Barbells & Eating Disorders

Here’s the thing; I’m like Taylor Swift…well minus the lying about the conversations we’ve had. So maybe I’m more like 2014 Taylor Swift. If you ever cross me, I will write about you in my blog 😂 we can all be grateful to God that He’s peppered in a little bit of wisdom, so I don’t always name and shame people who I believe have crossed mehaha, as fun as it can sometimes be to be petty (I’m admitting it!), it’s never the right way to go.

A couple of weeks ago, a work colleague told me about this guy who said to her that my muscles are off putting, his reason ‘no man wants a girl with biceps.’ LORD knows I wanted to march up to him, punch him in the face, maybe even in the nether regions… LORD also knows that I wanted say in a little bit of a psycho voice;  “are you mad because I’m the man you wish you could be but obviously you aren’t?” Guys, God really has His work cut out with me because I have a mouuuuuth!!! Somehow the angels sealed my lips and none of that nastiness seeped out, but hearing that comment about my body, brought me back to a time when I was incredibly obsessed with my weight. I thought about how if this comment was said to me a couple of years earlier, it would have completely derailed me, and would have been enough to have just one more trip to the toilet. And again this morning after the WOD, I looked at my thighs and almost had a breakdown… maybe breakdown is a bit extreme. First thing I thought was “eew you look like a masssssive pink elephant, you better stay off sugar forever and run 600 kilometres! Start now fatty!” Did I mention that I can be overly dramatic?

There was a time when I would have felt such shame and embarrassment in saying that I used to suffer from an eating disorder. Around Christian circles, shame seems so BC (before Christ) right? Having Jesus makes things better, but I’m still on a journey of transparency where I’m learning to allow God to have full access in shining His light into my deepest and darkest situations but also tackling those issues head on and calling me out on my (for lack of a better word,) crap.

Eating disorders are uncomfortable to talk about, in fact sometimes when I find myself telling someone that I used to be bulimic, I immediately think about whether I’m being judged by that person, and God literally has to tell me to get over myself. The more aware we are of the demons that people are battling with, the more it should encourage us to be kinder and more passionate. I have since learnt that compassion prompted by Christ leads to action, so for as long as Christ permits me to, I will keep talking about eating disorders. Can you imagine waking up to a day when eating disorders no longer exist? I believe that’s a dream worth fighting for!

There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made. Michelle Obama

What is bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by bingeing followed by self-induced vomiting. Eating disorders are complex in their causes, it is multifactorial and 99% of the time, can be linked to your self-esteem and the environment you find yourself in. In my case it definitely was.

THE FACTS:

* Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women.

* Approximately 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female.

* People struggling with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be of average body weight.

* Many people struggling with bulimia nervosa recognize that their behaviors are unusual and perhaps dangerous to their health.

* Bulimia nervosa is frequently associated with symptoms of depression and changes in social adjustment.

* Risk of death from suicide or medical complications is markedly increased for eating disorders

I spent my high school career very easily hiding this disorder from friends and family. The fact that I was introverted worked in my favour. If I disappeared from the table straight after eating, no questions were asked. I worked hard at school so if I needed an excuse to leave the dinner table, I’d just say it was because I needed to study. It was a vicious rollercoaster, you’re always calorie counting and when you aren’t, you’re planning your next trip to the toilet. It was destructive, I knew that, but I enjoyed being in control, no matter how twisted it was. I knew it was dangerous (hello I have a Biomedical Science degree,) but whenever I looked in the mirror I saw a whale. I was obsessed with exercising. Those were the days of Tae-Bo, Billy Blanks was my best friend. I’d do a session in the morning and one in the evening. Coupled with the fact that I was starving myself and then bingeing, my body was exhausted. I was always tired but I’d blame that on my anaemia.

In grade 10 (3 long years,) I had a breakthrough, and slowly started to decrease the amount of times I threw up. I thought about how my stomach acid was burning my oesophagus and how I was gradually destroying the enamel on my teeth. I wanted to have teeth well into my forties haha, such a silly, silly reason but it helped. I also found a lot of courage and inspiration in Princess Diana sharing her story of struggling with bulimia. I loved her! She was classy, elegant, beautiful inside and out. Everything that I felt a woman should be. Her substance was not merely in her looks. She had heart too!

My first year at uni in the U.K., the first time I was in a position where I was in control of the person I was and would be, I decided to see a psychologist. I was able to confront some of the issues that were at the core of my eating disorder. The biggest thing that helped me, and still does help me today, is my relationship with God. The thing that I used to binge the most on was sugar. I was beyond addicted. If I had a bad day, and in those days, my bad days were everyday; I would turn to sugar. I remember distinctly hearing God telling me to stop using sugar as a remedy. I needed to find a more holistic approach. One that would not cause harm to the body God had entrusted me with. It was not only reckless but irresponsible too.

Fast forward to when I first started CrossFit in 2014 and for the first time, I stopped worrying too much about how I looked. I noticed a shift in how I saw myself and became more focused on being stronger and what my body could do. There are days like today, where I would prefer to be less butt, more abs and more legs but I suppose I can’t be physically perfect on top of everything else haha! If I think about the 17 year old me. She would never be able to lift or move the way this *cringe* almost 27 year can. Ten years bulimia free!!! Hello can we celebrate and praise the LORD for that! I have no doubt that had I continued down that spiral, I would have ended up gravely ill and as is the case in the large majority of eating disorders, ended up suicidal or even dead! The thing about CrossFit is that you don’t get the results without doing the work, and you can’t do the work if you’re not fueling yourself correctly. Your muscles need nutrient dense foods…that includes doughnuts 🍩 right? Instead of using food as a reward, I’ve learnt to use food to fuel my body. It’s a much more kinder relationship where I no longer obsess about how much I’ve had and instead think about whether what I’m eating right now will serve me well in the long run and how I’ll feel later. Will I regret having had those 5 doughnuts, sure they may be vegan but should I really be having them everyday? And kale… potato fries taste better but do I get the same organic kick in energy and performance when I’m eating fries? Nope! These are practices that I have had to apply and constantly remind myself of especially when I think about the much better CrossFitter that I would like to be in the future.

The thing that’s great about being a female CrossFitter is that you’re surrounded by so many strong women, all different shapes and sizes, you slowly begin a re-education on what it means to be a woman. You redefine what it means to look like a woman. Muscles and all, you begin to find peace in your body. I say begin because I still have days when I have to give myself a good talking to about not getting obsessed over how I look. How I look is a very small percentage of who I am, and isn’t it so ridiculous that we base the entirety of who we are on our physical appearance? There’s more to life than the size of our bums. I look at some of my favourite CrossFitters; Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin- Tanja Davidsdottir, Sara Sigmundsdottir (oh my gosssshhhhh!!!) and their body’s are strong. Their bodies are beautiful, their body’s are also functional. Have you ever thought of describing your body as functional? In my opinion, that’s probably the most important thing to focus on.

This is what I strive towards.

This is what the barbell teaches you to strive towards; being functional, hardworking and to leave your excuses at the door. The barbell exposes your weaknesses, but it also teaches you about the strength that lies in you. The beauty that lies in you. You learn to focus not just on your physical strength, but the spiritual and mental strength that lies in you.

A woman’s beauty is revealed in her strength. It is captured in what her body can actually do, not merely in how it looks. Lisa Bevere

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