My Fitness Journey with Disability Icon

Updated: Dec 20, 2019


I’ve always cared about my appearance, not in a vain way (at least I like to think), but I’ve always tried to stay fit. It’s important to me to take care of my body, so I’ve always watched what I eat and exercised regularly.


I remember being in elementary school and learning about "My Plate," which showed how your plate should be divided up with fruits, vegetables, carbs, etc., and trying to stick to it. And then in middle school when I realized that eating four Oreo’s at lunch everyday was probably a lot, so I cut down to just two.



I’ve also always enjoyed exercising, participating in various sports from a young age and staying active in every way that I can. I started playing tennis when I was 10 and played throughout high school, and also tried to work out on the side, strengthening my muscles.



I also got pretty lucky with my body type and metabolism. Most of my life, it didn’t really matter what I ate, even though I chose to be cautious of my choices. I had always been slim and fit, and I probably would’ve been even if I didn’t eat well or exercise.


When I started gaining weight from the high doses of heavy steroids I was on while inpatient at Shepherd (February-April 2018), I began to really hate my circumstances.


At the time, eating was the only thing that gave me any kind of joy, and I was soooo hungry all the time from the steroids. My stomach was literally a bottomless pit that could never be satisfied. So while I was inpatient, I ate and I ate well.


March 2018

At the beginning it didn’t matter. I had lost so much weight in the hospital from not being able to eat that at first, I was just getting back to a healthy weight.


But then I started gaining pound after pound after pound, gaining more and more weight each week.


I hated it, but while I was still inpatient there wasn’t much I could do, so I waited until I moved back home to start watching what I ate.


It was really hard, I was just so hungry, but I still made an effort. But it didn’t matter what I did, each time I weighed myself, expecting to have lost at least a couple pounds, I had gained even more.


The steroids were relentless. While I was still on them it didn’t matter what I did, I was going to keep gaining weight.


In total I gained 40-50 pounds over the course of about 9 months.


May 2018

I didn’t look like myself, I didn’t feel like myself, and when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t even recognize myself.


Every time I looked in the mirror, I was shocked, expecting to see my old self, but always rudely awakened, so I started avoiding mirrors all together.


I put on so much weight, so rapidly, that I started getting stretchmarks everywhere. First on my hips, then on my arms, then even on my boobs. And they weren’t just light, barely noticeable stretchmarks, they were dark, wide, and at the time humiliating stretchmarks. When I would brush my hair, I had to look down so that I wouldn’t catch a glimpse of them, they were too painful to look at, and they were only getting worse.


Finally, I was able to come off of the steroids in September of 2018, exactly a year after I had started them, and I was so relieved.


I knew that once I came off of them, I would be able to start losing the weight. It didn’t happen right away, I knew the side effects would still linger, and they still do, but I knew my time of gaining weight was finally coming to an end.


A month after I came off of the steroids, I finished outpatient rehab at Shepherd, and was ready to start working out on my own. I was ready to do anything and everything in my power to become myself again. I had already overcome so much, so I wasn’t just going to sit by and let the weight swallow me up


At the beginning, I looked for different YouTube videos, mostly targeted on cardio. I found some good stuff, but not enough, and not tailored exactly to my needs.


Then my mom found Sarah Foley (Vertical Blonde) on social media.


Sarah was about to release a fitness app for girls in wheelchairs, called Disability Icon. She had posted her progress pictures and they amazed me. It made me realize that despite my limitations, I would be able to lose this “wheelchair tummy,” a term I didn’t know at the time, but was still well aware of.


I immediately knew that I wanted to participate in her program and signed up as soon as I could. I was nervous at the start, because I was still super fatigued and wasn’t sure if I would be successful, but I was excited for something that was fit for my needs.


Disability Icon is a six-week program that consists of four workouts a week, a meal plan, and coaching calls with the personal trainer, Jake Havron, and Sarah herself. The program has come a long way since its start in October 2018, we now have weekly group calls, which have become my favorite part, and in September, Sarah will be hosting a retreat in Utah that I’m super excited for.


October 2018 -- June 2019

I’ve gained so much from this experience.


Since the start, I’ve lost at least 40 pounds and more inches than I can count, and although that’s the reason I started it in the first place, I’ve gained more from the program than I could have ever imagined.



I’ve made friends who can relate to some of my struggles and are always willing to listen and give advice if asked for. I feel so much more confident. I can wear my old clothes again. Transfers that used to be impossible for me are now easy because I’m so much lighter and stronger. The list just goes on and on.


Probably the thing that has made the biggest difference is that I look and feel more like myself with each passing day.



I now crave my gym time and feel incomplete without it, and I don’t crave all the sweets that I used too, and don’t feel incomplete without those. I try not to let anything stop me from getting my workouts in, and get mad when I start to get sick or super busy because I don’t want to have to take a break.



I’m still not where I want to be, but with each workout I get closer. I still haven’t met all my goals, but that’s because as soon as I reach one, I add a new one.


As each round of Disability Icon comes to an end, I think I’ll be done and just work out on my own, but I just keep coming back!



I have no idea where I would be right now without the program and without Sarah as my friend and mentor. The program has given me more than I ever expected, and I can’t thank Sarah and Jake enough for that. I’m so excited to see where Disability Icon will go and where it will continue to take me.


If you’re struggling to get in the gym, just think about how good you’ll feel after, how proud and accomplished you’ll feel, and it won’t take long until your addicted like me! It’s not hard to make it a lifestyle, but it takes time and commitment. Remember: you make time for what’s important. Put the excuses aside and start making and reaching those goals!



If you’re interested in signing up for Disability Icon, use my code, Mariel10, and sign up for your coaching call with Sarah! I’d be happy to talk to you about it and answer any questions you have! I promise you won’t regret beginning this life changing transformation!!



p.s. I leave for Gainesville TOMORROW and move in on Friday!! Next week's post will be about my move and first couple days back in The Swamp!!





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