I can remember the exact moment that fucked my brain up, I was 8 years old.
I was the fittest kid on my block, I never stopped moving, I played every sport and you could not drag me away from the basketball court. I was on every team, I ran cross-country, and when I was restless my mom would send me out the door for a run.
But that day, when all the neighbourhood kids were lifting up their shirts to show off their tummies (aka child abs), mine had rolls, and not cute kiddo baby rolls, but like straight up Pillsbury crescent rolls. I was a fit little 8-year-old with a doughboy body and I can still remember the kids laughing.
I was a tough egg to crack though, and confident in my ability to beat anyone at anything physical, so at the time it didn’t bother me that much…or so I thought. With a sharp mouth, fiery personality, self-deprecating sense of humour, and extremely competitive nature, I was well armed with some sick defence mechanisms.
Fast forward six years. I usually wore baggy clothes, but this particular day I was wearing a tight pink shirt. After basketball practice one morning, one of the older girls who I looked up to poked my belly and said “suck in that gut”…it was game over. I was 14 and that was the day everything changed.
I still remember making my mom use her credit card to buy me a nutrition e-book…this was long before e-books were a popular thing and MyFitnessPal was still a decade from being invented. I learned to count calories, I learned portion control, I learned a lot about food and macros, and I learned that the less I ate, the better I looked! I still have the old journals where I would write out my meal plans. (Yes, I was a 14-year-old kid with detailed meal and workout plans).
Slowly but surely, I started exercising more and eating less, to the point where I would barely eat anything at all. I wasted away to size zero nothingness…but I liked it, and I liked the new attention I was getting. I could go deeper into the weeds on this, i.e. binging, purging, fat burners, ephedrine, diuretics, how long it went on for but I won’t bore you with the details.
The truth is, this isn’t a special story at all. It’s just MY story, and one that is all too familiar to millions of people worldwide, in fact, 30 million people.
To give you an idea of just how prevalent eating disorders really are, here are some stats:
- 95% of people who suffer from eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
- 70% of people who have an eating disorder will not seek treatment for one reason or another.
- 50% of teenage girls and 33% of teenage boys will engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours.
- 20 million women will struggle with an eating disorder in their lifetime.
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Having an eating disorder never really goes away. It’s like getting sober…you no longer drink, but you’re still an alcoholic.
I’ve struggled on and off with my relationship with food and my body for as long as I can remember. I’m 32-years-old and I still struggle every.single.day. to like what I see when I look in the mirror.
Fast forward again…to last year. I got pneumonia and bronchitis the first day of the Crossfit Open, I had a torn rotator cuff, I felt like absolute garbage, I couldn’t recover from ANYTHING, and I was an actual walking human disaster. I had just gone through the most stressful and traumatic event of my life, sold my house, quit my job, moved to a new city, started a new job, started at a new gym where I felt a lot of pressure to keep up with people I had no business keeping up with. I wasn’t sleeping or eating enough, and I don’t think I took more than a handful of rest days amongst all the chaos.
Being continuously sick is NOT normal or healthy, getting injured is NOT a necessary evil of fitness or Crossfit, feeling like you could lie in bed and sleep for a month is NO way to live. Waking up sore and exhausted, unable to recover should NOT be your normal. Just because a lot of people live this way does NOT mean it’s OK.
At the time I was running on fumes and it was hard to see the forest through the trees. I mean…I looked pretty fit and healthy, to the outside it probably seemed like I had a lot of good shit going on—even my tan was pretty on point. But here is the thing…you NEVER fucking know what someone is really dealing with. Having abs sure as fuck does not mean that someone is healthy, and how someone’s body looks on the outside is definitely not an accurate reflection of what is going on internally.
Did I mention that I’m a nutrition coach…that I know better than how I was treating myself (and sometimes still do). I counsel people on how to make changes, heal their relationship with food, and find balance through lifestyle, habit and nutrition changes.
I know how to help others, but struggle to help myself. Knowing and doing are two very different things.
So now what?
It’s been a year and I have slowly and reluctantly started to make changes. While my body might not look the best or the leanest it’s ever looked (I’m the heaviest I’ve been in about five years), and my fitness is certainly not at the level it has been—I’m starting to feel like myself again. It’s taken a team of experts to help a sista out: a badass nutrition coach (Cassidy Dickson, iN3 Nutrition) because coaches need coaches, counselling, hours of research, hormone tests, and many supportive pals—but despite my fitness addiction and constant state of FOMO, it’s clear that things need to change. I’m confident that I am now making choices that align with my health and I am committed to the process of un-fucking 18 years of self-sabotage.
I’m writing this in part to let people know that despite what’s on the exterior, you never really know the shit that people are dealing with, so just be nice. I’m also writing this to hold myself accountable to making this change even when I feel like a fat snowman and want to spend every free moment exercising.
So, now that I am a recovering diet/fitness addict, what steps am I taking to make real changes?
That is for Part 2 – The Big Fix! I’ll break down the process, the science and the journey.