What makes Robbyn Ackner different from others? My answer is always, I’ve walked in your shoes.
I grew up as a chubby child, the fat kid, into an obese teen and then a morbidly obese adult. As a child, I was bullied in school because of my weight along with a multitude of other things. Anything and everything that the other kids (and adults too) could do to make me feel bad about myself. After my parents divorced when I was 16 and my mother remarried, I was the thrown into a situation with an emotionally and verbally abusive step-father who also attempted to molest me. I attempted suicide and at age 17, neither my mother nor father who basically just disappeared after their divorce wanted responsibility for me, so I was sent to live in a group home in East Orange, NJ. I took my GED test while in the group home and because of my score on the test I was qualified to attend Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio. I had no idea about the school, no idea of what to expect, but I also knew that when I turned 18, I would be homeless, because I would not be allowed to remain in the group home. Having no place else to go once I aged out of the group home, I went to the University, where I continued to be ostracized and an outcast. I had hopes that it would be a new start for me…a chance at a better life, but I was wrong. I was raped at the school and Campus Police would not take action, telling me that it would be a “she said, he said” situation. I became pregnant as a result of the rape and stayed for the duration at a home for unwed mothers. After going through a difficult pregnancy, I made gave the baby up for adoption through Catholic Social Services and then I returned to NJ and to the still volatile situation with my mother and step-father.
At the age of 25, I married a man that many years later I realized that I never loved, but married him because I thought no one else would ever want me and this would be my only opportunity to marry. When he initially came into my life, I convinced myself that I was in love with him and I take complete responsibility for our marriage failing. To be honest, he never changed…he was the same person when I left, as he was when I married him. I was the one who changed and I wanted more out of my life.
During the course of my 12 year marriage, I grew up, gained a little bit of self confidence, lost a little bit of weight and gained enough strength to leave, knowing that I did indeed want something more out of life. Still obese, I tried again to lose weight, I’d been on diets my entire life, but this time I was able to lose the most amount of weight up until then. Through a weight loss program, I lost 100 lbs and became even more self confident and was beginning to get some self esteem when I met another man.
Unfortunately, I got drawn into his story and allowed him into my life and before I knew it I was in an abusive relationship with a man who was verbally, emotionally, mentally and physically abusive. Sadly, and to both my shame and embarrassment, I gained all of the weight back that I had lost and then some. There came a point where I knew that I had to get out and I knew that if I didn’t he was going to kill me.
This was not my first physically abusive relationship, there was a short period of time when I was a teenager that I became involved with a man twice her age, who would beat me for whatever reason he could come up with. If the car didn’t start, if the dog laid on the bed, if he had a bad day at work, he would beat me. When I got the courage to walk away from him, I was so scared of him that I kept a letter in my wallet for years that said if I was ever found dead, that the police should look for him. I was young and naive and didn’t know that this type of abuse was going on behind so many closed doors. This time, in this 2001 relationship, as an adult, more life skills, I knew better and not only did I know it wasn’t my fault despite his constantly telling me that I made him do it, but I knew that his rage was building with every incident and it would soon escalate to uncontrollable. Yes, I stayed longer than I should have, trying to “fix” him, but there came a point where I realized that I couldn’t, so I left him. Now, this wasn’t as easy as just walking out the door, but I did leave him.
I picked up everything and moved to Florida, where I started my journey of self discovery. For the first time in my life, I made herself a priority and attempted one more time to get healthy. At 354 lbs, I started a weight loss program and this time, I didn’t let anyone or anything get in her way. When I left NJ, not only did I leave the abusive relationship, but I left all the negativity that had surrounded me all of my life. Negative things continued came my way on a daily basis, but I pushed them back and remained focused on the positive and focused on herself. Before I knew it had lost 50 lbs, then 100, then 150! The more weight I lost, the more determined I became and the stronger I became. This was me in July 2004, just before I escaped that abusive relationship.
It turns out that my “one more time” was going to be the last time I started a diet. Today, I have lost over 250 lbs through diet and exercise, from my all time recorded highest of 389 lbs and have maintained that weight loss for several years. Despite the critics who say that you cannot lose a significant amount of weight without having gastric bypass or lap band or some other weight loss surgery, I have proven that you can. My attitude has changed from being stuck in the negative place that I was for most of her life, to instead focusing on the positive. It’s not always easy to find the positive, but I do, even if it is “Well, things could have been worse.”
Sure, I could be an angry and bitter person and some people would say that I have every right to be but I say that it is not who I am. My life has taught me compassion and empathy for others. I give back to the community and am taking my life story and using it to empower others. My feelings are that all of the things that happened to me, while they may have been really bad, there is nothing that I can do to change them, but I can use those experiences, the lessons learned to help others and empower others to find their own inner strength and help them to overcome whatever challenges that they are facing in their lives.
Can you tell that I am very passionate about empowering others and helping them to find and see (or see and find) the strength that they hold within themselves to change their lives. I am very passionate about empowering young people to see that they can overcome the challenges in their lives and that they too have the strength inside themselves to change their world. For a very long time, I never believed that I had that strength, so I want to show young people that I was wrong and the strength to change my life was right there, inside of me, the entire time. I just didn’t believe it.
I am an active Board Member, Website manager and Newsletter Editor for the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches. I am the Web Data Chair for the Junior League of the Palm Beaches, I was a member of the Board of Director with Dress For Success for their Inaugural year, and I support the YWCA Women In Power series and sit on the Domestic Violence Advisory Council. Through Junior League, I also volunteer at Vita Nova, a home for youth who have aged out of the Foster Care system and I am beginning the groundwork to work with those residents who are struggling with their weight or other issues, as I have been in their shoes and can understand what they are experiencing. I also volunteer with the JLPB GEMS (Girls Empowerment Mentoring Sessions) program for girls who are in the Juvenile Justice System and talk to them about the choices they make and how their lives are impacted and empower them to know that where they are today, does not have to define who they will be tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Finally, the only organization that I am involved with that is not about Women and empowering others is the Arthur R. Marshall Environmental Foundation where I am a volunteer and supporter. The environment is as important to me as helping others.
I volunteer a lot and will volunteer to speak for specific organizations, or in lieu of getting paid for speaking, have those organizations make a donation that they are comfortable to my charity of choice. I will work with individuals and groups to put together a plan for speaking to their groups and tailoring my talk to their specific needs. Please reach out to my office for additional information: email@example.com