“I am beautiful because I take care of myself.”
Photo courtesy of Morgan Mitchell.
If Morgan Mitchell went to Hogwarts, she would be in Gryffindor. She is courageous and determined, and just like a certain lightning-scarred wizard, she has faced death and survived.
When Morgan was a very young child, she was in a life-threatening car accident that left her with only half of her intestine, colon, and spleen. Doctors didn’t know if she was going to survive. In the face of such uncertainty, she says, “I just had to be strong.” Luckily, Morgan was given a second chance at life, but the intensive surgery she underwent entailed a difficult road to recovery, restricting her diet and preventing her from being active. She felt bloated and tired all the time. Despite doctors’ warnings that physical activity would put a strain on her body, in high school Morgan realized she was “tired of how [she] felt and looked and decided that [she was] just going to start taking care of [herself].” She cut back on other costs in order to afford a weekly trainer, beginning a journey of fitness and self-care that would transform her.
Her passion for exercise was further catalyzed by a bad breakup, when Morgan began hitting the gym even more and knew that this was her happy place: “I started noticing how much better I felt. I became obsessed with it.” Her ex-boyfriend had often made disparaging remarks about her body weight, and Morgan was very hard on herself as a result. Exercising and taking care of herself helped Morgan realize her self-worth and rebuild her fractured relationship with her body. She felt in control again. There came a moment when she realized she felt very strong, and she thought to herself, “I am not fat, I am a strong woman with muscles.” Now, Morgan feels incredibly at home with herself, and doesn’t listen to anybody’s feedback but her own: “If someone doesn’t like [my body], that’s too bad. I just want to please myself.”
In order to pursue a career in fitness, Morgan enrolled at a community college to get certified as a personal trainer. Fascinated by how the body works, she took classes in anatomy, biomechanics, and nutrition. Finally, her hard work paid off - she was hired by Equinox and moved to LA, broke but determined to achieve her dream. These early years of her career were hard. She lived in her car or crashed on a friend’s couch until she built up her clientele, often waking up at 5 am to shower and do her hair and makeup at Equinox so nobody would know she was homeless. On days when she didn’t have enough money to buy lunch, people from the juice bar would sneak her a smoothie. While Morgan is in a much better place now, looking back, she is proud that she worked hard and never gave up no matter the steep challenges she faced. She “got to the top without selling [herself] short,” overcoming every obstacle life threw her way with grit and determination.
Morgan has now been a personal trainer for 6 years, and can confidently say that she is “the happiest right now that [she’s] been in a long time.” Not only is she at peace with herself, her job is also incredibly rewarding: “I want to help people and I created a life around it.” Morgan currently works on fitness routines with a lot of teenage girls, and she witnesses firsthand how hard these girls are on themselves and their bodies. Society has never been easy on women; whether it’s movie stars or Instagram models or clothing advertisements, we are constantly inundated by unattainable depictions of beauty ideals and photoshopped bodies, unconsciously taught to compare and compete with each other from a young age. In the face of such body policing, Morgan always reminds her girls to “take care of what they have, not hate it.” Her accident is never too far from her mind, serving as a fundamental reminder to “be blessed that you have a body to begin with,” and she always tries to pass that perspective on.
Sometimes, she will ask her clients to name an actress to serve as “fitspo” as she puts together a routine for them, and she finds that everybody has vastly different answers. To Morgan, these contradicting answers are ready proof that the idea of one universal body ideal is false. Instead of focusing on a certain body type or beauty standard with her clients, this helps Morgan instill the idea that “I am beautiful because I take care of myself.” Against such harsh societal beauty standards, self-care is a revolutionary act of beauty. She also encourages her girls to “accept who you are and what your body is capable of” instead of succumbing to criticism, whether internal or external. For Morgan Mitchell, true wellness is not purely about physical fitness and pushing your body to the limit, but also entails possessing the mental peace and clarity to remain loving and accepting of yourself throughout your journey.
When you’re looking out for so many other people on a daily basis, it can be difficult to find time for yourself, but Morgan understands the importance of following the lessons that she teaches. She schedules time for herself the way she would for a client (“I can’t cancel on myself”) and likens self-care to airplane safety measures: you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help those around you. For Morgan, this means setting aside weekly alone time away from her phone and social media. On Sundays, she “sleeps in” until 7:30 am (she often starts her day at 4 am during the week!), and takes the morning to meditate and relax before indulging in a treat meal of pancakes or a trip to the beach. A crucial component of her self-care is positive reinforcement: even on her toughest days, Morgan reminds herself, “I am so happy with the way that I look.”
If you met Morgan now, you wouldn’t necessarily recognize the hardships she has worked so hard to overcome. She is happy, healthy, and shines with positivity - it’s hard to imagine that she has embarked on this wild journey from the brink of death to becoming a dedicated personal trainer. Morgan recalls a particular moment that affirmed she was on the right track: it began with a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to find none other than Alec Baldwin, who explained that her unique look reminded him of his wife, and asked her if she had ever considered acting. The answer to this opportunity of a lifetime came to her easily: no thank you, she was “very happy with what [she was] doing right now.” Surprised, Alec asked again, “You didn’t move to LA to act?” But Morgan knew her path was clear: “No, I feel very strongly about this job.” He smiled. “I think you’re gonna be alright.”