Real Transformations: Emily's Story

Megan Dahlman
August 21, 2018

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"Motivation is just an emotion."

Without a doubt, the journey of losing weight, getting fit, and completely changing your lifestyle is extremely challenging. There are highs and lows. There are moments of victory, and moments of what feels like complete failure. There are times when your motivation is extremely high and you're going to "do whatever it takes!" But there are other times when your motivation is at rock bottom and you want to just give up. 

​I often say this:

Motivation is just an ebbs and flows like any other emotion.
​Just don't let it determine your actions.

Regardless of how motivated you might feel at the moment, you need to keep plugging along with the action steps you know to be right and true. Don't let your current motivation levels drive your boat. Ultimately, this perseverance and trust in the process will get you where you want to be.

My friend Emily Vahey can testify to this. 

I want you to learn from Emily's story today. She kept pushing forward regardless of how motivated she was in any given moment. She endured. Persevered. And she trusted the process, even if it meant a lot of hard work. 

And she has accomplished a lot of great things in her body, but more notably in her heart and mind. You're going to be inspired by her... read on...

Emily, what was your life like before Strong Mommas?

Life in my 20’s was filled with activity. I raced motorcycles in the desert in Southern California, enjoyed running and played intramurals at the college I worked at. Although I was really active, I ate most of my meals in the college cafeteria  and often went to Taco Bell right after my runs. I put zero thought into what I was eating.

Then life in my 30’s was filled with marriage and having three wonderful kids. Unfortunately, my activity decreased and my eating stayed the same, which resulted in a final post-pregnancy weight that was 35 pounds heavier than I was in my 20’s.

I was unhappy in my body, my knees hurt, and I was extremely out of shape. My mind still felt spry and athletic but my body didn’t. It was humbling.

When I hit my 40’s I really felt this desire for my life to change. But I didn’t really know what to do. I got an exercise bike and joined Weight Watchers. I searched Pinterest and Facebook for healthy recipes. I bought a road bike and started doing some training and riding in organized rides. But, I had no rhyme or reason to anything I was doing. I was just trying to do something.

Every time I got serious about it, I would drop some weight and then eventually gain some back. It was a terrible yo-yo.

In January of 2016 I got serious again. I picked up running and decided to add in 20 minute workouts that I found online. Similar to times before, I dropped 20-25 pounds, but could not get past that threshold.

My husband and I came to the conclusion that I was in over my head. I had done all I knew how and still wasn't getting the results I wanted. We knew Megan from when they lived here in Olympia and I had been following her blog and social media. I needed guidance and direction from someone I could trust, someone who had studied fitness and nutrition. So I signed up for coaching with her in May of 2016.


What are the biggest changes you’ve experienced as a direct result from working with Megan and Strong Mommas?

Like others have said before me, the pictures speak for themselves. After working with Megan I lost an additional 20 pounds. I actually weigh less now than I did in my 20‘s. My body is completely different than when I started with Megan. In fact, I am in better shape than I was in my 20’s!

I feel like an athlete once again!

But the biggest changes are happening in my heart. Through Megan, God has revealed so many sinful ways I have approached food...I was using it as a coping mechanism when I was stressed and as a reward when I felt I deserved it. I’m learning how to make more conscious decisions about food... thinking about why I am eating what I am eating. I can now think through how food will make me feel in the moment verse how it makes me feel in the long run.


In what ways have your changes impacted your family? 

​The nutrition piece has been the biggest change. My whole family is focused on eating PRO’s now. When they grab lunch or a snack, it’s completely normal for me to check and make sure they have a protein and a produce included in their items.

Everything I have learned about the different body types has also been helpful. I have 3 kids with 3 very different body types, and both my husband and I are very different. Having the knowledge to help us all understand our body types, with our different strengths and needs, has been awesome. I now know how to help fuel them and guide them for the future. ​


How has this process impacted your heart and your mindset about your body?

This is a big I am still learning. I came into this only caring about my weight. What was the number on that scale? In my mind the number on the scale equated the fitness of my body. But man, there is so much more to it.

I’m being challenged to step away from the learn to be so in tune with my body that I can maintain this level of fitness and body fat percentage without having to step on the scale (which isn’t even a good indicator, anyway!)

I know all this with my head, but my heart is still journeying through it.

Even through these struggles I have found so much freedom. 

I am confidently wearing shorts, and I stopped hiding behind the camera all the time. My focus has changed from wanting to be thin to being so content with being healthy and fit. I listened to the world for so long, telling me my ultimate goal should be to look good in a bathing suit. They are so wrong. It really doesn’t matter if anyone thinks I look good or not. It matters that I am being faithful and mindful with food and honoring the Lord in my desire to be healthy. 


Is there anything you can do now that you couldn’t do before? 

​I have never, ever been able to do push-ups on the floor before. But now I do them all the time!

I also never imagined I would be working with 25-30 pound weights! Before starting with Strong Mommas, the heaviest weight I owned was 5 pounds! I can do all this and's really incredible.

Is there anything that is still challenging or still a struggle for you? 

The food piece is still a struggle. Honestly if there was a magic button that I could push that would enable me to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, without it affecting my body, I would be tempted to push it. I love good ol’ American comfort food. My absolute favorite food is a good hamburger and some great ice cream.

Megan says that for most people, either working out or eating healthy will come more naturally for them, but rarely both. For me, working out is a piece of cake. I love it. I love the challenge, the discipline, and how it makes me feel. Consistently eating healthy is much more challenging for me.

But I really resonate with Megan’s approach to long-term eating healthy. I have to figure out what it is that I truly love and what's really worth the splurge. And then I can make sure that the rest of my meals are on point. 


If you could say anything to other women that are hesitant of fully committing to exercise and nutrition, what would you say?

I would tell them that it’s so worth it. Obviously it’s hard, and it's a life-long process, but it's worth all of it.

Others have said it, but I will say it again... trust the process. When I signed up, my husband and I decided together that I would be ALL IN. Whatever Megan told me to do I would do it and see what happened. That first month I lost nearly 10 pounds! But more importantly I was learning what it meant to be healthy and fit.

​So my advice to you would be to just do what she says. She knows what she’s talking about. And take advantage of the coaching calls and be completely honest with her. It will change your life in all the right ways!

-Emily Vahey
(strong mom of 3)


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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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