When Emmie Sandford and Sheryl Withers Woolverton struggled with challenges in their lives, they turned to the Internet – not to find a top-10 list of self-help tips or search Google for answers, but to share their own stories.
Now the two Lexington women host popular blogs that are helping other people in similar situations: Sandford writes about fitness and weight loss, and Woolverton about coping with grief. They joined Renee Shaw on Connections this weekend to discuss the power of blogging.
After struggling with her weight since she was 14 years old, Sandford came to something of a crossroads after she failed an audition for a reality TV show about weight loss. Wondering what she could do to regain her fitness without feeling alone in the process, Sandford decided to create a blog about her efforts.
Originally titled Skinny Emmie, Sandford’s site focused on her progress to lose weight. But over the five years she’s written the blog, Sandford realized she was making herself miserable by gauging her success only by the number on her bathroom scale. That’s when the blog title Authentically Emmie emerged.
“It became about how to make progress but perhaps not get to perfection,” Sandford explains. “It’s all about doing the things that make you feel good, and standing on a scale usually doesn’t make people feel good.”
Sandford has lost more than 110 pounds so far and her blog documents that journey through posts about exercise, diet, fashion, and milestones in her life. She may spend anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours writing a post, which she usually does late at night when she can find some perspective on her day. Sandford says she’s found the blogging process to be very healing as she’s developed online community friends.
“I’m sharing experiences that others are having,” Sandford says. ”I feel like when you open yourself up, you’re also opening yourself up to a lot of really good things as well – people making connections, people relating to you, and you find a lot of camaraderie.”
How to Make a Life
As a former professional grief counselor, Sheryl Woolverton knew how to help her clients rebuild their lives after significant personal losses. But when she faced her own series of traumatic events – a miscarriage, a job change, and the deaths of her mother and grandmother – Woolverton turned to blogging as a way to make sense of her life.
“Yes, I have lost a lot, but I have so many things in my life that I’m grateful for,” Woolverton says of her site How to Make a Life. “And I wanted to kind of show the rest of the world how I’m putting it back together. It’s not always pretty, I make lots of mistakes, and I’m willing to share that.”
Both women use their blogs to explore subjects that can be deeply personal. Woolverton still keeps a hand-written diary with thoughts only for herself, but she says the line between the personal journal and public blog is getting thinner as time passes. While most people appreciate the intimate nature of her posts, Woolverton admits some readers have criticized her. She says she’s had to teach herself how to calmly respond to harsh comments.
“You put yourself out there [and] you’ve got to be willing to take whatever they throw back at you,” Woolverton says. “It holds me responsible that I’m writing this blog on how to make a life, so I need to be honest with myself and my readers.”