Jolene Jones, a former body bodybuilder from Kalispell, Montana, used to obsessively count grams of proteins, carbs and fats. “To get competition ready I was really limited,” the 26-year-old tells Us Weekly exclusively. “No alcohol, no beef, no wheat, no sugar and no dairy. I would have chicken with broccoli for lunch every day and it got to the point where I would gag and have to chug water to get it down.” And then there were the grueling, two-hour daily workouts that left Jones feeling drained and empty.
Before her first show in 2015, the athlete shed 21 pounds off her 5-foot-8 frame. For her second competition, Jones’ coach wanted her to drop another 30 pounds. That’s when Jones decided she had had enough. “I was like, ‘Why am I doing this if I hate it so much? What am I trying to prove?’” Jones tells Us.
Jones chronicled what happened next with a side-by-side photo posted to Facebook on July 1. On the left, she poses in 5-inch heels and a turquoise bikini with her bronzed muscles on full display in 2015. On the right, Jones is 25 pounds heavier — and infinitely happier.
“Body builder to body lover. This isn’t your typical transformation photo,” Jones wrote on her personal account. “I went from being controlled by my grueling gym regimen and weighing chicken and having protein shakes in my purse to fully enjoying a social life. Some people might say this is ‘letting yourself go.’”
But Jones doesn’t see it that way at all. “A six-pack didn’t make me happy. I was never enough and always needing to improve,” she added in the post. “Today I went rafting with friends and enjoyed food the old me would have drooled over and wouldn’t have dared to touch.”
“Your body is quite LITERALLY the only thing that gets you through this life,” she continued. “Your worth and joy isn’t weighed by what you can lift or what the scale says. My worth is weighed by those I surround myself with and the smile on my face. #bodylover.”
Jones’ empowering post has tacked up more than 139,000 likes and more than 46,000 shares so far.
“I’m so confident and happy now,” Jones tells Us. “When I was bodybuilding I was always worrying about my body and feeling guilty for missing workouts. I realize now that was all pressure I was putting on myself and it wasn’t healthy. Now I feel at peace with the way I look. When I started to thank my body for doing simple things like walking the dog or getting me through a rigorous hike, my attitude changed.”
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