I've thought about writing this post for a long while, and every time I sat down to compose a draft I decided against it for a myriad of reasons. However, due to the uproar resulting from the latest Biggest Loser finale, I can't help but feel led to share a bit of my story with you in hopes that it might resonate with some, or even just one, and help you on your journey to true health and happiness. I'm a little hesitant to rip my chest open and lay it all on the floor, but here goes…be gentle. I think I'm a pretty normal girl. Whatever that means. I pride myself on being good at a lot of things, while not excellent at any one thing in particular. To look at my life now, I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on the concept of moderation. I'm active whenever I can be. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment and strength I get from finishing a workout but I also appreciate my rest days. My diet is squeaky clean most of the time, but there are those days when I treat myself to a big bowl of popcorn or enjoy a "cheat" meal. I'm healthy.
I. am. healthy. To you, that might not seem like such a big deal. But to me? That's not something I've always been able to say with truth and confidence. Three years ago I was a far cry from where I am today. I was consumed with anxiety. Anxiety about working out. When can I get my run in? I need to go to the gym twice today. Exercise first, everything else can come later. Anxiety about eating. I'm hungry but I've already eaten too much. I can't go out with friends, they'll expect me to get food. It sounds sad, and compulsive, but those were the thoughts swirling around in my head for a few years of my life. I became obsessed. By nature, I'm more than a little bit of a perfectionist. And while that allows me to be successful in many aspects, at times it also handicaps my ability to be flexible and forgiving. And when you can't learn to forgive yourself, the only option is to exert such strict control that you never provide yourself with the opportunity to mess up. I was unhappy. Mentally destroyed if I didn't get at least 5 miles in on the treadmill every day. I was overexercised and under fed, starving myself with fewer than 1,000 calories a day. At 5'9.5'', 111lbs with a BMI of 16.2, I was severely underweight.
"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?" - You've all heard that before, right? Well, let me tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth. While I was looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places, my body wasn't getting the nutrients it needed to survive, let alone flourish. I constantly felt faint, lightheaded and exhausted. My body stopped functioning like it should. I was forced to sleep with a pillow between my knees because my bones hurt so badly. Hugs from family members would result in long, heated discussions about underfeeding and bony bodies. My friends were constantly asking me if I was sick or unwell. And the worst part? Those comments only fuelled my disillusioned ideals. I remember looking in the mirror and still finding things to improve upon, happy that I could slide myself into my size 00 jeans. But I was exercising and eating fruits and vegetables every day, so technically I was "healthy", right?. At least that was the story I told if anyone asked. But I had lost all sense of reality somewhere along my quest for control.
Did I have an eating disorder? I would tell you no. Did I struggle with disordered eating? Yes. Is there a difference? I'm not sure. Why did I do it? Sometimes I'm not even sure I can answer that question. I just took something so good, health, and turned it into an unfortunate extreme. What made me change my behavior? There wasn't one particular moment in time when I had an epiphany and decided to take my life back an ironic catchphrase for someone who thought she had such unyielding control over her life to begin with, but at some point, with the help of my family and friends (who supported me at every size) I thought, Nicole, this is ridiculous. Your life is currently defined by a piece of exercise equipment and the size of your pants. This doesn't feel good anymore. Become someone you're proud of. I've always known that, outside of my relationship with Jesus Christ, perfection is unattainable. But choosing to relinquish that control wasn't and still isn't easy.
As I look at Rachel Frederickson, the winner of this years Biggest Loser I see my former self. A girl so wrapped up in the control and illusion of her self worth that while winning the competition she lost so much of herself (weight excluded). I am certainly in no place to judge Rachel or anyone else, and I ask that you don't either, because that doesn't help her, you or me.
I'm not proud of those selfish years, but I am proud of where I am now. Are there days I'm not happy with what I see staring back at me in the mirror? Of course. But there are more days when I look at my reflection, both literally and figuratively, and think, damn, I'm pretty freaking amazing. I know now that my self worth has absolutely nothing to do with the number on the scale or the size written on the back of my jeans. I've learned to love my body. I love what it can do. I love how I feel and I love that I've given up on finding perfect. Outside of Jesus, it doesn't work.
I have this one body and I'm going to feed it and train it for a life worth living. Because I promise you,
strong feels so much better than skinny ever felt.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.