My Journey to Wellness
My journey to wellness was long. Long and rough. I didn't eat well as a child and was never really encouraged to. I didn't think about what I was eating much. Which is how it should be. No child should have to worry about what they are eating. There was a problem though. My diet was filled with lots of meat and dairy and far too many simple carbohydrates. Weight started to pack on around the age of 10. By age12 I weighed what I weight now at 34. I knew I wasn't as skinny as other girls, but I didn't really care until I reached middle school. That's really when my personal body shaming started. I would look at myself, then look at my friends and think " why can't I look like they do? " So I started running with my brother and stopped eating red meat. I remember he use to make me run backwards and would push me to run faster. Though it was tough, I loved these moments together. My brother was attractive and so very cool. I felt special when we were together. In high school I joined the cheerleading squad and dance team. Though I was decent at both I never felt pretty enough or skinny enough to be really confident. I would look at other girls and think "why can't I look like that?". You can see a pattern building. I had braces and really bad acne in high school. This didn't help. Though I was well liked and had a lot of positive things in my life, I never felt attractive. I didn't have boys calling me and I never had a boyfriend till college. Oh college. College was a series of ups and downs. Emotionally and physically. My first year in college was a blast. In fact it was so fun that by the last day of my first semester I had put on quite a bit of weight. I lost weight that summer...only to gain it back the next year. I lost weight again that next summer..only to gain it back the next year. That next summer I tried the Atkins diet. I lost 15lbs in 3 weeks. Guess what, I went back to school and by the end of that year I gained 35 lbs. In college I tried a lot of quick dieting methods. They all worked. They all were not sustainable. I always put back on the weight I lost and then some. I ate well during the days I wasn't hung over. Since I went out drinking 4 days a week, my days of healthy eating were few and far between.
By my early twenties things went from bad to worse. My sister was graduating from high school so we had a big party for her at my mom and stepdads house. I was wearing this backless top and thought I looked decent for the party. The next week my mom gave me some photos from the party. I was eating cheese and crackers on my couch as I was going through the pictures. I was mortified. I thought I looked terrible. I hadn't seen pictures of myself in a while. This was before smart phones and before I was really active on social media. I was so mortified and ashamed of the way I looked that it made me physically ill. I ran to the bathroom and threw up. This was the start of a long battle with the eating disorder Bulimia.
Bulimia took hold of me for years after the first incident. Nobody knew I was struggling. I hid it very well. I often purged in my car so no one would see/ hear me. Things got so bad that I would bring a plastic bag in the shower with me and purge in there. That way no one would hear me. Bulimia took hold of me like a drug. If I felt like I ate too much or if I weighed myself and the scale read over 141 lbs, intense anxiety would take hold. I couldn't focus, I couldn't hear, my vision would become blurry. At the time the only way I knew how to relieve the anxiety was through purging. I started to get a few compliments on how I looked. This only fueled my disorder. I had a lot of negative things happening in my life during this time. It felt like food was the one thing I could control. After a night of heavy drinking I finally told a friend about what I was doing. I asked for help. I begged for it. In the morning I pretended like nothing ever happened. Sadly so did she. For a while I was upset about this fact. I was also upset that she talked to my other core group of friends about it and they all did nothing. I felt like they didn't care about me. This just fueled my sense of unworthiness. Down further I went. Little did I know, that they didn't know how to approach me. I wasn't too thin by any means and I never brought it up again. I only found out about how they all felt years later. It's not an easy thing to bring up to people. I was good at lying about. That's the thing with eating disorders, they are very personal and secretive. I wasn't ready for help at that point. If I was I would have reached out again. Did I need help-yes. Would I have taken it - I don't know.
In 2008 I started dating Sean, my now husband. In time he found out about what I was hiding. He didn't let me NOT talk about it. Later that year we moved out to OR. This was a hard transition for us. I had family and friends there but he knew no one. Nothing went as we had planned. While living in Portland I started running. I would run 2 laps around a park near our apartment. We lived close to a food co-op and a Trader Joes. I became a vegetarian and started to eat real wholesome foods. Physically I was feeling great. I had went long periods of time without purging. Then, Sean broke up with me. He decided to move out 3 days later. He was moving back to Minnesota. Down I went. Feelings of not being good enough filled my head. Sure enough he did leave, though he didn't head back to MN right away. He spent time traveling up and down the coasts of WA and OR. He spent time in the woods and even came back to Portland for a concert.
I went to the beach with some girlfriends to get away from the sadness I was feeling. We went to a bar and I realized I just wasn't interested in any guy there. I wanted Sean. I called him in the middle of the nigh( yep potentially that crazy drunk ex-girlfriend! ha). Oddly enough he was just outside of Portland. I hadn't talked to him since he moved out. He said he felt the same way and decided to head to the beach to get me ( never saw that coming). A month or so later we moved back to MN together. For a while my eating disorder would be at bay. Whenever I was stressed it would come back. I knew I needed help. During my annual physical I told my physician about my problems with food. She got me in contact with the eating disorder clinic in Fargo. They had a 3 month wait. 3 months! I needed help NOW. There was a study being conducted from the University of Minnesota. If I got approved for the study I could get treatment right away. I was approved for the study and started twice weekly therapy appointments. After a couple months this went to one appointment a week. During this time I started training for my first half marathon. It was a goal I had since living in Portland. I also met the fabulous intuitive psychic Jodie Harvala. I met her at a holistic expo in Fargo. She read me dead on. She is amazing. She recommended meditation. I started to go to her Wed night meditation classes whenever I could. Through this combination of counseling, running/yoga, and meditation I was beginning to get ahold of this disorder. I was able to deal with my anxiety about food. I started to feel positive and strong. I was eating REAL food and loving it. I was beginning to feel like my true self. It wasn't an easy battle. I lost the fight many times. I just kept going back to my breath and journaling out my feelings. I kept going back to real food. I kept meditating. I kept running. I didn't quit on myself. While in treatment I lost about 20 lbs. So through treating my body and mind with love, I became healthier and happier.
In 2011 Sean and I moved to Missoula, MT. This was the best decision I ever made. We had many ups and downs there as a couple. We didn't really have a support system there or even many friends. We really had to deal with our own shit and each others shit We started to get really into running, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and cross country skiing. We started to eat even better foods than before. We cooked a lot. We started a garden. I got really into yoga. But when things between Sean and I were rocky or if I got stressed from work, poof I would purge. There was one year when I would only eat a smoothie for breakfast, a smoothie and either veggie slices or a hard boiled egg for lunch, and whatever I wanted for dinner. I did yoga 3-5 days a week. We skied the other days. I got down to 116 lbs. which for me is not a healthy weight. It's a weight that I got down to by starving myself. I told myself I was okay because I was eating healthy foods. Sure I was eating healthy foods, but in an unhealthy way. In 2014/2015 I started to eat a little bit of whole muscle meats again. I would feel guilty after every bite. I realized my vegetarian lifestyle was actually turning into a fear based issue. I was afraid to eat meat. Not because of the moral issues around eating meat but because I had the fear that it would make me gain weight. So much of who I thought I was at the time was based on the fact that I was a vegetarian. Now I was eating meat. Who am I? What will people think? The fact is my body was craving meat at the time because I was training really hard for a full marathon. I wasn't supporting it properly through vegetarian sources. In time I found that my body felt at it's best with minimal whole muscle meats, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limited dairy products if any. I began to have an aversion to the "veggie meat" products. I switched to just making whole muscle meats or using real vegetables/grains/beans to make my own substitutes. In time I found balance. Balance between mind, body, and spirit.
I have always been a big fan of nature and being outside. Our time in MT helped me realize that exercise can be fun. A walk to the store, a bike ride to work, a hike up the river, a climb to a mountain top. We could move our bodies and enjoy ourselves.Our bodies were meant to move and they love to do so. I use to make time to workout and then after that I wouldn't really move much. Living in MT our lives became much more active. We wouldn't use our car all the time. We biked a lot. We walked a lot. We always made a commitment to move and have fun on our days off. After work we would cross country ski or mountain bike. It didn't feel like exercise. It didn't feel forced. We found that we felt less stressed and happier. We were both getting strong while having a blast. It was during this period of time that I felt the most connected to who I really was. Who I had been all along but forgot about. Being so close to nature and spending regular time outside helped me connect to a source of energy that made me feel alive. That may sound weird since I was alive already...but truly ALIVE! Checking out from chaos and negativity helped calm my mind. I could really be here and now. I could practice mindfulness. I could have fun while burning calories. I didn't care what I looked like. I cared how I felt. I pushed my physical limits. I got over fears. I felt connect to all living things. I felt magic. I wanted to encourage others to get outdoors and see what power it had on them.
I decided to learn more about holistic nutrition and wellbeing. I started the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition distance education program. Since a mind, body and spirit approach to health had helped me, I wanted to share that message with others. I also realized how much conflicting information is out there. Meat or no meat? Dairy or no dairy? Are eggs good for you or bad for you? Should everyone eat gluten free? What about nightshade vegetables? High fat vs low fat. High carb vs low carb. I even found conflicting evidence in my studies. What I came to understand was one diet does not fit all. The only thing that does fit all is that as humans we are suppose to eat REAL food. It was a great program and I learned a lot. It solidified my feelings that the best way to lasting health was through REAL food , a calm mind that is able to deal with life's ebbs and flows, body movement, and most importantly a life filled with FUN.
Here we are in 2018. We just had a baby in June of 2017. We decided to move back to MN to be closer to a support system. Though we miss MT every single day, the support we get here has relieved lots of unwanted stress. We have found lots of new places to explore. Our road to wellness took time. I needed to learn about myself and what I wanted out of life. I spent a lot of time writing in my journal. I meditated a lot. I practiced mindfulness. I asked myself questions about what truly brings me happiness. I disappointed some people. At times I disappointed myself. All we can do is grow from life's lessons. We live our lives now with the goal of having fun. We get outdoors as often as we can. We fill our plates with lots of colorful whole foods. We take time to ourselves to fuel our own passions. We respect life's ebbs and flows. We still enjoy a burger and a beer.