Fat to Fit to First Level Transforms: Welcome to Happy, Healthy & Horsey!

“Let me say that again: the notion of ‘fatness’ is mental. And I have been constantly re-embedding the mental programming ‘you’re fat, not fit’ and that I have a long, arduous journey still ahead in order to get fit.” Fat to Fit to First Level is rebranded!

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
– credited to Frank Outlaw, founder of the U.S. supermarket chain, Bi-Lo

When I first began this journey and this column, I was sixty pounds heavier than I wanted to be, flabby, out of shape, out of breath, and out of time. Both Kaliwohi and I needed to trim down and tone up and Kiwi – who was a “7” on the Henneke scale at the time – was on a one-way path to poor health if I did not get him in shape.

I remember looking at myself in a full length mirror. I felt angry and disgusted with myself for ever “letting myself go” to the point of obesity. And so I began this journey from “fat” to “fit” and hoped to train Kaliwohi from unbroken wild mustang to First Level of classical dressage.

There are three main stages to a butterfly’s life: caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. The butterfly is the “pretty” stage; sometimes the caterpillar can be “cute and fuzzy” (not technically “pretty”) but hardly anyone would consider the chrysalis stage to be beautiful.  The metamorphosis going on within the chrysalis phase of life is profound, but typically not even visible – a caterpillar goes in; a butterfly emerges. But the in-between stage – the chrysalis stage – is dry and dark and ugly.

Butterflies on milkweed. Photos by Esther Roberts.

In like manner, an oak tree emerges from a tiny acorn. And yet, in order for that mighty oak to develop, the acorn has to literally self-destruct. The acorn “sacrifices” its entire self in order to feed the emerging sampling. A half-rotten acorn with two fragile leaves protruding is hardly a “mighty oak” and yet every oak, including the tallest and strongest, must have gone through the “disintegrating acorn” stage at some point. It is all part of the process of making an oak tree. Break down the old to create the new.

So what does this have to do with being fat or being fit or riding horses?

Actually, quite a lot.

Jesse Elder, a life coach guru, teaches, “a belief is only a thought repeated over and over and over. Behavioral memory lasts about 30 days, so if you want to change a behavior, reprogram your mind’s thoughts, over and over and over.”

Max Lucado, a Christian writer/teacher/minister, says it this way, “God forgets the Past. Imitate Him.”

So for the past few months, as I’ve been writing this article and daily tips on social media, it dawned on me that I was doing myself – and all the followers of this column and related social media – a huge disservice.

Each time I thought about me and this platform known as “Fat to Fit to First Level” (a name I myself chose), I was reinforcing the thought that I am FAT. The notion of “fatness” is definitely mental; those suffering from anorexia feel fat despite having dangerously low levels of body fat, if any.

Let me say that again: the notion of “fatness” is mental. And I have been constantly re-embedding the mental programming “you’re fat not fit” and that I have a long, arduous journey still ahead in order to get fit.



Can you imagine how frustrated our horses would get if, every time we got in the saddle, we started all over at the beginning? Telling our training level mount, or our 50-miles-of-trails-under-her-girth mount, or our four-year-old walk/jog/lope pleasure mount, “today we’re going to school mounting, and for the next 30 minutes I’ll do nothing but climb on and off, on and off, over and over and over again, because we’re still at the very beginning.”

Not only would you frustrate your horse, you would also never progress.

“You’re fat not fit.”

Like a school-yard bully, that self-defeating message has been pounded into my head for months now. And, with my sincerest apologies, into yours, as well.


I took some time off from daily posts on the social media feeds, and dug down deep to get really honest with myself.

“What do you WANT, Esther? What do you truly WANT?”

Whether or not I ever ride a horse again, WHAT. DO. I. WANT?

I want to feel happy. Genuinely, honestly, deep-in-my-soul HAPPY. And I know from chatting with so many of you, that you, too, seek happiness.

I want to feel healthy. Hallelujah, I AM healthier than most women who weigh what I weigh – even at my current weight, there are various levels of fitness and flab, and I am steadily gaining on the fitness spectrum, getting toned and losing fat. YAY, ME! And I want to remain healthy for many, many years ahead. Healthy – mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy – as opposed to merely physically “fit.”

And I want to have horses in my life. Remember back in grade school, when you were known as the “horsey” kid? Me, too. And I want to be that “horsey” human, no matter my stage of life.

So I had a heart-to-heart with my wonderful editor, Kristen, at HorseNation, and I asked for her blessing to let this column metamorphose from “Fat to Fit to First Level” to “Happy, Healthy & Horsey.”

I’ll still be chronicling my journey to get more pounds off and be my healthiest self. Raw honest, as always, friends – I’ve regained two pounds even while losing inches in rehab; this does not make me happy, but I will never lie to y’all, so there it is.

First pic:  First week of this column, I’d lost ten pounds from my highest weight of 207 pounds in this photo. Photo credit: Everyday Beauty Photography, Tess McHone

Second pic: (snapped yesterday) – While my weight continues to hover around the “20 pounds” down mark, you can see the differences in my shape and tone as I walk more, yoga more, and continue to rehab my leg. Photo credit: Greg Bell.

But I am re-tooling my brain – breaking down my decades-long mental programming, to make space in my mainbrain processsor to create new programming – to completely ignore the notion of “fat” and, instead, focus only on positive/constructive thoughts (happy mind), clean eating/living (healthy body), and quality interaction with my mustang (horsey).

Positive. Positive. Positive. Happy. Healthy. Horsey.

Beginning Monday, October 15, I’m starting a 30-day group challenge in the (newly renamed) Facebook group Happy Healthy & Horsey. This challenge will be a fun and focused learning tool to help all of us improve our self-image and navigate the upcoming holiday season without ever once allowing the word “fat” to enter our brain, all while enjoying your favorite holiday foods (in moderation – “channel the Queen!”) and spending quality time with your horses, as well.

Whatever your age or stage in life, whether you ride a world champion warmblood, drive a pair of Percherons, ride a reiner, or have a mini in your motor home, I invite you to join me on this journey.

Kaliwohi and I enjoying some quality time together with the acorn-to-oak trees. Photo credit: Greg Bell.

Happy, Healthy & Horsey.


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