Re-writing My Health Story: Power, Grace & Resilience
The women I grew up surrounded by, the women who were influential in my life, were women who shamed & criticized their bodies. They did all the things. The dieting, restricting, and even the surgery-ing. It was rampant and soon the negative self talk became part of my own personal mantra. Add to that, those years were also during the time when the food & marketing industry got in cahoots and decided to hypnotize us with ideas that real, whole food was no longer healthy and that we all should be terrified of fat and strive to be skinny. How? Well, by consuming heavily processed foods that were artificially low fat and fat free - of course!
Distortion after distortion, less is more, live small, avoid fat, count your calories. Ugh. No wonder...
In high school I was an athlete, and on my way to a college scholarship - so I had stuff to lose. I took my diet seriously, and carried my body insecurities with me everywhere I went - but I never dieted. I envied the pretty girls because I didn’t think I was pretty. I felt unattractive, despite what others said. I criticized my body on the regular, and why wouldn't I? It was the family mantra.
Then came college. A scholarship, a new state, and a chance to find my own path. I had proven my abilities in high school and I was on my way to do big things. Determined to find my own, ignoring the fact that I’d probably make a few mistakes along the way. Never realizing I might even fail.
It's amazing how one person or experience can change the trajectory of your entire life. I often think that if I had chosen a different college to go to, maybe mine would have gone differently. The day I met my coach, I thought the next phase of my life was beginning - but in hindsight it was the end. Several months into my first year, my coach pinched the back of my arm and told me I had “fat” back there. He even dared to tell me he could visibly see the extra fat on other parts of my body. He knew I was vulnerable, eager to please and determined to be the best - so, he took full advantage. He told me that if I lost 5lbs I’d run faster, and that despite how strong strength training made me, he wanted me to stop. (This was when I began to lose my power, quite literally.)
I was strong, full of solid muscle and the only thing I needed to focus on to get better was the mental part of the sport - not my weight and definitely not removing the one activity that fueled my power. But having always struggled with body issues & driven by perfection, that moment in my coach’s office was what sent me into a downward spiral that scarred me for years and years.
I was competitive. I had something to prove. I wanted to win. And so, what did I do? I dieted. I restricted. I became obsessive. I stayed away from weights. My last collegiate race was Nationals, a race that not many qualify for, but I had made it. I had worked my body to the bone to stand toe to toe with the countries best on the final starting line of the season. And, when I crossed that finish line, earning the “All-American” status - the first words uttered were, “I should have ran faster”.
Perfectionism at it’s finest, folks. I had accomplished the ultimate goal for those in collegiate athletics, "All-American" honors, yet I was still unhappy. Do you find yourself working towards & accomplishing goals only to find yourself unsatisfied?
The “end” soon followed that race when my parents confronted my coach and I later had to drop out of school and be admitted into the hospital due to an eating disorder. It all nearly cost me my life, but after a tough year, a few hospital stays, and a lot of therapy - I eventually put the weight back on and continued with life. Ironically, the hardest part of that journey wasn’t the actual rock bottom, or even the climb out - it was when I had to face life at a healthy weight, in a society that sends messages to us about extremes, in the weight that my coach had convinced me was “fat”. That's when shit got hard.
I spent 15+ years of my life in an obsessive state. My value up to that point had been placed on the speed I could run and my physical strength, and I had lost that. In my eyes, my running career was in the toilet and I wouldn’t ever make it to the Olympics, let alone race again. So, what did I do? I took self-discipline across the boarder into punishment and I was maniacal about fitness, nutrition and "health" - but I wasn't healthy about it. I continued on the low-cal, no-cal garbage not realizing that I was buying into false information being sold by the "health industry". I was afraid of fat and was addicted to processed sugar, diet drinks and salads.
I thought I was "healthy". I got on the scale religiously and the tone of my day was often set by what the scale read. It controlled and consumed me. That negative inner voice (that mean girl) inside my head fed me lies about myself day after day. Shaming me, criticizing me, pushing me to be rigid and small.
I was miserable. I believed that my self worth as a person had everything to do with my weight - and in my quest to stay small, my life shrank too.
I didn't understand that my body may need different things then what society was telling me. That in cutting out the fat I was doing a disservice to my body. That underneath it all, if I just spent more time on myself, in connecting with myself and being authentic, I would find peace with food, get out of my head, and drop the guilt and shame. And, as a result - I would be more successful at work and in my life.
But I was afraid of being vulnerable, afraid of dealing with the tough shit - so I buried myself in my work, obsessed over my activity, and focused on making sure the outside appeared perfect. That's the funny thing about health, we think we can hide our struggles - but we can't. It seeps out into other areas of our life, and it stifles our potential.
The story goes that I eventually stood up to my past (and took control of my future) by taking radical responsibility for my health. I threw out the scale, restored my relationship with food, and gained a healthy relationship with exercise. I even began racing competitively again - and to my surprise, I was in a position to train for the Olympic Trials without weight loss and restriction.
When I got pregnant with our first son, I embarked on a new challenge in accepting my body as it grew. But, I made a promise to myself that I was going to continue to keep my mindset in check & break the cycle (or family mantra) once and for all. I fostered a new relationship with the inner voice that for so many years was calling telling me lies about myself. I vowed that I would no longer do things that rob me of my authenticity and stunt my success, and instead I did a hell of a lot of work changing habits that weren't serving me.
And today, while not every day is perfect - I’m living with more confidence, not afraid so speak my voice, and unashamed of the body I have (even after two kids). I've proven to myself that it is possible to have self-discipline and pursue ambitious goals while still respecting yourself in the process. I’ve let go of unrealistic expectations, realized the power I have within - and found that rewriting my own health story fuels my success. I know my value now, and it has nothing to do with the number on a scale, the size of my pants or how fast I can run.
We are a society of extremes, and those extremes are sold to us on a daily basis. We are all vulnerable to the kind of thing I experienced, and we all have obstacles we must overcome by tapping into our resilience & power. One of the best ways to combat the garbage that we aren't always able to filter is to start at the beginning. It's natural (and quite common in our population) for successful, driven women to want to move from A to Z before learning the basics. But this kind of thinking is the very thing that holds us back from real success, from putting together a plan for sustainable health.
If you are in a place where you inflict unnecessary torture on yourself or spend a lot of time in the self-judgement zone, you aren't alone. But, it's no place to be - I know.
In the pursuit of your own health, I want you to begin to step into your power, recognize your resilience and give yourself grace. It's about being driven to take back control of your life, let go of the idea of getting smaller to live bigger, and beginning to live life - today! If you've been a prisoner to your own body and mind - it’s time to stop putting your life on hold, and to start living - confidently, passionately, vulnerably & fiercely.
I'd love to help you get there! My programs are definitely about self-discipline, but they are also all about self-respect. Together we will get you moving in your power and building a healthy relationship with food. There will be no new superfood, no waste slimming gadget, no 10 minute workout provided, cause this is real life. It's the real deal, all about building something that is sustainable and authentic.
If you are interested in finding out more about what services I offer and how we can work together, click on the link below and feel free to cruise around the rest of the site.
I look forward to connecting with you, either here, on one of my social channels or as a client.