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Choosing Grace.

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This past week has been filled with so many ups and downs it is hard to know where to begin or how to make sense of it all.

Last week was the anniversary of the day my mother gave birth to me (her words). I was so busy with getting ready for the retreat, work and other stuff that I seriously almost missed my birthday. How’s that for busy?

The retreat weekend was amazing, as usual. If you haven’t been to a retreat, I highly recommend it, I’m not just saying that, I still get a ton out of them, and I’ve been to A LOT. Even Ann Esselstyn sits in the back and takes notes, even on Dr. Esselstyns talks.

I gave 2 talks during the weekend. One is called “Survival of the Fattest” in that talk I go through the evolution and genetics of obesity and being overweight and how it is not what most people think it is. I also tell my own story and I explain how to adjust our idea of what success is. In the second talk “Thin by Tomorrow”I go over the unrealistic expectations people have when it comes to health and weight loss, and talk about what can actually be done in a realistic sense, rather than an over-hyped sense. I also go through calorie density and label reading.

They take a lot out of me. I mean, a lot. I don’t like getting on stage for about a billion reasons. I am afraid people will think I don’t belong up there (something I talk about in my talk). I worry that I am too fat to be on stage. I worry what people think of me as a speaker. I worry if I wore the right thing, put on the right lipstick. I worry that I might not communicate the right message somehow.

Without getting into the specifics – so far at each retreat my talks get really high ratings, like way more than I ever would have imagined, it’s a very nice compliment.

This week I got a few really hateful e-mails about how I did not belong on the Engine 2 Team, that I should leave, and that is recapping them very lightly. They were awful and hurtful and honestly a bit shocking. It wasn’t opinion, it was bullying.

Despite all of the encouraging things people say to me, the negative seems to stick out like a sore thumb and it takes me a while to get those messages out of my head.

I’m fully aware that I don’t look like the team, and that I have a lot of progress to make when it comes to weight loss. And I think that is what makes it a great fit. No one is “done” when it comes to their health journey. No one is perfect. We should all be proud of where we are, no matter where that is. This is not about an end goal, it’s about living a healthier life and moving toward a path of wellness. That will always be a constant for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m at my ideal weight or 100 pounds over it, my only true goal is to keep becoming a healthier person.

It might not line up perfectly with what other people think, but I’ve stopped concerning myself with that as much. I know what I need to do, and I know how hard I work at it.

Sometimes the words people say can hurt and sting more than they probably know. I’ve gone through so much because of my weight, that sometimes I would very much like to lock myself inside and not come out till I’m at an ideal weight.

This was very much the case on Tuesday night. Tuesday night I decided to go to the movies. I was going to watch an Italian documentary at a downtown theater. I parked my car, and realized I was early, so I thought I’d walk around.

I walked down the ramp of the parking garage, and I was on a side street that was pretty empty. This is when 3 college age, drunk guys started to harass me. They were calling me names, and then started throwing stuff at me. I walked faster. I knew that if I could just round the corner there would be a couple of stores that I could run into.

They kept it up, calling more names, throwing more things. I didn’t want to stop to even take out my phone at that moment.

I turned the corner, as they got closer, making more threats and saying really horrible things. Then, a man who saw what was happening stepped in and told them to back off. The guy who stepped in made sure I was ok, and told me to call the police, which I did.

The guy waited with me till the police got there. They took a report, took me back to my car and I went home, completely shaken.

I would like to tell you this is the first time something like this has happened, but it is not, nor do I imagine it will be the last.

And let’s be honest, the people who have sent me really mean e-mails are no different than the drunk guys who were harassing me on the street. The pain caused is the same. Because someone causes pain behind the safety of their computer screen does not make them any less of a bully.

A lot of people think it is ok to put down overweight people, make fun of them, hurt them, say awful things. None of it is ok. People, no matter what their size should be treated kindly. Look at the comment section of ANY article talking about weight loss and you will see all of the hateful and hurtful things people say about obese/overweight people. A lot of assumptions of how people become overweight and then a barrage of hurtful words.

It’s such a sad problem in our society that anyone has to deal with it. I am sad that even at 36 I still have to worry about what others will say or do, all because I’m overweight. I’ve spent so much time crying, hiding and contemplating if I belonged here, all because of bullying.

Last night, after feeling really down for a few days, Rip and his wife invited me over to their place to hang out, have some dinner, sit around the fire pit. I realized how amazingly fortunate I am to have met this family. I can’t even begin to explain the love and compassion they have, and when I say family I mean the entire team. They all love without abandon. And they accept people in ways that I did not think were possible. They meet people where they are, there is no judging, they come from a place of understanding. I’ve never felt like I belonged, until I joined this team. And last night, while sitting around the fire, that was even more apparent.

Despite everything inside of me wanting to hide from the world right now, despite questioning if I belong where I am. I decided that it would just let the bullies win, and I’m not about to do that.

The world can be a mean place, but I believe that the more we work toward putting a little love and compassion into it, the better it will all get.

I’m choosing to have grace. Even with the people who have hurt me, whether they do it intentionally or not. To me, that’s the only way to go.

About the author

Natala is the director of communications for Engine 2 Diet, she is also one of our coaches on our support site, Engine 2 Extra. A few years ago, Natala was at the end of her rope. She was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She was just over 30 years old. She decided to take her life back by becoming plant-strong. She has lost over 200 pounds, got off of all of her medications and now has great health numbers. Natala plays the violin and studied music therapy. She became passionate about plant-strong nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, a certificate in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and is currently pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences. Natala is also a featured speaker at our Engine 2 Retreats she talks about the reality of our nations obesity epidemic as well as providing practical steps to becoming a healthier person.

33 Responses to “Choosing Grace.”

  1. Mandy says:

    I am so sorry that all of that happened to you this week, you don’t deserve it, no one does. I am also happy that you are on the Engine 2 team, and the Rip is a standup guy. It makes me even happier that I’m going to sign up for a retreat this year. Thank you for sharing this personal story with us.

  2. Lucy says:

    AMEN Natala! You are a bright light in this dark world. I get bogged down and saddened when people are constantly posting mean things or even just writing passive aggressive things. I un-liked a page because the person was just posting status after status of putting down someone else. It came off as petty and bullying. Like my Grandma says if you don’t have something nice to say, go for a walk. Some people just need to go on a lot of very long walks.
    I’m glad you are safe. Please carry some kind of protection with you when you walk at night!!

  3. Zoggie says:

    That’s an appalling way to treat anybody. Bullying is unacceptable in any form. Well done to you for getting up and carrying on. I’ve had that happen to me in the past and I’m just not taking it anymore.

  4. Diane says:

    I loved reading this. Not all of the hurt you have expierened this week, but about your team. I love that Rip has accepted you on his team and loves and understands, that says so much about Engine 2. Makes me really happy that I follow you guys. And now I also want to go to a retreat. If only to hear you talk, but to meet the rest of this very loving family!

  5. Beverly says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I was there last weekend and very much appreciated your sharing. We are all struggling with different things. We often dislike in others what is really within ourselves. My Pastor has been reminding us a lot lately of the amazing grace we have been given and the grace we are to be giving to others. People can really hurt us–that will not change. But our response can change many things. I saw your heart last week. And love it!!

  6. Dan says:

    I’m glad you wrote this. It’s actually something I sadly see a lot of, especially online and sadly by people who say they are ‘vegan’. I keep seeing things posted online about how if you go vegan you will be thin, they make it sound like there are no overweight vegans and if you see someone overweight they are horrible people who don’t love animals.

    I’m going to start saving funds as well for the weekend conference. I want to support you.

  7. CactusBloom says:

    I was at the retreat last weekend, and while I liked all of the other talks yours was by far my favorite, and I didn’t even know who you were before it! I have to admit I was wondering why you were speaking, but you cleared that up in about 2 minutes. I learned so much from you, you changed my perception on so many things and changed my life. You are in my daily prayers, and you are invited to come stay with us anytime. We all love you!

  8. Tara :) says:

    I’m so glad that Engine 2 found you, Natala. You are amazing, and the team would not be who they are without you. Don’t let the bullies win–you have far too much good to share with the world <3

  9. BigPlantDude says:

    Wanted to chime in and also say your talks were my favorite (sorry Doug!!, I hope that doesn’t hurt your self esteem). You are absolutely beautiful, the way you are. Not just inside, but out. Anyone who says otherwise can go play in a different sandbox. I just wish I was in your city so that I could be your body guard. I am glad you were not hurt (physically) and that you have such a loving family.

  10. Lauren Stewart says:

    Natala, I attended the very first Engine 2 Retreat and so I never got to hear your talk, but I enjoy reading your posts so much and they always encourage me. It breaks my heart for you that people can be so cruel, especially when you seem like such a beautiful person. Keep up the great work, though, because you are making a huge difference in people’s lives! You are awesome!

  11. Jess says:

    I don’t think people even realize it some of the time. I used to follow another plantbased author and she was always posting things that I don’t think she knew were hurtful, things that suggested that certain people were less than because of their size or if they had a disease. I think people do it because they are ignorant and not evolved as much as they think they are.
    I hope that you can keep finding love in the world.
    And I agree with everyone below, I’d love to hear you speak and meet you!

  12. Yvonne says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the way you were treated Natala and thank heavens for the gentleman who was able to assist. Please know that you are an inspiration to me and others. I still have 120 lbs to lose.. I really struggle with The Pleasure Trap and when I am struggling to do the right thing I think of you and all of the progress that you have made. Please don’t let these idiots bully you off the stage – you have too important and critical a message to share.

  13. Lori says:

    My husband and I are signed up for the Portland retreat. It’s how we will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. I was really happy to see that you were on the list of speakers. I am really looking forward to all that we will learn–even though I’ve already read many of the books–and the FOOD. Looking forward to meeting you!

    • Sheri says:

      I will be there, too, and am so excited to hear your presentations, Natala! I live in Oregon and certainly hope “we” give you a better experience here. I also hope the email haters/bullies are not part of the Engine 2 community. I would like to think that we’re all together in this and better than that. Thank you for being you! :D

  14. justme says:

    I’m so glad a REAL person stepped in to help. Not everyone is cruel…but when the few jerks in the world are, it hurts. Words hurt every bit as much as sticks and stones.

  15. Natala, I started following Engine 2 because of the 28-day challenge and I just want to say that both you and Ami have been very encouraging!! Your bio says it all – you’ve lost over 200 pounds and got off of all of your medications!! That’s amazing! People can be so mean and it’s hard to just ignore it all. I wish I could attend a retreat…ya’ll need to come to Florida!! Just keep doing what you love to do! ♥

  16. Peggy says:

    You have more grace in your pinky finger than most do in their entire body! Way to stand up and keep going! Many other people could benefit from this message. And I’m for one so happy that Engine 2 is so compassionate, kind and loving, makes me even more glad to follow you guys and YES I want to go to a retreat and hear you speak now!!

  17. Leah says:

    So sorry you were hounded and made to feel uncomfortable and unwanted by drunken bullies. Having just moved from a country where drunken youth regularly yelled racist comments at anyone looking slightly different from themselves, I am very sensitive to this dangerous public mentality. I hope the city you are in will do something about the safety of their streets. It is not OK to intimidate others. Glad you are safe and full of good resolve.

  18. Kim Treanor says:

    Absolutely breaks my heart, Natala. I am so impressed with your grace and class in handling this terrible treatment. You keep your head high. I know that you are an inspiration to many, many people!

  19. Tracy says:

    I’m so sad over this. Also sad that anyone would write to you just to be mean, you are right people who bully online are no different than those drunk jerks who bullied you. I’ve seen it so many times. I’m so happy that E2 has never sunk to that level. I’ve seen others who are just nasty to others, or who make fun of people or who suggest that they are better than someone else just because they have the right body. It’s all in poor taste. Rip and Engine 2 are so lucky to have you. I also want to come hear you speak one day, you inspire me.

  20. Sheila Z says:

    Love you Natala and Happy Birthday! Wish I could afford to go to a retreat and meet you in person. You speak for all of us that can’t, thank you!

  21. Maura says:

    You really need a book. You write so much here at Engine 2, just put it in a book. So many people relate to you.

  22. Jan says:

    I have a feeling why you got some of those mean e-mails, and I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe the author who attacked Engine 2, or their fans. How sad. How sad that neither had an ounce of grace. If something doesn’t go your way, move on. It’s simple. You don’t need to hurt others. I love you Natala and so does everyone else, and if they don’t they are ignorant and need a whole lot of perspective.

  23. stacy says:

    Natala, I read and check this blog regularly because of YOU. I’ve been vegan for many years out of compassion, and am appalled when other vegans try to shame people about their bodies or not being the ‘perfect’ vegan. Please always remember this is about their own issues and not you – you’re brave and wise and you totally rock. There are a lot of us out there who are inspired by you, I wish for you that you feel nothing but pride in yourself, you are a beautiful woman.

  24. Gina Foster says:

    Natala, you write with more compassion and grace than anyone I know. I’m really grateful that you are on the E2 team.
    If it makes you feel any better, I print out your essays and keep them in a notebook and read them when I need a boost in this journey. I was also bullied for my weight (openly as a child, more subtly as an adult). It hurts and the hurt doesn’t seem to go away. When I reached 40, that helped somehow. I felt as though a responsibility to be thin/pretty/successful was lifted. I could make my own definition of good weight for me, pretty on my own terms, and successful just to have made it this far (it’s a long story). Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us. You’ve made such a wonderful difference.

  25. Ellen says:

    I think we should all sign up for retreats JUST to give you a proper cheering section! I can’t wait to hear you speak someday!

    • Marty says:

      I agree, which events are you speaking at Natala? I’d love to come support you and Engine 2!

  26. Miranda says:

    You’ve brought me to tears, the hateful world has brought me to tears. I haven’t been on the site for a while, but I know that you’ve been here since I’ve known about Engine 2 for a couple of years. I don’t know what your religious belief is, but you are speaking of grace. I pray that you know the grace of our Loving God and his gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. He gave that gift to restore our relationship from this sinful world to his pure, perfect, unconditional love of us. You are beautiful in God’s eyes, even more so by living out His grace in this fallen world. I realize too, that no matter how strong you are in your faith and beliefs, words hurt, that’s why the Bible says the tongue can pierce like a sword, to guard our words, etc. I pray for your pain and your power to continue to move on, in this never-ending journey of life. Thank you for sharing so much, and being a REAL example for us! PTL for your safety in this situation and bringing it out in the open.

  27. VeganRD says:

    Please don’t ever stop writing or speaking at events, I got to see you in Phoenix, and while I didn’t know who you were exactly before, I was praying after that everyone would know who you are. Your message is the most important message of the weekend, and I’m an RD and have a PhD. No one speaks from the point you are at, and people need that, so do Doctors, RDs and other professionals. I’m outraged that people would say or do anything to hurt another person. It takes so much bravery, and I hope that you are recognized for that. I even get worried when I speak in front of people. I am signing up for the Esselstyn Farm event, in part to support you.

  28. Mary B. says:

    Pleas, please, please write a book. Your voice is so needed in this entire world, not just plant-based, everyone needs to know who you are.

  29. Gloria says:

    You represent what is right about this world. I’m so sorry what happened to you. Love and peace. Gloria

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