You might wonder how I stay in great shape and how I got here. People are always asking me, “Were you always athletic? Were you always so fit?” Some people assume I must have been into sports as a kid or that I’m just genetically programmed to be lean and muscular.
For just a few minutes, set aside any assumptions you might have already made, and let me tell you my story.
I was just like so many other people in their 30s.
I thought I had it all: a high-paying executive career. International travel. A husband and a large network of friends and colleagues. Active membership in my church. A beautiful home in a fabulous city with all the material possessions. It was what I expected and what others expected of me.
While growing up in Adelaide, Australia, my struggle with asthma and frequent hospitalizations had me believing I couldn’t be physical or exercise in any way. In fact, I detested exercise. I spent my time instead on more sedate pursuits like music, and I became a professional bassist when I was only 15.
As much as I loved music and still do, it didn’t feel like my purpose in life, though I wasn’t questioning things at the time. I continued to study, and I went on to a university conservatorium. I eventually dropped out. At 23 I got married, and I launched a career on the ground floor of the cosmetic industry. I poured my heart and soul into my marriage, my church, and my work, always believing I was doing the “right thing” that a young woman was expected to do.
But somehow, something wasn’t quite right.
By the time I was in my 30s, my hard work paid off and I held a prestigious title: National Training Manager, Shiseido Australia. I had worked hard for it, and I traveled internationally helping people create beautiful skin. I loved my job, but the uneasiness that had always bubbled under the surface got louder. I knew somewhere deep inside that I had to make some changes, but how? Why wasn’t I truly happy? I was doing everything I was supposed to do, wasn’t I?
ME AT 37 YEARS, SMILING ON THE OUTSIDE, SAD ON THE INSIDE…
A series of events hit me hard.
I was invited to a pool party, and while shopping for a bathing suit, I felt like the world had shifted on its axis. Seeing my body covered in cellulite and flab—in triplicate—in the dressing room’s three-sided, full-length mirrors and hideous ultraviolet lighting was more than I could bear. I realized I had never owned a bikini—or any kind of sexy outfit—and I sure wasn’t going to start now. I went home in tears and to the party without a bathing suit.
That image of myself in those mirrors was burned into my brain.
It seemed like the first time in years that I had truly looked at myself, and I hadn’t just seen my outer self—I knew I was looking at my inner self, too.
I had worked hard in the cosmetic industry helping other people become beautiful, but I was too stressed to stop and think about me: my body, my health, and my well-being. I had never exercised at all, even the slightest bit, and I was living on a diet loaded with sugar and fat.
On the outside, I might have looked happy, but that ever-present uneasiness was a secret: I was discouraged and disappointed with my life. I felt trapped in a role that I hadn’t truly chosen for myself. I was trying to please others, and I had lost sight of the dreams and desires I once had.
My body paid the price.
Though I wasn’t seriously overweight, my perfectly proper executive suit hid a body covered with flabby fat and cellulite, and I couldn’t bear to look at myself naked in the mirror.
I felt trapped, powerless. I wanted to change, but I had no idea how. Wasn’t I too old to start making major changes in my life?
I had worked hard at everything in my life, everything except what really mattered: me. I was afraid. I was getting older, and what did my career really mean? Who were my real friends? Where did my family fit in? Why didn’t I have the children I had longed for?
How I looked on the outside was a reflection of everything wrong on the inside.
At 40, it all came crashing down. Suddenly, I was divorced. Suddenly, I was starting all over again. Suddenly, I had to do some healing. But I had to start feeling OK about myself and realize that life can and does go on, and it can be even better.
My first realization was that the expression “over the hill” doesn’t mean a hill of beans. Anyone, at any age, can be who and whatever we want to be. I found the courage to let go of the past and discover a new life.
After some thinking, that restlessness that had been simmering all my life just exploded.
I had to do something drastic. I resigned from my job and sold everything. I went backpacking solo in Central America and Spain. I learned to surf and, in a complete turnaround from my previous soft, comfy life, I stayed at little Spanish schools on the beach so I could study Spanish and surf all day.
It was drastic, yes. Much like my return to uni, I had a lot to learn, and I wanted to do it fast.
I had so much catching up to do.
As I started feeling better about myself—even happy—I realized that looking and feeling great was a gateway to building my self-confidence and strength on the inside so I could make other changes to the outside of my life.
Although I had never surfed before—I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded—I learned. I could barely paddle at first, and it was six months before I caught a real wave and rode it, but I refused to give up.
Surfing somehow represented a gift to myself—something I was doing for me and only for me—for the first time in my life. I had to overcome old fears and see what I could do before I could move onward. It was a steep learning curve, but after a few years of surfing around the world—and a few near death experiences—I became quite an expert.
As I became fitter, my body changed. But I still wasn’t eating right.
With encouragement from my sister—she knew I had the power to inspire others—I set a new challenge for myself. At 44, I decided to enter a bikini contest just for fun. I joined a gym and threw myself into full-time fitness and nutrition research. In only two months, I dramatically transformed my body and had professional photos taken.
I didn’t win the competition (pretty tough with all those 20-somethings) but the media snapped up my transformation story. Before I knew it, one of my photos was selected by bodybuilding.com and used for advertising in major US magazines like Shape, Oxygen, and Muscle and Fitness.
SOME OF THE MAGAZINES MY STORY HAS BEEN FEATURED IN
I had a new dream now: to help other people who need to make changes. I knew first-hand how lonely it can get and not having anyone to turn to. I wanted to help other people change, transform, and experience the deep fulfillment of being the best you can be—not just in a physical sense, but on a deeper level of inner peace and feeling good about where you’re going in life.
Belinda Benn, the Aussie Transformation Coach was born.
It’s been both a long, hard road and an amazingly short journey at the same time. I’m finally doing exactly what I want to do, and I’m doing it with a passion. These days, I’m published internationally in a wide variety of fitness and health magazines. I’m a sports and health columnist, a personal trainer, and a strength and conditioning specialist.
I’ve had a lot to learn, but the most important lesson is this: I can be anybody I want to be.
How about you?
Your Aussie Transformation Coach,