I’ve been debating over writing this blog post for a long time, and the truth is it’s a tough subject to tackle, but one I feel very strongly about.
Basically I would like to come forward with something that is super scary to come forward with (ESPECIALLY to all those who read this blog or follow my Facebook page), but most days in my chosen career I feel like a total fraud. Yeah, I’m a personal trainer, and I love to work out and eat healthy and study nutrition and feel like I know it all- but the truth is I struggle just like any other person and it’s incredibly hard. I’ll start from the beginning, and I hope this post can inspire other girls to come forward if they EVER struggle with something similar to what I did- and know that there is help out there if you ask for it. I don’t want to be ashamed anymore, and I also don’t want to hide my struggles from everyone because the truth it- nobody’s life is perfect and everyone has their own battles they need to face when they wake up each day. My personal battle is Bulimia, and I’ve struggled with this for 13 years.
When I was in Grade 7 it all started. I was a competitive swimmer, and in amazing physical shape although I didn’t really see it back then. I was teased by some dumb guys in my class and I started feeling extremely self conscious. I remember weighing myself at a friends house and seeing 114 lbs on the scale and feeling like this was HUGE. I started to “diet.” I don’t even know how I learned about dieting really; because my family is very “normal” around food and I’ve always been glad I’ve had such a positive role model in my mom & dad because they just ate healthy, enjoyed foods in moderation etc. My version of dieting was basically starving myself. I clearly remember everyday getting to school and throwing out my lunch immediately that my mom packed for me every day. I skipped breakfast whenever I could, I would make up any excuse in the book to avoid eating dinner with my family. I would count every single calorie. I was swimming for 2-4 hours a day, and I was eating about 800 calories or less. I would take laxatives and “diet pills”, anything I could get my hands on. I was literally obsessed with losing weight and it worked. I dropped down to under 100 lbs, then under 90. I would add extra workouts in as well as swimming- I would run, lift weights, burn on EVERY calorie I ate + more. I liked to have a “negative” calorie balance every day so I would eat about 800 calories and then try and burn off about 1500 thinking that I would lose weight so much faster. This is when I was anorexic. Whenever I look back at my journals from these days it makes me so incredibly sad. All I wrote about was how fat and awful and disgusting I was, what I ate that day, and how much exercise I did to burn it off. I don’t even really remember much else from middle school because it’s really all I thought about honestly.
Then I started getting dizzy, losing my vision, being completely exhausted. One day I CLEARLY remember waking up at 4 in the morning with heart racing completely, hands shaking, so so hungry I couldn’t even stand it a second longer. I had to eat. I basically crawled to the kitchen because I couldn’t walk I felt so weak- and I poured myself a bowl of cereal and ate it as quickly as I could. This was the start of a new eating disorder- binge eating and bulimia. Obviously a bowl of cereal doesn’t seem like a lot to most people, but to me I just ate my whole days calories in one sitting. I starting with doing extra exercise that day. Then my binges kept getting bigger and bigger (a normal person could not even imagine the amount of food I could put away) and I had to work out more and more- and this is where I started trying to make myself throw up. The first couple times I couldn’t do it and I wish I had stopped trying back then. I trawled the internet for tips from “Pro-Ana” websites (pro-anorexia websites where a whole bunch of us young girls would trade tips on starving ourselves, cheering each other one, message each other when we wanted to eat, etc) and someone told me to try syrup of ipecac. This is a POISON that induces vomiting. I was so desperate that I tried to find it in the drugstore to take it; but thank god I was unsuccessful. With enough tips from the girls online I because very successful at vomiting up my food. I would do it anywhere. Public washrooms, in the shower, on the side of the road after work, hidden in the downstairs bathroom, in the back YARD, at friends houses.. anywhere. I would throw up up to 10x a day. I seriously did not CARE I had to get the food out. With the “purging” of my food, it only made my binge eating worse. Over the next 10 years I would diet, binge eat, exercise, and throw it up and managed to stay at a perfectly healthy weight because of this swinging of the spectrum. Most bulimics are at a perfectly healthy body weight which is why no one really ever suspects how bad it truly is. Just because I wasn’t stick thin anymore, I was fine.
Now I’m a personal trainer, and soon-to-be nutritionist-…and still struggle. I wish I could say I’m completely recovered but the truth of it is that I still have a ways to go before I would call myself completely recovered. I’ve had periods of time in my life where I made huge strides and thought I was done with this for good- but it always seems to come back. It’s been part of my life for so long; it makes sense that it takes a lot of hard work to form new habits. My attitude around food & health is SO MUCH better now. I am no longer trying to be stick thin, and I want to be healthy and fit. I firmly believe in enjoying all foods in moderation.
I think what I struggle with the most is that I want to be a better example to my clients. I counsel all these people on nutrition and health and meanwhile most days I have this secret double life. One day I’m the epitome of health and fitness, and other days I’m really having a tough time; just like everyone. I guess the reason I am coming forward with this is because it’s a massive part of my life as much as I wish it wasn’t. It’s been holding me back for so long and I don’t want to pretend that it doesn’t exist anymore and that I’m “fixed”. Every day I do my best to be a healthy role model to my clients and truthfully I am the healthiest I’ve ever been; despite gaining weight recently due to a back injury and no longer able to workout like a crazy person for hours a day. In my old life I would have been restricting like crazy to get this weight off and never leaving the house or doing anything fun. I’ve learned a lot about body love and self confidence the past few months, and that what you weigh isn’t everything. In fact; it means absolutely nothing. I’m definitely the happiest and most successful and determined I’ve ever been in my life and career and friendships despite being the heaviest.
I hope that someone reading this takes away that the scale does not determine your self worth. You do not need to be a certain number on the scale to life a happy and fulfilled life. Sometimes I wonder “Why does anyone even listen to a word I say when I look the way I do?” it’s VERY hard in this industry to brush off those insecurities. Yes, I’ve been a lot fitter and a lot thinner in my life and I feel defensive sometimes when I go into work and I’m teaching classes/training people thinner than I am. I’m feel as though I’m “supposed” to look a certain way because I’m in this industry, and that because of my body right now I don’t deserve to be counselling other people.
My hope for the rest of my career in health and fitness is that I can help people be the best version of themselves and love themselves unconditionally. Ditch the scale. Focus on being healthy and strong and falling in love with yourself and exercise. I want you to feel strong, healthy, fit, happy, confident and love yourself no matter what. Those extra 10lbs mean nothing in the grand scheme on your life and you need to go out there and live it. Of course I firmly believe in good nutrition and fitness, but do I think that losing weight is going to finally make you more confident and happy? Nope. Learn to love yourself and chase the life of your dreams and the rest will follow. Eat to nourish your body and feel amazing- work out to feel those endorphins and lift heavy things and feel capable and strong.
Here are some amazing references that have really helped me along my journey to health & recovery:
Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch **** Seriously the most amazing book of all time, I read it again and again.
Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen
Bulimia, A Guide To Recovery by Lindsey Hall & Leigh Cohn
In Victoria there is free counselling and group therapy that I found very helpful through the government located at #302 Jutland Road, 250-387-0000. You can self refer but you do need GP to get involved I believe.
If you ever want to chat with me about this or would like help; please please don’t hesitate to ask! Mental Health issues are important to talk about, and a subject that I don’t think should be taboo anymore. We shouldn’t feel ashamed for dealing with this or opening up and talking about it!