Today is a big day for 42-year-old CrossFit athlete Athena Perez: The kindle version of her new book Lifting The Wait will be released to the public. The paperback version will be available at the end of the month.
The book: Lifting the Wait tells the story of Perez’s abusive and traumatic childhood, her weight gain journey to 500 pounds in her 30s, and how she lost 225 pounds since starting CrossFit in 2017.
The details: As a child, Perez was abused by a stepmother, who often resorted to using food as punishment.
- “Starvation was common. Force-feeding was common. Or sometimes she’d padlock the fridge, or lock me in my room and not feed me,” Perez said.
- “One time, she locked me in my room for 10 days and fed me nothing but a piece of bread a day,” she added.
Events like this led Perez to start hiding and hoarding food because she didn’t know when her next meal was coming.
- “In my closet, or in a drawer. It’s all I would think about — when I woke up until I went to bed — was how will I get my next meal,” she said.
Breaking free: When she was 11, Perez moved out of her step-mother and father’s house and moved in with her mother, a long haul truck driver.
Though food availability quickly normalized, the deep-rooted damage from years of abuse stuck with her, eventually leading the 5-foot-5 Perez to develop a food addiction and weigh what she thinks was possibly more than 500 pounds.
- “I don’t even know what I was at my heaviest, but think it probably got up even higher than that,” said Perez, who needed two canes just to get around the house and spent her days popping painkillers because her body constantly ached.
Since starting CrossFit in March 2017 and changing her diet, and most importantly fixing her relationship with food, Perez has lost 225 pounds from her highest recorded weight.
Her blood work is healthy, her sleep apnea has disappeared, she’s off her thyroid medication, she’s no longer in pain every day, and she’s fitter than she has ever been in her adult life. A Level 1 CrossFit coach, Perez is even in the process of opening her own CrossFit affiliate in White Bear Lake, MN.
What might surprise the reader: This is not what the book is about. In fact, Perez is adamant her book isn’t about weight loss at all.
- “I think that’s what’s going to surprise everyone about the book. There’s a misconception that my story is about weight loss, but it’s not. People see that because I have lost 225 pounds that must be the story, but food wasn’t the issue. Food was a byproduct of what happened to me,” she said.
- “I always had to deal with the weight, but it wasn’t the weight that was the issue. The issues were all the things I carried around with me: embarrassment, fear, shame, resentment, and the book tells the stories that best represent those things,” she added.
It wasn’t until Perez was able to work through these issues that she was finally able to start CrossFit and begin the journey of regaining her physical health.
- “CrossFit is definitely a tool and it saved my life, but there was so much more that happened before I ever stepped foot in a box,” she explained.
- “The emotional stuff. The nitty-gritty things that happen in life that most people are too scared to talk about…that’s what the book is about.”
Why write a book: In 2018, Mike Koslap produced a 9 minute and 41-second video about Perez that was featured in the CrossFit Journal. The video gained so much attention, she was later featured in a CrossFit Inc. podcast.
After the video and podcast aired, Perez started receiving hundreds of letters and messages online from people who were touched by her story.
- “The common theme that kept coming through was, ‘I haven’t gone through what you went through, but…’. People kept minimizing what they were feeling because it maybe wasn’t as traumatic as what I went through,” she said.
Perez’s message: “Trauma is relative. We all go through shit. The feeling is identical,” she said.
And through telling her story, in its full entirety in her book, Perez hopes it will inspire others to tell theirs.
- “Because sharing our stories is what helps us,” she said.
- “It’s what helps us connect the dots and have those aha moments, which helps us see things much differently, and heal ourselves.”
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After losing 225 pounds and writing a book about it, Athena Perez has become more committed than ever to helping…