Famished, Force-Fed, 450 Pounds—and Finally Fit

I think I was 450. That’s as high as the scale really went. And so it would get to 449 it will go, “Error. Error. Error.” I don’t know if there was really a word, it was just,
“Oh my god.” So what I would do is I
would brace onto the countertops. Getting from the living room to the
bathroom I’d have to stop, take a rest in the kitchen, sit there, breathe it out and
then continue on to the bathroom. So just getting around the house I was holding onto countertops. It got to a point where I was living in my living room because it got too hard to go upstairs. I hadn’t even been in my room over a year. And so I literally saw my living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom for like, almost two years. My parents divorced when I was super super young.
I was like three. And my father remarried
this woman that didn’t like me. I spent that— those— child I call the “childhood years” under ten, you know, from four to ten. In a very abusive home. Food was part of punishment. So when I say that like, food was used as a weapon. Anytime I would get in trouble, there were days at a time where I wouldn’t eat. Or I would go without eating. Or, there was this thing that she used to use called “prison sentence”, right? So she— it used to be just like a piece of bread with butter on it and a glass of water and that was that was your meal for the day.
And she called it “prison sentence”. I was 39, it was just before my 40th birthday. Sometimes I would luck out, right? And I would sneak out to the garage and pull loaf of frozen bread out of the freezer and hide it under my bed and she wouldn’t find it. Sometimes that would last like a couple days
other times I got caught. So that meant “more trouble”, right? We came home from church one day and she had this great big bowl of salad on the table. Like, it was enough to feed the
entire family and this pot of soup. And, so she sits me down and she’s like, “Athena, if you want to eat then you’re gonna eat.” So I started eating, right? I didn’t want to get in trouble. So I started eating out of this massive bowl, and pretty soon, I mean it wasn’t too long, I was getting full. And so she said, “No, you need to you need to keep eating it. You need to keep eating it.” And every time I would stop, because I was literally getting full by this point. She would literally take the back of my head and shove my head back into the bowls, right? And it got to a point where I told her, “I’m gonna throw up because I can’t eat anymore.” Well, you know like, that’s exactly what happened.
I threw up all over it. So there was throw-up in the bowl,
there was throw-up in the pot. She put like cellophane over the top of the
bowl, over the top of the pot, put it back in the fridge, and that’s what I got to eat for breakfast the next day. Throw-up and all. When I went to live with my mom, I was just shy of 11 I was still sneaking food because it was
such a habit. I was now in an environment where I didn’t have to do that anymore. You know? I didn’t have to sneak food anymore. But she would go in my room and she would find you know, like, wrappers and cans of peas. So, I started putting on weight almost right away when I was 11 or 12 and by the time that I was in sixth grade, I was 225 pounds. So I would go to school and get picked on all day. I would come home, and guess what? My best friend in the world was food. So that’s what I would do, right? So, by the time I graduated high school, I was— that was the first time I’d gotten way up there. I was over 400 pounds by the time I was 18. I thought that bariatric surgery was gonna
be the only way out. My orthopedic surgeon was the one that had recommended it. The nutritionist was like, “I don’t know if you can get this under control. Like, Athena, you have to. You have to.” I got caught up on YouTube one night, watching videos of you know, people that
had had bariatric surgery. And I’m watching all these horror stories, and they’re showing me all their loose skin. And then they’re showing me you know, the scars, and they’re going through all
these side-effects that they have. Holy shit. You know, if I’m gonna have to do all the work, and this is what I risk. Like, you could die. I was like, “You know, I could probably die from a workout… But, doesn’t sound half as bad as you know, dying.” [Andrew] You know, we’ve had people that were a little more overweight or obese that have been in the gym before. I think the first thing that kind of went through my head is, “Okay, is this girl gonna be ready to do this.” [Athena] When I first walked in the door though, I didn’t think that I would be doing CrossFit. [Andrew] The first time we ever met she sat down and she said to me— she goes, “Andrew, I’m never gonna run. I just want you to know that right now.” [Athena] I didn’t think I would be able to do anything more than that. That was my self-talk saying, “Okay, this is how you’re gonna be able to do.” [DJ] I remember the first time we tried to go for a 500 meter row, to just kind of see where she was at her time, and she had to stop a couple throughout that 500 meters and you could kind of see her get emotional and wonder, “Can I even finish a 500 meter row? I’m not even fit enough for this? Can I do this?” And after weeks of row and going through progressions, she was able to row 500 meters in under 2 minutes which was a huge goal for her. (Laughing)
[Athena] Yeah, DJ is awesome. That was my first pull on 275 deadlift. [Interviewer] DJ doesn’t really look that
impressed with that. (Laughing) [Athena] He was like, concentrating. He didn’t think I was gonna be able to do it. Every time I get around that bar I’d get
excited you know, like a kid with a new toy. So I had gone into Bear Fitness
looking for just a place where if the weather was bad or the roads were bad,
I didn’t want to chance it. And I walked in there that day to check it out and they’re like, “Yeah, we have a— we have a powerlifting team.” And I was like, “What?” Competition was something I thought
about on the weightlifting side and it was actually a goal for 2018. Like, I think I want to compete. You know? Like that would be fun. [Coach] The biggest thing is you need to make sure that you’re going hip crease past your knee so you’re going all the way down then standing up. Full extension at the top every time. I remember about six months into working out, we had a— like our own little Games here. And, I had a shirt that said “athlete” on the back, and I had gone up to Andrew and I said,
“Dude, this shirt says ‘athlete’ on it. And he’s like, “Well, that’s what you are.”
And I’m like, “What?” It wasn’t the community that took a while, it was wrapping my own head around the fact that this was my life now. You can do all these things that everybody else does. And you are making this a part of your life.
And you are becoming fit. And I just didn’t think that those words were ever gonna be part of my vocabulary. (Cheering) When I started CrossFit, I was 424 pounds,
and now I weigh 248. What’s hard for me to wrap my head around sometimes is, how much weight that actually was. You know, like, have you ever put 200 pounds on a bar and tried to hold it there? That was how much weight was on my joints. One of the— the biggest things that I’m grateful for was getting off of painkillers. Tylenol, Motrin, I was taking all kinds of stuff. I didn’t have a life before, it wasn’t a life.
I was awake and breathing but, I was half dead. (Laughing)
[Friend] I love you man. [Athena] I think for me having a place that
felt safe was everything. People, and a group of people that rallied around me to cheer me on and keep me going on those days where I didn’t want to drive down here. I thought it was all about weight loss, it wasn’t until I really got into it that I realized it’s not a weight loss journey, this is a journey about figuring
out who you are. What you like. What you’re capable of. Overcoming all the shit that you spent decades telling yourself. [Andrew] When she came in, she was just thinking about, “I just need to— I need to get healthy. I need to get well. I need to get fit.” And that’s it. Now, she’s thinking more of a big, more global perspective I think, and realizing that this journey is pretty special. It’s something that a lot of people don’t—
don’t continue on with. [Athena] If the purpose of this is to help other people, what I would want them to know… I let the word “CrossFit” scare me from walking into a place like this sooner. And, I know that there’s probably somebody out there that weighs 400 pounds thinking, “Can I do that? You know like, “Is that for me?” And the answer is like, “Hell yeah.”

100 thoughts on “Famished, Force-Fed, 450 Pounds—and Finally Fit

  1. This is a beautiful story! I wonder how many more lives crossfit could change if it didn't cost $250-$300 a month for a membership.

  2. Amazing story and so happy she found her path to good health! I wish more people would invest the time in themselves and quit saying they can't do something. CrossFit has helped me return to good health and it can work for anyone who is willing to invest the time.

  3. you are so STRONG inside and out. thank you for sharing your story. you can do anything you want to do when you put not just your mind to it but pour your heart and your soul into it!!

  4. It took a lot of courage to do this video – thank you, and know that you have the whole CF community with you!

  5. This is Great! Crossfit changes lives! I believe Crossfit provides the support to succeed. You are not alone and that is crucial in reaching your goals.

  6. BADASS, simple as that. Crossing the threshold was harder than any WOD. Very inspiring, thank you and keep it up.

  7. Where do I begin? The love here today has just been incredible, and if I could, I would personally respond to every single one of these posts. Your tremendous support has just been OVERWHELMING!!! I am honored and humbled by these responses. The Youtube messages from all of you at affiliate gyms across the US and World is just astonishing. Thank you …. From the bottom of my heart for all of it. Crossfit has been such a blessing to me, and I’m so proud and honored to be a part of this. As a follow-up, my past is definitely not an excuse, but I will say that everyone has a story and it always has a beginning chapter. My stepmother died when I was in my late teens. I am at peace with my past and her. Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting or excusing the harm done. However, it brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. Feel free to add me; I’d love to stay in touch. You can follow the blog here: www.ivebeanthere.com or add me on Instagram: @athenamariebt. Love to every single one of you. BOOM to all you CF brothers and sisters out there. Love, Athena

  8. jesus christ, i lost almost a 100 lbs, i'm 185 lbs now, and i can't jump rope, yet she make it seem so easy, she's inspiritional.

  9. You are a beautiful human being. I am so sorry that you had that experience as a child. I wish I knew you and could have protected you then. But i am so glad that you get to have that childhood now making new friends and using your body for fun every day. I hope you continue to enjoy every minute of it ❤

  10. This is so amazing and inspiring! Thanks for being so awesome Athena! I really needed this story to recharge me! ❤️💪🏻🏋🏼‍♀️

  11. Athena, you rock! So great that you have realized all you were told as a child are lies crafted by people who actually do not love themselves and must take it out on an innocent child. Keep going cause you deserve every bit of greatness!

  12. This is absolutely amazing! Keep going. I’m rooting for you. This Crossfit in it’s true form. Helping people to change their life. I’m so glad I can be apart of this community with great people like you.

  13. Omg this made me cry…. so fking inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. This is exactly why I love crossfit, it brings so much positivity into ppl' life. It gives us a purpose!!

  14. I think you're beautiful, inspiring and strong AF! Keep killing it girl!! Crossfit please do a follow up video, would be great to see the rest of Athena's journey.

  15. Very touching story, thanks for sharing. Good for you for coming back from those trying times. Your devotion to something that makes you better and happier is admirable.

  16. What an inspiration you are Athena, for everybody!  I am sooooo stoked for my morning workout now. Thank you, great job!!

  17. hello again friend. just tell you that I hope you keep going. And also tell you that I have exceeded a second "Murph" ". You know the wod Murph." Consiste in running 1 mile, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups and 300 air squat, finish running again 1 mile more.
    The first time I did it, I did not finish it. This past Friday we did it again, I finished it in 75 minutes. Everything, complete. I do not know if I told you before, I weigh 125 Kilos (275,578 pounds ??????). We keep going !!!! regards.
    hola de nuevo amiga. solo decirte que espero que sigas adelante. Y también decirte que he superado un segundo "Murph"" .tu conoces el wod Murph?. Conciste en correr 1 milla , 100 pull ups , 200 push ups and 300 air squat , terminar corriendo nuevamente 1 milla mas.
    La primera vez que lo hice , no lo terminé. Este viernes pasado lo volvimos a hacer , lo terminé en 75 minutos. Todo , completo. No se si te lo dije anteriormente , peso 125 Kilos ( 275,578 pounds??????). Seguimos adelante!!!!. Saludos.

  18. I'm really sorry about the situations you had to face in the past. It must have been terrible.
    After watching this video I feel like you started to believe in yourself more and it really showed through when you talked about crossfit. It brings me so much joy that you won't let those negative memories choose who you are today. You made a choice to go down a path of fitness. You chose to live your life and not let your past live it for you.
    Keep inspiring people! You definitely inspire me. You are a beautiful person and you have a glow to you that no one can ever take away.💗

  19. I started crossfit at 320# after recovering from a herniated disc that left me immobile for 3 months.
    In my first year i lost 80lbs. It was awesome.
    Then life happened, and i let my nutrition Slip, and slip and slip… and i wound up back at 315. I can lose weight, but keeping it off is the hard part for me. I DID eventually opt for bariatric surgery. The sleeve. If it wasent for crossfit though, i dont think my progress would be nearly as great. I already had that base of physical movement.

  20. This is awesome . It shows that the community can help so many people. Look at both Matt Bickle and Athena , both were overweight and now both of them after a couple years in the community are down huge amounts of weight and are starting to live life again.

  21. Ok. Crying here. Damn what I want all the best in the world for this woman. And I wish her stepmom were prosecuted for what she did to her.

  22. I loved listening to your podcast interview and watching this. You are truly an inspiration and beautiful person! Thank you for sharing your story.

  23. Just heard the podcast, great to see how movement and good food are helping you getting better! Keep fighting the good fight!

  24. This is so amazing and inspiring!!! I literally just went to check a CrossFit, I had the mentality that because of my weight I wouldn’t be able to do. But I absolutely loved the class and I’ll continue to go. Thank you for sharing your story, I feel I can relate to you so much, my step mom was not the greatest either and I feel because of the mental abuse I got very depressed and gained so much weight. But karma has beat her ass. And all though I never wished her anything bad despite what she did, nature has punished her.

  25. I'm really concerned that the stepmother and father weren't properly brought to justice after such intensive abuse. Athena, I hurt for that girl that went through that torture. I'm so happy for the woman that you're becoming, and breaking those barriers one by one is AMAZING. I love your story. Keep writing it and please share it with us all.

  26. Athena Perez! Respect! You are doing it and you are setting a great example for all of those persons who were told they couldn't because you can! Don't ever quit.

  27. Keep going.you're standing where exactly I was 12 years ago.but now I'm a trainer and fit.so you can do that too.I believe

  28. Just saw this and I'm close to in the same boat (35, 6' and about 380 pounds), and I'm going to check out a box tomorrow. I was and am still pretty nervous, but her story has helped to lessen some of that. Congrats Athena!

  29. DAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM girl you are amazing just listening to your story is hard but your life after abuse is cream of the crop , never let anyone tell you "no' you are what we need more of in these hard times , keep going and never give up .
    Now am looking to see you on the crossfit world stage kicking butts and snatching golds

  30. Wtf was wrong with that fucktard of a step mom she was a kid who did nothing wrong. She needs to rot in hell, if I were to ever see her I would fucking lose it what a sick fuck

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