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One Saturday morning in LA, I slowly began a jog in the park, struggling with some internal resistance despite the gorgeous weather. As I approached an older man walking in the opposite direction, he gave me a thumbs-up and shouted, “You’re on your way!” Another elderly lady called out to me, “Keep going!” Finding such encouraging verbal support from strangers on this jog was a complete surprise. It reminded me of the word tattooed on my back: ubuntu, a Southern African word that means “I am because you are.”

Ubuntu has been with me since a trip to South Africa six years ago. It was explained to me like this: “We all are who we are because of the people in our lives. We cannot survive without others. We exist because of each other.” Ubuntu inspires action in issues of social justice and political freedom, but it also applies to the challenges that many of us face on an individual level – even the challenge of just getting up and running. That morning in the park, those unanticipated words of support kept me going. 

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After reading Mary’s story, we decided to do some sleuthing within the CGH team and uncover other stories of support in unexpected places. Here’s what we found.

I was leaving work a few months ago, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, after spending the afternoon grappling with a tricky problem. As I left my office, I found an envelope laying on the ground in front of my door, with my name hand-written on the front. I opened it up to find an unsigned note: “My mother is client of yours, and she says that you saved her life. Thank you for giving me my mom back. I haven’t seen her this happy in years.”  That simple gesture meant the world to me. – Katie Rickel

I started writing a blog after a particularly bad breakup ending an outrageously long relationship. The blog is meant to be funny; each post is specifically designed to make people laugh. But it’s prompted an unanticipated reaction. Women I barely know use the words “brave,” “powerful,” and “inspiring” to describe my writing, which represents my choice to be vulnerable on a public platform. That vulnerability has created a community of people battling their insecurities, braving the awkward, and just trying to find their way. I started writing to be funny, but the support I’ve received in return is so much more than that. – Tara Sampson I was studying for the GRE at  Starbucks and started chatting with a woman who was also sitting at my table. We ended up talking for over an hour about coping with anxiety. I still see her often, and we always take a moment to catch up. It’s very nice to see a friendly face and to know you’re not alone in this crazy, hectic world! – Rachel Paul

I started writing a blog after a particularly bad breakup ending an outrageously long relationship. The blog is meant to be funny; each post is specifically designed to make people laugh. But it’s prompted an unanticipated reaction. Women I barely know use the words “brave,” “powerful,” and “inspiring” to describe my writing, which represents my choice to be vulnerable on a public platform. That vulnerability has created a community of people battling their insecurities, braving the awkward, and just trying to find their way. I started writing to be funny, but the support I’ve received in return is so much more than that. – Tara Sampson

On July 1st, 2013, I took the plunge: I committed to starting a blog about my struggles with weight and self-compassion. That day, I decided to use the last of my savings to book a trip to the BlogHer conference in Chicago, despite the fact that I knew absolutely no one else attending. At the conference, after a keynote, I joined a session of small group discussions, organized in tables of six. At the first table I approached, a young woman greeted me with “Sorry, that seat’s taken. But I’m Phyllisa. What’s your name?” I shyly introduced myself, explaining the concept of CurvyGirlHealth, and mentioned that I was looking for contributing writers. To my delight, Phyllisa grinned with glee! She explained that her blog, “Diagnosed Not Defeated,” told the tale of her own “curvy” journey managing diabetes. She connected with the idea of CGH immediately, and volunteered to join the team. I’d come to the conference feeling like a quasi-imposter, not expecting to find such an enthusiastic response to my ideas. I thought, Maybe this is something bigger than me! I found a new table with an open seat, and suddenly I had the courage to proudly state who I was and why I was there. Phyllisa has stuck to her word – she’s both a CGH writer and a strong source of personal support for me – but I’ll never forget the unexpected strength I drew from her on that first morning. – Lisa Jones

Sometimes, that little bit of strength that you didn’t even know you needed can show up in surprising ways. Where have you found unexpected support? We’d love to hear your stories!    

Mary has been on a mission to become the healthiest and strongest version of herself. Mary was quite a heavy gal growing up. She was an obese child, teen and young adult. She has been on her weight loss journey since 2006. Over this course of time she has lost over hundred pounds; has fallen in love with nutrition and fitness; and has overcome fears and obstacles that she did not think was possible! She has been on this journey for a while. She has tried many different diets, plans and strategies to get to where she is now. She’s been defeated, knocked down, and challenged too many times to count. What has she learned? “In order to reach my goals, I must focus energy on making sure that I am doing okay and feeling good! If I’m not, I’m most likely not going to be successful in whatever I am striving for.” Mary’s blog, Feel Good Live Better, is a space where she shares intimate and very real experiences and thoughts about weight-loss, healthy living and all the ups and downs that goes with it. She is very passionate about helping herself and others live a feel-good life! read more about