Not feeling yourself when you look in the mirror lately? Sarah Sapora wants to change that.
“I realized that if I could share my stories, which has always come really easily and comfortably for me, then I could help create a safe space for others to have their experience,” she tells PEOPLE.
Sapora’s journey of personal growth began in 2015, when both of her parents ended up in the hospital at the same time. Sapora, then 360 lbs., could barely walk the city block to the hospital without feeling extreme pain.
“That was the moment where it flashed in my head like a neon light; I had two parents with serious heart disease and I had to do something,” she says. “Not only did I feel my career was stalling, but my life felt like it was stalling out. I knew I needed to find out what my dream was and what was meaningful to me.”
Eventually, she did some soul-searching and started to work out. “I made a promise to myself, ‘I’m willing to begin this journey without knowing what it’s going to look like,’ ” she said.
Although she ended up losing about 95 lbs., her goal was never about the scale. “I don’t want to make the number the emphasis of my journey … I wanted to be healthier and happier when I turned 40 than I did when I turned 30,” says Sapora, who hits the milestone in September.
Sapora also found her passion – helping and connecting to other women – along the way. She has since organized an annual Body + Love workshop, a “size-inclusive retreat for persons of every age, shape, and color to connect and learn tools to rise into an empowered life.”
Sapora says she feels no pressure to lose more weight, in fact her ultimate objective is to “bang down the door of the [wellness] industry for women of size.”
“It’s not my goal to chase skinny. It’s to be the most powerful, aligned badass version of Sarah that I can be,” she says. “And I feel a sense of duty to create a safe space for other people. Every time I go somewhere and I’m the only person of size there, I look around and if the room is filled with slender, very athletic, caucasian young people, I say ‘man, I can’t wait for there to be more body types in here, more colors, more ages’ — and it fuels me.”
In celebration of self-love this summer, Sapora is sharing her favorite five tips below for feeling body confident in your bathing suit.
Take your swimsuit for a test drive.
“Wear your bathing suit around the house, in your backyard, when you are alone or with family. Get comfortable in it before you venture out to a public place like the pool or beach. Spend a day in your bathing suit while doing tasks that have nothing to do with swimming —watch TV, cook, clean, talk on the phone. Doing this will help you get over anxiety about wearing the suit and how your body feels in it in small steps.”
Curate your social media.
“Think of your social media feed as the online equivalent of your inner monologue. Negative self-talk makes you feel the pits while positive stuff uplifts you. Edit your social feed accordingly. Unfollow accounts that make you feel self-conscious and add feeds that inspire you. Consider following influencers in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages, colors and abilities. Observe other people living fearlessly in their skin as it is.”
Do what feels great.
“The better you physically feel in your body, the more comfortable you will be in your swimsuit. Now is not the time to crash diet (honestly, it is never the time to do that!). Instead, learn holistically what makes you feel amazing. Do you love to stretch? Does dancing liberate you? Do you feel lighter on your feet when you lay off the oily foods and eat more naturally? Take time and listen to what your body wants!”
Stop comparing yourself to others.
“You literally have no idea what they are experiencing in life and what their individual body journey is like. The only person you can stack yourself up against is you.”
Be honest about what makes you anxious.
“Get specific. What are you scared of? Are you worried people will look at you funny? Be unkind? Name it and then say, ‘So what?’ So what if someone looks at you? That is a reflection of them. So what if someone says something unkind? That only shows they are nasty; dismiss it and keep going! The stuff that scares you is probably all stuff you literally cannot control. Show up, be you as fully as possible and let other people do their own thing while you make memories!”