I spend my days promoting health and wellness while I live the daily struggle of bulimia — a binge eating disorder. Ten years of struggle, eight years as a personal trainer, a coach and a motivator and only six months of finally being able to share my big dark hairy secret with the world.
Until recently, I believed wholeheartedly that because of the stigma around an eating disorder, sharing would impact my credibility and lead my clients, peers and friends to see me as a fraud. I believed that if I admitted to struggling with an eating disorder people would credit my physique solely to the disorder, they would definitely disregard the validity of my nutritional advice, they would forget everything I have achieved and they would squash any thoughts of me as motivational or inspirational in the process because I obviously had no will power or strength.
Once I did share, however, I realized instead how many other people are out there, fitness industry and not, who not only relate, but are desperately in need of the comfort and safety to open up about their secrets as well.
Further, thoughts of my worth as a trainer almost seemed to increase. I became more relatable because I struggle, too, because it’s not always easy and because I keep going anyway. It took my opening up to finally recognize my eating disorder may be a part of me, but it is not me. Movement and exercise however, those are both truly part of my essence, a huge part of who I am and a driving force behind my recovery. I call it Struggling Strong — sharing my battle with an eating disorder and finally being able to recognize and be proud of what I have accomplished along the way.
If I want to achieve the standard of performance I expect of myself and reach the goals I am working towards I have to earn my training sessions. I need to be properly rested and nourished, both of which are not possible when I’m not doing well. Having physical performance goals has helped to hold me accountable when things get dark in the fight against my eating disorder.
With a properly cared-for and nourished body, I have been capable of some pretty amazing things. Movement, skills and feats of strength, achieving physical goals has taught me to appreciate and build confidence in my body far beyond what it looks like. This has been a powerful piece in maintaining motivation to keep fighting the fight.
Stressors around food are still very much a thing. I often need to check myself and ask, “Why am I working out?” Is it to boost my mood? Is it because I’m excited about my current training? Is it because I feel energized and just want to? Or is it because I feel fat from a recent binge? Because I think I’m feeling guilty and “should”? But when I take the time to reflect and differentiate I am able to appreciate and benefit from my training that much more.
I’m not an eating disorders expert, just an expert on me. I do not think the solution to an eating disorder is a gym membership, just like I know better than to follow girls online who post progress pics of their abdominal muscles. Just like I know a figure competition will never be a part of my future unless I want to 100 per cent hinder my progress.
I truly believe, whatever your struggle, having a healthy relationship in and with your body is the best thing you can do for yourself. Training properly, building muscle, moving better, getting stronger and associating with people of like minds is the best means to that end.