Body Image: My Personal Journey

Today’s Workout:  9 miles running, 1:10***

I just completed and submitted a 12 page paper on the topic of Obesity for my Healthcare Promotions class.   Writing this paper and watching the Biggest Looser wrap up another season has forced me to reflect on my own personal journey with my weight and body image.  I realized in looking back that I haven’t ever really shared my story on the blog.  I have shared a little bit about my battles with disordered eating in this past but I haven’t ever really shared my entire fitness journey.
You better buckle up tight for this one because it is going to be a long and way too wordy ride.  It has surely been a journey alright!

Childhood:  I was always tiny and petite.  I ate tons but my energy was high and I ran around like a wild animal probably burning off every morsel I put into my body.  I had a fabulous childhood.  My Mom and Dad have both always been active and I played every sport that was offered.  Why can’t we go back to these days when we exercised without even knowing it?

Teenager:  I stayed pretty fit without trying until I was about 16.  I played basketball, volleyball, and was a member of the HS drill team.  When I quit drill team and even before then my weight plummeted.  I ate terribly, lacked confidence, and rarely exercised.  I graduated High School about 20lbs overweight, miserable, rebellious, and genuinely confused and depressed.  You literally could not pay me enough to relive my adolescence.  I was not a fan! 

First year of College:  I ran away from home….literally.  My parents were quite un-supportive of my college choice and I was still rebellious and immature.  My Sister helped me move into my new place and I clearly remember her saying “You are going to get so fat in college, I am so worried about you.”  I took her words to heart and never forgot them.  My sister and Mom had constantly teased me about being overweight.  In they’re defense I think they were genuinely trying to help me but sometimes words hurt.  Do I blame them for me suffering from anorexia & bulimia? heck no!  Do I think it played a role?  Indeed.

Anyway I am getting way ahead of myself.  The day that my sister uttered those words I started a diet.  I didn’t start exercising but I changed my eating habits and dropped 20lbs in 3 months.  I wanted to prove my Sister wrong and by Christmas time I was about 125lbs and very excited about my new slim figure.  After Christmas I added exercise, continued dieting and was incredibly healthy throughout the Spring semester.  I was never popular or pretty in High School and the new found attention was incredibly flattering and I wanted to keep getting thinner.  It was like a drug high for me.

Second year of College:  My sister got her first teaching job in St. George and we moved in together.  Over the Summer we both became fitness obsessed and dieted compulsively.  We shunned all carbs and basically ate like rabbits.  By the time school started again I weighed about 105lb and just like a drug addict I wanted more.  My Sister went back to normal eating but I continued on a downward spiral.  I craved that high that I got from losing weight and started eating less and exercising more.  I ran on the elliptical for an hour each morning, and then went to the gym again after work and school and exercised until the wee hours of the night, only to wake up and do it all again.  I was a robot, I had no life, no personality, I was incredibly caught up in this addiction.  I did not understand it at the time but looking back I was a complete addict.

I got down to 95lbs and I wanted more so I went for 90, that wasn’t enough so I continued until one day the scale read 79lb.  I was ecstatic!  But of course like every addict I wanted more.  I had lost 25lbs in 3 months and it was also around this time I started experiencing signs of my body shutting down.  I think in hindsight I knew I had an eating disorder but I never admitted it.  I was no longer able to digest food normally because my stomach had shrunk so much.  Although I complained about this I was secretly flattered because it gave me a new excuse to not eat.  Around this time I grew hair on my face to attempt to insulate my body, my skin turned yellowish, I developed acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and mentally my brain was completely gone and I could not focus at all.  It basically felt like I was going through a midlife crisis at the ripe age of 19.  I finally went to a Dr. and was put on medication for hypothyroidism, anxiety, and depression.  I was told to decrease my exercise and increase my diet but of course like any addict I definitely did not listen.  For some reason I felt like I was Superior to the Dr’s advice and that one morning I would wake up and be just fine.  That never happened and in December I ended up in the hospital for a scope down my throat.  I weighed 71lbs and was told I would die if I continued my behavior.

I do not have a lot of pictures from my anorexic days because in recovery I was advised to get rid of them.  Plus I didn’t really take very many because like any anorexic “I thought I was fat”.  If you need a visual:  I wore size 10 in little girls jeans, size medium in little girls shirts, and my face was very sunken in.Yuck!
Recovery (aka hell) – Third and Fourth years of College:  Recovery truly was much worse than the eating disorder itself.  It sounds simple:  Just gain weight right?  Yeah not so awesome.  You tell a drug addict to just freaking quit.  I spent about a year still battling anorexia.  My weight evened out a little and this is when the bulimia began.  It is very common for anorexics to turn into bulimics in recovery and that is exactly what happened with me.  I never threw up at all but I binged (a lot) and exercised compulsively.  I never really addressed the psychological issues instead I just told everyone I was fine.  I am very very stubbornly independent and have always struggled with asking for help.  I was a true bulimic.  I stole food from grocery stores, snuck food in the middle of the night, and ate copious amounts of food when I was alone.  My weight plummeted to 145lbs and I was overweight.  I went from 71lbs to 145lbs in less than two years.

22 years old:  Still overweight and still battling to figure myself out.  My weight evened out at 140 and I was no longer binging but I was still overweight and sad.  I was very unhappy with the way I looked, depressed that my battles had lead me to drop out of college, and really lacked self worth and confidence. 

23 years old:  In August of this year Trevor and I decided to start a competition to see who could lose the most weight.  My Mom even offered to pay money to the winner.  We were both very unhappy with the way we looked and needed motivation to get back on track.  Trevor and I both also suffered from addiction so we understood each other and knew we could help each other.  Trevor had lost 12lbs when he passed away in October and was clearly smoking the competition. I was down only 5 but after Trevor’s death I knew I needed to keep up my end and win the contest.  He was no longer here to defend himself and I knew he would be smiling looking down on my accomplishing my goal.  By the spring of 2010 I was down to 120lb and have never looked back.  I beat you Trev!

25 years old (Now):   I continued slimming and toning and can honestly say I am in the best shape of my entire life.  I am lean, healthy, and strong and have truly never been happier.  Much more than my weight, my image, or my body fat percentage I love myself.  It is the first time in my life that I have been able to say that I love who I have become and I finally realized that it’s not about the weight at all.  It is about finding that inner confidence, finding your passion (running for me), and loving yourself for who you are.

Whew!  So there you have it.  The very long story about how I finally overcame disordered eating and got in the best shape of my life.

Any questions?

*I would just like to add that if you suspect someone you love or know is suffering from an eating disorder don’t ignore it.  It can be incredibly serious and even fatal.  Luckily for me mine was caught and I was forced into recovery before my body completely shut down.