My transformation story: becoming vulnerable
For some time now, I’ve been alluding that there were deeper, darker secrets lurking behind my fitness journey. In order for one to truly connect with my story, I think it’s time to be outwardly honest about where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I’m going. Those who follow me deserve to know.
I recently watched a TED talk by Brené Brown about the power of vulnerability (highly recommend). She explains that the reason we are afraid of being vulnerable is because of shame and the fear that others will not accept us for what we are. She defined vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, and uncertainty. She then goes on to express that for those who are vulnerable, it is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change. While being vulnerable in this moment is far from comfortable, I hope to envelope it in my capacity to continue to change and grow. Those who accept me as I am will continue to follow, those who are uncomfortable can fall behind.
For the past two to three years, I have been battling my relationship with food and physical activity. It all started my senior year of college. I decided I needed to change the body that had been plagued with insecurities for as long as I can remember. That year I forced myself to run 5 miles a day and hardly ate – leading to binges at the end of the night that I couldn’t explain (I now know that my body was starving and screaming for nourishment). I lost weight but then realized running wasn’t going to give me the body I wanted – I was withering away.
It then became a mixture of high intensity circuit training/weight lifting at home combined with a very low calorie diet (at this time I didn’t know how fast my metabolism could actually be). While some muscle began to develop, I still wasn’t eating nearly enough to fuel the amount of exertion on my body – the exhaustion and hanger set in. I began reading endless amounts of information on fitness and nutrition and that’s initially where my interest began. I wanted to learn how to make my body perform the way I desired and look “picture perfect”. This is also when I realized I could control my weight by eating foods my body was screaming for, but purging them later; a development that only stressed my body further and continued my downward spiral.
In the midst of this, I met someone who saw how exhausted I was and pushed me to enter the gym/change my exercise habits. Along with my introduction to the gym, I also stumbled upon social media influences @em_dunc and @amandabuccifit. They were bikini competitors and social media influencers. I instantly became enthralled by the competition scene and sought out a coach to help me. At first, I know this came from a place of wanting to be leaner, but it lead me to so many positive relationships and personal developments I never would have imagined.
When I started lifting and prepping in early 2016, I was still struggling with binging and purging but the tracking led me toward better control. I now see a lot of my actions as a desire to exhibit control on my surroundings. For everything that felt so out of control in my life (what the hell was I going to do to be successful?), my body and its appearance was one thing I could control. The food was a way to comfort my anxiety and the purging was a way to eliminate the negative effects of excess calories. A nasty cycle that the tracking helped me remove. My coach slowly helped me realize the amount of food I needed to be eating to see results and feel 1000x better than before. As the prep went on, the binging and purging subsided, but it then became an obsession with numbers.
Now don’t let me go without saying - show day was the most amazing experience of my life. My competition prep was easily executed and I hardly ever experienced some of the intense exhaustion that other competitors talk about. My coach approached the entire process with professionalism and placed my health first. It was hard to be completely honest about my mental struggle, but I’m sure he could tell by some of my endless questioning.
Once the show ended, that’s when shit hit the fan again. The numbers on the scale began to rise and the anxiety toward food and weight gain returned. I slowly had to learn how to control my intake when my body was yelling to eat more food. To avoid excess weight gain, I had to walk a fine line during my reverse diet. Throughout this process, there were slip ups.. I went to some pretty deep places of mental and physical destruction. The battle of girl vs. mirror persisted and it was difficult to keep positive after seeing my body in one of the leanest states possible.
However, if you’ve gotten this far, I want you to know that you can overcome these things. Over the past few months, though it hasn’t been easy, I have begun to come to terms with my body. With the help of counselors and coaches, I have continued to challenge myself to better my relationship with food and my body. Each week I release the reigns on control just a little more. One. Day. At. A. Time. It just goes to show that you never know what happens behind closed doors – what thoughts really lurk behind the smile and incredible physique.
During the worst times, I completely shut out most of the people in my life. I chose food and the gym over others in order to maintain my physique. I finally realize that the obsession over having the perfect body is never more important than the relationships I cultivate with others. My journey in fitness has also helped develop so many amazing relationships that I never would have had otherwise – I will never take these for granted. While our priorities in health (gym and nutrition) are important, so are the friends and family we are constantly denying outings with in order to stay in control of our food or exercise regimen. Those memories you create with others are far more valuable. Fitness is about finding a better balance between caring for yourself while still enjoying your life. I say “better” because I honestly don’t believe anyone can ever have the perfect balance between the two. Some weeks we will be on point, other weeks we will stray from the plan. To put it simply, that’s OK. That’s life.
While I’m far from perfect, my desire is to share my story in order to help others. I want to connect with others on a deeper level and this requires being vulnerable. We are here for so much more than what our physical body can offer. As humans, our mind and how we choose to share it is what makes us unique. I believe this vulnerability allows for change and the ability to challenge myself in more places than just the gym. The gym has given me a reason to feel strong when I’ve felt physically weak. It has become my outlet for anxiety when my outlet used to be food. I realize that my process hasn’t always been in alignment with the healthiest perspective, but I work every single day to bring a healthier perspective for myself and others. I choose to share my mind with others, strive to become better, and help others do the same. My body won’t be what people remember me for, but my impact will. I chose to open a coaching business because I want to help others get to this point, too - far sooner than I did.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Open yourself up to change and enlightenment.