By WAYNE JOSEPH
Competitiveness in looks and not looking “fat” can be hard on teenagers in school, especially as they try to fit in.
One such former teen explains her pain while putting on the weight in both middle and high school as a battle of being excluded by all the “pretty” girls at school.
“I gained a lot of weight from ages 8 to about 12 years old and I think a lot of it had to do with what was going on within my family personally,” Whittney Soares said. “When I hit junior high school it took a toll on me.”
Soares’ confidence level dropped “big time” as she saw all the attractive girls at school excluding her and so weight control became an obsession.
“I never ate school lunch, joined the junior varsity soccer team and tried my hardest to maintain my 118-pound frail figure,” she said. “My eating habits were horrible.”
Soares would practice soccer three hours and then run to the gym to lift weights or do more cardio for another two hours on little to no food in her system.
“I was weak and my body was in starvation mode,” Soares said. “I needed to change and quickly.”
As a child, Soares played AYSO soccer and enjoyed ocean activities along with family outdoor play which included a variety of sports.
It was during her freshman year at Hilo High School that Soares became very self conscious about everything, especially her weight.
“I met my very first boyfriend, who is now my fiancé after being together and he really helped me put things into perspective,” Soares said. “I was trying to fit into this mold that truly wasn’t me.”
Soares realized, with the help of her fiancé, that she was comparing herself to other girls instead of embracing the assets she had within herself.
“My fiancé, Irvin, is extremely athletic,” she said. “He’s trained in ju jitsu and boxing/kickboxing his entire life,” Soares said. “He introduced me to fitness and healthy habits rather than the idea of wanting to be skinny.”
The results have been remarkable — Soares has transformed her body into a solid muscle mass as she runs daily, surfs regularly and lifts weights correctly.
“Irvin also introduced me into cooking well balanced meals to feed my body with energy in order to keep it adequately functioning,” Soares said.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 2006, Soares gave birth to a son named Mikolas, now almost 6 years old, and she wanted to be a stay at home mom.
“But I still wanted an income so we created a jewelry company called ‘Sunkissed Vahinez’ in partnership with my cousin in 2007,” Soares said. “Since then we’ve expanded our online customer base and continue to grow towards our future.”
Soares has come a long way since those school days of weight obsession.
“These days my perspective on fitness and health greatly differ than my teen years,” she said. “I’ve grown into my womanhood and have accepted and grown to love my strong natural body stature.”
Although heavier than high school Soares is also healthier and stronger than she ever was back then.
“I run at least three miles every other day and at home I have a little gym with weights, stability balls, medicine balls, where I zone out the world, blast my music and sweat,” she said.
Soares likes to do a lot of cardio activities like interval training and circuits mixed with weights and variety.
During her free time you can find her swimming, surfing, and hiking around the many beautiful trails that our island has to offer, often doing it with her son.
“I’ve also been going to this amazing free class in Hilo called ‘Urban Training,’” Soares said. “This class is run by a trainer every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Coconut Island and Bayfront at 6 p.m.”
By going to an experienced trainer, Soares is encouraged to push herself further than her usual comfort zone and take her fitness to the next level.
Looking ahead her goals are modest as she would one day like to race in a 5K (3.1-mile race).
“For the future I’d like to one day run a 5K,” Soares said. “That would be really cool. “I’ve also had an interest is fitness modeling as well.”
Soares new found confidence is unlimited as she sweeps away the scars that teens impose on themselves.
“The sky’s the limit really,” she said. “My real goal is to just gain awareness on what we put in our bodies as food, and how important it is to live healthy.”
And being a role model for a son plays an important part of her life.
“Being a healthy example for my son and other women out there is my platform,” she said.
Soares and her fiancé hope to marry in the near future and will make a welcomed addition to our East Hawaii community.
And someday should you happen to see a happily married man doing laps in the back roads of Hawaiian Paradise Park, remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at firstname.lastname@example.org.