“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
– Brene’ Brown
We live in a world of wellness that is validated by the before and after shot. The left side showing a sad, unfulfilled human in poor lighting with poor posture. On the right, a radiant individual, smiling, shoulders pulled back with confidence, and a six pack chiseled into their midsection…usually with “6 months later” or something along those lines as the caption.
I see this story all the time. My Instagram feed is inundated with this story. This story is everywhere.
But that is not MY story.
My story begins here. With this shy (believe it or not), chubby girl growing up in Green Bay, WI. This girl who is having way too much fun being a weirdo to give a shit about the dimples in her belly.
That being said, a year or two after this photo was taken, I remember beginning to start identifying myself as the “girl who is bigger than all her friends.” The girl who had a little more pudge than the other girls. I started to place value around what my body looked like. And with that, my interest (and obsession) with health began early.
“I started to place value around what my body looked like.”
I remember distinctly a time in middle school when my friends and I were going to the grocery store to load up on snacks before we hit the movie theater (#budgetsavvy), probably trying to sneak into a PG-13 movie. And I remember filling up a produce bag with green beans…GREEN BEANS! Which you may think, “Rock on girl! Look at you making good choices!” But I know that decision did not come from a place of green beans being the more nourishing option, the option that would make me feel good. It came from the place of not wanting to get fatter and I knew they had minimal calories… so beans or bust!
Growing up, my decisions around my “health” were all rooted in that same sentiment, “what can I do to lose weight?” So suuuper healthy, right?
Being where I am now with what I know now, I can say I was borderline clinically diagnosable in terms of an eating disorder. Through my undergrad career, I remember going to the campus gym late at night and crushing out an hour plus on the step climber, on top of the one or two fitness classes I’d taught that day. I’d watch the calories burned go up and up and UP. I would subsist on 4-5 hours sleep per night, Luna bars for lunch and dinner, and veggies with fat-free dressing for snacks, calories all accounted for. As an exercise science major, it was all about being fit and more calories out than I was taking in. A mantra I magically forgot when it was time to go out drinking with friends or get that late night pizza.
“As an exercise science major, it was all about being fit and more calories out than I was taking in.”
It wasn’t until I was living on my own in grad school, learning more about nutrition, trying new foods and cooking new recipes that I began to see food as more than just a bunch of calorie molecules clumped together. My relationship with my body was starting to evolve. My weight still took up unnecessary brain space, but not as much. And there were more positive thoughts in there than ever before. So…progress.
“My relationship with my body was starting to evolve.”
Even though I was fostering this new relationship with my body, I was still struggling with some issues that for the majority of my life existed but took a backseat to my concerns about my weight. Issues like heartburn, constipation, acne, and anxiety. And it wasn’t until I discovered integrative and functional medicine and nutrition that I was able to heal these and ultimately, heal myself – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I identified food sensitivities, balanced out my hormones, started to address my stress more productively, and built self-care into my weekly routine. And all of this made managing my weight that much easier!
I was recognizing that when it comes to health and wellbeing, nothing happens in isolation. I needed to take my whole-person and whole lifestyle into account – nutrition, physical activity, stress management, emotional wellbeing, spirituality, and purpose. I sought out a therapist who helped me do the gritty vulnerable work of uprooting some pretty buried insecurities.
[I cannot tell you how invaluable and foundational this resource is. As complex humans, I truly believe EVERY SINGLE PERSON can benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. So drop the ego, erase the stigma, and get the help you need and deserve.]
“I was recognizing that when it comes to health and wellbeing, nothing happens in isolation.”
As a dietitian and coach, I live and practice in a world surrounded by “perfect” bodies and people trying to one up each other with just how healthy they can be. To combat this and old thought pathways, on a daily basis I remind myself that I am enough.
That I am infinitely more than my body.
And that my body and story, with all its imperfections, make me relatable and approachable. My experience has informed my empathy and empowered my compassion. I am a great coach BECAUSE OF my body and story, not despite it. And let me just level-set here…I am REALLY great at my job. My clients are really successful. And they are successful for the long-term, which is most important to me.
“I am a great coach BECAUSE OF my body and story, not despite it.”
One of the practices I do on an on-going basis is writing out a list of what I have (my vulnerabilities) and what I also have (my strengths). And I own both.
As of today, these are my lists…
What I have:
- Dimples in my thighs
- Thick arms
- A broad chest with no hint of a clavicle
- Thigh overlap
- No visible 6-pack
- Cheeks for days…on my face…
What I ALSO have:
- Strong thighs that help me run, lift, dance, hike, climb, and hold chair pose for a really long time
- An ass that won’t quit
- A broad frame that doesn’t shrink in a crowd
- A strong core
- Excellent posture
- Resting heart rate of 47
- A clear understanding of what foods my body prefers to do without
- A [mostly] stable mental and emotional disposition (…we all have our days…)
- A healthy sense of self
- The confidence to speak in front of groups and be a boss lady
- Stable energy throughout the day
- Regular and on-going prioritization of self-care
- Clear skin
- Regular bowel movements…TMI
- A healthy relationship with exercise which I now prioritize for its mental and emotional perks
- A million unique freckles and moles (But the a-typical ones…c-ya, good riddance!)
- The joy of knowing I am doing exactly what I am meant to do to change my little piece of the world by empowering people to play BIG.
There are a million other bits of gratitude I could add to this list – family, loving partner, great friends, etc. But for the purposes of introspection and self-love, I keep the list to strictly things about me.
I highly suggest you try this.
What do you have? And more importantly, what do you ALSO have?
My philosophy is that wellness is not an “after” photo. It is a lifelong journey of daily choices and constant redesign. It is a scary, uncomfortable, beautiful, and vulnerable journey where I bare all so others can other do the same and find the healing they need.
So with that, be well, be brave, and own your story!
Reach out if you are needing some support and please recruit the right team to help you find your healthy and happy place.
Cheering you on ❤