The Importance of Community

A year ago I was praying for friends.

Let me explain—

I have friends. I know a lot of people, and I’d like to say I’m well-connected. I have 2 solid best friends that I’ve known for 13+ years. I have a fiance I’m so close with and he’s my ultimate BFF. I have super supportive and loving parents. My Jason’s family is so welcoming + loving and has taken me in like one of their own. I’m aware of the gems in my life that I have and I’m thankful, so don’t get me wrong.

So why was I praying for friends this time last year?

  1. I’m an only child. My parents know how badly I’ve always wanted a sibling, so this will be no surprise to them when I say I wish I had siblings SO bad—my own flesh and blood person. To be 100% honest, I envy those who have siblings. And the thought of one day losing my parents and I’m the only one left terrifies me. I know I will have my husband, his siblings, and our friends, but my closest flesh and blood will be gone. This is some deep thinking, I know, but these are true feelings I have. Long story short, I crave that sibling relationship which leads me to the next point…
  2. My 2 best friends Gracie and Brittany are sisters to me. I genuinely feel like if I had “real” sisters those relationships would feel like the ones I have with G and B. Even though we’re all still in Atlanta, we don’t live very close to each other and traffic in this city is naughty, so it’s not super convenient to just hop over to each others’ places and hang out like we could when we all lived within a few miles from each other… and then throw in our jobs which takes the 3 of us to opposite parts of the city every day. These are my soul sisters, my true loves, my everythings even though we don’t get to see each other as conveniently as we’d like, when we do see each other and talk on the phone/text it’s like nothing ever changed. I have these sisters of mine, and I’m thankful for them.

    My meep Gracie

  3. Where I live is within ~30 miles of my parents and my best friends. But in Atlanta terms, 30 miles = 2 hours, give or take—so not super easy to go over for dinner after work or hang out all the time. So what about people who live in the city like I do? I “know” a lot of people in Atlanta, but how close am I to them? Not close enough to just ask out for dinner on a random Thursday night—most of them anyway. So not living within arms reach of family + BFFs and also not having deeper relationships with people I know in the city where I do live, it gets kinda lonely!

    My booboos Brittany

  4. My fiance has a good group of guy friends and I love all of them. They all live near where we do, J can call up any of them and get together any given night, etc. And he has that “guy gang” relationship that is so community-like. And to be 100% honest again, I wanted something like that for myself.
  5. Jason’s family lives in the north, so as much as I would love to call up his sisters to do dinner in NYC or hang out with his mom and watch The Holiday and schmooze over Jude Law, I can’t because we live far away! We stay connected for sure, but we can’t physically be together so we miss that aspect, too.

    Our family <3

What I was in search for was community.

**Also note that during this time last year, I had not relaunched my blog. I took a year and a half break from fitness, blogging, going to events, networking with people, using social media, etc. I needed to cleanse my life of what I was doing. After spending years training for fitness competitions, hardcore dieting, traveling to work at some of the world’s largest fitness expos, dedicating time trying to move up the ladder in the industry, working nutrition demos, etc… I developed and unhealthy relationship with food and with myself and the image of what life should look like. But thankfully because I was aware of what was happening, I shut down everything.**

One thing about my former fitness life that I loved was the community—I met tons of the coolest people and made many friends in the industry, in person and online. That’s definitely the thing about the competitive fitness world: the people are dedicated to what they do, 120% passionate about what they do, they’re supportive of friends doing the same thing, and we all loved to talk about our journeys—we understood each other.

Working at The Arnold expo with a major supplement company

Since expelling myself out of the competitive fitness industry due to my personal issues, shutting down my blog, no longer providing nutritional service to clients, etc. I did feel a void, not going to lie about that. But it wasn’t the tilapia + asparagus meals 6x a day or the 2 workouts a day, 7 days a week training I missed—it was my passion for sharing what I love with a community who also loved the same thing. Those bonds are deep. I also missed sharing my love for wellness, exercising to feel good and be healthy, sharing yummy foods, etc. I realized over this “fitness sabbatical” what I DID love about that lifestyle—I just had to make it healthy for me and not determined my extreme industry standards.

Get Lost In The Flow at Playlist Yoga

Yoga with Shayla in LA

In August 2016, I brought From Skinny 2 Strong back to life. And it was scary because a year and a half away is a long time—especially in the media world. Battling thoughts of what other people would think of me was a daily threat to my mind. But I listened to what made me happy and did it anyways. I’ve been able to jump back into the fitness community, but from a total wellness perspective, not bodybuilding. I’ve connected with incredible girls like Jo Encarnacion of GoFitJo, Valerie Fidan of Let’s Regale, Shayla Quinn of Namastshay, and Tara Laferrara, just to name a few. These girls feel like some of my best friends! Even though I’ve only met one of them in person.

After a couple months of the FS2S rebirth, I reached out to Cyc Fitness again (we had a past relationship) to see how I could join their movement, help bring awareness to their brand, and be a part of their community. They welcomed me with open arms and I was able to attend the Cyc studio in Atlanta for the past 5 months. Through working with Cyc Fitness in Atlanta, I reconnected with my friend Alexi and made new friends with Lillian, Lexi, and Kelsey. Through Alexi, I met Kelly of Kale Me Kelly at Alexi’s birthday dinner. Kelly and I had been connected on Instagram, but through our mutual friend, we met in person. I also got to know Lauren of FashionablyLo who was also working with Cyc, and through this commonality we had, we spent time together and formed a friendship.

Long time friend through fitness, Alexi!

My babe Alex Giannini (she and I met through our guys who are in the same small group!) and Lillian! (centered)

This is an example of how taking a leap of faith, going out of your comfort zone, connecting with friends, etc. can add a beautiful dimension to your life. I feel like I could reach out to any of those girls and plan a weeknight dinner to connect and deepen that new connection at any time. Having this community and meeting those kinds of genuine people are so so important.

Alexi’s birthday dinner with this solid girl group

Another thing I did (after a lot of prayer + encouragement from Jason) was I attended Grouplink at Buckhead Church. Grouplink is an event where you can meet other women (or men, too!) who are similar to you and form a small group. My original thoughts on joining a small group are for another post on another day—let’s just say I wasn’t a fan and was closed off at the idea… like, no thanks. BUT Jason joined a small group while we were dating, months before I even blinked and eye at the idea of myself joining one. I always thought it was a nice thing, but not for me. However, seeing how he was forming incredible and deep relationship with solid men who were open about their lives, they were open and honest about what they had been through or current troubles, how supportive they were together, how learning about each other’s lives open their eyes to what others experience, and how connected they became… I saw how fulfilled and happy this made Jason. That community of like-minded men who share similar beliefs but also come from various walks of life, have experienced different things, and help each other become stronger men and make an impact in society. Even through Jason’s small group, we’ve made friends as a couple with his guys and their ladies.

Couples bowling night with Jason’s small group and the girls

It’s been amazing to see how it has impacted Jason’s life in a positive way. Jason shared with me how he thought I would love a small group like this and to give it a chance. So, long story short, with his encouragement and my willingness to trust his thoughts, I attended Grouplink and felt vulnerable as all get out. I was alone in a sea of 1500 women there for the same thing I was—community. I can dive into my experience at this event more in a different post and how, looking back, I can see God’s hand at work, but I formed an amazing group of women who now will be at my wedding next year. We’ve experienced 3 studies together so far and about to start our 4th this week, we’ve learned about each other’s lives, we’ve heard the highs and lows of our lives, and ultimately, we are there for each other and these ladies are a blessing.

My small group girls!

By praying for friends last year, what I received was an awakening of my passion for wellness and the confidence to rebirth From Skinny 2 Strong, the guidance and encouragement from my fiance to take a leap of faith (literally) and give a small group a chance, to reconnect with friends and make new friends in the area I live in along the way.

My point with all of this is if you have your 1 or 2 BFFs and your family, it’s normal to feel lonely in a sense if you don’t live super close to them or can’t see them in person as much as you’d like to. It’s like you miss them so much and want to be with them all the time, but you can’t. And that’s OKAY. It is so important to make friends and form community in the place you live, too.

If you live in an area where you “know” people but you don’t have those connections, that’s a community you may need to take a big leap of faith and form. Whether it’s making an effort to meet up with your Instagram besties who live in LA when you visit, saying “yes” to birthday dinners and outings that you may usually say no to, reaching out to brands you love and forming relationships with them and through that meeting like-minded individuals who share the same passions, or attending an event like Grouplink! There are ways to form and nurture community—and it can be intimidating, trust me! But let me tell you, community is worth it. 

If you’re searching for a community of fitness + wellness lovers, join my Fit + Health Friends Facebook group! I created this group with the intention that all of us can connect with each other, support each other, share stories and things we love, share advice or insight, and become friends through a common passion for living well. Can’t wait to see you in the group!

This is a long 2000+ word post, but it was on my heart to share and talk real life stuff with you. How do plan on getting out of your comfort zone and forming and/or deepening your community?

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12 Comments

  1. April 24, 2017 / 2:05 pm

    When fitness is a part of your lifestyle it is only fitting (pun intended) that those in your life also start to adopt it or are already an influence in that area. My friend recently dropped 60 lbs by joining a program where she gained a community, that was a lot like a small class. The 10 of them do their early workouts together then go out and do healthy things on the weekends to keep each other on track.

    • elizabeth
      April 28, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      Aw that’s awesome!! It’s so empowering to have a group like that xoxo

  2. April 24, 2017 / 2:05 pm

    I totally get what you mean about feeling lonely with only one or two close friends. My boyfriend is also my best friend and I so want my own girl gang to hang out with in the same way he has his lads. I related so much to this, I Nplan on joining a run club here in London and hope that leads to finding some like minded people x

    Sophia xx http://sophiawhitham.co.uk

    • elizabeth
      April 28, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      It’s being so far away from them that’s lonely 🙁 That’s amazing to hear, Sophia! You will love that!

  3. April 24, 2017 / 2:08 pm

    Great post! I had a tough time making friends after I quit my job after the birth of my son. It was a lonely time in my life. It took me a while to build up a community of other moms that were staying home with their kiddos, but I have a great group of friends now. That’s so great that you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried out Buckhead Church. We actually attend Decatur City Church – it’s a partner church of Buckhead. We love it!

    • elizabeth
      April 28, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      Hi Holly! I’m so happy to hear you have that group now. So cool you live close by! I go to service at Mount Paran but formed my group through Buckhead!

  4. April 24, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    Good friends are solid gold! It can be tough and sometimes difficult to find good friends who you can do life with in an honest, intimate, life giving way. It’s especially tough when you feel like you have great friends – but they are far away! I’m glad you’ve found a great small group of ladies! i love the girls in my small group so much!

    • elizabeth
      April 28, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      I totally agree, Mary! So thankful for my group!

  5. Nicole
    April 24, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    It’s crazy how common this is. At one point, I thought maybe I was just too shy to have a solid girl gang, but it’s surprising to hear so many can relate. I loved this!

    • elizabeth
      April 28, 2017 / 3:03 pm

      It’s more common than we think! Glad you loved it Nikki <3 xoxox come to the pool with me soon!

  6. April 24, 2017 / 4:47 pm

    Wow! I’ve been considering joining a small group at church lately. Thanks for sharing your experience so openly!

    • elizabeth
      April 28, 2017 / 3:03 pm

      It’s been a blessing for sure! I highly recommend giving it a shot and being vulnerable.

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