Reading the topic for this post might seem confusing at first. But I want to give you all a little background on myself and how I got to this point in my life. Then it will all make sense. So stay with me.
I have been active my whole life in some capacity. My parents kept me active by taking me to fitness classes and working out with them at the local YMCA. My first love was running. The treadmill was my best friend and we would run that 3-5 miles together every time I went to the gym. This is when the obsession with health started, but I wouldn’t really consider myself “healthy” at that time. Physically, I looked like a prime example of health. But mentally, I was weak and lost.
When I was 18, I developed an eating disorder that was combination of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. I hated myself and wanted to look like all those skinny models on the magazine covers. It was a vicious cycle of starving myself all day, binge eating in secret on anything I could find at night time, and then shoving laxative pills down my throat to get rid of all the food I just gorged myself on. I would also use the gym as a way to “punish” myself for the bad food I had eaten the day before. This was my life every day for several years.
I got married when I was 20 to a man who physically and verbally abused me and the eating disorder continued. Around this time, I started getting into bodybuilding and was putting on some serious muscle. My husband at the time hated it and said I looked manly, but I didn’t care what he said. Our relationship reached its boiling point and we parted ways after being married for 2 years. After I got out from under his constant criticism, my love for health and fitness blossomed even more. Lifting weights and yoga were my safe place and I immersed myself in the fitness world.
This is when things started to shift for me. Getting into the bodybuilding world, I realized that I needed to feed myself properly in order to be at my peak physically. I overcame my binge eating and bulimia and starting on a high protein diet. I was eating all the right things and doing all the right stuff, but my mind still wasn’t right. My focus was still all about looks. I wanted six pack abs and muscular arms and legs like those bodybuilder girls. No matter how hard I tried, I was never really satisfied with myself.
My brother invited my to do a Tough Mudder obstacle course race with him and I said what the hell, let’s do it. It was one of the toughest things I had ever done, but I had a huge sense of accomplishment and my competitive side started to come out. We did another race a year later and beat our time from the first race. This is when I started to recognize my strength and stamina. My focus started to shift from looks to performance and how strong I felt.
In 2015, a friend of mine mentioned that she wanted to try a kickboxing class. I thought it sounded pretty badass and I was thinking about learning some self defense. I had a 3 year old daughter with my ex-husband and I never wanted to be in a situation again where I couldn’t protect her or myself. So we found a local MMA gym and took a class. My first thought was “I’m in good shape, this should be a piece of cake”. Boy, was I wrong! It was the hardest workout I had done in my life and I loved it. My friend didn’t come back, but I kept going to kickboxing and jiu jitsu class and it felt so empowering. Learning to punch, kick, and choke was such a stress reliever and built up my confidence in a way that nothing else could.
My coach encouraged me to try a local jiu jitsu tournament just to see how I liked it. I had one match against a girl that was 40 pounds heavier than me and I lost. But I wanted more. I took my first MMA fight in 2016 and said I’d do it once just say that I did. The feeling of winning, the referee holding up your hand, the announcer saying your name, and the crowd cheering for you is a feeling I can’t explain. I had found my calling and my passion and the rest is history.
Going from a casual workout person to a serious athlete was a big awakening for me when it came to nutrition. You can’t starve yourself if you want to perform your best. Martial Arts taught me to take care of my body and to fuel myself properly. I stopped hating myself for what I looked like and loving myself for what I could accomplish. In turn, my relationship with food changed. Food wasn’t the enemy anymore.
It’s taken me many years to value myself for what I can do, not what I look like. There are still days that I struggle, but I don’t worry about working off that piece of cake I ate anymore. The guilt and shame from indulging in food once in a while was gone. Over time, I realized that I don’t have to punish myself for indulging and no one cares if I’m a size 0 with a flat stomach. Learning how to have healthy relationship with food and yourself is a journey and a process, but I’ve been through it and I want to help others around me do the same.