I thought I would start my blog to showcase that I am not perfect. Yes I am a personal trainer and I have a "little" body, but that doesn't mean I haven't struggled and still I don't struggle. In this post, I will highlight my past experiences that have led me to where I am today. I am a human like everyone else. I have been to intimidated to start programs. I have suffered from poor body image. I have manipulated my diet and exercise in appalling ways to obtain the ideal body.
Often times clients will ask me why I decided to become a personal trainer, usually I will give a vague answer like "well I got a degree in Exercises Sport Science and while at University decided I love all things fitness as well as helping others with their fitness goals. While this textbook answer is cute and clean it doesn't showcase the reality behind what got me where I am today.
One of the things holding most people back from starting their fitness journey is feeling intimidated to be around others that are fitter, skinnier, more muscular...in a nutshell better than them. The root of this intimidation comes from low-self esteem/poor body image. While I may not have the same story as you, I bet ya the emotional components that held me back are similar to yours.
I didn't come from a background of being overweight (ok I ALMOST got into husky pants in 5th grade but that's beside the point). But I do come from a background of feeling insecure in my body and making unhealthy lifestyle choices to try to mask these insecurities.
When I was a kid, I had a high level of social anxiety, I was so afraid of rejection that I would not talk to someone unless they were in my tight circle of friends or family. This caused me to miss out on many relationships and experiences. One of the first things that helped me was starting Taekwondo in 6th grade. It wasn't an easy start though. I sat in the car on the first day telling my mom I wouldn't go in, I was intimidated and scared of what they would think of me. Eventually the instructor actually came out to the parking lot and pretty much dragged me in the front door. At the time I was embarrassed but I don't know where my life would have taken me if that instructor hadn't pushed me. I decided I liked being involved and working towards a goal, moving my body in new ways gave a girl with no confidence something to look forward to.
While Taekwondo did help my social anxiety, around that same time I started developing other issues. I started to pay more attention to my body. Many of the "cool" girls at school had all the latest trends in clothing and were starting to develop physically. Knowing that was the common denominator to being cool, I started to reflect on my own looks. Growing up, my mom didn't have much money and so I only had a couple pairs of clothes that were in fashion. And while my body was getting taller, I wasn't growing in all the right places.
But one of my friends was. I wanted to be like her so I started paying closer attention. The one thing I noticed was she didn't eat lunch., This was when I started to realize that if I wanted a great body and to be accepted, then I had to watch what I ate.
So around 8th grade I started learning nutrition facts on foods, at each meal I would start reading the serving sizes and only allow myself one serving.. By the way, one serving of cereal is seriously a joke. I think I was hungrier after eating than before I even started! But that didn't matter because I thought if I allowed myself more, to satisfy my hunger, I would gain weight.
But around this time I also started to find a passion for running. While in PE, I realized that I was one of the only ones that could run a mile non-stop. This made me feel good about myself. Normally I considered myself the clumsy one in organized sports. One of the last ones picked for kickball, the one who stood timidly in the back of the room during dogdeball. But the fact that I could beat 90% of my classmates on the track finally gave me a sense of competence. On weekends started walking to the local track to run laps. I began with a mile and every week would add another lap. By the time I got to 3 miles I was a freshman in high school.
At this point I only ran once a week on the weekends. But I saw that Track and Field was starting. That was something I'd wanted to do in Middle School but was too afraid to start. I convinced myself to signed up. But on the first day of practice I was so afraid that everyone would judge me that I went to Taco Bell with my 2 non-runner friends instead. Like my Taekwondo experience earlier, the coach of the team had to seek me out to make sure I showed up. I needed someone to kick me in the butt and keep me accountable. I went to practice the next day. Running everyday with others turned out to be one of the best things for my social anxiety. I made more friends and my body felt great the more I ran.
But right off, one of the things I noticed was that all the fast and popular girls on the team were skinny. This only reinforced my ideas that to be liked, I had to look a certain way. I continued to watch the portions of the food I ate even more. I started running more (sometimes twice a day) and eating less. By my sophomore year my weight had gone done to 110 on 5'7" frame (I have grown an inch since then). Because my energy intake was so low Aunt floo hadn't visited since I started track freshman year. I started to increase my calories a bit my second season of track (per doctor's orders) but my mind still told me I had to restrict. I had to go to bed hungry. I couldn't eat more than 300 calories for breakfast. My lunch was about 500 calories but I couldn't eat again until dinner. When I binged (which was quite often, because I was always starving), I would make myself exercise excessively to burn it off. At the time I wouldn't admit it but this was an eating disorder.
Me Today @ 140lbs
My Junior Year @115lbs
Many people, especially women have a poor body image. We are told through society what is a acceptable. The more we look at perfect images of others and then look to find those same idealized characteristics in ourselves and don’t find them, the worse we feel about ourselves.
For me feeling discontent about how I measured up to others led to anorexic and bulimic tendencies. For others, these negative emotions may led to binge eating, using steroids, and extreme fad diets.
The key to healing is learning to accept our bodies, and understand that physical appearance says little about our character or value as a person. We all come in different shapes and sizes and that's ok. For me, this has been a slow process over the last 12 years. I slowly started letting my body eat what it needed and exercising not to burn calories and feel exhausted, but to feel strong and accomplished. I have found that adding weights into my workouts and learning to become an intuitive eater has helped immensely. I have also found that it helps spending time with people that have a healthy relationship with food, exercising , and their bodies. This is my husband. It was around the time I met him that I started to realize that my happiness does not come from my body size, he loved me for the person behind the body. Even today I still struggle, I have negative thoughts, some days I eat way too much and other days I catch myself trying to compare my body to others. But it has gotten a lot better.
When I reflect back over the years, I realize that losing weight has not made me happier. Learning to keep my body healthy and strong and able to do the things I love has. Having someone there to push me to become a stronger person has been one of the biggest impacts in my life (from my Taekwondo instructor to track coach to my husband). Without them I would never have grown to be the strong, more confident person I am today. This is why I became a personal trainer. It's my turn to help others on their own journey.