Fitness influencer Stefanie Williams shares the injury that spurred her on a soul-seeking mission, her journey with endometriosis, and her determination to help others
If you were to ask my parents this question, they would say that I’ve been running around doing muscleman impressions since I was five! “Stefanie Williams tells me when I ask where it all started.
As a fitness influencer and trainer with more than 1.4 million followers on Instagram, the love of sport and fitness is in the foreground when Stefanie thinks about her previous trip.
“I’m not particularly academic, so I wouldn’t necessarily do it well in class, but I really did excel on the sports field,” explains Stefanie. “I absolutely loved it, I was so happy, all I wanted to do was exercise!”
And her passion paid off when she was hunted down for the Welsh ice hockey team at school. It’s the kind of pressure and responsibility that could easily be intimidating, but Stefanie took it all on herself and looks back lovingly on the memories from that time.
But it all ended unexpectedly when she sustained an injury that meant she could no longer play with the team.
“I broke my shin,” says Stefanie. “It was probably my fault to be fair. I dived and the defender basically knocked me down. When I stopped exercising, it definitely had an impact on my mental health. I am totally lost. It was something that had been there all my life and something I knew I was good at and I was happy to do it. You get a little lost when this is taken from you. “
The injury forced Stefanie on a path of self-discovery that she may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. Still, it wasn’t easy and Stefanie now sees her early 20s as a very challenging time.
“You’re trying to adapt and do what is expected of you,” she muses. “But actually the most important thing is to do what makes you really happy, even if that might disappoint people or if it cannot be precisely planned.”
Following her heart led Stefanie to where she is today. About five years ago she took a fitness class that sparked an idea. Why not combine their love of fitness with their passion for connecting with others? She set up her Instagram account and it started from there.
Stefanie quickly built a dedicated following and wanted to pull back the curtain that often keeps people in the dark when it comes to health and fitness and encourage a healthy attitude towards exercise.
It’s incredible what happens when women get together. There is no stopping it
“It allows people to focus on how they look without considering the effects on their bodies,” she continues. “I often see women using exercise as a punishment instead of listening to their body and focusing on what it needs and how it feels.
“My endometriosis diagnosis made me realize how important it is to work with my body, not against it.”
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus begins to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can lead to severe, life-threatening pain and fatigue, and lead to mental health problems. Diet and fitness can help alleviate symptoms, but many people may need more assistance, and while it affects 1.5 million people in the UK, getting help is an uphill battle averaging seven and a half years from the onset of symptoms takes to diagnose.
“I went through such a long and arduous time trying to find out what I had and I was so frustrated,” says Stefanie. “It was a difficult time for my mental and physical health because I could hardly exercise. I remember doing some workout videos and lying on the floor in the gym crying because I was so exhausted. “
Stefanie turned to her family doctor, but her experience was dismissed as a severe period pain. This attitude caused her to suppress what she was feeling, but it got to a point where she was in so much pain that she knew she couldn’t continue.
“I did a lot of research and found another gynecologist who is an expert on endo,” explains Stefanie as she realizes the moment when she was finally taken seriously and had access to the treatment she needed. “It has one in ten women and it’s so frustrating because it’s something that is often tossed aside.”
To raise awareness, Stefanie drew attention to her experiences in an emotional video on her YouTube channel in 2018. The video reached thousands, and the comments were flooded with support, others sharing their own experiences – some even thanked Stefanie for asking them to contact a professional and give them the diagnosis they need.
“I also teamed up with Endometriosis UK and organized an event. We all met and it was … “Stefanie takes a break. “I cried, we all cried in certain places. It was amazing, you couldn’t stop people from talking. They said, “Do you have that?”, “What are you doing for it?”
“It’s unbelievable what happens when women come together, it can’t be stopped,” says Stefanie. “I’ve seen that sharing something that makes you feel really vulnerable can have such positive effects.” Because if you feel like this, you can bet hundreds of other women will feel it too. “
Despite everything she’s gone through, Stefanie’s positive attitude and passion for uplifting others is felt even on the phone line. When I ask her at the end of our interview where this strength comes from, she takes a moment to think about it.
“I think it comes from learning to really take care of yourself,” she says. “You just have to take every day as it comes. I also have an incredible community that I’m proud of because it’s these women who are with me on this journey. It’s important to be as positive as possible , that’s what keeps me going. “
Follow Stefanie, @Stef_Fit, and find out more about her health and fitness app GLOW at weglow.app