Personally, I believe you cannot fully love others well until you first give that love to yourself. Be mindful of the words that you are allowing yourself to hear, and the words of others that you allow yourself to dwell on. Around the time that I was in eighth grade, is when I first remember having depressed thoughts and disordered eating habits. Like most girls my age, my self esteem took a plummet around the time puberty hit. One girl, who I called one of my best friends, made demeaning comments about the shape of my nose. Later on she ridiculed me for my weight and the anatomy of my feet. It left scars on my mind that I will never forget.
At first I started out by just skipping lunch at school. I would pack my own lunch because my mom would ask if I made my lunch, and then I’d throw it away at school. Then, it turned into an obsession to see how few calories I could eat. I would go all day without eating, but then I would ultimately end up binging and eating my daily calories within an hour or two in the evenings. Also in the evenings, I would spend hours scrolling through pictures on Tumblr searching for “thinspo” idolizing girls who weighed around 80 pounds and clearly had disordered thinking. This further fed my inner demons reminding me that I was never good enough for my expectations.
From there, my depression spiraled downward, but I was so good at faking happiness and acting like everything was perfect. No one ever noticed. Not only did my metabolism dramatically slow down, I also started having issues with my menstrual cycle. Although I was not sexually active, my doctor prescribed me birth control to help get my periods back on track. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism due to my thyroid not working correctly. Each morning I had to take a prescription to normalize my thyroid levels. I’m terrified of needles and had to get my blood work done at least once a month to check my thyroid levels. In addition, I also became anemic and had to take an iron supplement along with increasing my consumption of high-iron foods.
Besides my physical health, my mental health was also in shambles. I began to journal and write down my thoughts. I would have days where I felt optimistic and wanted to get healthy because I realized what I was doing and feeling was not normal. But I couldn’t seem to get off of the path of self-destruction. On the pages of my diaries and journals, you’d be able to read broken words and disordered thoughts in the form of poems that I wrote years ago.
Due to several years of restricting calories along with periods where I would binge eat, my metabolism was all out of whack. I lost a few pounds at first, but definitely gained it all back…plus more. Even once I started eating on a more normal schedule, it took YEARS for my body to adjust. It wasn’t until later on in life, after having two children and two c-sections, that I learned to truly life a healthy lifestyle.
While I was pregnant with Madison, people would tell me my body would never be the same after I had two kids. There is truth to that. Growing a child inside you is the most wonderful experience a woman can have, and I feel very blessed to have that opportunity. However, after having two kids at a fairly young age, my body, energy levels, and eating habits changed significantly. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than being a mom. But, I needed to feel like me again. More importantly I needed to be a healthier example for my growing children. I was also desperate for anything to improve my mood, and exercise has always been successful at giving me an endorphin rush. When I set aside time for self care, I am allowing myself to take steps toward becoming the best version of me.
Ways to Overcome an Disordered Eating:
1. Find a Guide
Over the past few years, I have mostly worked out in the comfort of my own living room using online workout programs that I purchased and download to my phone. In 2016, I had stumbled across @fitgirlsguide on Instagram. After stalking their page for several months online, I finally made the leap and bought the 28 Day Jumpstart ebook from their website, which included full meal plans and at-home workout plans. I took my before pictures while holding my sign with the phrase “Operation Self Love” to enter into their monthly prize giveaways. I really wanted to win an Amazon gift card y’all! I eventually did too, 4 months into my Fit Girl’s Guide journey.
After finding Fit Girl’s Guide, I finally learned how to properly fuel my body with the food I eat. I also become much stronger through their fitness routines. Currently, I go through periods where I take “treat yo self” a little too far. But I was able to maintain and continue my overall progress over three years because I learned to find my balance while eating healthy 80% of the time and allowing myself to splurge on indulgences the other 20% of the time.
Eventually, I needed something different, so I created an at home 8 week long fitness program called Slay at Home, which helps people implement fitness and exercise into their busy routine. You can check it out by clicking HERE !
2. Find Your Tribe
Find people who clap for you when you’re winning. Surround yourself with people who help and encourage you to keep growing. As a teacher, many of my coworkers become closer than family. I’m blessed to have like-minded people in my life who inspire me, check on me, and encourage me to keep growing. They are there to hike with me, go for a jog, or even to go get drinks when we need to relax and vent about life. I’ve learned over the years the importance of doing a pulse check and asking yourself if the people in your life are uplifting you or draining you? Let go of the toxic people in your life. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
I’ve realized that I worked so incredibly hard and owe much of my personal growth to myself. However, there is one key ingredient that I could not do without. That is the community of women that are my tribe. On my old fitness Instagram account, I had gained over 13,000 followers within three years. The extra accountability was super motivating. The encouragement and inspiration from so many people is truly what keeps me going. There is something so powerful about women coming together for the sole purpose to encourage and empower each other.
Through Instagram, I have met so many amazing women who have become my real life best friends. From attending a 5K in Chicago together, yoga in the park in Nashville, to drinks at a bar in San Antonio… there is never a dull moment when I get together with my “online” friends, and it feels like we have known each other forever.
3. Live Your Life
Honestly what truly helped me was by first working on having a healthier relationship with food. I did this by paying attention to how I felt after eating certain foods and learning what foods make me feel energetic and good inside. Then I started looking at exercise differently. I used to view it as punishment from eating too much by working out for literally hours on cardio machines. Instead of punishment, I began viewing exercise as a privilege and a blessing. Instead of “ugh I have to workout,” I replaced it with, “I have the ability to workout, and I want to make myself feel good with an endorphin and adrenaline rush, so I am choosing to work out!” Little changes like that over time led to HUGE mindset changes about my body. Also, I threw away my scale and measuring tape. Instead, I track my progress by how my clothes fit and how my energy and mood feel. I definitely have days where I am in a dark place mentally, but overall I have a much healthier mindset and no longer struggled with the eating disordered thoughts that formerly consumed my entire life.