How gaining weight has HELPED me be a better health coach
"The truth of the matter for me is this: I don't want to eat flaccid broccoli and cold chicken out of Tupperware containers for the rest of my life...and you probably don't either."
I've grappled with body image issues and food obsession since I was in my late teens. I started dieting in college. I've ridden the eating disorder merry-go-round, experiencing anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating disorder. For the past ten years I've been gaining and losing the same 10 to 15 pounds. My story is not special. My experience isn’t out of the ordinary.
Currently I'm on the up-side of that extra 15 pounds. This is tough enough as a woman in our “lean-loving” society, but as a personal trainer and health coach, I find it even more difficult to navigate this in a constructive way. I have always felt that I need to "look the part": be super-fit, lean, sexy, and put-together. Part of my identity is tied to my appearance. I believed that my looks were my greatest asset in attracting clients.
Gaining weight and being downright tired of the restrict/binge diet cycle has forced me to re-evaluate how I view health, how I eat, train, live, parent, and also how I coach.
Sadly, the truth about the fitness industry is that appearance does seem to matter. A lot. The most ripped and lean trainers - even the ones with zero education in nutrition or exercise science - have the biggest followings and are making the most money. Please don’t get me wrong...I’m not shaming women (or men) who have achieved amazingly athletic physiques! It takes an enormous amount of hard work and dedication to get to 16% body fat or below. I can appreciate and admire their achievements because there was this one time that I attained “super lean” status for like 5 minutes. So I know what it takes to get there.
I also openly admit that I have been guilty of using the same shady business marketing and promotion tactics (i.e. before/after photos, bathing suit photos, etc). Check out my home page. See that photo? I starved for eight weeks and worked out twice a day to look that way!
That’s the part that has begun to bother me (and is at least partially responsible for my dive back into the trenches of disordered eating and thought patterns): the false image that I, and so many other health professionals project, that's simply not real, not maintainable, and causes more problems than it solves.
It's really easy to take a fabulous photo, post it to social media, and imply that you can look like me if you just take X supplement or work out for 15 minutes a day using my "proven" exercise formula...while conveniently omitting the information about how much work (and deprivation) it actually takes to look that way. For the average woman with two or three kids, a job, a house, a husband, and less-than-ideal genetics, it's just not the truth.
The truth of the matter for me is this: I don't want to eat flaccid broccoli and cold chicken out of Tupperware containers for the rest of my life (and you probably don't either). I don't want to skip meals or eliminate entire food groups. I don't want to fear the carbs in kale. I don't want to refuse cupcakes that my daughter baked especially for me. I don't want to forever decline wine, and dessert, and BBQ sauce. I don’t want to be the “downer” at parties, at dinners out with friends, or at family functions. I don't want to run for an hour at 5 AM, squat a PR at 3 PM, followed by more running at 4 PM. I no longer want to project an image that I can't maintain and one that's a lie.
I love fitness and I take care of myself. But I also have a life. A life that involves baking with my daughter, and drinking wine with my parents when they come over for dinner, and eating burgers on (gasp!) white buns, and eating fettuccine Alfredo on date nights with my husband, and sometimes sitting on my ass all day watching Super Cooper on YouTube.
This also means that my natural and healthiest weight is about 15 pounds above the ideal that I hold in my head. Despite the fact that I still struggle to accept this, it has helped me be more realistic about what really matters to me. It has also helped me be a better mom, wife, health coach, and trainer because I am proof positive that having abs doesn't equal happiness, health, or a balanced lifestyle.
Maybe it's the extra 15 pounds talking, but I've had quite a change of heart about what it means to be healthy...and my website, blog, social media posts, photos, and programs will soon reflect my evolving definition of health, and my fresh mission to help women release themselves from chronic starvation and deprivation diets, binge eating, and self-hatred. I want to show women that they can achieve a weight that is natural and healthy for them, they can love and be happy with their bodies, and they can improve their relationship with food. It is possible!
Important note: Eating disorders and body dysmorphia are serious issues and can be life-threatening. If you are struggling with disordered eating or body image issues, I encourage you to seek help!