I really struggled as a teen to make friends and cope with my self-image. I was called fat and ugly and my nickname at school was “Martha the Gorilla”. In high school it only became worse and the bullying and the name-calling intensified.
Every day I never felt liked I fitted in and only ever believed the negative things that people would tell me. By the time I was 15 I already weighed over 90 kilos. My family moved to Australia when I was just three months old from American Samoa and I grew up around Mt Druitt in Sydney’s Western Suburbs.
Growing up as a short girl with dark skin and being a pastor’s daughter made me an easy target for bullies at my school. It also left me defenceless due to a combination of my strong Christian background and my low self-esteem. I never stood up for myself because I was taught to turn the other cheek and not to question authority.
Behind these children’s smiles are way too many encounters with school bullies. Article continues after this video.
When I left school I was unemployed, had no ambition and lived on Centrelink benefits. Then I started to rebel against my parents. I would sneak out to parties, sometimes not even bothering to come home. I took drugs, drank too much and I hung out with the wrong crowd.
Eventually I weighed over 135 kilos. It was then that I hit rock bottom. I was suffering from depression. Something needed to change. I needed to get away from my old life so at 22 I moved from Sydney in NSW to the Central Coast. I realised that nobody was going to help me and if I didn’t make urgent changes, my life was going to continue in a downward spiral.
The first time I stepped into the gym it was scary and I hated training and I hated myself. I was so ashamed that I would only train late at night or in the early hours of the morning when nobody could see me. Then something happened, I started to enjoy training. I started to see results and I started going to the gym twice a day, seven days a week. It gave me a sense of control, my self-esteem and self-image improved and I started to believe in myself.
One day I was working out with a friend of mine and as a joke he asked me to lift a weight. It was 170 kilos. I moved it with ease and my (now) coach saw my lift and he asked me to do it again.