by Gabby Leighton / photos by Shalimar Studios / Shot at TruFusion Scottsdale
After 24 years of talking negatively about herself, makeup artist Sam Helmer decided to make a change. She was done with her bad habits and blaming her weight for her unhappiness. It’s been five years since she embarked on a transformation journey. In the process, she lost a total of 96 pounds and truly found herself.
What was your life like before you decided to make a change?
I grew up overweight, with terrible eating habits. I loved any food that was not beneficial for my body and I would eat and eat until I was sick. Emotionally, socially, and well ... simply because I just loved food! I would try to make changes and cut down on food and starve myself. I was so uneducated, and honestly didn’t know where to start, so nothing stuck. My weight would yo-yo but I was always unhappy with my body and the fact that I felt every “bad thing” in my life that happened “to me” was “because I was fat.” The reason I wasn’t popular in school, the reason I wasn’t good at sports, the reason boys didn’t like me, the reason I did not get that job, the list goes on. I would talk to myself so negatively and tell myself the reason was because of the way I looked.
How did you break this cycle?
After 24 years of this negative self-talk, it would have been so easy to continue to feel that way and to stay the same. However, I was ready to make a change. I wanted respect, and no one was respecting me because I did not respect myself. I needed to make a change in order to not use the fact that I was overweight as a reason to not chase my dreams. But losing the weight turned into so much more.
Was there an event that triggered this in your life?
It was actually around the time that I was making a lot of other changes in my life. I was fresh out of an unhealthy relationship, switched career paths and was moving cross-country. I started using the gym as a release, as my therapy.
What was the process like in the very beginning?
In the very beginning I would probably go to the gym a few times a week. Once I started to see results I wanted more results. Then, my change became more drastic. I was in the gym every single day and started saying no to any foods that weren’t benefiting my body. This almost became too drastic. (Later on I would find a little more balance, thankfully!)
What was your motivation throughout your journey?
My motivation was constantly changing! But mostly it was what I was gaining from my journey. The better I felt, the more progress I made, the more I wanted to continue to progress! Also, I’ve gained so many great relationships and gym friends that are more like family and they continuously motivate me as well. The people in my corner mean so much to me.
Beyond the outer transformation, how did this process change you on the inside?
In the beginning this was an outer transformation but I can say along the way, at some point, this became more of an internal transformation. Slowly, the negative self-talk is becoming less and I’ve learned to try to celebrate my successes, even the small ones. I am able to go after what I want and be happier in (most) situations because I feel better on the inside. Every day is a work in progress.
How do you plan on maintaining this weight?
This is a lifestyle for me. I love being healthy, I love working out. I will continue to work on myself internally, stay in the gym, and work on finding a balanced diet that works with my lifestyle.
What is your workout and diet routine now compared to what it was when you were losing weight?
After “dieting” for about 6 months very strictly, I took time off from tracking my food to enjoy my 30th birthday. I have been making (mostly) healthy decisions when it comes to food and have still been taking around two classes a day (when possible) at TruFusion.
What advice do you have for those who want to change their life but don’t know where to start?
This is one of my favorite questions and my answer will always be two things: 1. Find something you love to do! There are way too many options as far as exercise out there for you to be doing something that makes you unhappy. 2. Just start. Do something every day. Whether it’s a walk with your dog, jumping jacks and sit ups in your living room – just move! The pain is temporary and you only get stronger.
What are your favorite active activities?
Boxing/kick boxing, HIIT/circuit training, dancing, hot Pilates, and hot yoga. I grew up in Kansas where there aren’t many mountains so I have also obtained a huge love and appreciation for hiking!
Do you have any workout songs that really get you pumped up?
I like to work out to hip-hop and rap, anything with a good beat that I can dance to!
If you could go back in time and tell your “old self” one thing, what would it be?
That everything I was going through would pay off and lead me to a really, really, good place in life. To be patient with myself.
What do you hope for yourself in the future?
As of right now my main goal is to find balance in my life while continuing to progress. I will always keep reaching for new fitness goals and challenging myself but the inner work and my relationships are just as important!