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How Boxing and Therapy Help Me Recover My Identity After Extreme Weight Loss

“When my body changed so drastically and rapidly, it broke my sense of self-identity. About a year into my weight loss, I began to experience early dissociation, depersonalization, and dissociative amnesia. I broke into two people. Me of now and her of before.”

Hello! Who are you?

I am Erin Renzas and I am an author and the former Chief Marketing Officer of some of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing tech companies. More recently, I founded EBB Wellness and began writing a book on weight loss versus wellness, personal transformation, and my own experience with extreme weight loss.

Like so many other women, I had big ambitions when it came to my career and my life. By the time I was 35 years old, I was leading marketing for one of the fastest-growing tech companies – valued at more than $40 billion. I had moved to New York, San Francisco, and, eventually, to London and, now, Amsterdam – which is where I call home. 

Then, suddenly, I realized that none of it was what I wanted. I spent 15 years building a life that didn’t make me really satisfied. So, where to go from there? One international move, a breakup, and some soul searching later, I completely shifted my mindset, changed my life, and embraced a total transformation of mind and body – and I lost 102 pounds (42% of my body weight) in the process.

The weight loss is actually the least interesting piece of this story – but, with it, I found a new connection to my body, my sense of self, what I wanted to do next, and how to find happiness and joy in my life. I also learned about the difference between weight loss and wellness. The mental health implications (and lack of focus on the mental health side of weight loss in general) took me by surprise.

Now, I am writing a book on my own experience with weight loss and wellness, the impact of body transformation on mental health, and the changing landscape of body acceptance in hopes that sharing my story will make others going through a similar thing not feel so alone.

Long story short – holistic life transformations can be scary, but also necessary, to finding out who you truly are and how you want to impact the world. 

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

It may be surprising that those who undergo a weight loss transformation may not, in fact, be living a fundamentally happier life than they were in the “before.” So often, weight loss is presented as a silver bullet to a shinier, brighter life.

But that’s not true. 

When I lost 42% of my body weight off of my 5’6” frame, I did so through a combination of an insulin-resistance-focused diet, intermittent fasting, strength training, and boxing.

As I began to achieve my weight loss goals, my mental health deteriorated. My own weight loss-associated mental health challenges fell into two distinct sections: depression and dissociation, specifically depersonalization and dissociative amnesia.

The first was categorized by prolonged depression which stemmed from intense isolation and resulting distrust of people. In order to achieve this level of weight loss, I had to abandon many of my social circles. My hobbies changed. I didn’t know how to relate to my friends and family anymore. I became isolated and reclusive. 

I also learned how poorly I had been treated in my bigger body. So many people asked me about whether I had just been lazy before (I wasn’t), or never took care of myself (I did).

I learned so clearly that many people think that a bigger body means a less cared-for body. My trust in people eroded entirely. Paired with the isolation, a deep depression set in.

The second bout of mental health challenges stemmed from the body dysmorphia that resulted from my changing body, which ultimately led to a series of dissociative episodes. 

When my body changed so drastically and rapidly, it broke my sense of self-identity. About a year into my weight loss, I began to experience early dissociation, depersonalization, and dissociative amnesia.

I broke into two people. Me of now and her of before. 

It started because my body changed so dramatically that it became hard for me to place myself in my memories of the past. When we remember the past, we don’t actually see ourselves in that moment. 

Instead, we have to place ourselves back into the memory based on what we thought we looked like. We watch memories back in our minds like we do old family videos – we can see ourselves in them, but we don’t “see” ourselves. 

My body changed so quickly – and my body dysmorphia became so pronounced – that I could no longer trust my own memory. I would conjure up memories and paint the scene, so sure of what I saw and experienced, but when I tried to place myself in the scene, it was like the screen glitched.

If I were to reach out, the body would shift, my hand would slip through it and it would push outwards and disperse like a cloud of smoke. 

It was unsettling and unnerving. I began to play a game with my friends and family which I called “Real or Not Real?” where I would ask if the things I experienced in the past were as I thought they were or not. 

Eventually, I began to believe that she and I were not, in fact, the same person.

I remember one unusually hot summer afternoon, sitting on the floor of my Amsterdam apartment on a Whatsapp call to my mother, insisting over and over and over again that I had died and that I no longer existed. And I really thought that. To me, it was as real and as solid as the ground I sat on. I died. I didn’t exist.

There was her and there was me, now. They weren’t the same. 

So often when people go through intense personal transformation, you’ll hear them say that they “became a new person.” They mean this figuratively of course. For me, when I said that, I meant it literally. 

The best way I can describe my dissociation is that the me of before – pre-weight-loss me – was like a sister. In my brain, she and I had some similar experiences, but we weren’t the same people. 

She wasn’t me, and I wasn’t her. My memories of her glitched. I couldn’t remember how she felt about certain things in the past. I couldn’t remember the events she experienced. 

Our bodies are intimately interwoven with our entire concept of self, of who we are, what we experience, and how we find happiness. When my body changed so drastically and rapidly, I had to give the rest of me time to catch up and figure out who I was becoming, and how to be happy in this version of myself. 

Extreme weight loss, as it turns out, isn’t really about the loss. For me, the hard part came after the pounds were gone – in the reconstruction of my sense of who I was after the reconstruction of my body.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I am surprised by how many people assume that I was an unhappy person when my body was bigger. I wasn’t! I had a great job. I had a kind, handsome boyfriend. I loved my friends and my family. My body was bigger, but I was a successful, happy person who took good care of myself. 

It is shocking how many times I am asked if I was depressed, lazier, emotionally ate, or had family issues when I had a bigger body. People could not fathom how a bigger body could be a happy and healthy body!

For me, my extreme weight loss presented a minefield of emotional and cognitive challenges that consistently threatened to halt and deteriorate meaningful long-term success – where success is a holistically happy and healthy version of yourself, both psychologically and psychologically.

My experience with depression and dissociation brought me to some of the darkest periods of my life. Those in my close circle of friends and family knew of the challenges, though the depths of that only became clear when I began to process my experience. 

In my transformation, I tore my body down into just the parts. Muscle and fat and bone and water and mineral, and then I reconstructed it into a new form, calorie by calorie, mile by mile. And when I was done with my body, I had to reconstruct the rest of me – and my mind. Painfully, and eventually lovingly, at the age of 38.

In order to find a new sense of self-love and joy, I had to refocus myself away from weight loss and instead rediscover the balance between mind and body. It is this balance and interconnection that helped me regain my real wellness.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

In the early stages of this transformation, I made the move from London to Amsterdam.

There were so few people in my day-to-day life who knew her, I didn’t have to try to be her and me. It made living with my dissociation slightly easier, but also allowed my brain to go even deeper into my dissociation. I didn’t share with anyone new in my life who I had been or what I was going through.

Obviously, working with therapists was critical in my healing, but there were two key and surprising moments that also helped in that process.

This first was when I finally began sharing the story of my weight loss and my mental health challenges around that with the new people in my life. 

When I began working out at a small personal training gym, it was the first time I told new people in my life – who had only known me in this smaller version of me – about the bigger version of me (her). The physical nature of that engagement made it necessary for me to share more about her. My trainers needed to know the story of my body. 

When I began connecting the before and after of my body, it helped me start to connect the before and after of my identity – of who I was. The more I shared my story with new people, the more I was able to finally start to reconnect her and me in my brain.

Then, by the recommendation of one of my trainers, I began boxing. It is a sport that requires the mind and body to be in sync – so connected and intertwined. Not only did it help me become physically stronger and reconstruct my body, but it unlocked a mental strength previously untapped.

Boxing helped me become more resilient, more thoughtful in my body-mind connection, and more empowered in both my personal life and my professional life.

It became a form of somatic therapy, which is now something I work on with the help of experts in the space. Somatic therapy suggests that our traumas, experiences, and emotions are held within the body and that we can process and release those experiences through movement. Boxing is my daily practice of somatic therapy. 

Sharing my story was incredibly healing. That’s what inspired me to write a book about the experience – and start sharing my story on TikTok. As scary as that has been, connecting with people across these platforms and hearing their stories has made me feel more connected to my own sense of self and identity. 

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

Professional support is critical in any type of mental health healing or management process. For me, both talk therapy and somatic therapy were critical. 

But, I also found the small steps I took in my day-to-day life became critical. 

Move your body: The body-mind connection and reestablishing that connection was a key unlock for me. The more I was able to feel my body through exercise and movement, the more I was able to reconnect my identity of her and me. Boxing was such a huge part of that for me because it requires such a strong connection between how you think and how you move. 

Share your story: I was so scared by what I was going through. It was hard for me to articulate in real terms the dissociation – and when I tried to, and people thought I was speaking figuratively, I would get frustrated. 

The more I learned to share and articulate my experience, and the more I found other people shared their experiences with body and identity (even if theirs wasn’t exactly the same!), the more I was able to process and make sense of my own experience.

Did I ever think I would have a TikTok where I talk about this stuff? No! Did I ever think I would write a book on this? No! But these two elements have helped me understand my perceptions of self and find a deeper reconnection. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

When I was in the depths of my mental health challenges, I shared my experience only with those in my very inner circle.

Then, as I began to process my experience and look for stories from people who had also gone through similar challenges, I didn’t find those narratives. There were no books social media accounts or magazine articles that reflected what I was going through. That’s when I decided to write a book – I wanted to create what I craved when I was going through this. 

What has been amazing is that as I became more open with my story and my struggles, I found that I was finding deeper and more authentic connections with people than I ever had before – people from my past, new people, strangers on the internet! When I shared my struggles candidly, I found so many people who would open up about their own mental health and personal challenges. 

They shared stories of addiction, mental health challenges, traumatic experiences, of their shifting body image. It was incredible, freeing, and one of the most healing parts of this journey. 

Now, I decided to share my story through my content platform EBB Wellness, and by writing a book on weight loss and wellness, the changing landscape of body acceptance, and personal transformation. My goal is to be a resource for other women who are finding out who they truly are as they navigate mental health, work, wellness, life, and relationships.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

This is a long road. Healing takes time. You cannot possibly know what the future holds for you – and that can be terrifying, but it can be exhilarating. Give yourself time. 

One of the hardest things I had to learn was that there was no way to rush my healing process. There was no way to suddenly make everything okay. I had always been one of those people who when faced with a challenge, would spring into action and try to find a solution! I couldn’t just fix this.

I surrounded myself with people who could help me, but I also just had to learn that time was something I needed, and I had to get comfortable with that. 

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

I share what I have learned along the way as @ErinRWellnes on TikTok or you can read more of my story at Erin Renzas on Medium. You can also see where I have been featured and sign up for my newsletter at

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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