This week I have the privilege of being the featured coach on Everyday Inspired. I’m talking to them about the disparities between being healthy and being fit, and that they are not always congruent. Today I shared my story and I thought I’d share it here as well, because if I can help even one person avoid my experience, I will be fulfilled.
This transformation is not about physique. On the left I was fit, but I was very unhealthy, mentally and physically. On the right is me now, finally living in the middle and experiencing the benefits of being BOTH healthy and fit.
Ideally, health and fitness should occur simultaneously, but in our image-driven society, we place so much emphasis on physical appearance that true health often gets neglected. The opinions of health professionals often contradict those of fitness professionals, which leads to a lot of confusion and extreme ideals. Fitness and health are not the same. In order to be truly healthy, you should be somewhat fit, but as I was on the left, it’s very common to be fit but extremely unhealthy.
As a health and fitness coach, it is my mission to help women elevate their lifestyle to achieve health, improve their fitness, and find confidence in their body. The message of my brand is “Live Longer. Live Stronger” because I feel that taking that approach is the best way to achieve both health and fitness.
I want to start by first telling you my story, as I was the perfect example of someone who’s health and fitness were not in sync. I grew up an athlete. I was always playing sports, challenging my body, focusing on things like speed, strength, agility, and flexibility. I never once thought about what my body looked like, I only cared about what it could do. I loved movement and embraced being able to “hang with the guys” because I was physically capable.
In high school, I signed up for Strength and Conditioning class and walked into the first day of class to realize I was the only girl in the class and was surrounded by the football team. I dropped the class because I was embarrassed, so I just started lifting on my own at the gym. I wasn’t super serious about it, but I enjoyed going with friends or going just to clear my head.
In college, things started to change. I wasn’t playing sports and I was eating a ton of dining hall food and just having a good time. Slowly my clothes started to get tighter and I was getting comments daily about having a “nice ass”. Then one day my ex-boyfriend made the comment “where’d your abs go?” and I was taken aback because I didn’t even know I ever had abs, let alone that they were now gone. Little did I know, I had gained 25 pounds in about 6 months. I hadn’t noticed any changes in my appearance, but I knew that I didn’t feel healthy anymore, so I started working out in the school gym and lost the weight without really trying. I continued to work out because I saw the difference it made in my body and in the way that I felt, but as I continued, I became obsessed. I thought that having my abs back would keep my boyfriend interested in me. Not only that, but now my body felt like it was the one thing I had control over during a time when everything else was uncertain.
I started following fitness models and physique competitors and saw that they all had washboard abs, so that image became my definition of fit. I had abs, but I didn’t have a 6-pack, so I didn’t think I was fit enough. I started tracking my calories, which lead to meticulously tracking my macros, which lead to purging through exercise and chewing and spitting my food. I had developed a very disordered relationship with food, training, and my body. I even signed up for a bodybuilding competition so I had an excuse to perpetuate my disordered habits. I didn’t meet all of the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder, but I certainly fell on the extreme side of disordered eating. It consumed my life.
I struggled with this for about 2 years; I was depressed, I was anxious, I felt out of control, and my body was hating every bit of it. I looked fit, so I thought I was healthy, and I was eating healthy foods, so everyone else thought I was healthy, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I had destroyed my health and I still suffer the consequences every single day. I have a terrible digestive system. I have a dysfunction with my ear canal due to losing the fatty tissue surrounding it. Although I am recovered from the disorder, and I have a healthy mindset, my physical body is still recovering.
This experience is what drove me to start my business, so that I can prevent others from going through that. Body image issues and eating disorders are rampant, and sadly I don’t see it slowing down any time soon. So I’m on a mission to spread awareness of what true health is and show what realistic fitness looks like, where health is at the forefront and aesthetics are just a side-effect.