Noelle Hunt doesn’t see herself as exceptional.  She is a regular mom, an educational assistant turned artist.  Nowadays, she attends classes at Hers about three times a week because her journey through life lead her here.

Growing up, she suffered from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or BDD, a body-image disorder that affects about 2% of the population.  BDD often develops in adolescents and teens and affects men and women almost equally. Though Noelle didn’t have social media to contend with in the 70s, she was still enamored with stars like Farrah Fawcett (the epitome of hotness back then), whom she attributes has affected her own perception of herself.  She learned that Farrah weighed 115 pounds and so that number stuck with her. 115 or bust.

Due to health issues, Noelle needed kidney surgery in her tween years.  After that, she had a growth spurt in Grade 7 which didn’t help. Noelle felt different and her sudden height advantage over the boys and the class, made her stand out.  However, Noelle didn’t want to stand out, she simply wanted to blend in. Fit in. Her height felt like a negative and it was hard to accept that she wasn’t 115 pounds and a growing tree among little bushes.  She just wasn’t happy looking in the mirror.

These days, Noelle doesn’t say she is fully over BDD.  She makes a conscious effort to see a positive self-image, but sometimes, still doesn’t see what everyone else does.  When I interviewed her, I saw a cool lady who had her act together, but I didn’t tell her that. She probably wouldn’t have believed me anyway because she said her perception of herself just differs from everyone else’s perspective.  We talked more about her life as she described her diagnosis with breast cancer six years ago. She went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. She lost all her hair. However, she went out to reassure me that breast cancer was one of the better cancers to have in terms of recovery (I mentioned a friend was recently diagnosed and she saw me visibly tearing up).  She mentioned her phobia of needles, but treatment required many. Her strength in her retelling was clear. She had fought and she had overcome.

Through her adult years, Noelle had gone through a variety of exercise regimens.  She tried aerobics and in her twenties, she weight trained. After kids, it was more of a focus on herself, but “nothing challenged me.”  Nothing pushed her harder to do better until Hers came along. The breast cancer diagnosis lead to better eating habits (meal planning, low carbs and lots of veggies and fruit) and motivation to move.  Hers classes work because they are short 45 minute stints.

She loves Rhythm Box classes best, but tells people around her, “Don’t follow me!”  Her shoulder strain acts up at times, but she’s still going. She may not be necessarily in sync all the time (bad hips), but she gets out there.  One of her favourite ladies in the class is an older lady, who may not always be in the right position or know which foot to kick with, but she is doing it and Noelle loves that. “Sometimes, the hardest part is just driving to class, but the feeling and endorphin rush after it is amazing.  It’s winning.” Noelle completed the 28 Day “New Year, New Me” Challenge in February, but in her words, her only competitor was herself. “It’s not that I have to beat you, it’s that I have won.”