B.Y.E (Best You Ever) Divorce Retreat Recap

Several months ago, I was asked to present a program I created called “Fresh Start Fitness” at a divorced women’s retreat in Los Angeles. I thought this would be a great forum to share the importance of staying healthy and fit during difficult times (the goal of the program) with a community of women going through divorce. I was also looking forward to a break from New York’s seemingly endless winter. 


What I didn’t think about was having to share my own story of heartbreak to 85 strangers. But it seemed important to give these women a contextual reference and a real understanding as to why I created Fresh Start Fitness in the first place. They needed to know all of it - all of the dark, desperate and broken parts of it. I couldn’t just stand up there as a “fitness expert” and tell them that even though they are experiencing one of the most difficult transitions of their lives that they should really just go to the gym. 

So, I decided I was going to share. I drafted an outline (as if I don’t remember every painful detail) and without naming any names or ex-bashing, I was going to tell my story. I. was. terrified. 

It’s important to note that I have ALWAYS had an irrational fear of public speaking. Let me put it into perspective for you, as there is actually more than a bit of irony here:

My ex-husband and I met in a Public Speaking class in college. It was a requirement for my major and a “fun” elective for him. He was a dynamic, funny and confident speaker. He loved the professor (whom I hated) and he eagerly volunteered to present to the class each week. I was so envious of this skill. I just didn’t have it in me. In fact, when I was finally called on (after 45 minutes of trying to disappear into my seat) I would ask him to leave the classroom.

This fear carried over long after graduation - during job interviews and eventually in the workplace when I had to pitch ideas in meetings. As I got older, it didn’t get much better. If I had to give a wedding toast or a speech, I froze.

So here I am, many years later, faced with standing in front of a crowd and telling everyone how my husband left me. And if that pressure wasn’t enough, there would be photographers and video to capture the moment. On the agenda, I was sandwiched between a Financial Advisor and a Family Law Attorney. These Ivy-League educated women seamlessly walked through their powerpoint presentations with poise and grace. Did I mention I was nervous?


Remembering the Number 1 Rule when speaking in front of an audience was to NOT say how nervous you are, I just started talking. I started to relax. As I began to tell my story of heartache and pain, I noticed some head-nodding in the crowd. I relaxed a little more; they seemed to be relating to it. I suddenly felt supported by every woman in that room. It was clear that everyone was going through something. As I explained my “rock bottom” moment, when it became critical that I pull myself together, I heard an audible gasp. I quickly went on to explain that I did get out from that dark place and began to see that there was light. It was just a glimmer at first. Moment by moment, then day by day, and eventually week by week, I started to feel better. The point was: there is always HOPE.

I wanted them to understand the importance of taking care of themselves and their health during this tumultuous time; how just listening to a guided meditation or practicing some breathing techniques can have a great impact. The feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine that are released during exercise are especially healing. The food you fuel your body with is a huge part of feeling good about yourself too. 

In the end, I hope this amazing group of women walked away knowing that they are not alone. There are so many resources available to them and they don’t have to cost a fortune either (Fresh Start Fitness is FREE). There are coaches and mentors, financial advisors and mediators to guide them through the divorce process in a healthy way. 

If I was able to contribute in some small way to helping these women heal and thrive and move forward confidently then my intention was met.




Amanda Gay