When I say that I have been all over the map with my physical conditioning – I’m not exaggerating. Maybe you can’t identify with all of what I describe here but I’m willing to bet there’s a piece in here that will resonate with you and that is exactly the reason I’m here. If you see yourself in my struggle you are closer than you think, to overcoming that obstacle – if you can see it, you can fix it.
I was a very typical child growing up, physically. I was tall and lean (I mean, count my ribs lean!) until puberty and the divorce of my parents. The hormonal change combined with the emotional strain of such a life event took its toll on my 12 year old body and mind. I began coping with food as an outlet for my anxiety because I was unable to communicate it verbally. Neither of my parents were physically fit and it never really occurred to me to exercise or put much consideration into what I fed my body. As I got larger I was teased more and more by my peers and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how that effected my self-esteem. I started to believe the things I was hearing – I was fat, slow, lazy, and not a person they wanted to spend time with for these reasons. Like any child in my situation I did my best to fit in and the fastest way to do that was to drop the weight. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do it properly and so, by the age of 13 I was engaging in disordered eating. I was heavily restricting my calories and I started playing sports, and running, at which time I quickly saw results, as did the rest of my peers. As the approval of my peers became more obvious my disordered eating became more dangerous and I would continue with these behaviours on and off until I moved here, to Ottawa at 19 years of age.
After moving to Ottawa I found myself relying on food once again to cope with the anxiety that came with starting over on my own. I quickly shot up to my all time weight high of 203 pounds which equated to a size 14/16 on my frame. I knew I needed to get out of my pattern but I didn’t know how. I had no healthy role models and no family to lean on for support so I did what most of us do in this situation – I joined a gym. I went hard for several months until I lost interest in the activities I was engaging in and lost confidence in its effectiveness. Disappointed, I stopped going and would remain in this pattern for about two years and again fell back to my old habit of disordered eating – but this time, it nearly killed me. I was now engaging in such dangerous eating patterns that I was losing my hair, sleeping constantly and in a continuous state of confusion and anxiety. Finally, I collapsed on a running trail and woke up in an ambulance. That was where my recovery began.
I would spend several months in the hospital recovering from Anorexia. I left the hospital program at a healthy weight, with a healthier mind and a promise to myself to spend the rest of my life working to stay well. It was a good foundation BUT, the story doesn’t end here!
Shortly after leaving the hospital, I became pregnant with my beautiful son. I developed post-partum depression during the fifth month of my pregnancy, at which time I was unable to exercise and I gained a lot more than baby weight, putting me back up to a size 14/16 for the first year after my son was born. Shortly thereafter, I began my well intentioned but terribly misguided, fitness journey which saw three major derailments.
The first happened after the third month of my training – I was rear-ended by a careless driver and unable to exercise for several months. Immediately following my recovery, I was back at the gym, training hard and feeling great, until a family tragedy forced me to put nearly everything on the back burner for another four months. The final derailment was the one I learned the most from and the one that taught me the most about myself as a person. Being heavily burdened by the fallout of the family tragedy I mentioned, a marriage that was ending and a body that was just not doing what I wanted it to, I was feeling very much like the world was stacking the odds against me. I decided to break out of that by forging ahead with guns blazing and began overtraining and consuming far too few calories for my activity level. The result: Overuse injuries from over-training. A torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder, tendonitis in my left elbow and IT band tension in both legs that prevented me from performing a simple squat. My memory was failing, I was losing hair, I was agitated constantly, exhausted – both physically and spiritually, and I had no one to blame but myself.
After giving myself time to heal, I began working with a training coach. He had a tough case with me, given my history with disordered eating, and my other less-than-coachable characteristics (which I still try to convince myself to this days is part of my charm!), but I trusted him and learned from him and realized that there was something really positive to come out of all of this. Slowly, I learned to nourish my body into performing rather than punishing it into performing. I learned to teach my body the exercises rather than ram it through them. I learned to trust my body when it was sending me messages of distress, rather than ignore it and push through the pain. This is when I decided that I can help others the same way he helped me.
I certainly do not believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that every experience contains a lesson that we have to determine the value of. What could I learn from being down and out with injury after injury when all I really wanted was to be healthy and strong? I learned that I can help others realize AND accomplish their goals while sparing them from falling into the same pitfalls I did.