I grew up learning that my worth was tied to my weight and the size of my body from society in general, like most young girls do. This lead to dealing with low body image from a very young age.
In high school I developed anorexia after a number of losses in a short period of time, including the death of 3 grandparents. It was another way to cope as I used food and exercise to control my body. I also lost my menstrual cycle (Hypothalamic Amenorrhea).
Shortly after high school my mom took me to a doctor who diagnosed me with anorexia nervosa. At the time I was in denial and her words made me angry. She put me on the birth control pill to regain my cycle and unknown to me I was also put on the waiting list for an eating disorder treatment clinic.
About a month later I started to struggle with binge eating. We’d moved to a new city and the combination of the pill and weight gain, caused by the binge eating, led to me regaining my menstrual cycle. At this point people thought I was better because of how I looked on the outside, but the truth was I was the worse I’d ever been mentally. I struggled with body dysmorphic disorder and even though I was still thinner than I am today, I absolutely hated my body.
For a decade I struggled with the binge restrict cycle with food and used excessive exercise to purge my binges. I lost many friendships because I held back from going out, as I was so uncomfortable in my body. I also ended up entering my first long term relationship with a guy I never would have had I loved myself and knew how to set boundaries. There was a lot of lying and manipulating, as well as talk that fed into my low body image.
This unhealthy relationship ended up lasting almost 5 years and in it I continued to struggle even more with ups and downs of depression. I began training for marathons and used my training as an excuse to exercise hours a day. When I finally got the courage to leave the unhealthy relationship I was in, I decided to also stop taking the birth control pill.
I had started getting interested in holistic health and wanted to avoid the nutrient depletion and affect synthetic hormones have on our own hormone production. As soon as I stopped taking the pill my menstrual cycle also disappeared again and I realized it had only been acting as a Band-Aid. After waiting a year, as I’d heard it could take that long for your menstrual cycle to regulate itself after coming off the pill, I finally had my hormones tested.
The doctor told me I was in early menopause at the young age of 26, that it just sometimes happens and I would have to take synthetic estrogen for the rest of my life. Naturally this didn’t sit well with me, so I got a second opinion from a Naturopathic doctor. This is when I began to learn about stress, Adrenal Dysfunction and how it can affect our hormones. I realized my desire to be thinner and pushing myself to exercise so much and restrict my food intake, had actually made me quite unhealthy.
This began my journey towards health and initially that’s what I focused on. I changed my nutrition, sleep, exercise and took supplements to support my health. The trouble was, I kept falling back into old patterns of over exercising because I still wanted to be thin. I also kept struggling with binge eating, although it did decrease, as I focused more on nourishing my body and stopped restricting.
Early on in this part of my health journey I ended up hitting a rock bottom. I experienced the worst binge-eating episode of my life that lasted a week long. I’d called in sick that whole week and at the end of it I found myself laying on my bedroom floor crying. I was done. I didn’t want to keep living this way. I couldn’t and wanted to end my life.
I feel a higher power was watching over me that night as I fell asleep instead of taking my life. The next morning when I woke up I knew I had to focus on my mindset and changing my thoughts, as well as focusing on my emotional and spiritual health. I worked hard to pull myself out of that dark place and immersed myself in all things personal growth, self-love, spirituality and mindset. I listened to podcasts, read blogs, articles and books. I wrote in my journal, meditated, practiced yoga, spent time outside in nature and really focused on self-love and changing those negative thoughts in my head.
My weight stabilized, my menstrual cycle reappeared as my hormones balanced and I began to love myself and feel comfortable in my bigger but healthier body. I started practicing vulnerability and authenticity with others and was able to start building real relationships again. I’ve seen how the struggle with food and body can affect every area of a person’s life and stop them from truly living.
This isn’t to say that I don’t ever have negative body image thoughts come up or find myself digging mindlessly into an almond butter jar with a spoon. I can say these days a few and far between now and not as severe. The big difference now is that I don’t act them and I have the tools to pause and go within, connect with my body and shift my thinking.
Having gone through this struggle and gotten to the other side, I’m passionate about helping other women break free from unhealthy relationships with food, obsessive exercise and body image issues. It fills me up to work with these beautiful souls and guide them through this process, as I know how alone and unsupported I felt at times. I know that women can make this world a better place when they step into their power and find their voice when they aren’t held back by issues with food and their bodies.