So here it is. I’ve finally gotten the courage to write and share my story. I’ve written about bits and pieces of it on other blogs and my “About Me” page, but I’ve never laid the full story out on the table. It’s not that I am ashamed of it–it’s made me who I am and taken me where I am today. But, I will admit: it is hard. Hard to open up, to show vulnerability and share what I have been through. Hard to explain my disordered eating and the relationship with food and fitness I once had. I wanted to wait until I had everything perfectly written and mapped out, but then I realized that it never will be perfect. But that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire. It will never sound just how I want it, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t read it and hear my message.
So why do it, you may ask. Because, I want to inspire. I want someone to read my story and know that there is hope. I want someone to say because of you, I didn’t give up my fight.. I want fitness to be able to change people’s lives liked it changed mine. And if that means sharing my story, then not a single thing will stop me from doing it. (Please bear with me this is a long post, but I think it is very much worth the read.)
Growing up I was always an active and athletic kid. I found my passion for volleyball at the age of 10 and all through middle and high school I never looked back. Because I was an athlete, I was introduced to and always around exercise: weights, sprints, jump rope, box jumps, Insanity…you name it. I ate pretty well, and had a good understanding of what was healthy and nutritious for my body versus what was not. But I also very much loved my pie and ice cream (yes, often together), chips, desserts, etc. Fortunately for me, I was never overweight due to my body type. In fact, for most of middle and high school I was underweight until I had fully grown into my body. I never thought much about how much I was eating or what my body looked like, I was just going along doing my athletic thing.
When I got to college to play volleyball, things were still looking good. Sure, the dining hall had assortments of desserts and oily, fried foods, but I still was able to make relatively healthy choices as well as enjoy the other foods in balance. Plus, I thought with being an athlete, there was no way I was going to gain the freshman 15–I was too active, right? Wrong! By the end of my Fall semester (and volleyball season), I had gained 15 pounds. Was I overweight or did I look fat? Not at all! But it didn’t matter because in my eyes and my mind, I was. I despised myself for gaining all that weight and I began to hate my body and the way it looked. People kept telling me that it was all muscle, and while some of it definitely was, it is physically impossible for a woman to gain 15 pounds of muscle in a 2-month time period. This means I had gained muscle and fat and either way, I was unhappy with it all.
Flash forward to the Spring semester, coming back from winter break, I decided I was going to do something about it, I was going to lose the extra weight. We had volleyball workouts 3 days a week for the first few months, then it changed to 5. On days and weekends I wouldn’t have volleyball workouts and/or practice, I would exercise on my own. I would run on the treadmill or use the elliptical or stationary bike for 30 minutes and easily burn 300 calories. And the more calories the machine showed, the happier I was. Then, when eating I would try to eat very little (a lot of salads) and stay away from bread, desserts, and lots of other things. I began to label foods as “bad” and “good”–the first sign of my disordered eating. Throughout the day my mind would constantly be counting the calories I ate and subtracting the calories I burned, hoping to get to a satisfactory number. I would even overestimate the number I ate and underestimate what I burned on purpose, so that I would lose more weight than I was “calculating”. Back then I thought I was eating around 1600-1800, but in reality it was probably closer to 1500-1600….and I most likely needed 2100-2200 a day.
All of this took a physical, mental, and emotional toll on myself and those around me. My workouts started being affected–I couldn’t lift as heavy. I lost my period for 6+ months. (**Update: I finally got my own natural period back after 19-20 months without one–besides birth control). I was always tired and moody; I would get very hangry all the time and snap easily. I was never good enough. Even when I stopped trying to lose the weight, I had developed a disordered relationship with my food, deeming them as “clean” and “unclean”, “good” and “bad” that I continued to lose weight because I wasn’t eating enough to fuel my body. I eventually got down to 130 pounds…and at 5’10” that’s not a real healthy weight to be at, especially for an athlete like myself. I had lost 25 pounds in 6-7 months. Yet I still wasn’t happy, I still saw fat on myself and hated my body. I would still feel happy when I knew I ate under my calories and would force myself to workout when I “had a treat”. I had developed what is known as orthorexia nervosa (I probably had slight anorexia as well).
I’m going to do another post on this, but just to get an idea, orthorexia nervosa means a fixation on eating healthy and pure foods, as well as being so obsessed with controlling your diet and consumed with thoughts of eating, what you ate, quality, etc. It may seem harmless from the outside, but when taken too far, like me, it can cause serious damage.
Due to a knee injury, I took my second year of volleyball off. During this time, I began to workout on my own (mostly lifting and circuit training mixed with some running). As I started to lift more and more, I realized that I wanted to change. I no longer wanted to be as skinny as could be, no longer wanted to see a lower number on the scale. I decided that I wanted to be #StrongNotSkinny. I began to cook healthy meals that were enough and that fueled me. I fell in love with this healthy lifestyle and I developed a passion for fitness lifting and nutrition. I started this blog for accountability and a way to share my passion as I recovered. I knew it would be hard, but very much worth it!
Flash forward to now (I’ve rejoined the volleyball team) and I was right. Recovery is very hard and there are days and times I still struggle–with body image, with doubt, with food anxiety. But I know that I am on my way to being fully recovered and enjoying a healthier lifestyle. Fitness changed my perspective and helped me understand who it was that I wanted to become and then go out and get it! And now, I want to share that passion and my journey with others so that I too can help them!
I want others to see what it is like to truly live Beyoutifully Healthy!