I have a confession to make. I LOVE FOOD! I have another confession: I have struggled with my weight all my life, from the time I was a kid through college until I met my husband. I decided to share my story to shed some light on an issue that is rarely talked about. I dealt with an eating disorder, and I dealt with it alone for quite some time. I never "looked" anorexic so no one truly ever knew that I had a problem. I did have a guy tell me to eat a cheeseburger one time, which is just as hurtful and damaging as calling someone fat (I've heard that one, too). Okay, so here I go.
First, I want to introduce you to my mom and dad. My mom and dad have been my biggest supporters since day one. Anything I ever said I wanted to do, they have believed in me and supported me the whole way. When I was 11 years old, I said, “I want to play professional tennis!” and they moved us to be closer to a tennis academy. When I was 22, I said, ”I want to move to LA and be a stand-up comedian.” They helped pack up my things and drive me across the country. These are just a couple examples of how well they love and support me. I’m so thankful to have been blessed with such an amazing family and support system.
So let’s rewind back to the time when I began playing competitive tennis at a very young age. I was a very active little girl growing up, but I was always “fluffy" and was always bigger than the other girls. I was also able to get away with eating a little bit more because I was so active, which was awesome. Check out this swag, right?
Now I have been an athlete my entire life. I've played tennis from the time I could walk until I graduated college in 2012. That's 20 years of tennis. I had scholarship offers from quite a few Division I schools. I went to University of Kansas on a full ride, and I was an All-American doubles player, which is something I am very proud of. Looking back, all I could focus on the entire time was the number on the scale. Why?
Growing up, I remember my mom struggled with her weight. At one point, she was 200+ pounds. She was ashamed of her body and would wear baggy clothes to hide. At one point, she had lost 70lbs. People were praising her, wanting to know "the secret."
Now, I hate bringing my lovely mother into this story because many people know what a wonderful human she is. However, she is very important to my story. I’m not blaming my mother for my eating habits or behavior, but I will say that growing up with a mom who I looked up to and idolized in every which way, a mom who could not seem to love her own body, definitely had an impact on how I viewed my body then and how I view my body today. It breaks my heart that even now at 65 years old, she still cannot see herself the way I see her: beautiful, smart, courageous, generous, wonderful. None of those things involving a number on the scale.
Unbeknownst to my mom and dad, when I moved out to LA in 2012, I was suffering from anorexia, not to mention the severe body dysmorphia that came along with it. Moving out to the land of the beautiful made me all the more self-conscious, and my condition worsened. Even when I was at my thinnest, I could not see it. I remember looking at pictures, knowing I was the smallest I had ever been, and thinking, "Oh my gosh. I'm so FAT." Now, I look at the same pictures and think, "Oh my gosh. I look so WEAK." I have a completely different mentality now than I did then, but I will get to that later.
When my condition was at its worst, I would go a whole month eating only spinach, and I would allow myself one apple a day (it was my treat). I would weigh myself every day, and if I hadn't lost a pound, I'd take a diuretic to flush my system out. A month would pass, and I would try to eat normally after the spinach/apple month, and I would immediately gain weight. Why? Because I was starving myself. My body was holding onto anything I put into my body and storing it as fat because it didn't know when I was going to starve it again. Sure enough, the next month, I'd go back to eating only spinach and apples. I remember being so relieved when I saw the number on the scale go back down.
When I found CrossFit, I had just graduated college, and I truly fell in love with it.
I loved lifting heavy. I actually originally started CrossFit because I thought it would make me even skinnier (of course). I'm pretty competitive, and when I walked into a gym where I saw women lifting heavy weights and throwing their bodies on top of rings and bars and kicking upside-down into handstands and doing all of the coolest things, I wanted to do those things too! To my shock, you actually need to be strong (not skinny!) to do those things. In order to be strong, you need to EAT. So I did but just a little bit... and I did start gaining weight. But lifting heavy made me feel good! Unfortunately, when your whole life has revolved around the number on the scale, seeing that number go up is absolutely terrifying. In the midst of me finding CrossFit, I went back to my old ways. It got to the point where I couldn’t work out anymore because I was so weak and just sick. My hair even started to fall out. I disappeared for a while and secluded myself from even my closest friends, and I ruined friendships. My friends wanted to hang out, and I was afraid to put myself in a social situation that might involve drinking or food so I avoided and avoided until finally they stopped asking. This was what I wanted, right? I’d rather be skinny and alone than be heavier and have friends.
After some gentle nudging, I eventually eased my way back into CrossFit. I started eating again, and of course I started gaining weight, but this time I didn't go back to my old ways. I wanted to! My friend, Bree, talked me out of it. She knew what it was like to suffer through an eating disorder as well. I had to build my metabolism back. Gaining weight freaked me out. I was still unhealthily obsessed with the number on the scale, but I wasn't restricting myself. A big part of me knew that this had to happen in order for my metabolism to stabilize. So I ate what I wanted, and I continued lifting heavy. My body dysmorphia slowly took a back seat, and I went from 135lbs to 180lbs within matter of months, I actually didn't care about the scale as much as I did when I was lighter. Don't get me wrong. I was definitely paying attention to the scale... But I was paying attention less. I think I was just happier because I was eating food, and it was SO GOOD! I was happier weighing more, being strong, and eating real food than when I weighed less, wasn't as strong, and was starving myself.
At 180lbs, I felt extremely sluggish and wanted to make a change, but I was terrified I would spiral out of control again. I wanted to do this the right way this time. I was in therapy and started seeing a nutritionist. I gradually started changing my eating habits. Nothing crazy, just more water and more green stuff. The weight slowly started coming off, and I mean SLOWLY. For the first few months, the scale didn't move. The only thing that changed was my body fat percentage. I was actually okay with that. Deep down, I didn't want the weight to come off quickly. I knew if it came off too fast then it would come back just as fast (if not faster!).
Over the course of TWO years, I lost the weight and stabilized at 155lbs. It took me TWO years!!! Could I have done it quicker? Probably so, but I am SO happy that I took the long route because I have comfortably stayed at this weight for TWO years. I have taught myself to eat when I'm hungry and eat foods that will fuel my body, but I also allow myself to eat the foods I love when I'm craving them. It seems counterproductive to eat the food you're craving, right? Wrong! Guess what satisfying your cravings does for you? It satisfies you! When I eat what I'm craving, I am completely satisfied, and I don't have a desire to eat anything else!
I will admit that every once in a while I get back on the scale, and I am convinced that I will be 180lbs again (I don't get on the scale but maybe once a month these days), but my weight is always the same. I had to re-train my body and my metabolism. Now when I eat food out of the ordinary, I don't gain weight. Honestly, sometimes I'll have one meal that is "out of the ordinary" for me, and it will turn into two meals, then three, and then before I know it, it's been a whole week. That is life. I will never punish myself for anything I eat ever again. If you are making certain foods the enemy, you are really only creating another unhealthy eating habit and mentality. When battling an eating disorder, it truly is a different animal than when you deal with most other addictions (drugs, alcohol, etc.) because you can combat other addictions by abstaining. You can quit drinking alcohol or doing drugs, but you absolutely cannot stop consuming food. You will die.
Now again, this re-training/reversal didn't happen overnight. This took me FOUR years of first, allowing myself to eat again, and second, learning not to obsess. I think I will always be in the process of "reversing" the mindset I've created for myself for years. After all, my mindset was created from years of negativity. I spent a lot of time convincing myself that I was unworthy and overweight. It only makes sense that it will take years of working to reverse that negative mindset.
I encourage anyone who is suffering with something like this to reach out for help because you truly aren’t alone. Reaching out for help was the best thing I could have done. It gets better. It doesn’t completely go away, but you get stronger and smarter. I also want to encourage moms and dads to be mindful of what they are saying and how they are acting around their little girls and boys. Know that they are watching everything you do and want to grow up to be just like you.
At the end of the day, no one cares what the number on the scale says. When you are old and wrinkly, it is not going to matter what you weigh or weighed. People aren't going to remember (or care) how much you weighed way back when. What will matter is the type of person you are to others.
"We think we’re made of numbers. percentages on tests, pounds on a scale, likes on a photo, price tags on clothes... But we’re not. We are made of love and happiness and the way we laugh. We’re made of good memories and late nights and past-curfews. We have more substance than numbers."