(Note from Molly:  I am so excited to have another amazing guest blog on my website this week, this time from my girl Neghar Fonooni, Co-Founder of Girls Gone Strong.  Neghar and I met in 2011 and became fast friends.  I mean, let’s be honest.  We both love lifting, food, and empowering women to love their bodies.  Not necessarily in that order of course, but you get my point. 

I even got to hang out with Neghar and her awesome hubby John this past weekend in Vegas for my 30th birthday!


Vegas for my birthday.  'Nuff said.

Vegas for my birthday. ‘Nuff said.

Point being… I absolutely adore this girl, and I am SO excited that she is sharing her story of self-love and body embracement on my website today.  Check it out!)


This is a story about a journey of strength and love, one with a happy ending, although I truly believe it’s not over. Every day I grow and am always expanding with grace and self-acceptance. My journey is not identical to yours, as that is yours alone. But we are all on a journey, aren’t we? A journey to learn to love and accept our bodies, all while enduring the pursuit of improvement.


Whether that improvement is physical, spiritual, emotional, or professional, it’s ultimately a desire to get better. Today I can comfortably say that I am enough. What I do every day is what I’m capable of doing, and my body is beautiful at every stage of its flow. I know now that I can get better, I can grow and cultivate a higher expression of myself, without hating the state I’m currently in. Today I know this, but that wasn’t always the case. My initial desire to improve came from a very dark and lonely place.


A critical realization we all need to have.

A critical realization we all need to have.

It 2009, and it was a powerful turning point.


I was a single mom running my own business, feeling overworked and under recovered. Allowing myself to stay in a verbally and physically abusive relationship, I had yet to truly dig deep and face my demons. Through the words of others and the nasty voice in my head, I allowed myself to believe I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t skinny enough. I wasn’t successful enough. I wasn’t strong or accomplished enough. I just wasn’t enough.


Because I believed I wasn’t enough, my intentions for my body came from a place of abject fear and self-loathing. My entire sense of self-worth as a woman and as a trainer revolved around my physique!

At the time, I weighed in at roughly 120 pounds and 12% body fat. I was ripped out of my mind, and also ACTUALLY out of my mind. I counted every last calorie and worked out for about 2 hours a day. Because I lacked confidence I only felt good about myself when I was lean. I weighed myself every single day and allowed that number to dictate how I felt about myself.

Yes, I'm ripped in this photo, but the motivation comes from a dark place.

Yes, I’m ripped in this photo, but the motivation comes from a dark place.

The phrase “I can’t eat that” escaped my lips so many times, that my friends stopped inviting me to happy hours and social engagements. They said they didn’t want to “mess up my diet.” It hurt to hear that, but in truth they were only doing what I taught them to do—removing temptations unless it was “cheat day.” I constantly spoke negatively about my body (to myself and to others), chastising myself for every nutritional “failure,” and partaking in a vicious cycle of binge, berate, restrict, repeat.

So yes, I was lean. I was shredded, actually. And I was absolutely effing miserable.


Now, I’m not saying that lean people are unhappy, or that being in shape isn’t a worthy endeavor. I know plenty of women who are in great shape and live a balanced happy, life (I’m one of them now!). What I am saying is that why you exercise and eat well is just as important-if not more so-than how you do it.


When I was in my dark place, I thought, if I work harder and get leaner, then I’ll be happier. If I can make my body more aesthetically appealing, then I will love myself. If I stay 12% bodyfat, then my boyfriend won’t cheat on me. If I can look like a figure competitor, then I’ll never be unhappy with myself. I went so far down the if/then rabbit hole that I’m often astonished that I was able to climb out.


As it turned out, none of that could be further from the truth.


Inevitably, I fell apart, because what I was pursuing wasn’t fulfilling. I didn’t love who I was, and no amount of leanness would change that. What I would eventually discover is that true contentment comes from a place of self-love and compassion. Lifting and eating nutritiously are only sustainable if you do it because you love your body, not because you hate it. When you know, with the utmost certainty, that you are enough right now-not 10 pounds from now-only then can you begin your journey to the highest expression of you. Only then will fitness enrich your life, as opposed to detract from it.


It’s because I fell apart that I was finally able to realize this. I hit rock bottom, and I began to look for a way out. I read books by Brene Brown and Byron Katie, learned about positive psychology and spent a lot of time journaling. I did some serious soul searching, and figured out how to love myself because of what’s in my heart, not what I saw in the mirror. And as a result, I gained a little weight, put on a bit of body fat, and learned to live a truly wholehearted life that didn’t hinge on what the scale said.


While this appears to be a "reverse progress  photo, Neghar absolutely loves and embraces what lightening up a bit has done for her body, mind, and spirit.

While this appears to be a “reverse progress”
photo, I absolutely love and embrace what lightening up a bit has done for her body, mind, and spirit.


Furthermore I learned that what I saw in the mirror wasn’t necessarily what everyone else saw. I saw jiggle and pudge, and my husband (who deserves a lot of credit for his role in this journey) saw strength, sexiness, and beauty. I spent so many years attaching my body to my sense of self-worth, that it took a lot of compassion to eventually embrace cellulite and stretch marks.


Today I love my body. Today I nurture my body. I eat mindfully, train intuitively, and live joyfully. It took a lot of work and self-reflection, but I can honestly say that I embrace myself exactly the way that I am right now. My body changes constantly, but the only way for me to care for it is to also care for my heart and soul. After all, fitness isn’t just about what’s on the outside.


At times, the journey was dark and lonely. After years of self-discovery, I finally I have the courage to own that, and am blessed to be able to help women all over the world discover and cultivate their radiance. I faced ugly demons, developed strategies, adapted to change, and emerged a more radiant version of myself than I ever thought possible. All by starting with one thought:


I am enough.


Today, Neghar radiates from the inside out.

Today, Neghar radiates happiness from the inside out.

People often ask me how I got to where I am, and the truth is, that’s where it begins. You have to think it, believe it, and practice it. You have to remind yourself every day, write it down, develop a mantra, and practice self-love so often it becomes a habit.


I have cellulite. Eff it. So what.

Does that mean I’m not worthy of wearing a bikini?



Does that mean I shouldn’t love myself or that I should ignore all of the amazing things about my body? To hell with that—I’m too busy living vibrantly. I lift 3x a week, practice yoga daily, and can regularly be seen paddle boarding on the water. I eat to nourish my body and soul, but I don’t deny my taste buds either. I don’t count calories or restrict myself, and I never binge to the point of discomfort or shame.


There’s no anxiety around food, or fear that I won’t look good enough in my bikini. I know, in this moment, that I am enough. I know it like I know the sun rises in the East and the tides flow with the moon. I know how to live in a way that enhances my body as well as my mind and my heart and I practice it every single day.


Today, I weigh roughly 135 pounds and about 18% body fat. I’m strong as hell and can nail some pretty cool yoga poses. Am I as lean I as used to be? No, of course not. But do I really need to be? Not at all. And if I really decide that I want to be leaner, I can do that now without the guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I can do it with love, and simply by tightening up my nutrition a little more, prioritizing fat loss.


But to be honest, I love my life the way it is. I play sports, have adventures, ride my bike with my son, taste everything with moderation, drink wine a few times a week, and never say no to hanging out with girlfriends for fear of “messing up my diet.” I’m absurdly happy, and not because I achieved some arbitrary number on the scale—because I learned the truth about what it means to completely accept and honor myself. I eat to please my palate and my physique, I indulge when I choose to, and I approach my workouts with a sense of joy and adventure. I never feel deprived. I never talk down to my body. I never feel shameful for lack of perfection.


Relaxing more allows me to do things I love like spending quality time with my family.

Relaxing more allows me to do things I love like spending quality time with my family.


Like anything else, learning how to live a wholehearted life of acceptance, balance, and moderation takes practice. I spend a lot of time in deep reflection, learning how to be compassionate and cultivating a vibrant life. It’s a perpetual process, but I promise that you can have it all, and you can have it without berating yourself or depriving yourself. You can be strong and vibrant without spending hours at the gym. You can lose fat without counting every last calorie. You can live authentically, and in tune with your body, rather than constantly fighting against it. You can love your body, at every stage of it’s transformation, and you can approach your journey with zeal and grace.


It all starts with one thought:


You are enough.


Think it. Feel it. Believe it. Write it down. Spend 10 minutes each day journaling about the wonderful things in your life and detailing what you love about yourself. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you because you are an EFFING BADASS.” Because you are. You really and truly are.

(Note from Molly: When it comes to striking a balance between being extremely healthy, ridiculously fit, and enjoying the hell out of life… no one does it better than Neghar Fonooni.  And you know what’s amazing?  Because of the overwhelming demand from women seeking her expertise to help them live a happier, healthier, and more balanced life, she has out everything she knows about cultivating your best life into her program, Lean & Lovely.

Lean & Lovely is not just your run-of-the-mill training program (come on! You KNOW I wouldn’t recommend something bogus like that!)  Instead, it’s a manual chock-full of strategies that will help you live your most vibrant life, through intelligent training,  nutritional freedom, mindset tips, and more! 

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If you’re interested in learning exactly how Neghar has trained herself and her clients to get the results they want while loving their lives, you should read more about Lean & Lovely here.)

15 Responses to Ripped And Miserable: How Neghar Fonooni Gained Body Fat And Got Her Life Back

  1. Tricia says:

    fantastic post….I can relate and I am sure many women can too! We need more women like you gals speaking up, speaking truth and being strong, fit role models. Strong comes in all sizes! Fit looks different on everyone! Thanks for being REAL!!

  2. ALEKS says:

    Thank you!!

  3. Diana says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing! I can totally relate (for the ED to abusive relationship) I too am FINALLY accepting the truth and working on my body image no longer becoming my “go to ” when I am not feeling well. My body fat is too low, i want to get my period back. I am eating more. I am exercising LESS and it feels………..GREAT!!!!

    Keep up the amazing work ! 🙂

  4. Lauren says:

    Thank you Molly & Neghar for sharing! You are such an inspiration & have an incredible message to share with the world. Living from a place of health & happiness & love is so worth it…and I’ve been in the place of fear and self-worth tied up in appearance as well. I used to train for marathon/half-marathons and work out obsessively all for appearance, and even though I did have a “great body” and got compliments on it, it was never good enough. When I started to love & accept myself, I actually gained weight…but am so much happier here & I move my body out of love and joy.

  5. Chantell says:

    Love, love, love this post. I relate to it on every level. As if I didn’t have a girl crush on you before, I definitely do now:) Thanks for keeping it real and for all of your work!

  6. Too funny…I wrote a blog about sustainability this week too. 🙂 Driving yourself crazy with counting calories is certainly no way to live…love hearing other stories about women who are “free” finally…!

  7. Kristi Joy says:

    Can’t believe this doesn’t have more comments!
    Touches on such a raw spot for me.
    Really really would love to get to the place that Neghar is at. I’m about 15% bodyfat and it’s tough to stay there. I would love to be leaner, but I know it’s not realistic.
    We’ve been brainwashed to think that you are only fit if you have ripped abs and look a certain way. Thank you for getting the word out about this and please keep showing pictures of your happy healthy and not so lean selves. I could go on and on about this…
    Oh if only I could put on a bikini and not worry about whether I’m lean enough. You are right Neghar–Eff it! I AM ENOUGH!

    • Cath says:

      Kristl, I was in the same mindset as you until recently. I think it can help to have a goal to work towards that doesn’t depend on looking ripped and v low b fat. I am nowhere near as shredded as you – ~19% bf, but have decided to work towards powerlifting goals and I can’t do that if I’m worrying about dieting. I too needed to ‘fit into’ a bikini for my holiday, but y’know, I DO fit into it. I may have a few lumps n bumps, but that’s me. People can take it or leave it. It’s my body and it’s mine to do what the heck I want with. Hugs x You are enough! Thank you Neghar for your fantastic post.

  8. Eddie says:

    Neghar is absolutely beautiful. Her take on fitness is very refreshing and realistic. She is actually my go to person for great information on training and nutrition. Keep it up girl!

  9. wow I am so impressed and amazed with you two ladies!!! Neghar I remember seeing your story in mindbodygreen mail out and I was like “damn that girl is on the cutting edge of divine feminine consciousness”

    THANK GOD beautiful women like you in the fitness industry are taking this new approach to fitness. I have always struggled with not enoughness and it has done so much destruction in my life. Like you I went through a similar breakdown, which lead to my breakthrough. Lots of soul searching after I lost my million dollar business and I found what I was always looking for: My authentic self love and my spirit.

    I love your language, your energy, your passion and your mission. Thank you for following your heart, sharing your light, being brave enough to be authentic, and sharing your story unabashedly.

    I look forward to reading more articles like this and will share with my readership.

    Much love and gratitude to you both, Molly and Neghar.

    Strong women LIFT each other up! woooohoooo


  10. Angela Hauck says:

    What a beautiful and honest journey Neghar! Thanks for sharing your story with authenticity. You are a major source of inspiration for so many of us so thank you for all that you do for our industry.

    Keep on inspiring,

  11. Lauren says:

    This was such a great post. Your are so beautiful and I am glad you got to find self-love. Keep inspiring others!

  12. Darlene says:

    I love,love,love Neghars’s story. We need more of these inspiration stories instead of the ones that beat us up because we ate a cookie. Keep up the great work, you made my day 🙂

  13. LG says:

    Thank you for this! “I am enough”. Love it, love it, love it.

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