It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Jordyn Woods was faced with the death of her father in early 2017, just a few weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer. But as she entered an unexpected cycle of grief that she says she's still working through today, the model and influencer went through a transformation that many praised for its physical manifestations. For Woods, however, it was much deeper than that.
"When I did go through my grief, I realized that the thing that saved me was really fitness. What saved my mental health, what saved my life was fitness. And I didn't work out to look a certain way, I didn't work out to fit a certain group or to fit certain clothes. I just worked out because it really saved my life and my mental health. And then I realized there's so many more people out there in the world that probably are dealing with the same thing," she tells Yahoo Life.
Woods's relationship with her body has long been a complicated one, stemming from her upbringing in Hollywood where she was exposed to unrealistic beauty standards and unsolicited opinions from others from a young age. During a video where she opened up about body image on her YouTube channel, Woods even recalled being photographed by paparazzi when she was just 12 years old and being shamed for her weight as a result.
"That was my lowest point," the 24-year-old said in the video. "It was like a foreign concept to me because this was the first time a random person took my photo, it got posted on the internet and there were comments. Now, reading those comments at 12, 13 years old was probably the most heartbreaking thing to me, ever. I remember sitting in front of my computer reading it and tears just started coming out of my eyes."
The negativity from that moment followed Woods into young adulthood as she grew up alongside people she was often compared to. Many of those insecurities have also been reflected on social media, where Woods continues to deal with comparison and cyberbullying.
"My platform has expanded and I've been publicly scrutinized and bullied even more than I was when I was a kid. It just affected me more when I was younger than how it affects me now," she says. "Some days when I'm down and I read comments, it will affect me more than other days. So those days I try to not go on the internet, not type in my name, not search for those things. Because you can get a thousand awesome comments, but those five negative comments could really put you down even more."
Her approach to social media is connected to her "headspace" nowadays, as is her physical activity. Even as more people open up about the ties between exercise and mental health, Woods was one of the first young influencers to share that her weight loss in 2018 and 2019 had little to do with a desire to change her body. Instead, it had everything to do with altering her mindset.
"We all will deal with things, we're all going to be in sh***y situations sometimes, we're all going to go through our own struggles and our own identity crisis, or loss or grief. And we get to choose how we handle that," she says, acknowledging that her own struggles with anxiety and depression have played a part. "But for me, I felt like I had a choice to either look at it like 'Wow, everything's working against me' or figure out how can I become stronger through this time of grief. And I really relied on my faith in God. I learned how to kind of take the negative things that happened and view them as lessons. What can I learn from this? How can I get stronger? How can I get better from it?"
Luckily, body-positive conversations with family members have helped in that journey. Woods has even been inspired by her relationship with her younger sister Jodie, sharing that she's hyperaware of how she speaks about herself in an effort to help the 14-year-old grow up with a positive self-image.
"I'm always preaching self-love. And I think the things that I've said over the years have really stuck with my sister and my peers, just that your individuality is your greatest gift," Woods says. "It's really cool to see that the way that I might have felt about my body or whatever, [Jodie] doesn't really experience the same thing. It's one of the ways I'm here to help her."
Through her journey with grief, mental health and fitness, Woods also feels a calling to be of service to others around her, which she's begun to do with her fitness platform FRSTPLACE.
"Jumping into the fitness world can be kind of intimidating. If you're somebody like for me, I always was a bigger girl and when I see those people that are fitness people that have a six-pack, it's intimidating," she says. "So I just wanted to create a less intimidating environment where we can build a community of people that are real people that are dealing with real things. If they need a place to start and are ready to put themselves first, and that's why I called it FRSTPLACE."
That approach to her own routine has brought Woods to the place where she is today, not only loving her body but also accepting it for what it is and what it does for her. "It's the only one I have. So I've learned to love my flaws," she says.
And while the In The Know by Yahoo cover star is set on being "humble" in the present chapter of her life, she can't forget about the progress that she's made.
"Don't be so hard on yourself. Life is hard enough," she says to her younger self. "We don't need to be beating ourselves up. You are given this body for a reason, so own it and love your body. Because if you don't love yourself, you won't be able to receive the love that you deserve."