Hey y’all! I’m sure many of you know that February 26- March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. (That’s now last week by the time I finished editing this…but better late than never, right?)

Every year NEDA has a theme for this week, and this year’s theme is “Let’s Get Real.”

So… let’s do that. Let’s get real about eating disorders and break the stereo types that eating disorders look one way. Eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and forms. Eating disorders are silent killers, and too many people are not getting the help they deserve. I believe no body is “not sick enough” and every single person deserves to live life to the fullest, and a life with an ED is not that.

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I want to share my story in hopes that those struggling can gain hope, and see that it will get better. I also want people that are not struggling with an ED to be able to spot the signs in their friends or family and will be inspired to step in.

Eating disorders are mental and physical illnesses that affect millions of people. Here are some scary stats:

  • Eating Disorders affect up to 30 million Americans and 70 million
  • 1 in 5 women struggles with an eating disorder or disordered eating.
  • Middle-aged women are the fastest growing segment of the population being diagnosed with eating disorders
  • Bullying about body size and appearance is the most common form of bullying in schools.
  • The most common behavior that precedes and predicts an eating disorder is dieting.
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
  • Men constitute 40% of those exhibiting Binge Eating Disorder.
  • Girls who diet frequently are 12 times as likely to binge as girls who don’t diet.
  • 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day.
  • Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year.
  • Four out of ten individuals have either personally experienced an eating disorder or know someone who has.
  • 81% of ten year-olds are afraid of being fat.
  • 52% of Minnesota high school females fast or skip meals to control weight.
  • 20% of Minnesota high school males fast or skip meals to control weight.

*from http://emilyprogramfoundation.org/our-work/eating-disorders/stats-about-eating-disorders/ 2017 Annual Report

This topic is near and dear to my heart because I struggled with eating disorders throughout middle school and high school and still to this day I have bad body image thoughts.  My eating disorder started as an innocent wish to “get a little healthier” and spiraled into extreme calorie restriction and under-eating. As so it does for many. I got to my lowest weight (which I won’t mention) and was extremely weak. I was scared to gain a pound and was excited every time my jean size dropped.

My family and doctors were concerned, but I was never officially diagnosed – even though it’s obvious I had anorexia. I didn’t think I had a problem, and I didn’t see what they saw. I was confused why I was moody, anxious, weak and always cold. At one of my check ups during one summer (can’t remember the exact year) my doctor told me I needed to gain 10 lbs. before he saw me again or else he would really be concerned and most likely refer me to an eating disorder specialist. I did not want that label. I don’t know why, but I wanted to prove I was not sick. But I was.

I had terrible digestion.

I had no period.

I was moody.

I was cold.

I was weak.

One day I woke up and it just hit me. I had a problem. And I was f*cking tired of my own BS. I truly believe God gave me a wake up call.

I dedicated myself to gaining weight and getting strong. I decided to start tracking my calories in a positive way to make sure I was getting enough. I began lifting weights and loved getting stronger. The one catch was… I wanted to gain weight “the healthy way” so I became obsessed with “clean eating” and my restrictive eating developed into orthorexia  – an obsession with healthy eating.

Long story short, I got more and more and more into fitness… which on one end of the spectrum was HEALTHY because it helped me get strong, and learn to view food as fuel. On the other end of the spectrum it was NOT HEALTHY because I discovered “iiym” or “macros” and became less obsessed with the quality of my food and became a slave to hitting my macros every day. I wanted to hit my proteins, carbs and fats TO THE GRAM.

(note: Macro counting is very useful at times, and does not mean you have an eating disorder. But it can become disordered when it becomes stressful or obsessive.)

Even though I was at a healthy weight at this point, I could not give up control of my food. Counting macros became a new form of my eating disorder that I preached as “balance” because I could account for a piece of pizza or a cookie into my macros. (cue eye-roll)

Listen, if you can’t eat a cookie without counting it, that is disordered. (I’m not talking to fitness competitors, I’m talking to the general public or those with eating issues.)

When I went off to college, I tried to loosely track macros here and there and I honestly can say I got to a *pretty* good point. I was not nervous around food (most of the time) and even decided to do a “bulk” (eating in a calorie surplus for muscle gain). Looking back, even though I was “bulking” I was still measuring all my food meticulously and never missed a work out.

Then, I decided to compete in body building which requires precise macro-counting and a rigorous fitness regimen. I don’t think it was disordered in itself, but anyone who has an ED past could be easily triggered, and I was. The prep was not hard for me, because my mind loves control. It was easy to see myself getting lean and having abs. It was after my show that was tough, I’m not going to lie. I reverse dieted for a while until I decided I needed to try intuitive eating. I don’t think I had ever fully committed to intuitive eating, even though I would go through periods of it – it was still off an on. I would always “go back to macros” to “get back on track.” I still have fitness goals, sure.. but I didn’t want them coming before my health goals.

As much as I want to compete again, I knew I had to make sure my body and mind were in a good place.

I started dealing with gut issues again, and my hormones have been out of whack since my restrictive eating disorder and I’ve never fully committed to putting my health first. Gut issues and hormone imbalances are very commonly caused by eating disorders and can last long after being recovered. I started working with Victoria Meyers, RD from Nourishing Minds Nutrition to heal my gut, work on my relationship with food and fix my hormones. She has been amazing and made me realize I still had a lot of pent up disordered tendencies and issues with control. She has taught me so much, I am eternally grateful.

My journey has brought me to where I am today. It has made me stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to anyone dealing with any mental illness. We all have our own struggles, but if you’re reading this I hope you’re not alone. You can get better. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I still have my hard days, but I keep going because I never want to go back to where I once was. I keep going because I have so many other amazing things I want to accomplish (like helping others over come their struggles) that I needed to stay fueled, strong and happy!

Please join me by sharing your story and hashtag #NEDAwareness to spread the message.

I love you all!
xoxo,

Steph

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First of all, I want to say welcome back to my blog! I really appreciate you stopping by. I have not written on this platform in quite some time due to life being busy and then some technical difficulties. But we got those fixed, so yay!
I really love writing, and I love how I can connect with you all on a deeper level than just in a short Instagram caption.

The holidays – a time of both excitement and anxiety. Let me explain.

With the holidays approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my relationship with food used to cause so much anxiety and feelings of guilt when I was younger. Sure, sometimes it still does if I’m being honest. But my mentality has evolved over the past few years, that I now actually do look forward to those home cooked meals and special traditions with family.

I know the holidays do cause a lot of stress for many of you, I’ve even gotten several dm’s on IG asking how I approach holiday eating. I’m still figuring that out, but I’ve found the number one thing to do is…. not stress. That’s it. Stress will kill you faster than any dish with a ton of calories or fat or sugar (or whatever else your mind decides to demonize that day).

Say no to diet culture.

With diet culture sending us the message that we need to “prep” for the Thanksgiving meal by fasting before hand or running a “Turkey Trot” the morning of, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to earn food. Let’s get this straight, you never need to “earn” food. I know a lot of have fitness goals, and we eat a certain way to support that, but that doesn’t mean eating different foods or more food is inherently bad. I’m not saying totally neglect eating healthy and working out just because it’s the holiday season, but don’t feel like you need to earn your Thanksgiving meal by doing cardio at 6am or not eating all morning in order to save up room for family lunch.  I’ve been there, trust me it’s not a good idea. Going into a big meal starving is just going to set you up to eat way past the point of fullness, leading to more discomfort. Simply eat a couple of normal meals before your family gathering, then eat you desire. If you truly listen to your body, you’re not going to “over eat.” If you know certain foods are very rich or may cause a stomach ache, just be aware of that. But also remember, it’s one day out of the year – enjoy yourself. Enjoyment is key to health. I would strongly argue that your relationship with food is more important to your well being than the food itself. Remember it’s okay to have fitness goals (I do!!!) but they should never get in the way of time with family.

Family…

Thanksgiving can be quite a hard holiday for anyone that has dealt with disordered eating in the past. You may feel like all your family is judging what you eat, looking to you, “the healthy eater”, for their own diet advice. They keep a close eye on what you are or are not eating. You feel like if you go back for seconds, someone will make a comment like “oh your eating more? I haven’t seen that before.” Or, if you choose not to eat something, you get the comment “go figures, you don’t eat things with butter or sugar.” (or some other off putting comment). These comments are hard. Most of the time family members do not mean any harm, the love you! But, that doesn’t mean they fully understand your situation, past, or struggle. They might not know that thinking about eating that pie is already making you nervous, and that any comment about it is only making it that much harder.

Learn to appreciate the people around you.

Instead of focusing just on the food you’ll be eating, turn your focus to the memories you’ll be making with loved ones. I know for me, when I was really struggling in my eating disorder, those years have bad memories around food. Last year, I remember making all kinds of memories and fully enjoying the moment. Your mindset is everything. I know it’s easier said then done, but keep working through it. This time with family is so precious, it’s a shame to let it be ruined with worrying about food and your body.

Incorporate your healthy habits with holiday habits.

You don’t have to be all in or all out. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you’ve “ruined” your healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to “get back on track” the next day if you don’t think of it as a cheat meal. Just simply return to eating foods that make you feel good. Don’t try to eat less to compensate. That’s unhealthy and just leads to a bad cycle. As far as exercise, if going to the gym that morning fits into your schedule with stress, then go! If it makes you happy 🙂 If you’re not able to, even just talking a walk with family after the meal can be a great way to get your digestion moving and make you feel a little active! Taking a short walk after meals is something my coach Paul suggests, and it really helps me physically and mentally.

I hope this helped, and if it did please let me know! I know we all have our own struggles and I believe we can help each other feel a little less alone. Let’s embrace this holiday season with open arms and work on finding that “balance” we all long for. I love you all!
xoxo,

Steph

With starting fresh with my new blog, I wanted to start talking more about real life topics that we can all relate to. I talk about health and beauty all the time, and I think one of the biggest keys to both of those is mental health and self love.

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Like many girls, I have struggled with body image and self image in the past, and it led to years of disorder eating and unhealthy habits. I was never satisfied with what I saw in the mirror whether I thought I looked to fat or too skinny. I searched and searched for the “perfect” diet. I became obsessed with trying to be as healthy as possible and strived for a “model body.”

I thought that being thinner would make me happy, but even at my lowest weight (a mere 90 pounds) I was not all happy. Everyday was a battle against food and against my own mind. I didn’t see the skeleton everyone else saw. I was just caught up in calories and numbers. I was always comparing everything I did or ate to all the people I followed on social media. It was exhausting.

I didn’t understand why my relationships with people in my life were suffering, why my golf game was getting worse, or why I always in a bad mood. I was so blinded by the disordered thoughts that I couldn’t see I had a problem.

As time went on, I realized I needed to change. I began educating myself on health, and started getting into weight lifting. I switched my workout mentality from “burning calories” to “getting stronger”. I began to see food as fuel and not something to be feared. I began to use fitness to enhance my life, not make my life revolve around fitness. I gained back excitement for the things I’m passionate about and a new passion for true health.

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I began to focus on what made me happy. I began to focus on what made me feel healthy and not just copy what I saw some fitness girl on Instagram post. I stopped trying to be perfect and started to just be me again. I started eating to fuel my body, and slowly over coming foods that “scared” me. I not only gained pounds, but I gained smiles, laughs, and peace.

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Healthy is taking care of  yourself mind, body, and soul. If being healthy is stressing you out, you’re doing it wrong. Focus on your happiness first, and the rest will begin to fall into place.

Stay happy & healthy.

Xoxo,

Steph