My Health Journey.
My Health Journey
I have decided to share my personal health journey. My intent in sharing is to positively impact the lives of someone who may resonate with my story.
My health and fitness professionals have come out with their story recently, and thanks to their courage I have decided to do the same.
For examples of the people who have inspired me to do the same please see:
My journey to optimal, sustainable health can be broken into three phases. Phase 1, which I spent most of my life in, phase 2 lasted about 9 months, followed by phase 3 which will last forever! I share my journey to bust up society’s ideals and images, to connect with other women, and to support other women who may be on a similar journey to me.
Phase 1 of my health journey was highlighted by a lack of self-confidence, body dysmorphia (in which I constantly felt overweight, yet I wasn’t), and an obsession with healthy eating, exercising, and losing weight. Let me explain further…
I felt I was twenty pounds overweight and couldn’t understand why, as I exercised for at least an hour a day, and hiked all weekend in the mountains. I worked as a personal trainer, and knew that I was fit, but couldn’t market myself as I felt self-conscious of my body shape (at 5’7” and 150 pounds, a size 6-8, I had nothing to be ashamed of). I didn’t eat junk food and aimed to have three balanced meals a day. I thought something didn’t add up for me in terms of my metabolism, which left me frustrated and depressed. I was jealous when I saw other’s enjoying indulgences without gaining weight. In an attempt to exercise more and eat less I depended on at least a pot of coffee per day to get out of bed, exercise, and spend the day at work. The coffee left me grumpy and annoyed for the majority of the day as I rode the rollercoaster of caffeine dependence. Either in the afternoon on a break, or after work I would need a 1-2 hour nap to get through the rest of the day. The coffee left me with an unclear mind and lack of ability to focus throughout the entire day. Because I was using coffee to increase energy (rather than food) I often ended up binge eating every few days because my body was so restricted of the nutrients it needed. I spent those days feeling guilty about my decisions, which usually lead to more time spent at the gym, less time spent with friends. Because I exercised too much, and over consumed carbs I began to suffer from inflammation and swelling of the knee joints, immobility in my back, and extremely tight muscles. I had to take weeks off training for my half marathon because no modalities could fix my swollen immobile knees. On top of that, I had always had acne, but the stresses about my body and hormones got out of control, the acne flared, and left me with huge cystic formations all along my jaw line and cheeks. Overall I felt overweight, unhappy, isolated, moody, lacked energy or drive to pursue things in my daily life that actually brought me joy!
Phase 2 started when I started supplementing my body with what it needed! Taking a variety of products that my body was lacking helped me to finally eliminate coffee from my diet, by providing me with a more natural plant source of alertness (and not stimulation). The discomfort I was suffering from in my knees deminished so I was able to continue my running training (and run faster than ever before!). I then started taking products from a company and for the first time in my life weight started to come off! I dropped about 8 pounds and started feeling fabulous! I loved the way I looked, but it wasn’t enough, I wanted to be the skinniest, the fittest, the hottest, I wanted people to flock to me to train with me because of my rock solid body. So I decided to do a Ketongenic diet, a diet based on consuming protein and vegetables (I would guess around 800 calories a day), and the purpose was to put yourself in a ketogenic state and burn fat. Well it worked! 1-2 pounds a week were falling off of me. I was getting compliments galore, and people were in fact giving me their credit card to sign them up to what I was doing. I was now starting to look in the mirror and feel fabulous, but it still wasn’t enough- I wanted down to 130! This was smaller than I was even in high school as a fit athlete.
Although my body was looking smaller, inside it was deteriorating! The 130’s was too low of a body fat percentage for myself, and too small of a weight to maintain in a sustainable manner, but I wasn’t ready to admit and accept that. Stress hormones began to take over my body. I went three months with such tension in my jaw that I could barely communicate or smile properly. I thought it was something I had to figure out mentally, so I sought out coaches, meditation, yoga, nothing worked because physically I wasn’t giving my body what it needed- calories! I was receiving extremely abnormal blood test results and was diagnosed with macrocytic anemia due to inadequate folate and vitamin b12 in my diet. I was consistently light headed because my blood pressure was so low. I remember grocery shopping once, checking my blood pressure and receiving a 90/40 reading! Almost every time I stood up from the ground I would see stars. I remember many times having to ask Kyle to make me dinner, or go get me groceries while I laid in bed because I truly had no energy to get up, and I didn’t want to be tempted by ‘bad’ foods at the grocery store. For many months I stopped binging and restricting because I was so completely hard-core with my food intake. I didn’t go out with friends, and if I did I didn’t eat, I suffered through Christmas without enjoying any of the meals, and yet I kept telling myself that this is what it took to be healthy, skinny, and attractive. Although I was able to run quicker (as I was much lighter), I couldn’t sustain more than a 45 minute workout without my muscles seazing, cramping, and causing me to stop. The weight I used to be able to lift had dropped almost by half, as I had lost a lot of my good fat free muscle mass. I had gone from exercising probably 10-15 hours a week, to being able to complete a max of 4. I do remember that I was no longer suffering from stomach bloating, gas, and distention, but that was most likely because I was no longer eating food!
Although this phase was a turmoil period for me, there were definitely some benefits. Losing weight was linked to the confidence I gained to finally leave my job and start my own personal training business (or so I thought), as I had hoped to do for so long. I set everything up, got out there networking, and built a business very quickly, which I was very happy with. During this time I remember getting comments like “It’s so nice to see a trainer that has a realistic body type to aspire to”. This was not at all what I was going for, I didn’t want to be realistic, I wanted to be skinny. At this time I began to realize I was in a trap of false happiness, and obsession with food and activity, but didn’t know how to get out of it.
I would have to say phase 3 began when I met a friend, and nutritionist, Laura Hillier. We met at an event, and I felt some sort of connection I couldn’t explain, but asked her to meet for coffee to get to know each other and perhaps pass business to each other. I don’t remember how things happened, but next thing I knew I was sitting down with Laura for our initial consultation. As we sat and looked over my medical forms I realized the severity of what I had done to my body. I had lost my period for the past 10 months, I had Polycystic Ovarian disease, My skin was starting to break out massively again, I was tired, my muscles took days to recover from activity, and I was still obsessing about exercise and trying to stick to 1500 calories or less a day of food. I was completely in the grips of an eating disorder and was wrapped tightly into those chains! I would have never admitted I had taken things too far, and I justified this by thinking that I never made myself throw up, or completely stopped eating, so what I was doing wasn’t a disease, it was normal. Laura never really came out and said “this is bad, you have an eating disorder”, but somehow it was implied. She had me reading books like ‘intuitive eating’ and ‘My life with ED’, and slowly I started to realize I had taken things too far. Laura gave me permission to not fear food anymore, to begin to eat things again and move away from restriction. Around this time I also found a Facebook group called “Eating the Food”. This group was all about women who had yo yo dieted forever, and as a result had crushed their metabolisms, and their spirits. With about 5000 members in the group, and the main purpose being eating ENOUGH calories to support life and activity, move away from binging and purging, and take the restrictions off. As I began to introduce new foods (and go overboard) I needed Laura and this group to help me get through this process, and continue on with my life and business at the same time! I began eating foods I hadn’t eaten in years, and they were delicious! Binging also came back temporarily, because my body craved and needed so many of these nutrients. Bloating, gas, and severe arthritic type pain in my hands and knees developed as I brought carbs back into my life, but soon faded away. There were many nights of crying in Kyle’s arms, and many days of wearing only lululemon’s and sweat pants as my clothes no longer started to fit. I should take a moment and say that without Kyle, I don’t think I would have ever been able to get to where I am today. He was there for me every step of the day to encourage me, hold me, remind me to reach out for support, and most of all to remind me I am beautiful J People in my network’s also began to negatively comment at some of the changes I was going through, and unfortunately at the time I was too weak mentally to stand up and defend myself.
Now here’s the best part, although things seemed to be getting worse, at the same time so many things were getting better. Laura quickly encouraged me to throw my scale in the garbage, and this is probably one of the best things I ever did for myself. By tucking that scale away I no longer determined my worth by it, I now longer determined how many calories I would eat that day, or how long I would exercise that day by the number. I suggest anyone who is at a weight that isn’t a risk to their health to do the same! Our body weight fluctuates naturally over the course of a day, week, or year, as long as your clothes fit, you are healthy and you feel great, why weigh yourself? My period returned and has stayed regularly, my energy and endurance to work out as much as I WANTED to returned, my ability to focus and be clear headed returned. One of the biggest changes I noticed was my sense of joy, happiness, and spirit returned hard and fast! There were many days I was so happy I couldn’t contain myself, walked around smiling, sometimes even cried out of gratitude. How could all this be happening while I was GAINING weight? This is probably too much information, but my sex life improved dramatically! I had been suffering with pre-pubescent levels of hormones when I was in my restriction phase, and they came back fast too!
I could list endless ways my life improved during this time, and at the same time I began to struggle with “how are people going to want to train with me when I am 150 pounds?”. This launched a whole other journey for me as I began to realize that I am not defined by my weight! I didn’t battle this journey alone either and with the help of a few special coaches, as well as a personal development program I participated in (and transformed my life) I was able to cut the ties to these false beliefs as well! I am an extremely fit, passionate, educated, motivated, determined, friendly person and my weight would have nothing to do with my success in my business. I am sure there are people who will choose not to train with me because I am not a ripped body builder, but I know there are just as many women out there who are looking for a sustainable, realistic role model for HEALTH! By growing my business to the successful level I am at now has proved to me that no matter how hard society pushes people to look a certain weigh and live a certain way, I can push back and create a movement of healthy, sustainable, fun health practices and positive body image!
My journey with my health has shaped how I coach my clients. If I hadn’t gone through what I did I wouldn’t have the gift, and the knowledge to share what I learned to others. I have realized that many people can weigh 130 and not have to be as extreme and follow unsustainable practices as I did, but for me I wasn’t ready to throw my happiness, my health, and my sanity in the toilet for a certain weight! I used to be embarrassed that I lost a lot of weight, and gained it back. I was embarrassed that I was promoting myself as a “weight loss” expert, and yet I hadn’t done it myself. Considering 98 % of people who lose weight on crash diets like I did gain it back in 6 months to a year, I had no reason to be embarrassed. I now realize that eating a sustainable amount of calories (with a small deficit if you would like to lose weight), exercising in moderation, and most of all working with professionals who can help you with your mindset is how I can help bring people to Optimal Health. I want to share my journey with others and connect with women who are in the beginning stages of a journey similar to mine. If you know someone this would resonate with, please pass it on :)
With all the love, happiness, and health I can offer,