We love featuring our everyday GORGOgirls that are inspiring us to crush life and a balanced approach to fitness. Meet Shelley Heavens.
Tell us about yourself, Shelley!
When I was 31, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system – which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints. At that time, I weighed approximately 267lbs. In addition to the struggles with my weight and health, I was in an unhealthy relationship with my first marriage. I married very young, at age 19. By the time my marriage ended at age 31, I was at a point in my life where I was pretty beaten down mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I had used food as my crutch for coping.
Between the diagnosis of my RA, my health, a weakened mental state, and now a single mom of two small children, I needed to step it up and make changes. I sought the support and guidance from my health providers, where I began to make small attainable goals. I started to exercise and looking at food and nutrition: reducing portion sizes, increasing protein and reducing my sugar intake. I worked on myself.
I had to shift my mindset and work through a lot of emotional baggage. I had to take charge of my life. I realized that only I can make change. I had the support in place and here I am today. With the support of my husband and children, I have earned an University degree in social work.
Today, I am a registered social worker that focuses on mental health with my clients in a primary care - family health team setting.
What do you love about GORGO?
I was first introduced to GORGO when I began following on social media “Dani Get Ur Gunz” Tolbert in 2014. What attracted me to GORGO was that it showed REAL women of all ages and sizes and from all walks of life. That drew me in. I loved how they really empowered women to love the skin you're in… To except your flaws and imperfections… And to change your mindset: It’s not a “flaw,” but it’s who you are and learn to love who you are. With GORGO, I felt connection, acceptance, community, empowerment, compassion, and a sisterhood amongst the women. There is nothing more beautiful than a warrior woman standing in her power, courage, and confidence. From this place of strength, she is capable of loving the world in a way that transforms pain into promise and hell into heaven. I felt like I belonged.
Tell us about your experience at Camp GORGO:
When I attended Camp GORGO, I immediately felt the strength from everyone. It was more than what I imagined it to be, and then some. I have no words. Just come and see (and feel) for yourself. Since following GORGO through social media in reading their magazines as well as most recently getting to know the GORGO girls in person, I started to accept and embrace my own strength. I feel empowered by my own body shape and strength. It’s not until you actually get to camp that you realize the true impact that it will have on your life. Over time, I have come to realize that strength doesn’t look a certain way – but it feels a certain way. This realization didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken YEARS of growth in my journey. Slowly, I started to believe in myself and love my body I had worked so hard for - loose skin, stretch marks and all.
Any fun facts?
I’m a south paw!
I’m a fur mama of 2; Sasha, my 8-year-old rescue, is the best running buddy I have ever had. Khaleesi, our one-year-old pug is such a joy. Our pets are a part of our lives and our family.
I have been with my soulmate, Joseph, for 12 years and married for six of those. Together, we live in North-western Ontario, Canada.
Not a fun fact really, but I often get told I don’t look old enough; I am an Empty Nester; my son, Scott is 25. He lives and works our community for a gold mine as a heavy equipment operator, so I am very blessed to have him nearby. My daughter, Grace just turned 20 and away at college focusing on earning her diploma in Travel and Tourism.
Becoming empty-nesters… It’s not too bad! I’m actually enjoying it, a new phase in my life. A new chapter, per say. My kidlets have grown and have turned into amazing and hard working young adults that I am very proud of.
Being an empty nester takes some time to get used to, but helps if you are able to mentally prepare for the idea of entering a new phase in your life. I looked at it positively; a chance to focus on ME and look more into my own passions and invest in myself.
Passions and hobbies:
I feel like I am just finally figuring out with self-care actually is. From that, I have developed an interest and passion for fitness. I love being active, especially running and lifting weights. I find it to be very therapeutic for me as well as my work. It helps to decompress. Being active is not just a hobby; It’s part of my lifestyle. As for hobbies, I like to travel to sun and sand destinations with my sister Christine and other friends. Most recently, I have taken on the challenge to travel alone. (Super scary, but you meet the most interesting people!) I came to Camp Gorgo alone, didn’t I?
Last year, I traveled to Costa Rica on my own where I attended a Hiking/Yoga Adventure Retreat. My husband is more of an outdoorsy type of guy, so we enjoy spending time at camp, hiking and exploring nature together.
Do you have any new goals?
Oh man, I have goals! Attending Camp GORGO left me with such a sense of empowerment. I saw the sense of community and sisterhood... and I realized my own goals are so much more attainable.
I’d love to pursue more fitness training such as becoming a health and wellness coach. I have even looked into the idea of becoming certified to personal train. Ultimately, I am looking for ways to help empower other women; to reach their own goals, whatever they may be.
I am really impacted by women that come to see me as a client. I hear their struggles with low self-esteem, challenges in life, and how they tend to put themselves last. It is part of my job as a social worker, but it’s also a part of my life. It is said that, “It’s a beautiful thing when a passion and career come together.” It’s my passion to empower women to help them believe that they can do anything they put their minds to.
If you had one piece of advice for someone, what would it be?
Theodore Roosevelt states “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s total sabotage. Stop comparing yourself to other women on social media and their successes. We are all on the same path, but we are all on different points of that path; we will have different pot holes or bumps along the way. I will eventually get where I’m wanting to go, but my outcome and the journey to get there will look different than yours.
Life motto, mantra, or something you live by?
Dream it. Believe it. Achieve It.
If you have dreams and visions, you have to change your mindset to believe it. And if you truly believe it, you will achieve it.
I never in my wildest dreams thought I would run a half marathon…Ever! And in 2016, I did! That's 13.1 miles! Running that first half marathon was one of the most victorious moments of my life. I literally cried buckets. At 267lbs, I never thought I’d be able to run. In fact, I was told by a specialist that by age 40, I would need knee replacements. I never thought I was smart enough to earn a university degree… and look at me now. #dreambelieveachieve
Today, at age 47, I am in the best shape of my life. Over the last decade, I am proud to say that I have lost over 100+ pounds. I have worked hard to accomplish my goals that I have set for myself. As I have focused on my health, I have less flare-ups in my joints and less RA symptoms. Taking care of myself really is the best medicine.
I am filled with joy, peace and contentment of how I raised my children. Grateful that I am a professional in healthcare who helps to support and empower others. And blessed of my mental well-being and physical strength. I have learned to develop self-care skills.
I am resilient and strong. It’s been a journey and I am loving every step of the way.