“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say because of you, I didn’t give up.”
I found this quote about six months ago and when I read it, all I could think about is how much I wanted to hear those words from someone. I realized that although I have struggled and dealt with many obstacles, I can be that inspiring person that I’ve always wanted to be. For the first time in my life, I have realized that it is unfair to be ashamed of who I really am and what has made me who I am today. I am taking the risk of having another story that is the same as so many others, but I also have the opportunity to inspire or maybe help someone build the courage to tell a friend or family with a struggle they have been dealing with. My goal is not to make people feel sorry for me, I do not want any sympathy, my goal is to help people realize how precious life is and that if you are struggling, you are not alone.
My story is honest and it absolutely terrifies me to write this, but I know that this is part of my journey. As each day continues. I get stronger, and I overcome this disease that has secretly been part of me for five years.
For years I lied to myself, as well as to others regarding my eating disorder. It wasn’t until about 2.5 years ago that I finally admitted to myself that I had a problem. Three years before that I denied that anything was wrong with me because I thought that what I was doing wasn’t that bad, especially compared to others. I knew that what I was doing to my body was harmful and unhealthy, but somehow I was able to justify my behaviour. Food was one of the only things that I felt I had control over in my life and for some reason, food started to become a comfort for me. My binges were bowls of cereal, toast with peanut butter, it was decently healthy food that I felt incredibly guilty for eating. I wasn’t eating because I was hungry, I was eating out of the desperate attempt to make food make me feel better or less lonely. Was it the years of figure skating pushed me to do this? Was it the constant pressure to be “skinny”? The fact is, my eating disorder started the year after competitive skating. At this point in my life, I was skating about 1x/week (not 5-6 like usual), I was in my first year of University, I was in a good relationship, and my parents were having an extremely rough patch in their marriage. I cannot exactly explain why I first started, but all I knew was that when I started to feel guilty for eating too much food, I sadly started to resort to purging.
I had always felt fairly comfortable with my body. I was never the extremely confident girl, but I was also never ashamed or embarrassed of my body. The summer I was going into grade 12, I was skating 5 days a week, as well as going to the gym 1-2 times a day. That summer I lost 7 pounds without trying or even realizing that I had. Eventually, coaches, as well as skating friends, started to notice that I had lost weight. Like any compliment, those people saying “you look so good” or “did you lose weight?” made me feel so good. At the time my weight had dropped to about 110-112 pounds. I stayed that weight for most of the year (I was still skating at this time). Flash forward 3 years from that time, my eating disorder began to worsen, I believed that I should still weight 112 pounds and I was upset that I was weighing approx. 118-120 pounds instead. In my eyes, I was still that 17 year old competitive figure skater that should weigh the same that I previously had. While skating with Disney On Ice in 2010/2011, we had bi-weekly weigh ins and each time I became more and more nervous that I had gained weight. I was living in Europe, doing what I love to do (i.e. skating), and enjoying each moment, but at the back of my mind, I was always worried about my body and whether or not I was going to gain weight.
Will I ever understand or know what caused me to start this? I don’t know if I ever will, but what I can say is that for years I went through it alone, hiding it from everyone I loved and knew because I was so ashamed of myself. I so badly wanted to be the girl that was strong and could never be brought down by something like this or anything for that matter. In those moments of weakness, I was embarrassed, disappointed, and extremely ashamed of what I was doing. I have been accused of having an eating disorder many times, but not once did I every admit to it because I believed I was ‘not that sick’ and I would easily get over it. Little did I know, just how much this disease was taking over my entire life. My thoughts and my emotions revolved around my body.
In the fall of 2011 (approximately 5 months after my mom had left my dad) I became deeply depressed. I was tired, I did not want to leave the house, and all I did was go to school, do homework, and go to the gym. I was not properly dealing with my parents separation and I felt very alone. I closed myself off from talking to friends, my sister, as well as my boyfriend that I was living with at the time. In November of 2011, my boyfriend and I broke up and I felt like my entire world came crashing down. Although I knew I had family and friends, in that moment, I felt like I had no one. What I did have was food, which resulted in the cycle of binging and purging to become worse. In a desperate attempt to somehow make my ex-boyfriend feel sorry for me, I built up the courage to tell him about my eating disorder. I will never forget that day because it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. When I went home for Christmas after writing finals, my mom saw how ill I looked and became very concerned. I kept telling her and my dad that I was fine, that I was just upset about my breakup and stressing over finals. Little did they know, I was barely keeping any food down at this point.
While dealing with this all, I met a girl through school, who I clicked with immediately and felt I could easily open up to, I now consider her one of my best friends. She recommended me to a psychologist and I have to admit that booking that first appointment with her was one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life. I had so many feelings and emotions about my parents separation, my breakup, and my body image issues. I currently still talk to my psychologist and I feel absolutely no shame in that. She has helped me through so much and I cannot thank her enough for all that she has done. In my eyes, no one would ever actually find out because although I was losing weight, it was not as drastic as others I know who suffered from this disease.
In September 2013 I started a workout/meal program with Jill Hanson (trainer/owner of Fidelity Fitness). When I first met with her to go over my goals and expectations, I almost shocked myself, when I admitted to her that I had struggled with an eating disorder. What I failed to mention to her was that I was still struggling with an eating disorder and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I told her about it. I remember that early on in my program, I texted Jill and was so nervous about Thanksgiving approaching. I asked her how I should approach this, do I pack my own food and stay away from everything? I will never forget what she answered because it has truly stuck with me and will for the rest of my life, “Kelsey, this is a lifestyle, you don’t need to go overboard, but also make sure you enjoy Thanksgiving”. I was so terrified that I would ruin everything I had worked towards over the past weeks in one weekend, but I soon realized that Jill was right, life is not supposed to be lived liked that, life is to be enjoyed each and every day.
During my 12 week program with Jill I felt like I became a whole new person. Did I still have body image issues? Yes. Was I 100% happy with the way I looked? No. But, in the same sense, will anyone ever be 100% happy with their body? Likely not. Fidelity Fitness gave me so much more than a workout program and a meal plan. Jill Hanson gave me an understanding of why my body needed certain foods and a certain amount of calories each day. My caloric intake almost doubled when I started with Fidelity Fitness, before that, although I was still going to the gym, I was eating less than half of what Jill’s program recommended. This was a huge wake up call as to how poorly I was treating my body. At one point during the 12 weeks, I texted Jill being very upset about how much I weighed, I thought I should be at least 10lbs lighter than I was at the time. This was Jill’s answer “You look great girl! Your shoulders and back are incredible. Glutes and hamstring tie in are coming along nicely. Remember it has only been 4 weeks. You look tighter already! That number means nothing and 120 would be waaaay to skinny for you! U have great curves- own them, love them!” Those words changed my life, for the first time since I can remember, I finally tried to forget about how much I weighed and embraced the body I was given.
Everything about Fidelity Fitness has brought me to where I am today… I am both physically and mentally stronger, I have gained confidence, and have realized that anything is possible, whether it is reaching a new goal or overcoming something that you’ve been struggling with for years. I truly cannot thank Jill for all that she has given me, she never once judged or made me feel ashamed when I was telling her about my eating disorder. Jill made me feel like I was not alone and that there are so many others out there that are also struggling, which is a huge part of the reason as to why I am writing this.
Have I completely got over this disease? No, but for the past 9 months I have earned and gained my life back. For the first time in a very long time, I feel incredibly happy and blessed with the life I have. I am dating the most amazing man I have ever met, who has helped me love not only him, but myself again as well. I am so thankful to have him in my life because he has been there for me and has made me the happiest I ever have been. I have a sister who is always wiling to listen and talk to me no matter what and who has given me a nephew that I love more than words can describe. I have graduated University with a Business Degree in Accounting and start at a firm in September to start my CPA designation. I have amazing friends and family that I know I can always count on when I need someone to laugh with or a shoulder to cry on. I also have incredible parents that have given me so much throughout the years and I wouldn’t be where I am without their help and support. I am not proud that I have kept it from so many people that I love, but the shame I felt could not allow myself to tell any one of them. What I am trying to say is that although I have had an amazing year, I have grown so much as a person over the year that it has allowed me to fully embrace and cherish each moment that my life has given me. I have learned to never take anything for granted because before you know it, anything can change.
So today, I fully admit that I have a binge purge eating disorder. For years I did not understand how people could do this to themselves, I did not understand how it was even possible. I am guilty for judging and not understanding what people were going through when they were suffering from this disease. It wasn’t until I was actually suffering myself, that I realized just how awful and draining something like this really is. An eating disorder is a disease and is something that is completely out of one’s control because negative thoughts and stress absorb your mind and body. I strongly believe that one does not choose to do this to themselves, an eating disorder is a disease that takes over your thoughts and emotions, which results in a loss of control of the actions you take.
I have always been a competitive person, I was never going to be the prettiest girl, the smartest person in class, and I was never going to be the skinnest girl. For years, I compared myself to others, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered I was my own biggest competition. I have always been so hard on myself because I only wanted to be the best and somehow over the years that pressure I put on myself broke me down, to where I felt like I had nothing to lose. I finally realized that the competition wasn’t about others, but how I thought about my own self. Self destruction was huge for me because I was always my own biggest critique.
I have learned so much about myself over this past year and I know that I can only move forward from here. I have taken each day as it comes and I’ve accepted that I will not be perfect 100% of the time, but I know that that is okay. There are many days that I debate whether or not I should binge and purge when i’m feeling lonely or upset, but I am so glad that about 95% of the time I can control my thoughts and feelings without having to harm my body. Are there times I give in and regret it afterwards? Absolutely, but I know that as each incident becomes further and far between than the last, I am one step closer to saying that I no longer have an eating disorder.
I have also realized that I am likely never going to be the most confident girl in the room, there will always be times where I feel insecure, but I have realized to accept that about myself. I am still following the meal plan and workouts that Jill gave me and I will continue to build my knowledge regarding fitness and nutrition in the years to come. I have seen my body change so much over the past year and I love it. I no longer weigh myself, but actually look at my body and see the progress I have made.
This is my journey and whether or not you like it, is is the truth. Writing this and posting this is my next step, a step forward in my life. Everyone has a past, but take the time to understand and accept that your past has helped you become who you are today. Never be ashamed or embarassed to show who you are because there is always going to be someone else out there that can relate or help you overcome a struggle or a moment of weakness. I believe that each day is an opportunity, an opportunity for you to enjoy and take advantage of the life you have been given. I have learned that it is okay to go off plan and indulge every once and a while because life is too short. I have also realized that filling my mind with guilt is not going to help me. There will always be moments in my life that I feel guilty for eating bad food or eating too much food, but I’ve come to the point where I’ve accepted that it is okay. So take one day at a time and take each moment as it comes.
To end, I have a quote that truly describes and reflects how I feel.
“If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.”
– Marvin J. Ashton