Jessie Delgado on How Fitness Got Her Out of a Toxic Relationship

How one Instagram influencer started using fitness as an escape, but gained the confidence to pull herself out of a bad relationship.

When Jessie Delgado’s relationship of five years started to sour, she turned to fitness and working out to get away from her verbally and emotionally abusive boyfriend.

Initially, Delgado had started going to the gym with her boyfriend, who would constantly berate her about her physical appearance.

“It was just constant verbal abuse and mind games. He would tell me, ‘You’re really fat, you need to go work out.’ And I’d be like, ‘What are you talking about? I weigh 120 pounds.’ It just didn’t make sense to me. But it started to make me think, ‘Maybe there is something wrong with me if he doesn’t see me the way I see me.’ And it really started to eat away at my self-esteem until I had absolutely none.”

Building confidence through fitness

When things got really bad, she decided it was time to get her own membership, and started spending all of her free time at 24 Hour Fitness, instead of at home, where she lived with him.

“It became something for me to do where I didn’t have to be with him,” the 30-year-old social media influencer recalls. Delgado, who was working two jobs and going to school full-time, admits she didn’t know what she was doing when it came to working out, and preferred to just do light cardio and use the steam room. “[I would] just hang out there so that I didn’t have to be home cooking for him, or cleaning, or just dealing with it because it was pretty toxic. The gym became an escape for me.”

Eventually, Delgado decided that if she was going to spend so much time at the gym, she’d better learn how to actually work out and use the machines. “I realized, ‘I actually like this. It’s fun.’ I became less afraid of using the weights and the machines. I gained confidence,” she says.

That confidence came in handy when Delgado decided enough was enough.

“Eventually, I got so sick and tired of hearing, ‘When are you going to the gym? You’re fat. You need to go work out every day.’ So I said, ‘Forget this.’”

She gathered up the courage to leave her boyfriend after five years of non-stop verbal and emotional abuse and moved in with her sister. But she didn’t stop working out. Between school and work, she made time to go to the gym, where she eventually met Robert.

“We became really good friends, and he took me under his wing and showed me how to actually work out,” she laughs.

A social star is born

Robert was a personal trainer. They started dating, and he encouraged Delgado to start making videos with him to showcase his training abilities. The shy Delgado was hesitant at first, but eventually conceded. To her surprise, Robert created an Instagram account for her where he posted the videos—and it had become really popular with followers.

“I found it from my personal page. I thought, ‘What the heck is this? Who is @jessiebabyfit? Why is this person pretending to be me?’” When she saw the followers were growing by 3,000 a day, she said, “Let’s just keep doing it and see where it goes.” She adds, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Robert.”

As her online presence grew, Delgado started taking contracted modeling jobs and working with companies. Four years later, she’s still active on her page (now @jessiemdelgado), posting regularly for her more than half a million followers. And her unexpected path led her to another passion.

A future in healthcare

Currently, Delgado is working as a part-time caregiver. She loves helping people and wants to work with the elderly—and she credits fitness for getting her there.

“I just got into nursing school. All of this made me want to go back to school and figure out what career I want to have for the rest of my life,” she says. “Working out gave me the confidence I had been lacking. I developed that over time. And when I started to see myself getting stronger and getting muscles, it changed my whole life for the better. And I still feel that way. Every time I notice little changes here and there, I think, ‘Wow, I’m making improvements.’ It just feels so good to be healthy and strong. And not just strong physically, but most importantly, mentally.”

Photo credit: Erik Umphery