This Article Just Made Me Dislike “The Biggest Loser” Even More

I’ve had a personal dislike for the show “The Biggest Loser” for several years now, (mostly because I have bad memories of watching it during my anorexia and being “inspired” to workout harder and restrict my calories even more), but it’s this kind of inside information that confirms just how awful things are behind the scenes.

biggest loser

READ THE ARTICLE HERE:

http://nypost.com/2015/01/18/contestant-reveals-the-brutal-secrets-of-the-biggest-loser/

I know a lot of people find it exciting or inspiring to watch the contestants lose weight so quickly, but please read this article and recognize that they are NOT doing it in a healthy way.

Eating less than 1000 calories a day and exercising for 4-5 hours is NOT healthy, period. Forcing yourself to exercise while suffering from a serious muscle tear is horrible for your body. And if your hair is falling out and you’ve lost your menstrual cycle, ladies, that’s your body screaming at you to take better care of yourself.

And what irks me (probably more than anything else) about this show, is all the fat-shaming that takes place by the trainers — both on and off-screen. Fat-shaming is NOT a helpful way to motivate people to lose weight.

As a health coach and personal trainer, I often have to be very upfront with my obese clients about the long-term health dangers they may face because of their extra weight, but there is NEVER a reason to call someone names or shame them because of their size. This has got to stop.

If you need to lose weight, please find a professional who will help you do it in a HEALTHY, long-lasting way that encourages your self esteem and confidence! 

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A Letter to Mothers about Body Image

Several weeks ago, I met a girlfriend at Starbucks for some coffee and conversation. (Two of my favorite things.) We were relatively new friends and didn’t yet know a lot about each other, so we began talking about where we grew up, our sports and hobbies during high school, and where our lives had taken us since then. My new friend had read a little bit of my blog and began to ask me about my eating disorder and journey of recovery. After I shared for a little bit, she chimed in and expressed to me that she too had battled an eating disorder throughout her college years. starbucks

There’s often an instant connection, it seems, between two people that have both gone through much the same battles in life. You understand each other in a way that’s only possible because you have similar scars; similar memories, similar struggles and, hopefully, similar triumphs. 

As my friend shared with me her own journey and story, she paused for a sip of coffee, and I took that opportunity to ask, “So, what would you say was your first exposure to a obsessive relationship with food? What were some of the factors that caused you to become worried about your weight and body image?”

She didn’t hesitate, tracing circles on the table with her finger as she replied, “Well, even when I was only 6 or 7 years old, I remember my mom always talking about being on a diet, and she never seemed happy with her body.”

My heart sank as I thought about what that must have been like for my friend to grow up hearing such obsessive messages about weight and size. This mother probably didn’t mean to negatively influence her daughter’s body image, but sadly, she did. And what grieves my heart even more, is that I’d heard this same opening line countless times before.

In my health coaching business, I often meet with young women who are in recovery from an eating disorder. Everyone’s story is unique in various details, but often there are recurring themes that stand out to me from these conversations. And one of those themes that blares repeatedly out at me is how a mother’s relationship with food, body image, and weight makes a enormous impact on her daughter’s values in these areas.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that a client or friend has started off their story with a comment like one of these:

“Well, my mom was always really obsessed with her body when I was growing up…”

“I remember my mom ALWAYS being on a diet…”

“My mom often went on about how much she hated her body and needed to lose weight…”

“My mom never really ate meals with us as a family; she would always just pick at stuff and talk about how she wasn’t hungry or couldn’t eat what we were eating because she was on a diet.”

I haven’t been a mother, so I don’t pretend at all to have this figured out. I don’t know how to raise a daughter with good body image and I wish there was a manual or book that would give us all some step-by-step instructions.

True confession: I’m terrified sometimes to think about raising my own daughter one day in a culture that bombards her constantly with pressure to be a size 2 or have a certain hourglass figure. I want with all my heart to be able to protect her from the obsession, compulsion, and pain that I’ve experienced because of my eating disorder. I wish there was some guaranteed method that would ensure our daughters grew into well-adjusted young women with positive body image and a healthy relationship with food. But there’s not.

nothing wrongIt was drizzling rain on my way home from the coffee shop that day, my heart heavy as I thought about this cycle of mothers and daughters in exhausting battles with body image and weight.

As I sat at a red light with the rain pattering against my windshield, I began to make mental note of some things I would share with mothers if somehow given the opportunity. I didn’t have it in me to cry that day; I just wanted to be able to vocalize the frustration in my heart, and a mental letter seemed to give me that outlet.

One of my former clients was told by her mother when she was 8 years old that she was fat and needed to lose weight. Another young women I corresponded with over email said that her mom put her on a diet at the age of 10 because she thought her daughter was getting “pudgy.”

These are the more atrocious examples of mothers making a horrible impact on their daughters’ body image, and hopefully they are the exception. I’d like to believe that most mothers probably don’t realize the impact they have on their young daughters with the words they use to talk about weight, size, and appearance. I don’t think most mothers purposefully set out to make their daughters feel awful about their bodies. It seems to me, in most cases, mothers just aren’t as aware and careful as they need to be with the seeds they sow in their young daughter’s heart.

My letter to mothers everywhere would be something like this…

“Moms, please, recognize that your daughters are listening to the things you say about your body. They notice when you make comments about needing to lose weight or being unhappy with your thighs or hips or any other part of your body.

Your daughters pick up cues and signals from you about what is attractive and acceptable and this starts at a very young age. When you refer to someone as “fat” or mention that a certain friend needs to lose weight, your daughter remembers that for years to come, even if you think she’s hardly listening to your ‘adult’ conversation.

Your daughters begin to put together their beliefs and values about weight, size, shape, and beauty when they are very young.

If you place value in being thin, attractive, and well-dressed, your daughter will naturally assume those values for herself and model her thinking after your own.

If you are always talking about needing to lose weight, your daughter picks up the message that being thin is the ideal and something that makes her more acceptable to you and to others. not your worth

This is not to say that you shouldn’t care about your health at all. It’s a fine line and a tough balance to strike, for sure. You want to encourage your daughter to be active, to take good care of herself, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem becomes when you give her the impression that her worth and value is connected to her weight and size.

Please, be aware of how your words and behaviors are influencing your daughter’s views of beauty and self-worth. Do your best to have a positive and balanced relationship with food, and if you’re battling your own disordered behaviors or body image struggles, consider getting some counseling to help you work through those things, so that you can better encourage your daughter in a positive direction.

My heart aches when I hear story after story of mothers who berate and demean their own bodies throughout their daughter’s childhood. If you’re at war with your own body, how can you expect your impressionable daughter to be at peace with hers? She’s soaking up everything she can from you about what it means to be beautiful. Help her learn that true beauty is in the heart and not the outward appearance. Encourage her to focus more on building character, being adventurous, building friendships, trying new things, and pursuing her passion. Inspire her to focus more on living life than on being the perfect pants size. Show her by your own lifestyle and attitude that weight and size are not what’s truly important. Focus on things that are about who she is, not what she looks like. Compliment her personality and character, and not just her appearance.

Love her for who she is, and communicate that to her daily. And even though you can’t guarantee that you’ll protect her from poor body image or disordered eating behaviors, you will at least set an example through your words and actions every day. In a culture that promotes discontentment and obsession with body weight and size, you have the opportunity to give your daughter an example of a woman who accepts and loves her body the way it was created and designed. Don’t underestimate the power of your example. Your little girl is watching and listening to you every day.

the way we talk

Fall Favorites, in pictures

Favorite highlights from fall 2014…

Decorating with mini gourds, pumpkins, and pumpkin candles. Love adding simple touches around our place to make it feel festive.

Decorating with gourds, pumpkins, and pumpkin spice candles!

 

Baked some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies at 7am on Halloween. May or may not have eaten cookie batter for breakfast that day. 🙂
Baking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for our neighbors

Visited the beautiful mountains in Virginia for a friend’s wedding and went on a sunrise run one morning. So peaceful and quiet out there. The cows seemed rather annoyed that I was disturbing their morning solace.

Visiting Virginia for a friend's wedding and soaking up the beautiful country scenery

A sweet client brought me pumpkin spice cupcakes one day!! Rob and I demolished these in no time.

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Loved the pumpkin spice coffee at Nadoz this year. Since I drink my coffee black, it’s fun to try various flavors to mix things up a little bit!

Drinking pumpkin spice coffee at Nadoz... (are you picking up on a pumpkin theme yet?)

 

Took our pup to the pumpkin patch – she wasn’t at all interested in the pumpkins, but loved trying to eat the hay!

Taking our little puppy to the pumpkin patch

 

I love dry erase boards on refrigerators because they give me an excuse to doodle. 🙂

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Roasted the seeds from our pumpkins and they turned out really well! I just followed a recipe I found on Pinterest and they were delicious.

Roasting pumpkin seeds from our pumpkins!

We spent lots of the warmer days at the park with Peyton, trying to burn off some of her endless energy!

Playtime at the park with Peyton

Cooked up some homemade butternut squash soup one day when I was nursing a head cold. So soothing and comforting – at least as much as soup can be. 😉

Homemade butternut squash soup - delicious!

Ran a chilly 5K race with my hubby in Kirkwood and placed 1st in my age group! The race was even called the HOPE 5K so it felt like destiny for me.  🙂

Ran a 5K race and placed 1st in my age group!

 

Lots of warm bowls of oatmeal for breakfast lately, topped with banana and peanut butter.

Lots of hot bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, with banana and peanut butter on top

 

One of my birthday presents from my parents – 3 new kinds of tea to try! My favorite is the Vanilla Caramel.

Birthday present from my parents - 3 new kinds of tea. :)

 

One of my husband’s favorite meals that I’ve been making lately: BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza. YUM.

One of Rob's favorite meals: BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza!

 

Chicken and rice soup with hearty, whole grain bread; from a cafe in Nashville.

Soup with bread...one of the best things about colder weather.

 

Hiking at Castlewood State Park with my hubby and puppy on a beautiful day!

Hiking with my hubby and puppy on a beautiful day!

Fall has been fantastic in so many ways. I’m excited to see what winter holds! 🙂

Pumpkins and Puppies… the best of Fall!

Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. I love the changing colors of the leaves, the cooling temperatures after a hot summer (especially a St. Louis summer), and the anticipation of the holidays coming soon. An added bonus is that my birthday happens to be in October, which is perfect timing: I take a short break from arranging gourds and baking pumpkin pies to eat cake and blow out candles. It works perfectly. 🙂 Fall holds so many of my favorite things, and every summer I find myself getting a little anxious around the end of August, wondering when the weather will start to cool down and the first signs of the changing seasons will appear.

IMG_0853This Fall has been especially special (that’s a mouthful) because my hubby and I welcomed a new member into our family… a sweet little 12 week old puppy named Peyton. She was abandoned and found on the side of the road with the rest of her litter and subsequently cared for by a foster mom who works with a local shelter.

We took her home with us on September 20th, and instantly fell in love. She is such a sweetheart with an incredibly fun and spunky personality. (Sometimes that “spunky personality” means she destroys our bathroom rug and leaves a nice little “present” behind to sign her masterpiece.)

Everything about fall seems even better with a puppy to share it with. Pumpkin patches, hiking through the woods; snuggling on the couch with warm apple cider. (Might I say again, fall really is the best season??!)

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The first couple weeks with Peyton felt a little like having a baby. We were always coordinating her meal times and potty times and making sure we had toys, bones, blankets, pillows, and every other amenity a puppy might desire. Some might say we spoil her, and I wouldn’t really try to argue with that accusation. From day one, she’s had us wrapped around her little finger paw. She’s definitely got a good thing going on.

IMG_1143We’ve taken her everywhere. One weekend, she went to a Jazz and Blues Festival with us; didn’t seem to be her style of music, per se, but she enjoyed smelling all the BBQ. A few weeks later, I had a mini dance party with her in the living room to PitBull and that was definitely her jam.

Whenever the weather is nice, we try to take her to a small park down the road where she can run off some of her endless energy. She’s getting faster every day and loves bounding across the field to catch one of us.

IMG_1167Raising a puppy seems like a small taste (very small) of what parenthood is like. Rob and I are always checking in with each other about how she’s doing, what she’s discovering (one day, he found her drinking water from the toilet) and I’ve definitely been reading up on dog training techniques in my free time. Of course, dog training is MUCH easier than child training, but I’m already nervous enough, having the fate of a four-legged cutie in my hands. This is good practice for real parenthood, whew.

We’ve had some scary moments, like when the incision from her spaying surgery got red and swollen (she reacted to the glue they used, apparently) and we rushed her in to the vet. Tough day for our little girl. They gave her some antibiotics, and she snuggled in Rob’s arms all the way home.

There have definitely been some frustrating times, too. Like when we went out the second week on a date night (our first time leaving her alone like that) and sat outside at a beautiful restaurant, sipping some red wine and trying not to worry about her. We came home to a house that smelled of…well, you get the gist. She’s had an explosive (sorry, TMI) accident in her crate while we were out, and also managed to walk through the whole thing. Rob and I looked at each other and he said, “You get her a bath, I’ll clean up this mess.”  (I felt like I got the better end of that deal. Hard to be mad at her when she looks so adorable, soaking wet in the tub.)

Peyton at the pumpkin patch. She tried to eat hay the entire time.

At the pumpkin patch – loved trying to eat the hay!

Despite the scary moments and the frustrating potty training experiences, Peyton has been nothing but a bundle of joy (now I really sound like a parent… 🙂 ) and we are so thrilled to have her as our little girl. Rob and I both grew up in families with dogs, so it was pretty much a no-brainer to us that we would get a puppy at some point. Peyton is such an amazing little blessing and constantly makes us laugh with her crazy antics. Like the time we were carving pumpkins and she decided to give it a taste…

So, for the near future, I’ve become that annoying person that is constantly posting photos and videos to social media about how my puppy is so adorable. No shame. She IS adorable, right?? How could anyone stare into those puppy eyes and not fall in love? 🙂

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Just a quick picture to say…

From my Instagram this morning:

cards game ice cream

“Being ‘healthy’ for me looks like this. Enjoying ice cream at a Cards game because it sounded good, and not worrying about how many calories or grams of sugar it had. After recovering from #anorexia, I have grown to love a life of BALANCE. Everything in moderation, folks!! There’s nothing fun to me about depriving myself of sweets and treats. Been there, done that, been that person eating carrots while everyone else enjoys cookies. #itsnofun 😦  I no longer try to have obsessive control over everything that goes into my mouth.  Life’s too short to miss out on things like ice cream. 🙂 I’m so thankful for my journey of #recovery and that I’ve learned to let go of the obsessions!! I feel better now – emotionally AND physically – than I ever have before. #eatingdisorder #everythinginmoderation #balance #lifeistooshort #dontmissout #iloveicecream #edwarrior #edrecovery”

Married Life and Meal Planning

Hi there!!

Can’t believe it’s already almost August! This summer has FLOWN by for me, with most of May and June focused on getting married and all the planning that came with it. We’re back from our honeymoon now, and settling in to married life. I love it!

As unbelievable as it may sound, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing, so having our own little place has been a lot of fun. I’m sure there will be days that I don’t feel like cleaning the toilets or vacuuming the carpets, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying these little chores. I haven’t had my own place since 2010 when I lived down in Dallas, so it’s fun to jump back into that – and this time, with my hubby.

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

Some of our kitchen creations so far: Roasted Broccoli, Pesto Pasta, & BBQ Chicken and Gouda Cheese Pizza

This first month and a half of marriage has been full of discoveries regarding grocery shopping, meal planning, and budgeting. My inner nerd has come out in full force, as I pore over budgeting blogs and scour the weekly ads for the best deals at each grocery store.  One week Dierbergs thought they could get me to pay $2.99 for strawberries. Little did they know, this girl reads her Aldis ad every week and got strawberries for $1.89 on sale. Aldis, 1. Dierbergs, 0.

I quickly realized about a week into married life that meal planning is a life-saver. I’ve always coached my clients to meal plan as much as possible, because it helps you avoid impulse trips to Five Guys or eating chicken pot pie every night of the week. And now I’m seeing just how much meal planning helps with budgeting, too! When I don’t have a meal plan for the week, I find myself wandering around up and down the aisles, with no idea what I’m doing. Every few steps, I take something off the shelf, look it over, try to think of a meal I could use it for, and then inevitably decide I have no use for it at all. Or, I panic because I don’t have any kind of plan and just start grabbing random things that sound good to me at the time and stuffing them in my cart. By the time I get home and start putting groceries away, I realize that nothing I bought will go together for a complete recipe. It’s not easy to make dinner with a can of kidney beans, California raisins, and macaroni noodles. Believe me.

So, the discipline of meal planning has become my friend in the kitchen. It takes a few minutes at the beginning of the week, but it’s so worth it in the end.

The way I see it, these are the top 5 benefits of meal planning:

  1. Save money by only buying the things you need for the week

    picking up milk

  2. Avoid ending up with random foods in your fridge that don’t go together. (see example above with raisins and kidney beans)
  3. Enjoy a variety of foods throughout the week and avoid getting bored with your meals.
  4. Eat healthier! By actually cooking a meal instead of scrounging around in the pantry for junk food, you can ensure that you get at least SOME veggies in your stomach every night!
  5. You won’t have to eat PB&J every night til the cows come home. (Although my husband insists that he doesn’t mind if we eat PB&J all the time, I’m pretty sure he’s just being kind. There may or may not have been one night last week where I started crying because I was so exhausted and didn’t want to cook anything for dinner…that might have prompted his PB&J comment. Maybe.)

As you can see, meal planning definitely has its benefits. However, there can be some pitfalls to this process, if you don’t know what you’re doing. (i.e. the first 3 weeks of my married life) Even though I’m rather a newbie to this whole process myself, I thought I’d share with you my tips for streamlining the meal-planning process. (that was a mouthful)

Tips for Awesome Meal-Planning:

1) Figure out which day you are going to grocery shop each week. Then, work on your meal plan a day or two beforehand. I like to meal plan on Sundays because I can look at our calendar for the week and figure out which nights I will be cooking vs. which nights we will be eating out, eating on the run, or be at a party with food.

2) Plan ahead for which nights you will have time to cook vs. which nights you will be rushed for time. If I have evening clients around dinner time, I like to do a crock-pot meal or a casserole that I can make ahead of time. This keeps us from eating at 8pm, which is what happened the first week of our marriage… oops.

3) Try to mix up your flavors and foods. This is pretty simple: don’t make chicken every night or green beans with every meal. Try a variety of meats, veggies, and flavors. As a general rule, I like to do a pasta one night, fish one night, and then fill in with chicken and pork meals.

4) Don’t make it too complicated. As much as it would be fun to mysteriously conclude, “There’s a fine art to meal planning,” …there really isn’t. It’s simple. Which is good. Pull out your cookbooks, search “dinner recipes” on Pinterest, or find a few cooking blogs you love. Ask your friends for their favorite go-to meals, and put together a binder full of your best creations. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If it’s awful, at least you can say you tried something new. If it’s amazing, then you’ve got a new favorite recipe to add to your repertoire. Can’t go wrong with that!

In closing, here are a few of my favorite resources for meal-planning inspiration:

My Pinterest Recipe Board
Real Simple Recipes
Cooking Light Recipes
A great selection of dinner recipe boards on Pinterest

Happy Meal Planning!!

pick up pizza

The Place I Go to Get Away

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The family dog and me, circa 1999

Have you ever had a special place of solace, somewhere you could go to think, or get away? It could be a quite coffee shop with comfy leather armchairs, or a wooded trail with scenic overlooks. Mine is a quaint, little park, just up the road from the house where I grew up.

My memories at this park go back to my early childhood, before the park was even a park. My siblings and I used to walk the two-tenths of a mile up the road with our friends to explore what seemed to us like a HUGE expanse of land at that very young age. The owner of the land lived in a sprawling one-story home on the property, and let the rest of it pretty much go wild. As wild as you can be in the middle of the suburbs, that is. There were a few unique features about the property, primarily the stable building and carriage house that sat a couple hundred yards away from the house, which had several actual stalls for horses – a novelty to a bunch of kids from the suburbs! And, as if that wasn’t cool enough, there was also a historic log cabin on the property that appeared unoccupied and abandoned, making it quite mysterious to our group of young adventurers.

When I was around the age of 10, the lady who owned the property passed away and there was a big uproar about what would be done with the land. I don’t remember much about it all, except that people were debating whether the land should be turned into a park or used for a new housing development instead. My siblings and I were rooting for the park to be built – a playground sounded much more fun to us than just a bunch of new houses. In fact, my entire family was pretty deeply invested in the park idea, to the extent that my mom took my sister and me to some of the city hall meetings regarding the outcome of this land. I felt pretty grown up, listening to the aldermen and townspeople discuss what should be done.

Eventually the decision was made: the land would be turned into a park. We were ecstatic. After waiting for what seemed like forever, the land was cleared and the park built, and our town held an official ribbon cutting ceremony on a hot and humid day in June.  It wasn’t long before we were up there all the time – taking the dog for walks, playing cops and robbers with our friends, and just reveling in the excitement of having our own little park. It was a pretty big event in the timeline of my childhood, to say the least.

Fast forward a few years, and the park had sadly lost its shiny new allure and become just another landmark on the drive home every day. I was about 13 years old, and was beginning to go through one of the most confusing times of my life – that terrifying transition known as “puberty.” I’m pretty sure every girl can relate to this in some form or another. All of a sudden, it seemed I’d lost complete control of my emotions and fallen prey to things like mood swings, random crying spells, and other unexplained behavior. My brother joked (years later, when I was able to laugh along with him) that he could have said “Pass the butter, please,” and I would have broken down in tears. It wasn’t quite that bad….but close.  😉

And so, I returned to that park on those days when I just didn’t want to be around anyone. On my toughest days, I would go up there just to cry, where no one could hear me.  I didn’t even know what I was crying about some of the time (oh the joys of being a girl!), but it felt good to cry it out. On the better days, I would take my journal and sit on my favorite bench to process things in my favorite way – with paper and pen.

This park was my spot. My place to get away and deal with all the crazy things I was feeling at the time. Somehow it was comforting, just sitting on my bench and being there.

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Senior year of high school

A few years later, it was my senior year of high school, when I had taken up running as a form of exercise. That park became part of my usual route. The path around the perimeter of the park was only ½ mile long, but I loved running up there, doing a few laps, and heading home. Altogether, it was about 2 miles. As I became a more proficient runner, I abandoned the park for longer routes and busier roads. I’d run 7, 8 or 9 miles at a time, sometimes to the Walgreens on Manchester Road or the seminary a few miles away, but as I ran out of my neighborhood, I always went past that little neighborhood park.

Then again, during another crisis in my life, the park reappeared as a place of solace and comfort. It was 2011 and I had moved home suddenly from India and begun treatment for my eating disorder. This park was there for me (not that the park had a choice, really…) during my recovery from anorexia, when I woke up daily at 5am to run. Obsessed about hitting at least 6 miles before I would allow myself to head home, I would often stop in to this little park to finish out my quota for the day. I remember running along that ½ mile path, thinking about my meals the day before, trying to count my calories and make sure I hadn’t gone over. I remember pushing myself to do one or two more laps, because I knew it would quiet the voices in my head and make up for any calories I’d missed from yesterday’s tally.

Months later, after many sessions with a counselor and a lot of hard work, I begun loosening up on my restriction and extreme exercise habits. But now, my battle with food took on a whole other twist. I couldn’t STOP eating. I began eating in secret, bingeing on large amounts of food, making myself sick, and being afraid to leave the house because of how “fat” I felt. In reality, I’d only gone up about 2 sizes in pants, but it happened so quickly that I was sure everyone had noticed and I felt embarrassed to even leave my house. I wore t-shirts and sweatpants whenever I could get away with it, and baggy tunic-style tops the rest of the time. I was so mad at myself for “losing control” with food and didn’t know how to stop the bingeing and weight gain.

Overnight it seemed, I’d become lazy and unmotivated. I’d completely lost my interest in any kind of exercise. It was all I could do get outside and go for a walk, but when I did, I would go up to that park, often in tears, and slowly make my way around the trail. I would mourn the long-gone days of 5am morning runs and the “high” they gave me. I missed the sense of control I used to have and the way I made my body obey me. But, looking back now, I can see that this was an important time in my recovery. During those months, I learned to exercise because I wanted to. I learned (slowly) to give up my compulsion and obsession with working out, and I gradually won the battle over binge eating. As my eating balanced out, so did my exercise routine. Now, I looked forward to those walks in the park and always felt refreshed and content as I soaked in the beauty of nature. Being outside filled me with hope, even on my toughest days. I began once again taking my Bible up to my favorite park, to read, journal, and think. I would talk to God as I walked, sometimes thanking Him for recent baby steps of progress in my recovery, other times begging Him with tears to get me through this hellish struggle. So many ups and downs, but many of them spent at that same park.

By the fall of 2012, I was in a more stable place in my recovery. I had begun to find myself again, learned to relax about my weight and diet, and found new hobbies to enjoy, now that I wasn’t obsessing about food all the time. I’d recently broken off a toxic relationship that had been feeding into my poor body image and insecurity, and I was feeling alive and free. Exercise was a part of my life, but it wasn’t my whole life. I ate a balanced variety of foods and stopped counting calories altogether.

My sister (left) and me, at her wedding

My sister was getting married, and I was the maid of honor. For once, I didn’t diet in order to feel comfortable in my dress. This was a huge step for me, and I felt the gravity of it and the progress it signified. The morning of my sister’s wedding, I woke up and realized I had about an hour until the day began with the arrival of the hairdresser and bridesmaids. I decided to walk up to my favorite park, and just enjoy the brisk, November morning. The temperature was perfect – the sun was out but the breeze made things just a little bit chilly. As I walked by the playground, I stopped to swing on the swings and go across the monkey bars, reliving all the times I’d done those things years ago.

As I left the park, I decided to run the two-tenths of a mile back to my house, but not because I wanted to burn calories; I actually just wanted to run because it felt like the best way to express the peace and happiness in my heart. As I sprinted down the road to my house, I felt like a little kid again, and the excitement of the day ahead made me giddy and free.

A year later, in 2013, I found myself in a new, much healthier, relationship with a guy. He and I went up to the park together in the evenings and made our way around the trail, often with my family’s dog in tow. We’d enjoy the sunset as we discussed our plans for the future, places we wanted to see together and things to check off of our bucket lists.

This is right before I started jumping...

This is right before I started jumping…

By the fall of 2013, he was down on one knee with a ring in his hand, and I was jumping up and down. (Literally, I started jumping and waving my hands around like a crazy person when he proposed… I’m fairly open about expressing my emotions…)

As we’ve made plans for our wedding and future life together, I’ve continued to visit this park from time to time, just to walk and think about everything happening in my life. I’m a very internal processor, so I need those times of solitude to sort through all the swirling thoughts in my head. Being outside, at that park, calms my heart and helps me relax. There are usually kids playing on the playground, who often ask to pet my dog. It feels comfortable and right, being there at that park where so many landmark moments in my life were spent.

A few weeks ago, I woke up on a Thursday morning and got ready to move my fiancé into our new place. We had an appointment to sign our lease together at 10, but I was wide awake at 7 because I was so excited. I leashed up the dog and walked to my park once again, enjoying the morning sunshine and spring breeze that felt just right. As I meandered along the path, I saw the big open field where we used to play catch or kick the soccer ball, or just run around with our childhood friends. I hollered at my dog and the two of us set off in a sprint across the field. We finished with a collapse on the other side of the field, and as I lay there in the grass, I realized how much this park has meant to me throughout my life, and the idea for this blog post was born.

Friends that know I’m into fitness have asked me if I plan to run on the morning of my big day…some even mentioned they’d heard of brides who run a race on their wedding day, which made me exhausted just thinking about it. Who knows, maybe I’ll take a quick run around the neighborhood, or maybe I’ll opt to sleep in and sip coffee on my parents’ screened-in porch. But at some time that morning, before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, I know I’ll make my way up to my little park that holds so many memories for me. Maybe I’ll be swinging on the swings or sprinting across the field. Or maybe I’ll just be sitting on the bench with my journal in hand, soaking in the excitement of the day.
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Who Keeps You Healthy?

A few weeks ago, I was approached by the American Recall Center and asked to participate in their latest campaign, “Who Keeps You Healthy?” which is a way for health bloggers, like myself, to share about the person in their lives that motivates and empowers them to be healthy. I was excited to participate in this campaign and began thinking of who in my life I would highlight in this post as the one who keeps me healthy.

My dog came to mind, because she is always eager to go for a walk, which often motivates me to get out in the fresh air. My parents have influenced my health by always having healthy, whole foods around their house and encouraging me to cook and bake since childhood. My fiancé helps me stay motivated to work out by going with me to the gym and always being up for a hike or jog at the park.  the beagle girl

However, as I thought more about all of the things that go into “keeping me healthy” I realized that the true credit for my health really goes to someone else.

I’ve been through quite a journey with my health, including a battle with anorexia, followed by binge eating, and then wrestling with poor body image for years. My weight has fluctuated a lot. I’ve gone through periods of restrictive “healthy” eating and periods of binge-ing on pizza and cookie dough. I’ve made tons of health resolutions, workout goals, and learned to give myself some grace along the way.

When it comes down to it, my health these days is the best it’s ever been, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve thought I was healthy many times in the past during my eating disorder and subsequent recovery, and I often fooled myself. But the kind of health I am living out at this point in my life is not just a healthy BMI or number on the scale, it’s a health that encompasses my emotional and spiritual life as well.

1097965_392214087544816_872314355_nThere have been many times in the past several years of my journey where I was “doing all the right things” in terms of health, but I was unhappy, stressed, hating my body, and frustrated at not being able to control my appetite and cravings. I’ve come to learn that health is so much more than just eating the right foods or getting exercise every day.

Health to me means being happy with my body, focusing on things besides how many calories I’ve eaten since breakfast or whether I worked out enough this week.  In a lot of ways, health for me is measured by how LITTLE I think (or obsess) about my health. Health for me is having a career I love, being in a nurturing relationship, and finding time to enjoy hobbies and downtime. Health is taking time in the morning to pray and be at peace, and taking time to enjoy the little things each day. It’s getting enough sleep, and letting go of worry and learning to forgive. It’s knowing when to skip a workout and read a book in the sunshine instead.

My health journey has meant letting go in so many areas, and just living life with more joy and peace. Giving up my obsessions with being skinny, learning to eat ice cream again without guilt, and finding a balanced workout routine that energizes instead of exhausts me.

And I’m not saying I’ve “arrived” at the pinnacle of health, but I’ve made so much progress from where I used to be. There were a lot of people that helped me along the way, as I mentioned above. But in the end, it was only by God’s grace that I got through the hellish trenches of my eating disorder and made it to where I am today.

1474395_10201127367930761_1712911136_n And it doesn’t end here. There are still days where I feel fat or frustrated with the size of my body. Especially since getting engaged, there have been more frequent thoughts in my head taunting me to start a diet or design a new, intense workout plan to prepare for the big day. I’ve had moments where I questioned my evening bowl of ice cream or the occasional potato chip feasts with my fiancé while watching a movie. But then I hear another voice in my head and heart, telling me to remember how far I’ve come and the work it took to get here. Reminding me that even when I was a size 0 and obsessively in control of everything that went into my mouth, I wasn’t happy.

Even when I was the epitome of a “healthy eater,” I wasn’t actually healthy. I was emaciated and depressed.

1098478_392213077544917_769335534_nThere’s no doubt in my mind that God and His grace is what has enabled me to get healthy again. And it’s His voice in my heart that keeps me healthy, gently reminding me to embrace freedom and never look back.

I’m so thankful for the many friends and family members that have been there for me throughout my journey, and above all, the faithfulness of God to lead me where I am today.

For more information on the American Recall Center, check out their website here!