Every year, Beutiful picks a strong woman to make our “Woman of The Year.” This year, our woman is Heather Lynn Colonna (you can also read about her in The Women’s Issue, our digital magazine)! Her story is one of strength, resiliency, perseverance and unyielding faith. You’re sure to be inspired by her! My Journey To Self-Acceptance and Healing My name is Heather Lynn Colonna and I am twenty-seven years old. I now accept myself and love myself unconditionally; thanks to my faith in God. Strengthening my relationship with God was a choice I was faced with eleven months ago. I could either keep reeling from being raped when I was 18 years old OR heal from it and trust God and know that everything will be ok. Between the ages of 18 until 26 years old, I was literally walking around like a body without a soul in it. I felt like I wasn’t living life and I was not present in the moment – like I was a rose that had shriveled up and was not being taken care of properly. My spirit almost broke, but I survived. Over nine years, I gained 110 pounds because I wanted to die. Faith saved me, healed my heart, healed my mind and healed my soul. I am now alive and I am healing beautifully and it is all thanks to my inner strength. Since I have become more spiritual, the biggest change in my lifestyle is the realization that life is beautiful. That life is about learning difficult lessons so that you can take a tragic event in your life, heal from it and help other people. You should always be kind to people – you never know what kind of day they are having and a little word of encouragement could change their day or lives for the better. There is a lot of love and positivity out there in the world; you just have to open your eyes and your heart to see it. Do you even notice when someone opens the door for you to come into a building or a store? Or a wonderful piece of advice when you are talking to someone? I learned to keep an open mind as a result of becoming more spiritual. All of my life, I had self esteem but I did not truly accept or love myself until I began my spiritual journey. That’s when I started to pray and meditate. I also decided to put God in control of my life and my health. I started to think positive, and put love and positivity into the world. In return, I started to love and accept myself. I learned not to put too much emphasis on weight loss. Over the past year, I have lost 50 pounds of the weight I put on during those 9 years. I know it will stay off – and I am not on some fad diet that Hollywood promotes nor do I have unrealistic expectations for my body. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, forget Hollywood’s standard of beauty and body size. Follow the beat of your own drum and don’t try to emulate what you see. True beauty and self acceptance comes from the soul and not what you see on T.V. Just remember that with all the ups and downs you go through in your lifetime; your life is beautiful and make every day your heaven on earth. No matter your age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, shape, size and race, etc. – you can always begin the journey of unconditionally loving and accepting yourself. To sum this up, make sure to love yourself and others unconditionally. What I hope to get out of this health journey is a healthy body. Not necessarily a “skinny” body, but a body that can really engage in physical exercise and not get sick from a heart attack or cancer. I want to run, play tennis and go hiking but I am taking baby steps towards these goals. I want to live a long life and staying obese will cut my life in half. I know if I did not change my life spiritually, physically and mentally, I would have died. I wouldn’t have the chance to live past my thirties because of my family’s medical history. Being a positive person and living a positive life is a choice. I am not oblivious and I notice the world around me, but I only absorb the positive things. If something negative happens, I process it…but then I stay strong – mentally, physically and emotionally. I give my love and strength back to the world. I cannot wait to see where this health journey takes me. I love you all.