This is a hard post to write because it exposes a part of me that for many years I kept as a secret and I worked hard at to make sure it stayed a secret. But the only way I was able to fully recover and finally overcome being bulimic and anorexic was by facing it head-on, talking about it, using my support system, and addressing the triggers. I finally feel ready to share my story and I hope it can validate that we are not perfect and that behavior change is hard but it is possible.
As a personal trainer and wellness professional I have helped a lot of people transform their lifestyles and change their unhealthy behaviors. Their hard work and dedication always makes me very proud! Even with the skills, knowledge, certifications, and degrees, the hardest transformation to make happen was my own.
My personal struggles started in high school when I joined the cross country team and when I wanted to be faster, stronger, and quicker. I started monitoring my food very closely, which turned into eating very little and eating the same things every day; which then turned into throwing up what I did eat. Initially I saw the results I wanted and started running faster and I made the varsity team.
But then I started fainting and struggling through races. I even ended up in the emergency room on IV after collapsing at a race. I didn’t come clean about my eating habits, so the episode was contributed to over exercising and heat exhaustion.
High school ended without any real running achievements. At the time I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t get much faster and still no one knew about the eating disorders. But time went on and college began. I continued to run, race and did ok. I went on to major in Exercise Science, earned my personal trainer certification, and started to train clients.
At 19 I got married and my eating disorder slowed down a bit, as I was feeling pretty good about life. Upon graduating with my B.S. I was offered a job as an Exercise Specialist. So we moved across the country and settled into Boston, a life 3,000 miles away from my home in California. This is when the eating disorder behaviors really kicked in.
If you want to know what not eating does to your body, I’m here to tell you it wrecks havoc on all systems. I got diagnosed with stomach ulcers. I lost my menstrual cycle and was at risk for never having a child. My hair fell out and stopped growing. I blamed a lot of this on stress, as by now my marriage was struggling and I was struggling to feel happy. But it was not stress and deep down I knew it.
I can’t blame my eating disorder as the only reason I got a divorce, as we never spoke of it or even recognized it. But I can now admit, it had taken over my life in a sneaky kind of way. I had become secretly obsessed about my food intake, exercise, and running. I was unhealthy and unhappy.
After my divorce, my eating and exercise habits got even worse. I was purging daily, barely eating, and trying to teach group fitness classes, train clients, and run 6-7 miles a day. My close friends and my family showed concern and helped me as much as they could without knowing the full truth.
After serious medical issues, I knew I had to get help. I found an eating disorder psychologist and started going two times a week. I had always told myself that my eating disorders were because there was a lot in life that I couldn’t control and it seemed the eating behaviors allowed me to feel some level of control. I had never admitted the body shaming and the fear of gaining weight until I started the recovery process.
Recovery is not easy and it’s often hard for your loved ones to understand why you’re “doing this to yourself.” But it’s like any other negative behavior and every other addiction, it’s really hard to overcome. It is possible!
In 2013, I met my now husband and we instantly clicked. He quickly saw that I didn’t eat much and struggled with certain conversations around food and became a strong supporter in helping me continue my recovery process.
By the end of our “summer of love”, I felt confident I was recovered and felt strong enough to stop seeing my psychologist. Negative thoughts still tried to creep in but now I had the tools to address those thoughts and situations. I felt like no one else ever needed to know about that part of my life because it was part of the past.
But then in March 2014, I “magically” got pregnant. When the doctor told me, I was in complete shock and had told her she got the wrong patient. She assured me she hadn’t and that I was eight weeks along. For the next few days I walked around like a zombie. I was afraid of what would happen when I started to gain weight. I was afraid of slipping back into bad behaviors and hurting the baby. Now I had to focus on getting the right fuel and overcoming negative thoughts.
I needed my support system to know I was scared and needed to feel confident in my abilities to stay healthy and stay in recovery. Addressing my fears with my husband and a few other people in my support system was huge. It helped me get new mantras to use and helped me become mindful of my thoughts and feelings.
Each person’s recovery looks different and I am proud to say that I have been in recovery since January 2014 and I can now finally talk about it without feeling shame. It is a part of me that has been difficult on so many different levels but I am ready to bring awareness to our communities, our families, my clients, and the coaching industry. I want to bring awareness to the deep struggles that go on when someone is dealing with eating disorders and make it OK to talk about it.
As a trainer I have an amazing opportunity to interact with so many wonderful people and I want each client to feel ok in their bodies, in their mind, and where they are in life. If you are not, then we will identify stepping stones and work towards change because change is hard but it is possible.