Self-discovery, ahh. To some, it may sound like a woo-woo, impractical, how-do-I-even-do-that topic. But in reality, we're ALL born as our authentic selves. And at the core of who we really are, we are still that person.
But over years and years of conditioning, we're exposed to different things that teach us how to be a different version of ourselves. We're taught that this way is better than that, and that in order to be accepted as a normal member of society, we have to do this and that to be loved and valued.
While I could spend years talking about this, today I'm just going to focus on body image, confidence and how my views of myself and my work have changed over the years.
Why I Started Dieting
When I was in high school, I was a dancer.
I danced for multiple hours per day and literally ate any/everything I wanted. There were no limits and I did not think too much nor stress about the food choices I was making. I was naturally thin, thanks to a fast metabolism, my activity levels, and probably the fact that I'd never dieted before (chronic dieting can throw off our body's natural set point - the more we diet, the harder it is to lose weight).
So, naturally, I continued with my same habits my freshman year of college. Except I wasn't dancing at all, and my only form of exercise included a mile run once a week or 30 minutes on the elliptical here and there.
I gained 15-ish pounds at that point and decided I needed some help from an outside source, so I hired one of my guy friends from high school who was a personal trainer.
STILL, I was eating a LOT. My choices were healthy, but not deprived. I loved the feeling of being strong, healthy and fit, and having someone there to hold me accountable.
But the more and more I fell in love with health and fitness, the more obsessed I became.
I would spend hours upon hours researching health, fitness, the best way to lose weight and diet. I started meticulously counting calories because that's what an article told me to do and ensured it was the 'fastest way to get to my goal weight of X pounds, just like this fitness model!'
And while I continued to shrink down to fit this 'fitness model' standard that I was reading so much about, I realized my happiness did not increase.
In fact, the more obsessed I became, the more unhappy I became. Good enough was never enough. I always wanted more - better results, RIGHT NOW - which is what brought about my binge eating disorder.
My Eating Disorder
I would deprive SO MUCH during the week, that my body was actually starving and I couldn't control myself around food on the weekends.
And as time went on (I went through this for about two years), it would just get worse and worse.
Whenever I became stressed out, the only way I knew to cope was by numbing myself with food. I would stuff down my feelings, quite literally, and spend the whole next day over-exercising to 'make up for it.'
And while I never ended up 'overweight' by societal standards (thanks to the fact that I was starving myself during the week...), I felt disgusted with myself. I was full of shame, full of fear that I'd gain weight.
And when you spend SO MUCH TIME focusing and obsessing over food and exercise, you have NO TIME to focus on your true gifts, passions and how you can be of service to the world.
How My Relationship With Food Affected My Career
This part is really hard for me to admit, because I'm a bit embarrassed of the fact that I let an obsession with food (or lack thereof) distract me and take away from something that I was supposed to be 'in love with' and teaching you all about.
Because I was so obsessed with shrinking my body, my voice and my internal knowing of who I am also shrank.
If you've followed me for a while, you know all of this started with a blog I started in 2012, called Health Nut Julie.
I started that blog when I was just discovering my interest in health and fitness, and I'd share everything I was learning: workouts, recipes, diet tips and tricks, etc.
At the time, I had a really good handle on all of it - or so I thought. Until the shit hit the fan and I started to become obsessed.
Here's the honest truth: when I was in the darkest depths of my eating disorder, I let that completely consume my life. I stopped blogging because I thought to myself, "HOW ON EARTH can I possibly teach people about health and fitness, when I can't even get a handle on it myself? How am I going to preach balance, happiness and overall wellness to people when I spend my days obsessively tracking my calories and nights stuffing so many pretzels in my mouth that I want to throw up?"
And the worst part is, I couldn't convince myself that I'd ever be OK.
I couldn't convince myself that I was worthy of sharing my message.
I thought that sharing my struggles made me weak, and that no one would understand or see me as an authority in health and fitness anymore.
So I stopped blogging. I stopped sharing as much. I'd only talk about the 'good days' or past struggles, not what I was currently going through.
How I Recovered
I wish I could tell you there was one defining moment where I decided, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" and I just stopped bingeing and started blogging and all was well in the world.
But it wasn't as black-and-white as that.
It was a series of people (angels, I'd like to call them) that came into my life at different periods and reassured me that I was normal and this was OK.
I'll never forget meeting one of my dear friends, Emily, who came up and introduced herself to me after one of my group exercise classes. We went to a CPR course together because she was also getting her personal training certification at the time, and on the way back we both opened up about our struggles with bingeing. That was the first time I felt like I wasn't alone. Seeing someone else who seemingly 'had it all together,' ALSO struggling in the same way I was, made me feel heard and understood.
Or the time when a guy friend from my gym took notice that I was super thin, and he sat down and had a serious conversation with me about becoming stronger and eating more.
Because of those people (and through lots of prayer, affirmations, etc.), I felt comfortable sharing my struggles and my journey again.
I started eating more, and shifted my focus on getting stronger - both physically and mentally.
I wasn't always 100% confident in my message, though, because I thought a huge reason people followed me was for *~health and fitness~* inspiration... so how could I NOT talk about dieting, counting calories, macros, etc.?
Where I Am Now
It's been a long journey of traveling back to who I authentically am at my core, and becoming comfortable sharing that message.
Here's what I know to be true now:
- I don't have to shrink down and be a certain size (that's probably unattainable and unrealistic for me, anyway) in order for people to respect what I have to say and listen to my message.
- Diets fucking suck. They're a bandaid solution to an open-wound problem. Instead of going on another diet, ask yourself, "WHY am I doing this in the first place?" Because if it's love and acceptance you're seeking, you'll won't magically find it once you get to an 'ideal weight' you made up in your mind. I know from experience.
- You can love yourself how you are - every part of you - while working to improve. THIS IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE. You can take an honest assessment of your current situation and objectively say, without judgment, "OK. I know I don't feel my best - how can I fine tune my eating habits and dial it in so that I can have more energy, clarity and focus for what REALLY matters in life?"
- Self-love does not mean that you have to love every part of yourself. Do I look in the mirror and go WOW, I LOVE YOU, CELLULITE!!!... no. But I've gotten to a point where I accept that it's just a few bumps on my leg: it doesn't define who I am as a person, how great of a coach I am, or make me any less qualified to share my voice and my message.
Friend, I hope you'll join me on this new journey.
My message and my voice is becoming authentically clear.
If you jam with this blog post, you'll like what's to come.
If not, that's cool, too :)
But always know this is a safe space to come back to where you won't be judged. You can love your body - eat foods that nourish it and move in a way that feels good to you because YOU'RE WORTH IT.
And after you've started and failed at another diet, I'm always here to remind you that there's a better way: a way to eat mindfully and intuitively; listen to your true, authentic self; and let your bright light shine in this world, because you deserve to share it, and the world needs to hear it.