When people find out I’m a personal trainer who’s done adventure races, countless half marathons, triathlons and even an Ironman, the assumption they make is that I grew up an athlete. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I spent the majority of my life hating my body and feeling uncomfortable in my skin. For many years I saw my body struggle as my flaw – what held me back. Now I view it as my ultimate strength. This is my story.
My first memory of feeling like my body wasn’t good enough was when I was five years old. The entire school was participating in an annual “Fun Day.” An afternoon of relays, obstacle courses and games meant to celebrate the end of school. But as far as I was concerned, it was anything but fun – it seemed more like punishment than celebration. I felt hot and self-conscious wearing a blue terry tank and shorts set – a hand-me-down from my sister. Except on me it was too tight, and I can remember worrying about how I looked. For the relay obstacle course, I was paired with a grade seven student. I remember her pulling on my hand and me struggling to keep up. I will never forget the faces of my teammates as we came in – dead last. I’d let them down. My body had let me down.
At that moment, I felt defeated. Even more, I felt betrayed by my body. Why couldn’t it be thinner? Why couldn’t it be faster? Why couldn’t I be more like the other girls
I decided something that day – something that I carried with me for many years. I wasn’t good enough. There was something wrong with me the way I was – and I’d better do something about it.
Other than my body, I was your average, well-adjusted, well-liked kid. I had good friends, and a loving and supportive family. I was involved in a community choir and was praised for my beautiful voice. I excelled academically in school and was involved in a variety of extra-curricular activities. But that wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough – because my body didn’t measure up.
I viewed my body as broken – something that needed fixing. And when it came to repair my body, it seemed to me that dieting was the answer.
I put myself on my first diet at age 9, and by 15 I was bulimic. No one knew. I hid my body hatred well.
But hatred is destructive, and it was tearing me up inside. I struggled with depression and hit my rock bottom in my second year of university. A move to a new town and a new university provided me with an opportunity. I saw the transition as my fresh start – a chance to put my past behind me and start a new life.
And it worked – for a while. Encouraged by some new friends at my summer job, I began running. And for the first time in my life, I felt like my body wasn’t my arch enemy. I spent that summer finding my strength – on my terms.
When I started my first semester of Kinesiology at university that fall, I felt like a new person – at least on the outside. But inside I knew I still had some work to do. A chance encounter with a family friend who had been relatively public about her struggle with an eating disorder was my turning point. I gathered all my bravery and shared my struggle. It was like a weight had been lifted. She hugged me and encouraged me to get help. I did. That was the first time I realized that vulnerability was powerful.
My journey from body hatred to body love and acceptance has been a winding road. It’s a road I continue to travel and always will. Along the way, I’ve learned many lessons that have empowered and transformed me into the stable and confident woman I am today.
I’ve learned that I’m not alone. Most people struggle. In fact, we all do. And it’s my struggles that have given me my greatest strength.
I’ve learned that while my “not good enough” narrative may have driven me down some unhealthy roads, it’s also taken me down some extraordinary ones. Like the road to Ironman, which led me to discover my capacity to do anything I set my mind to.
I’ve learned that ‘fail’ isn’t a four-letter word – failure is merely an opportunity to discover what doesn’t work so you can try something different.
I’ve learned that being comfortable and confident in the skin I’m in has nothing to do with what my body looks like. That was owning my body and embracing it for all it has and will do for me is far more critical than what it looks like.
I’ve learned that my internal bully is a jerk and doesn’t serve me. That what does help me is speaking to myself with kindness and compassion.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to have it all figured out to be a great personal trainer and health coach. That my moments of vulnerability about the ups and downs of my always-evolving relationship with my body can be the most empowering and inspiring to those around me.
Without these lessons, I would not be who I am today. A caring and compassionate mom, wife, and friend. An empathetic and dedicated coach. A bold and unstoppable body-positive fitness advocate. A brave and authentic leader committed to changing the health and fitness conversation for good.
I am who I am not in spite of my struggle but because of it. And I am deeply grateful.