Ricki Friedman was hesitant to share her transformation photos. "I didn't want to make this just about a physical transformation," she told POPSUGAR. "Sharing this is scary!" But she decided to tell her story in the hopes that it may help someone else dealing with the loss of a loved one or with body acceptance issues.
Ricki's own journey with her body began when she was just 13 years old and she lost her mother to cancer. She felt deeply depressed, empty, and isolated. "It profoundly affected the way I felt about myself," she recalled. "I was too young to process what had happened to me, so instead of grieving for my mother, I decided to control what I could by controlling my weight."
"I threw myself into the world of 'diet and exercise,' because it was so much easier to say 'I'm fat' and focus on that than it was to say 'I'm in pain and this grief is overwhelming.'"
"I started changing my relationship with food once I started changing my relationship with grief."
Ricki said, "I felt so uncomfortable all the time in my skin and always felt 'heavy.'" She said she was obsessed with her weight and lived by the number on the scale. "I felt like if I was skinny and strong, then I would be happy too." She spent hours working out and she said her whole day revolved around when and what she was eating. "I thought that if I felt 'physically' lighter, then I wouldn't be in so much pain from the grief," she told POPSUGAR. "I put all my focus onto what I looked like and it controlled my every thought."
She tried countless diets and workout programs. Why? "So I could try and fix the physical part of me in hopes that it would take care of the emotional one."
Eight years ago, when she was 22 years old, she went to therapy and started talking about her mother's death. That's when her mindset shifted. "The more I talked about it, the more I connected to WHY I had so many unhealthy habits."
In 2012, Ricki built herself a really simple daily system of movement, accountability, and support. "I started changing my relationship with food once I started changing my relationship with grief. I looked at what was 'weighing' me down in my life."
She began by making small changes to her daily habits. "I made a promise to do three things every day."
- Walk 10,000 steps
- Track her daily food intake
- Drink two liters of water
This daily system worked, and she saw her habits change and her life transforming. "The system allowed me to slow down and create real change instead of the quick fix I was always so used to," Ricki said. "I felt lighter physically (and mentally) by being mindful of what I was putting into my body and mind." She added, "I realized that food wasn't the issue, or my weight. It was really the heaviness from the grief I never dealt with and needed to heal."
The before photo was from 2011, and after one year, she shed 10 pounds. But the number on the scale wasn't important to her. Ricki was excited that she was able to transform her relationship with food. It made all the difference because it's how she took back the power in her life. "I no longer felt controlled by diet, weight, or my body. I was in the driver's seat now," she shared. "I taught myself how to change my mindset and step into a more positive space."
Today Ricki lives a lifestyle that allows her to both indulge and feel good as a whole, and now she's helping others transform their lives. "I know it's never just about the weight when it comes to the heaviness in our lives," she said, and that's the mission behind the program she founded called Break the Weight.
Based on the system that worked for her own life, she's now showing others how to break what may be physically, mentally, and emotionally weighing them down and instead adopt healthy habits. It's truly inspiring that she was able to turn the grief of loss into something positive not only for her own life, but in a way that's affecting the lives of so many others.