This blog is about me, truly, about me. I wanted to tell you my journey about why I do this profession (Part 1) and what it is that I do(Part 2).
Unless you really get to know me, you might figure I have always a) worked out b) been in shape c) eaten healthy or d) it comes naturally to me. However, if you’ve spent enough time around me and I’ve opened up…you know that I do truly enjoy working out, but was not athletic in my childhood, AT ALL. You might know that I have struggled with my body image, food addiction and weigh most of my life. Also, that I have an addictive personality and that one way it manifests in me is with food (sugar specifically) and that nothing comes naturally to me except loving people and being a 110% extrovert.
So, a little history about me. I was adopted at the age of two weeks into a strong Christian, Scandinavian family with one boy 22 months older than me. I grew up in a small community that makes up Bainbridge Island. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived there and it was a great, safe and sheltered childhood. I was the only extrovert in my family of reserved Scandinavians which suited me just fine as I had the spotlight if I ever wanted it.
When I was a toddler I developed an autoimmune disease called glomerulus nephritis. I don’t remember alot of what happened during this time other than I was in and out of the hospital, was on a sodium restricted diet and was given prednisone. Looking back, I think the restricted diet started my sneaking of food (salt free cheese tastes terrible! At least as a kid!), as well as my craving of food and my labeling of food as being something I could or couldn’t have. The prednisone…well, that was rough. If you have even been on prednisone for a long period of time or know someone who has…you know what I’m talking about. I was puffy, hugely puffy. Probably all over,but I just remember it in my face. Honestly, at the time, I was in Kindergarten and didn’t know I looked any different from anyone else, except for the teasing. I was taunted and teased by the older children as I got off the bus in mornings and on the bus in the afternoons. That was when I first realized I looked different than everyone else and it was (it seemed) a bad different. By first grade, my school pictures show that my ‘puffiness’ was decreasing…but, of course, the damage was done. By mid-second grade year, my autoimmune disease had resolved (normally it lasts until puberty so I was fortunate) and I was able to eat salty foods again and re-gained a healthy, ‘normal’ life.
Fast forward 6-7 years later…I have a naturally round face with chubby-ish cheeks, cute, not beautiful…but when I looked in the mirror, all I saw was a fat face, worthy of scorn and ridicule and not love and affection. 8th grade is when I dove into the world of anorexia. I say, ‘dove’ not tripped or fell. I dove…by calculated choice. I was an avid reader and had read many true stories of other women who were anorexics and I longed for that. The ultimate ‘control’ over my body and my food. I bought mass amounts of laxitives at different stores without my parents knowing (no easy feat when you don’t yet drive), I stole appetite suppressents from my grandma (I still feel shame for that), worked out every chance I got and rarely ate.
As you can imagine (maybe, maybe not) the more self-focused I became, the more miserable I was. I lied constantly, was cold, exhausted, manic, hungry or in extreme GI discomfort (from taking 10+ laxatives at a time) all the time. Felt guilt and hatred toward myself if I ate, guilt and hatred toward myself if I starved. Miserable. How anyone stayed friends with me during this time, I’ll never know (thanks Sarah, Terri, Suzy and Lenore).
I remember clearly one day that I just got so tired of the lying that I decided to stop. Stop the laxatives, appetite suppressants, starving and lying. Still, my parents suspected and confronted me and I wound up in counseling. Counseling was neither helpful or harmful…I just didn’t let it in enough to truly have it do any good. After all, I had already stopped the ‘active’ part of my eating disorder and what more was there.
In 10th grade, I felt my eating had gotten out of control and started stealing syrup of ipecac to make myself throw up when I babysat. Talk about sick and disgusting…and once again, totally self-absorbed, broken and hurting.
I kept this secret to myself and never told anyone I was doing this…it disgusted me. The last time I ever took syrup of ipecac, I threw up so many times that blood came up. I never have taken it since.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I felt as if I just ‘grew out’ of my eating disorder, but it was still there. I hid it by working out ALL THE TIME! That became my new obsession/addiction. I still thought I was fat, had stubby legs, too big of a butt etc…but these feeling dictated how I felt about myself every minute of everyday. If I ate very little or ‘healthy’ or worked out alot…then my day was a success and I was a great person. If I ate ‘bad’ or didn’t workout…I failed and was a failure.
It was about this time that I started reading. Diet books, nutrition books, healthy living/eating books. Anything and everything. I tested everything out. Some things were actually healthy and some things ‘stuck’. Others weren’t very healthy and some of those ‘stuck’ too. But I was single and living on my own and trying to make my way. My weight fluctuated all the time along with my moods and self worth. Around this time, I discovered running. I fell in love with it and ran regularly with my dear friend, Thereasa. Let me tell you, you do alot of soul searching when you spend that much time running. With the running thing in my life, my habits began to focus less on food and body image and more on health, strength and running goals. Running has continued to be a healthy outlet for me.
I continued to know, on some level, that I still had a problem. A problem with food addiction and body image, but I pushed it away…pretended I had a handle on it because I was not doing the things I saw as the problem..acting out…taking copious amounts of laxatives, using syrup of ipecac or starving myself. But my life still revolved around food and now, exercise.
I don’t remember at what point I was truly open about all of this with my (now) husband, but he knew it was all there and saw ways it manifested while we were dating. Not all of these ways were unhealthy and the deep ones, the thoughts that plagued me, were kept secret.
After having two kids, I started working as a personal trainer, still in the diet and exercise loop, but now my eating had taken on secretive forms. I started binging. I would buy ice cream, begin fixating on it and could hardly wait to put my toddlers down for naps so I could get my ‘fix’. If they stalled going down for naps, I would get angry because the ‘drip’ had started and I couldn’t wait for the ‘hit’. I wouldn’t even taste the first bowl I ate…I would buy more ice cream at times to replace what I had binged on so Trevor wouldn’t know. I felt shame..it may sound strange to some of you that I would behave that way for food..but it was and is truly an addiction for me.
I was out of control, felt terrible and didn’t know how I was ever going to be able to be an example for my daughter. I came to the realization that a) I still had a problem…a real problem and b) I wasn’t able to fix it myself. So, I joined a program at a church called Celebrate Recovery. It wasn’t a quick fix. It required me being truly transparent with myself (that sucked), with others (that sucked even more) and my addiction (this part was scary, but freeing because it took some of its power over me away) and it took years. Years of digging through the layers and lies, forgiving and taking responsibility, accepting and grieving. Most importantly, I had to let go…of past hurts, ideas, expectations, assumptions and untruths.
Am I healed? No. I think with my food addiction, I will always have to make sure I have tools, accountability and safe people in my life to help me deal with my crap so I don’t cycle in my extremes. Am I better? Yes, so much so. Food is not my God anymore and most days (still working on it) I don’t walk by a mirror and think bad things about myself. I am aware of things I need to express and work through so I don’t binge and I now know my triggers. It is a process and a journey of continually working on accepting myself the way I am and FIGHTING for balance and health in my life and I won’t ever stop. PROGRESS DOES NOT MEAN PERFECTION.
Some people may look at me and think they know me and they may even think I have ‘it’ all together. But, believe me, I don’t…I’m still working 0n ‘it’. I am human, walking through this life with hurts and scars like we all have.
This is why I desire to help people who struggle with addiction, specifically food and body image struggles. This is why I am a Health and Fitness Coach. This is why I do what I do.