One of the most difficult parts of blogging is committing yourself to being totally transparent. Although I’m a new blogger, I’ve read the blogs of many inspiring ladies for the past year and consistently can feel their emotions as they describe events that happen in their lives without filtering out the bad things that may occur. Some of the most powerful blogs I’ve read were from people who weren’t afraid to admit their imperfections in hopes of inspiring others to be better. As a healthy living blogger, I feel like I can’t fully gain your trust until you understand where I’ve come from in my own health journey. So here is me opening up.
As a competitive athlete for the past 13 years, I have been an avid fitness junky for the large majority of my life. Spending 2-4 hours a day working out has always been normal to me, and until coming to college to continue my athletic career, I had never had a problem stuffing my face to replenish the calories I was working off. My friends and I would skip practices to go get “happy hour lemonades” at Sonic and I religiously ate ice cream every night. I never worried about eating too many carbs or having to wake up early the next morning to work off my previous day’s eats. For the most part, I was happy in my skin, and couldn’t imagine turning into one of those girls who chose a salad over a cheeseburger when going out for dinner.
Coming to college changed things for me though. Maybe it was the fact that I was in a completely new setting and given a completely clean slate to start all over. I was surrounded by other athletes who ate healthier than I ever had and collegiate athletics proved to be a lot tougher on my body than high school swimming. As a result, the spring of my Freshman year, I decided to try to eat better in an attempt to be healthier and not gain the dreaded “Freshman-15”.
It all started in good nature; I dropped a little weight and people began to compliment me on my new figure. It felt good to finally be the skinny girl rather than the girl next door who could out-eat the boys. This was when things started to spiral. Extreme caloric restriction and excessive training became my addiction. I loved being able to limit how much I ate and work out hard for 4 hours a day, just to step on the scale and see a smaller number than the day before. My family and friends became worried about me and started making comments to me about the excessive amount of weight I had lost, but I couldn’t see it. In my eyes, I still had work to do to maintain the body I had come to love.
I lost my period in February of 2013, the winter of my sophomore year in college. At first it was a dream; I no longer had to deal with PMS or worry about bleeding at unexpected times. As my relationship with my boyfriend became more and more serious though, I began to think about my long term plans for my life and about what I was doing to my body. In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t plausible to have kids with the current state of my body, one of my biggest life goals. In response to all of this fear and worry, I started eating a little more, but still had funny restrictions with certain kinds of food and wasn’t taking in nearly enough to make up for what I was working off. I was addicted to exercise and hated recovery days in the pool because I felt I didn’t deserve to eat much afterwards. After almost passing out at a home meet one afternoon, I admitted to my mom and ultimately to myself that I had an eating disorder and needed help. At the end of my junior year, after meeting with doctors and discussing things with my parents and coaches, I decided to step away from competition in an attempt to heal myself and deal with the eating disorder I had been throwing under the rug for so long.
So I just stopped swimming and started eating more and everything went back to normal, right? I mean it seems easy enough. Food is good. And people have told me they would kill to have their doctors tell them to stop working out and start eating more.
But recovery wasn’t easy. There were days where I felt disgusted with myself and thought about just giving up and returning to the pool to make sure I could stay in control of my life. I started running excessively, taking third in my first half-marathon and refusing to listen to my body telling me to slow down for a while. After meeting with nutritionists and going on a new diet plan, I slowly started gaining the weight back, but my body still cried for me to let it rest. I continued to run on swollen ankles and strained-muscles just to make sure I kept a little muscle tone as I gained weight.
In February of 2015, I found out I had Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, a condition where you lose your period due to excessive exercise and restricted eating habits, resulting in deteriorated bones and a lot of long-term health issues if left unaddressed. I decided I had had enough. I quit all cardio-related exercise. I spent an entire week lying on my couch sleeping and giving my body the rest it deserved. The rest it had craved for almost 3 years. For the past 3 months I have refrained from any cardio whatsoever, and although it’s been one of the toughest struggles I’ve ever endured, I fell in love with myself again through it. I regained my curves and started to actually like them. I fell in love with Pure Barre classes that allowed me to workout and appreciate my body for all it can do. I enjoyed cooking yummy foods with my boyfriend without worrying about how many calories everything was.
I found peace.
In late May, I was blessed with the first period I’ve had in almost 2 and a half years; a sign that my body had physically recovered. I felt compelled to share my story with whoever needed to hear it as a sign of hope. I couldn’t have gotten through this struggle without the world’s greatest support system: my family, my boyfriend, and my very best friends. I can only hope that my story can serve as support for someone else struggling at this very moment.
I know this is quite the lengthy post, and if you don’t take anything else away from it, please just remember to love yourself unconditionally. We live in a society where ideas of perfection are thrown at us from all angles, so finding beauty in what you see in the mirror or who you truly are can be difficult. But beauty truly does come in all shapes and sizes. And food is WAY too good to sacrifice to fit a mold you aren’t meant to fit.
You are perfect in your own skin! 🙂
If you or anyone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m not a doctor, but will do everything I can to try to help you find the peace you deserve.