What does it take to become an Internet star overnight? Having Jillian Michaels post about you on her Facebook page doesn’t hurt.
The day the trainer shared LaKeisha Shurn’s video diary with the comment, “I’ve never met this woman, but watched her video blog. What a bad ass. Bravo. Get it girl!”, it blew up, accumulating 2.2 million views in the year-plus since.
Part of GiveIt100, the three-minute video catalogs Shurn’s 100-day weight-loss journey. You watch as she goes to the gym day after day and celebrate when she steps on the scale and realizes she’s under 300 pounds for the first time in years. It’s unapologetically raw and revealing—but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
It’s Not Only About Weight
“My goal from the start was losing weight and finding love in myself,” Shurn says. “But a lot of people only caught on to the losing weight part.”
As she states at the beginning of the video, Shurn began her journey with low self-esteem and depression. Recording the clips became a form of therapy, so she filmed much more footage than you see in the viral video, daring to talk about tough topics like being sexually assaulted and bullied as a child, leaving her job, getting a divorce, and even trying to commit suicide. (Those videos can be found on her personal YouTube channel.) “We’re really tight-lipped about the bad stuff that goes on in our lives,” she says. “I’ve found that when I share my story, other people feel comfortable doing the same because they’re going through the same pain too.”
Talking publicly about these difficult moments helped her get past them and truly find love for herself, her body, and the experiences she’s had. “You really have to become aware that there’s nothing wrong with you,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with your body, your mind, your hair.”
The Long Road to Self-Love
Shurn is quick to point out that getting to that moment of total self-acceptance isn’t as simple as flipping a switch inside your brain or as quick as watching a YouTube clip. When she started to lose weight, she became fixated on the other bodies she saw at the gym and fantasized how she could look like that one day. On some level, that obsession can add motivation to making healthier life choices, but it can also turn into a dangerous downward spiral of self-loathing. “I realized I always put down my body,” Shurn says. “Learning to finally accept my body for what it is took a lot of stress off of me.”
Getting to that point of acceptance meant not worrying too much about the number on the scale. At the end of Shurn’s viral video, she reveals that she lost 51 pounds over the course of the year. Today she shies away from talking her weight. “People ask how much I want to lose,” Shurn says. “And I say, ‘Enough until I feel like I don’t need to do it anymore.’” Instead of trying to meet a number goal, she’s put her energy into learning about her body—what it needs versus what it craves—and staying committed to her healthier choices. Before Shurn went on her GiveIt100 journey, she ate fast food for almost every meal. Now she Instagrams photos of Greek yogurt and green smoothies, and she says you couldn’t pay her to eat a hot dog again.
If there’s one thing that’s truly remarkable about Shurn, it’s her commitment to bettering herself. She continues to push forward, even when things are outside of her comfort zone. Case in point: Earlier this year, Shurn came across a post about plus-sized bathing suits from Chastity Garner-Valentine, a curvy blogger who runs GarnerStyle. Most other options out there work to cover up a woman’s body, suggesting it’s something she should feel ashamed about. But as Garner points out, when you’re curvy, someone will tear you apart regardless of your beach attire, so why don’t you wear a bathing suit you actually like?
That was exactly the impetus Shurn, who hadn’t bought a bathing suit in more than a decade, needed. “I started buying so many bikinis, you had to pull my pocketbook away from me,” she says. And then she decided to follow in Garner’s footsteps and post photos of herself sporting her new suits on social media. She admits she felt nervous before sharing her photos with the world; she worried that Internet trolls would be as nasty as the schoolyard bullies she dealt with as a child. But when she finally hit “post,” something unexpected—at least for our modern-day Internet—happened: There wasn’t a single negative comment. It turns out, when you put as much love and positivity out into the world as Shurn does, it gives it back to you when you need it most.