Hey loves! The Playful Trainer here, coming to you with some honest truths about me.
I’ve recently been beefing up my social media presence as I am building my in-home and online personal training business. I post pics of myself, my food, my daily activities… etc. So as I expose more of my life and myself on social media, I open the door to haters and trolls who want to tear me down.
I almost feel a little special… like oh hey, my idols like Jillian Michaels, Rachel Hollis and Lori Harder have to deal with this kind of negativity, I must be doing something right. Right?
But then that body-image monster rears its awful head and I doubt everything I’m doing, everything I am and I’m presenting to the world.
I’ve been searching for the opportune way to tell my readers about my struggles with food and body image. Perhaps the thought I had this morning sparked a long trail of thoughts of the past and how I continue to fight the body-image monster every single day.
As many children do, growing up, I had somewhat of a dysfunctional family. It’s cool, I’m in therapy and I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing about how I grew up. That aside, I learned from a young age to find comfort in food, and seek the approval of peers and strangers to give me self-value.
The first “medication” I turned to as a child was food. I was a stress-eater from a very young age. I was overweight throughout grade school. I recall the time I was in second grade. We had a substitute teacher, and as part of “health class” she weighed all of us in front of the class. She stated everyone’s weights aloud for the class to hear…. but when it came to me, she tried to hide it from the rest of the class. “120,” she whispered to me. Well, if you’ve been in a classroom with 8 year-olds, you know that kids are nosy and have impeccable hearing. I was mortified. I cried. I was embarrassed. But most importantly, for the first time, I realized that I was “different” from my classmates. I gathered that my weight was something I should be ashamed of… I mean obviously my teacher was ashamed for me because she whispered it. Before that moment, I had been pretty care-free about my appearance. I hadn’t compared myself to other girls, or body-shamed myself.
I don’t think you’ll be too surprised with my 8 year-old self. I didn’t go home that day and change my habits, give up soda, stop sneaking late night snacks…. in fact, I turned to food to comfort the sad, lonely, stressed out feelings I had experienced. I wanted to confide in my “friend” sugar, to make me feel better about the teasing from my classmates about my weight. Sure enough, sugar, my ole pal, was there for me…. every time.
As I continued into middle school, my family situation had not improved, and neither had my health. I was sick. All the time. I missed a ton of school due to just being down and out with flues, colds and irritable bowel syndrome. As I reflect on this time in my life, I realize now, that a lot of my illnesses were likely a result of my unhealthy mental state as much as of my poor dietary choices. I absolutely judged my self-worth on what I thought others perceived of me, so suffice to say, my self-worth was pretty non-existent.
And suddenly, I hit bottom… I discovered boys. Kidding aside… again, because I completely judged my self-worth based on other’s perceptions of me (and obviously could only see my faults and outside appearance), I thought “no one will ever find me attractive, and I’ll never have a normal teenage life, and I’ll be alone and unloved forever unless I make a change with my body.” I can see the absolute fault in this thinking as I look back. I was basing my need for change only on my outward appearance, my weight, my size. I was attacking “the problem” which I thought was my weight, not resolving the actual issues involving my mental health.
You guessed it. Food became my enemy. How could this loving friend that I confided in for years just totally turn its back on me and ruin my life?? I was angry at it, wanted to remove it from my life completely…. and I pretty much did just that.
It took years before anyone, including me, noticed that I had an eating disorder. “You look great!” I heard from many people as I started to lose weight. Everyone thought I was doing it “the healthy way”, cutting out soda, sugary juices, bringing a lunch from home instead of eating the school food. And really, when I started to lose weight, I honestly thought I was doing it the “healthy way”. I was reducing my calorie intake, increasing my exercise, avoiding fried foods, staying away from processed sugars… all of the things I basically tell my clients to do to lose weight and be healthy. The problem was I beat myself up every time I ate, no matter what I ate, but especially when I ate a food that was pegged “unhealthy”.
The more weight I lost, the more my peers responded. Even parents of kids at school were coming up to me to tell me how “good” I looked. I equated this new attention and acceptance from my peers to my ability to control my food intake and my losing weight. That became my “medication” – the positive feedback I received for the weight loss.
What I also learned, via my therapy sessions, was that my eating disorder was not completely related to food. And it certainly wasn’t as easy as “just eat the freaking cheeseburger” to recover from that disease. I was absolutely phobic about eating that cheeseburger. Not eating that cheeseburger was all I had. It’s the control I held on to so tightly because I felt utterly helpless and out of control in so many other areas of my life. To top it off, I felt that if I ate that cheeseburger, I’d be a failure. I would let down all of those peers and parents that had congratulated me on “losing the weight” a “job well done” and remember I completely valued myself based on other people’s opinions of my physical appearance.
I am so blessed to sit here today and write this blog because I survived that eating disorder. I honestly “survive” this eating disorder every day. (Stay tuned and I will post a follow up blog on my journey to recovery…)
When I read those awful comments on my posts, they cut to my core. That 8 year-old me pops up and tells me “I’m not worthy of success or love” – “I need to be just 5 lbs, 10 lbs, 15 lbs… thinner” – For someone with a history of an eating disorder, there’s a fine line between a healthy lifestyle and obsession with calorie intake, food control and excessive exercise.
This topic is so near and dear to my heart: The truth that you are worthy of love, worthy of success and vibrating so much higher than the ignorant haters in the world.
There is also a delicate dance I do between encouraging my followers to be healthy and pushing them to the point where they put too much self-worth on physical appearance.
Yes, it’s nice to have goals like fitting in a dress size for a wedding, feeling confident and sexy for your partner. I encourage my clients to set goals that transcend physical appearance and “weight on the scale”. Improved cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, prevention of diabetes, pain-free movement, and increased stamina, strength, mobility, energy, mood … these are all amazing goals and benefits from healthy eating and physical activity.
I pray that I can set a positive example for men and women on their fitness journey. To have a healthy relationship food, where it’s not love or hate, but appreciation and gratitude.
Thank you for joining me in this blog post. “Hater’s gonna hate”- thanks for that reminder Taylor Swift. Don’t let yourself be one of those haters in your own life.
I cannot take credit for this phrase, but I absolutely repeat it any chance I get –
“Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.”