Anya means “grace”, and nobody embodies Anya better than you do! For this month’s #herbyAnya, we spoke to three members of our community to learn what living gracefully means to them. Embracing their bodies and ageing well are common themes—and these women have lovely insights on them.
Meet Melissa (@jellymellyxplores), a self-proclaimed cardio junkie who loves any workout that gets her heart pumping. In 2019, when she was 37, she began a conscious journey to become a fitter, healthier version of herself. By consistently showing up for herself at the gym, Melissa made huge breakthroughs.
Besides achieving personal bests, she developed a more positive relationship with her body. If you’ve been grappling with your body image too, read on—Melissa shows us that it can get better.
Small changes, big results
Before embarking on her current fitness journey, Melissa’s relationship with exercise wasn’t the happiest. “It was like ‘work out when I feel like I’ve gained weight’, or ‘work out for the sake of working out’,” she shares. She adds that she would usually work out alone, and that dampened her motivation.
So what changed in 2019?
For Melissa, it was the realisation that we should prioritise our health as we age. “There’s that saying—‘health is wealth’,” she says. “When you consistently stay active, you’re lowering the risk of getting diseases linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
Another factor that helped Melissa embrace an active lifestyle is that she found the right community. She joined a gym that specialises in indoor rowing, and the group she began working out with was a “fun and crazy bunch”.
“They were so encouraging and they pushed each other during each session,” she says. “Surprisingly, I enjoyed my fitness journey when I started—they made my time in the gym so delightful.”
Although no journey is ever truly smooth, Melissa’s is full of highs worth celebrating. She has grown stronger and fitter, and it shows. During her gym’s annual 2km time trial on the Concept2 rower, she finished under 9 minutes—a personal best. She also deadlifted 70kg—something she thought she would never be able to do.
“My fitness journey has never been easy, so I am proud of who I am and what I’ve achieved so far,” Melissa shares.
“When I work out, I feel a sense of accomplishment for myself—especially when I see how far I am able to push myself. These little milestones are reminders to myself of how far I’ve come. I’m working even harder now to be better.”
She has some great advice for all of us, too:
“Remember, you don’t need to try to impress or compete with anyone else. You work out for yourself, not for others.”
A journey of acceptance
Today, Melissa maintains an active lifestyle for reasons that are far kinder than the ones she started out with.
“It’s not about just wanting to lose weight anymore,” she says. “It’s about making myself feel good after a workout, knowing that I’ve made the effort and that I’ll come back stronger. It’s about learning to accept and love myself.”
Melissa tells us that she spent most of her life struggling with body image. “Personally, I don’t think that body image issues get easier to deal with as one gets older. The mental and emotional struggles are real. I only accepted my own body when I was 37 or 38, when I finally realised that this is who I am.”
But it can get better. Melissa believes that choosing to be active makes a difference, because you’ll feel more at home in your own body.
“I used to hate my arms because they look big and flabby,” she shares, adding that she never used to wear sleeveless clothes. “But after starting my fitness journey, I saw changes in my body. I began to wear sleeveless tops at the gym because I felt good about myself. As I understood my body more, I learnt to accept my physique as it is.”
Never too late
Melissa’s last bit of wisdom for those of us with body image struggles? “The more active you are, the better you’ll feel! Soon, you will realise that your body changes for the better.”
Besides showing us a way to embrace ourselves, Melissa’s journey is also a reflection of what living gracefully means to her: “It’s about learning to love and accept yourself, finding joy in the things you do, and taking good care of your mental well-being.”
Melissa is truly an inspiration—and living proof that there’s no time like the present when it comes to kickstarting a more positive relationship with your body.
With a cheeky smile that we’ve grown fond of during our chat, Melissa remarks, “Remember, it’s never too late to be active. The question is, when are you ready to take the first step?”
What does living gracefully look like to you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!