: Zhané James

    Weekly Spotlight: Zhané James

    Slowly but surely breaking into the music scene, singer-songwriter Zhané James has a voice that will haunt your waking dreams. She just turned twenty in the middle of August, but don’t let her age fool you for a second. Her lyrics have a deep wisdom to them. Zhané takes the raw passion and frustration from everyday life and weaves it into alluring melodies.


    However, she wasn’t always so confident and dynamic. Growing up in Douglasville, Georgia, Zhané struggled with stage fright as a young child. Overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of people and growing to love music, she sang in front of her church congregation at just 13 years old. Now, Zhané sings “to relieve the pain”, as her Instagram states. Her single “Running Blind” is out on VEVO now.

    How long have you been recording music?

    I recorded my first song acapella at the age of 15 on software.  I received my first Macbook Pro in high school and learned how to use garageband.


    What is it like starting out as a new artist in the music industry?

    It was intimidating at first, being that I didn’t know my type of music style yet. I was still finding myself.


    Tell me about your latest single, “Blind Running”. What was the inspiration behind that song?

    I was inspired to write “Blind Running” my sophomore year of college. I was starting to see who my real friends were. (The fake ones) just used me and added unneeded, extra stuff on my plate. A lot of (my) college experiences were exposed throughout the song and most of my lyrics were from being angry.


    Has this been a solo endeavor? Or do you have friends and family helping you with your music?

    It’s been a solo endeavor on my end of writing songs and recording myself. Sometimes my mother will help support financially and keep me focused in college. No one helps me with the actual writing process though. There are some things my parents have never heard before.


    How would you classify your sound?

    I would classify my music as R&B. My music is pretty demanding. My sound can be grimy and rough at times but I am able to change it up as I am currently working on some soft melodies.

    What are your favourite artists and/or bands?

    My four favorite artists are Beyoncé, Migos, H.E.R., and Jhené Aiko.


    Describe your creative process. How do you go about creating new music?

    My creative process is a little different every time. Sometime I can go straight into writing lyrics to an instrumental and other times I'll have to mumble or hum a tune that gets stuck in my head until I find lyrics that match the subject and rhymes for the word play on the track.


    Do you feel that silence, chaos, or something in between is the perfect fuel for your creativity?

    I'd have to say Chaos is the best fuel for my creativity. I do the best and push myself the most when I'm angry or completely fed up. (However), silence or a walk in the park is really good fueling energy for my creativity also.


    What does a typical day look like for you?

    A typical day for me currently is college level classes on campus in the mornings until the afternoon and then work until the evening. When I get off work, I occasionally make funny Snapchat videos with my friends, go to a school event, or most likely write and record music in my room.

    How do you want your music to affect people who hear it?

    I want my music to affect people in ways that they will relate of course. I want them to actually feel the meaning of the lyrics, not only hear it. I want people to know that they aren't the only ones who go through certain situations in life and I want my music to help people through situations whether it's a happy, sad, upsetting, or frustrating situation. All people go through ups and downs. A lot of times, music is the best way to calm a person or let them know that it's okay to be sad, it's okay to feel hurt. Just don't let emotions take over your day or your life.


    What makes your music different from other artists with similar style and sound to yours?

    What makes my music different than others is that I write about real life problems and situations. I don't just write about money and clothes, etc. If you listen closely enough, you can hear facts about me in my songs. My music tells a lot about me.


    Which places do you want to visit?

    I dream of traveling to Bora Bora, Italy, France, Tokyo, Sydney, and Dubai.


    How have your friends and family reacted to your musical pursuits?

    My friends know almost every word to my songs and my parents have seemed to pick out certain lines that stick with them. I’m guessing they have favorite parts. For the most part, everyone is very supportive.


    Your Instagram bio says you "sing to relieve the pain". Could you elaborate on that?

    I came up with that saying on my Instagram when I was going through a painful, heartbreaking situation. I almost gave up on everything here while in college. I started singing about the way I felt and the music just made me realize that I really had more going for myself than I realized. I couldn't just throw away two years of college. Singing is what held me together and kept me from some emotional breakdowns. I just kept it real with myself and said "I sing to relieve the pain". Because that’s exactly what I did and continue to do. I pushed myself harder than ever before. That’s when I made my first music video "Blind Running", which was shot by my blood related cousin, Drew Mitchell.


    What keeps you focused on music and not bored or frustrated with it?

    The thought of my music reaching other countries all over the world is an insane accomplishment to me and that’s what keeps me focused on music. I wouldn't say that it's the writing that gets me frustrated. Recording is what frustrates me the most. I tend to redo parts over and over and over again until it’s perfect to me.


    Are you working on a full album?

    I am currently working on an EP. I haven't started on a full album yet because I feel like I have to get some more things lined up with more support and promotion. I want my album to be as perfect as possible.


    Do you exercise or diet to stay healthy?

    I do exercise weekly but not everyday of the week. I’m from down south so I'm not really one to diet with all the fried food and collard greens my family eats. Plus, I'm a pretty tiny girl. I’m trying to gain in my lower body area, not lose it.


    What would you say to budding artists trying to break into the music industry?

    I would say Keep Going! My first videos I made got about 26 and 50 views, respectively. Then I started promoting more. Soon, other artist pages as well as fan pages started shouting me out and helping spread the word about me. That’s how I am breaking through!

    All photos were taken from Zhané’s Instagram page.




    Laurrel Allison is a writer and editor who hates avocados and can’t do yoga. From the States though she may be, she prefers giving in to wanderlust beyond her home country.

    Laurrel is a content creator for various online publications. She is known to enjoy taking a cuppa, playing video games, as well as watching You’re the Worst.

    She can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

    Self-Efficacy Through Yoga

    Self-Efficacy Through Yoga

    The demands of our fast-paced lives can create behavioral patterns that do not serve us overall. For many of us, a typical day consists of getting up, getting the kids to school, working, retrieving the kids, family time, homework, dinner, then bedtime to do it all again tomorrow. There’s never enough time or energy.

    It is easy to fall into patterns that are detrimental to our overall health and neglect our physical preservation. Jared Mollenkopf was your typical American family guy and businessman. For most of his life, he’d accepted his large stature believing that he could not achieve something different.

    Things changed after Jared turned 40 and a trip to the doctor warned that his habits would cost him his life. He was over 500 lbs., he was getting tired sitting at his desk job, and was admittedly obsessed with food. At his lowest point, Jared would drink maple syrup from the glass.

    Jared reports that he has been overweight his entire life. Although he was aware that each cupcake only dug him deeper into the weight hole, all he cared about was getting his sugar fix. Then, like many of us, he felt helpless to do something different.

    What sets Jared apart from the infinite weight loss program testimonials that circulate is his willingness to share his experience throughout the journey paired with the fantastic outlook he used to keep going. A mindful Jared kept a video journal of his weight loss experience with DDP Yoga.

    Typical weight loss testimonials give you a before and after picture. Where the results are not merely a trick of the lens, we consumers are left feeling as though idealized results are unattainable.

    His journey begins with a fresh-start nutrition revamp that focused on breaking his sugar addiction through complete sugar elimination and portion control. You, however, can still attain favorable results if you leave moderate amounts of fruit and starch in your diet.

    Photo and Video: Youtube

    Jared’s becomes a story of perseverance and determination. In the beginning, Jared couldn’t touch his toes. The video classes he followed would do poses that he couldn’t; winded he’d need to take a break.

    Instead of berating himself for not following along or keeping up, Jared showed himself compassion. By listening to his body, he only pushed as far as he felt was safe and took breaks when he needed it. He reflects that maintaining compassion for himself allowed him to see and acknowledge the progression of his accomplishment.

    Instead of pausing a tape or trying to catch up, Jared fell back in-line with the class wherever they were when he was ready. As time progressed, he was completing more of the sessions .

    Yoga is a low-impact exercise discipline that builds balance, breathing, muscle strength, flexibility, and can raise your heart rate. This dynamic fitness style is versatile in that you can do it alone or in groups, indoors or outside, room temperature or hot, and even guided through videos online.  

    Jared lost 300 lbs. in 15 months! He now shares his story online and through public speaking opportunities with a simple message: Want it, believe it, keep trying.

    Weekly Spotlight: Oscar Lin

    Weekly Spotlight: Oscar Lin

    The bodybuilding culture in Taiwan is not very noticeable. However, it isn’t uncommon. Bodybuilding events and contests have taken place in various cities around the island. I was given the opportunity to catch up with Oscar Lin, a 23-year-old bodybuilder (and avid Marvel fan) born and raised in Taichung. Oscar has been bodybuilding for several years now. He can currently deadlift nearly 220 kg. He also works as a math teacher at a local high school and enjoys grabbing McDonald’s on his cheat days. Eventually, Oscar wants to start vlogging on his own YouTube channel in the spirit of Steven Cao.

    It was 9 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday morning. Driving through the streets of Taichung, I stifled a yawn. By the time I made my way into the gym, Oscar was already deep into his workout with his training partner. Weighing about 175 pounds at 5”8, Oscar’s muscular frame filled out his Marvel tank top. He set his equipment down so he could introduce himself. Later, he took some time to answer some of my questions.


    How long have you been a bodybuilder?

    I’ve been progressively training since the sophomore year of college. During my senior year, I competed my first show in. It was a competition for college students. I got third place in the category of men under 75 kg and that’s how it all began.

    Why do you enjoy this lifestyle?

    I like to challenge myself. Seeing those changes and gains on my body is quite satisfying.

    What inspired you to start this lifestyle?

    I was too skinny to find any suitable outfit. Whenever I would try to find new clothes, they just wouldn’t fit right on me. Since then, I made up my mind to get stronger. It just really grew from there. Now, getting stronger is a really big part of my life!

    What keeps you motivated?

    I watch many YouTubers who often post fitness videos that motivates me. Steven Cao is my favourite YouTuber and also my goal.

    Who helps motivate you in your personal life?

    I would say it's my mom. She has always been strict on me but taught me a lot in life. She taught me if you wanna do something, you should do it with all you've got and never give up too easily. This made me who I am today.

    Do you ever wake up in the morning and just not want to go to the gym? How do you fight that feeling?

    Sometimes I do, but I would take a rest day only if all my muscles were sore as hell. When this becomes part of your life, you don't have to fight anything to get it done because it's already being a part of you. It’s best to start building up healthy habits as soon as possible! And no excuses!

    Do you do this professionally or just for fun?

    It’s a lot fun to me of course, but one day I’ll get my pro card and maybe compete in the Olympics! 

    Do you travel much?

    No. I love Taiwan.

    What does your family think of your bodybuilding?

    At first, they were against it.But after seeing those changes on me, they supported me and my mom even cooked for me.

    What are the changes that bodybuilding has done to your life?

    There were a couple difference noticeable changes.

    Foods: I used to eat snacks and candy, but now I only eat foods that are nutritious and natural.

    Body: You can see in the picture below.

    How would you describe the feeling that working out brings to you?

    It’s exciting. I quite enjoy having sore muscles!

    What’s your diet?

    All meals includes meat, veggies, carbs, and eggs. The meat is either chicken breast, beef, or salmon. Carbs can be brown rice, sweet potato, or rice. Veggies are usually broccoli.

    How often do you work out?

    5-6 times a week,1-2 hours per day.

    Do you have any advice?

    You can start being healthy by cutting down sugar intake such as drinks, desserts, etc. If you don't know where to start or what to do, you could start with having a good habit of doing easy exercises. Simple things like jogging or doing push ups are a good way to get started building healthy habits. Just don’t be afraid to get started.





    Laurrel Allison is a writer and editor who hates avocados and can’t do yoga. From the States though she may be, she prefers giving in to wanderlust beyond her home country.

    Laurrel is a content creator for various online publications. She is known to enjoy taking a cuppa, playing video games, as well as watching You’re the Worst.
    She can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.