Saturday Spotlight- Dara Mayola

I’ve enjoyed reading all of the Saturday back stories and originally thought, “Wow! I could never put myself out there like that.” However, I know better now than to shy away from challenges. You guys inspire me, so here it goes.

Today I’m in the healthiest best place I’ve ever been. But it’s been an evolution for me to get here. I’ve always been pretty hard on myself, even as a child. I carried an extra 10 pounds, nothing crazy. But a few suggestive comments about my weight from people I loved most set the stage for my poor relationship with body image and never feeling good enough.

So by the age of 8, I started Mousersizing, Mickey’s VHS exercise program, and hit the scale weekly. When I was 13 I belonged to the gym and went religiously for the next 20 years. I was also very active in sports. I always hated my body and tried every diet and quick fix under the sun. At one time, I’d go to the gym twice a day, only stopping when I had burned a specific number of calories. This was the start of binging and undoing the damage through exercise. Ironically, exercise was unhealthy for me because it was only used as a means of negating unhealthy choices.

When I went away to college, things went down-hill from there. Everything was changing. I started spiraling out of control. I began binge eating more “forbidden foods” and exercise wasn’t enough to get rid of it. As the weight crept up, I was desperate to drop pounds. So, one day I threw it up and thought, “Hey, this is a great way to eat what I want and then undo all the damage.” So young, so dumb.

This went on for months. It caught up to me and I was miserable. I left college in Maryland and transferred to a local college to help gain control of my life. When I couldn’t fix things myself, I told my parents what was going on. My parents got me professional help and were very supportive in helping me in any way that they could. I stopped a lot of the self destructive behaviors but still always was on a quest to “get thin,” and would regress every so often.

It wasn’t until the age of 28 when I first started to think about having kids that it all changed for me. Something inside just clicked for me. It was no longer about being thin or about me, it was now about being healthy and creating a perfect environment for a little growing life. Before this, I lived on diet coke, and anything sugar free/fat free. If it was made of artificial chemicals, it was for me. I kicked all of this crap. I started to eat healthy, wholesome foods. For the first time also, nothing was forbidden. I ate mostly healthy and if I wanted a cookie, I’d have one or two, just not a whole box.

Once I starting eating for health rather than weight-loss, the weight just fell off. I had my children, I was healthy and they were better for it. I was in a happier place and then came running.

Now, running came later in life for me and has added so much to my life. I was always the slowest base-runner on the softball field and huffing and puffing on the soccer field. I enjoyed going for runs but was a May through August runner, never did a race, never even thought or cared about pace. I labeled myself as a slow runner and just accepted it as a given.

A couple of times in my twenties, I attempted to train for a half marathon but would quit and head back to the gym once the weather got cold (below 60, ha!) After I had my second child, life got even busier. I was a teacher, wife and mother and loved each of my roles but something was missing. I got so caught up in being there for everyone else. I realized that I reached a point in my life that I stopped having my own personal dreams and goals. That was it. I wanted to start running again and I wanted to do it with a half marathon. I started consistently running in May of 2011 at the age of 33. At first I would walk/run for 30 minutes and had a lot of ankle pain. I had tendinitis in my ankle from a previous ankle break on a spin bike. Well, with each run I got stronger, training at about 10 minute miles. My first race was the Diva’s Half Marathon. It was amazing! I surprised myself and ran it in 1:47:53, and thought, “oh wow, I’m not as slow as I thought.” I was hooked and the rest is history.

It was then that I realized that you’re never too old to set goals. I felt like I was brought back to my childhood. I had a competitive drive back! I started reading a lot about running. I wanted to set new goals and get faster. I started doing speed work, tempo runs, hill work, etc. With each race started coming PR’s and age group medals, something that I once thought was not possible for a slow runner, such as myself. Running gave me the confidence to take risks and to set the bar high on the road, at work and in all aspects of my life.

I’ve learned so much from running. It’s my passion, like so many of you. The last piece of my story ends with SH warriors. This has been the icing on the cake for me. I joke, “I have found my people!” Everyone here gets it! So many people inspire me and encourage me to keep dreaming and to be the best I could be. My new goal is to break 1:30 in a half marathon and I will do it sooner or later. I’ve learned so much and have been on a roller coaster journey and am finally at peace with myself. We all have a history that shapes us as people. Our past molds us but at some point, we need to take responsibility for our life. We have the power to create the life that we want. I love and feel good about myself. My body is strong and I appreciate it now. I wish that I had been kinder to myself all those years growing up but I guess with age comes wisdom.

Thanks for the opportunity to share. Who knew that this group offers free therapy too!  Thanks guys 🙂

One thought on “Saturday Spotlight- Dara Mayola

  • December 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

    A true Selden Hills Warrior!!!!


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