I never thought an eating disorder would be something I’d have to go through. But if there’s one thing I learned from the whole experience — it’s that I’m grateful for it, and that self acceptance is the key to healing any struggles you’re going through.
I WASN’T A NATURAL BORN ATHLETE
I’ve never been much of an athlete. People laugh when I tell them that I’m a half marathoner, fitness instructor, and former bodybuilder— but none of those things came easily to me.
It’s funny how you learn to improve what you’re passionate about, even if you don’t start off knowing it’s what you were born to do.
When I was little my parents tried to get me involved in sports. They signed me up for soccer (the boys just kicked my shins), tee-ball (a ball being thrown at my FACE? no thank you), tennis (I’m not very fast) and even ballet (everyone who knows me laughs out loud at this one).
I finally found my place in karate. I participated in martial arts from the age of 7-17, and though I was never the best of the best, I enjoyed the training, the discipline, and as it turned out I was pretty good as swinging a bo staff around.
When it came time to start black belt training when I was 15, the instructors went over what our rigorous training would be like. Hours upon hours nearly every night of the week, weekends- a written test, a physical test and a practical test. It was daunting, to say the least- but I was determined. I worked my butt off, quite literally, during that year.
I learned how to run a mile in under 12 minutes, do 50 push-ups on my toes and 100 sit-ups. I broke blocks and threw grown men to the ground. I was strong, powerful and confident.
WEIGHT LOSS BECAME AN ACCOMPLISHMENT
Around the time I received the honor of First Dan I also started receiving attention for the weight I had lost during my training. I never paid much attention to how to lose weight before; though I knew as a chubby pre-teen, I had become increasingly uncomfortable with my size.
I ate whatever I wanted and in whatever quantity I wanted (including whole pints of ice cream washed down by half gallons of juice after school). The rigorous black belt training combined with a necessity to fuel myself better during training meant my body started to drop excess weight without even trying. The confidence I received from the physical strength I had gained during black belt training compounded with the attention I received over my slimmer physique.
I RAN MYSELF STRAIGHT INTO AN EATING DISORDER
I took a break from karate post-black belt training, I decided to channel my energy into more physical pursuits. I started learning how to run, and it turned out I was actually pretty good at running, once I got the hang of it.
My 12-minute mile turned into a 10-minute mile, which turned into a 7-minute mile, and my 3 miles turned into 5 which turned into 10— soon enough I was running double digits every week, participating in every race I could on the weekends.
Before I knew it, my newfound running habit and health curiosity turned into a full blown eating disorder.
With the increase in running came an increased interest in my eating habits. I realized the more I ran and the more I controlled what I ate, the more weight I lost- and the more attention I got. Before I knew it, my newfound running habit and health curiosity turned into a full-blown eating disorder when I was in college.
My obsession with running and controlling my food kept me from enjoying the experience of being a Freshman in college, an experience I’ll never get back. Luckily, a wonderful friend encouraged me to get help. By working with a nutritionist to get my weight normalized and reducing hours of running each week, I started to find more balance in my eating and training… and my eating disorder became less of an issue.
BODY IMAGE ISSUES ARE RELENTLESS
Flash forward three years. After nutrition school, I decided to move up to Toronto, with my then-boyfriend, and attend culinary school. My previously balanced fitness and exercise regimens were turned on their heads as I adjusted life in a new city, a new country, and a new career as a natural foods personal chef.
We got married in 2010, and when I became pregnant in 2013, I was yet again 20 pounds overweight. I had a difficult pregnancy, and during the most difficult of times, I reflected on how I had let what was once a healthy lifestyle turn into an unhealthy one. I vowed to not let myself get to that point in my health again; to change my habits for good, for myself and my daughter— and that I did.
It lights me up each day to be able to share my knowledge of nutrition with other moms who are searching for better habits, more energy and a healthier family.
I focused on portions, we stopped ordering takeout and started working out. I ditched the junk food treats we ate on the weekends and focused on real food. I lost 46 pounds by the time Sage turned 1 and I felt on top of the world. After losing almost 50 pounds it’s hard to not gain attention for losing weight, getting fit and changing your lifestyle, so I started sharing what I had learned about eating to lose weight, became a certified personal trainer, started teaching group fitness classes and became certified in exercise nutrition. I even competed in a bodybuilding competition.
I absolutely love what I do. It lights me up each day to be able to share my knowledge of nutrition with other moms who are searching for better habits, more energy, and a healthier family.
LEARN WHEN TO TAKE A STEP BACK
The hardest part of my journey wasn’t losing 46 pounds, or going from personal chef to nutrition coach. The hardest part of my journey was what happened after I lost 46 pounds, it was the obsession with maintaining my weight loss and fighting my eating disorder.
The constant pressure to be the ‘healthy role model’, at all times was physically exhausting and mentally draining. The urge to constantly be better, do better, change my body. The feeling that it was never ‘enough’. Despite promoting healthy living and consciously rejecting the diet mentality, I was stuck in a constant state of feeling like….
- I ‘should’ be eating healthier.
- That I ‘could’ be doing better.
- That I ‘shouldn’t’ ever eat treats.
- That I had to be the ‘best’.
- That I had to represent the ‘most perfect picture of fitness and health’.
FIND PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT WORKS – AND WHAT DOESN’T
The hardest part of my journey was learning the hard way that just because I could maintain that weight loss by strictly monitoring my food intake and exercising regularly, doesn’t mean it was where my body wanted to be.
- It was admitting that once again, my ‘healthy’ habits had become an obsession.
- It was learning to accept that maintaining those sort of standards was not only impossible but detrimental to my health.
- It was accepting that health comes in many shapes and sizes, and I didn’t ‘have’ to be that size I ended up after I dieted my way to ‘better health’.
- It was admitting that smaller isn’t always better— and it showed in my hormonal imbalances, my lack of energy and my erratic moods.
- It was learning to accept my body, exactly how it is, when I focus simply on eating real, whole foods, that make me feel good, give me abundant energy and fuel me to be the wife, mom, and nutrition coach I’ve always wanted to be.
- It was surrendering to my intuition around food and accepting that I needed to eat more to feel good, and that included gaining some of those much coveted lost pounds, back.
TAKEAWAY: SELF ACCEPTANCE IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS
Self-acceptance is hard. Eating intuitively is hard. Finding balance in fitness is hard. Accepting that your worth is not found in a jeans size, a number on the scale or a picture from two years ago is real, freaking hard. But I’ve never done anything more worth it.
Finding balance in fitness and nutrition is a lifelong journey. Healing your eating disorder is a lifelong journey. It’s not one that comes overnight. But it is one that has made a profound impact on my own life, and the lives of so many women I coach. Remember beautiful- you’re worth so much more than a number on a scale, a treadmill or a dress. You deserve to live a full, free life, eating, moving and living in a way that feels good, to YOU.
So Bree, you shared this amazing story.. so how do I do that for myself?
I remember wondering how the heck I’d even start to learn self-acceptance and intuitive eating… but I did it!!!! And now, I put it all into this ebook + workbook that I called: Find Your Food Freedom. Download it and give it some honest effort and you’ll be amazed at what you can do! 🙂