Thursday, December 15, 2011

Body Image: My Personal Journey

Today's Workout:  9 miles running, 1:10
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I just completed and submitted a 12 page paper on the topic of Obesity for my Healthcare Promotions class.   Writing this paper and watching the Biggest Looser wrap up another season has forced me to reflect on my own personal journey with my weight and body image.  I realized in looking back that I haven't ever really shared my story on the blog.  I have shared a little bit about my battles with disordered eating in this past but I haven't ever really shared my entire fitness journey.

You better buckle up tight for this one because it is going to be a long and way too wordy ride.  It has surely been a journey alright!

Childhood:  I was always tiny and petite.  I ate tons but my energy was high and I ran around like a wild animal probably burning off every morsel I put into my body.  I had a fabulous childhood.  My Mom and Dad have both always been active and I played every sport that was offered.  Why can't we go back to these days when we exercised without even knowing it?


I was so small that in most of my Childhood pictures Trevor is way taller than me.

Teenager:  I stayed pretty fit without trying until I was about 16.  I played basketball, volleyball, and was a member of the HS drill team.  When I quit drill team and even before then my weight plummeted.  I ate terribly, lacked confidence, and rarely exercised.  I graduated High School about 20lbs overweight, miserable, rebellious, and genuinely confused and depressed.  You literally could not pay me enough to relive my adolescence.  I was not a fan! 



First year of College:  I ran away from home....literally.  My parents were quite un-supportive of my college choice and I was still rebellious and immature.  My Sister helped me move into my new place and I clearly remember her saying "You are going to get so fat in college, I am so worried about you."  I took her words to heart and never forgot them.  My sister and Mom had constantly teased me about being overweight.  In they're defense I think they were genuinely trying to help me but sometimes words hurt.  Do I blame them for me suffering from anorexia & bulimia? heck no!  Do I think it played a role?  Indeed.

Anyway I am getting way ahead of myself.  The day that my sister uttered those words I started a diet.  I didn't start exercising but I changed my eating habits and dropped 20lbs in 3 months.  I wanted to prove my Sister wrong and by Christmas time I was about 125lbs and very excited about my new slim figure.  After Christmas I added exercise, continued dieting and was incredibly healthy throughout the Spring semester.  I was never popular or pretty in High School and the new found attention was incredibly flattering and I wanted to keep getting thinner.  It was like a drug high for me.

Second year of College:  My sister got her first teaching job in St. George and we moved in together.  Over the Summer we both became fitness obsessed and dieted compulsively.  We shunned all carbs and basically ate like rabbits.  By the time school started again I weighed about 105lb and just like a drug addict I wanted more.  My Sister went back to normal eating but I continued on a downward spiral.  I craved that high that I got from losing weight and started eating less and exercising more.  I ran on the elliptical for an hour each morning, and then went to the gym again after work and school and exercised until the wee hours of the night, only to wake up and do it all again.  I was a robot, I had no life, no personality, I was incredibly caught up in this addiction.  I did not understand it at the time but looking back I was a complete addict.

I got down to 95lbs and I wanted more so I went for 90, that wasn't enough so I continued until one day the scale read 79lb.  I was ecstatic!  But of course like every addict I wanted more.  I had lost 25lbs in 3 months and it was also around this time I started experiencing signs of my body shutting down.  I think in hindsight I knew I had an eating disorder but I never admitted it.  I was no longer able to digest food normally because my stomach had shrunk so much.  Although I complained about this I was secretly flattered because it gave me a new excuse to not eat.  Around this time I grew hair on my face to attempt to insulate my body, my skin turned yellowish, I developed acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and mentally my brain was completely gone and I could not focus at all.  It basically felt like I was going through a midlife crisis at the ripe age of 19.  I finally went to a Dr. and was put on medication for hypothyroidism, anxiety, and depression.  I was told to decrease my exercise and increase my diet but of course like any addict I definitely did not listen.  For some reason I felt like I was Superior to the Dr's advice and that one morning I would wake up and be just fine.  That never happened and in December I ended up in the hospital for a scope down my throat.  I weighed 71lbs and was told I would die if I continued my behavior.

I do not have a lot of pictures from my anorexic days because in recovery I was advised to get rid of them.  Plus I didn't really take very many because like any anorexic "I thought I was fat".  If you need a visual:  I wore size 10 in little girls jeans, size medium in little girls shirts, and my face was very sunken in.  Yuck!

Recovery (aka hell) - Third and Fourth years of College:  Recovery truly was much worse than the eating disorder itself.  It sounds simple:  Just gain weight right?  Yeah not so awesome.  You tell a drug addict to just freaking quit.  I spent about a year still battling anorexia.  My weight evened out a little and this is when the bulimia began.  It is very common for anorexics to turn into bulimics in recovery and that is exactly what happened with me.  I never threw up at all but I binged (a lot) and exercised compulsively.  I never really addressed the psychological issues instead I just told everyone I was fine.  I am very very stubbornly independent and have always struggled with asking for help.  I was a true bulimic.  I stole food from grocery stores, snuck food in the middle of the night, and ate copious amounts of food when I was alone.  My weight plummeted to 145lbs and I was overweight.  I went from 71lbs to 145lbs in less than two years.



22 years old:  Still overweight and still battling to figure myself out.  My weight evened out at 140 and I was no longer binging but I was still overweight and sad.  I was very unhappy with the way I looked, depressed that my battles had lead me to drop out of college, and really lacked self worth and confidence. 




23 years old:  In August of this year Trevor and I decided to start a competition to see who could lose the most weight.  My Mom even offered to pay money to the winner.  We were both very unhappy with the way we looked and needed motivation to get back on track.  Trevor and I both also suffered from addiction so we understood each other and knew we could help each other.  Trevor had lost 12lbs when he passed away in October and was clearly smoking the competition. I was down only 5 but after Trevor's death I knew I needed to keep up my end and win the contest.  He was no longer here to defend himself and I knew he would be smiling looking down on my accomplishing my goal.  By the spring of 2010 I was down to 120lb and have never looked back.  I beat you Trev!


This picture was taken in September 2009 right after Trev and I started our competition.
25 years old (Now):   I continued slimming and toning and can honestly say I am in the best shape of my entire life.  I am lean, healthy, and strong and have truly never been happier.  Much more than my weight, my image, or my body fat percentage I love myself.  It is the first time in my life that I have been able to say that I love who I have become and I finally realized that it's not about the weight at all.  It is about finding that inner confidence, finding your passion (running for me), and loving yourself for who you are.



Whew!  So there you have it.  The very long story about how I finally overcame disordered eating and got in the best shape of my life.

Any questions?

*I would just like to add that if you suspect someone you love or know is suffering from an eating disorder don't ignore it.  It can be incredibly serious and even fatal.  Luckily for me mine was caught and I was forced into recovery before my body completely shut down.

37 comments:

  1. Wow. Incredible story Rachelle - thanks for sharing it. You sound so mentally healthy and strong - it's a wonderful thing.

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  3. Rachelle, I honestly had no idea that anything like this was in your past. You are such a strong, healthy and beautiful woman I would never imagined you had been anything different. So proud of you for sharing this story with us. If it's possible, I have even more admiration for you now!!

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  4. Wow. I really love that you shared your entire story of the blog. I know it has been such an important journey for you...one that has been so tough but that has honestly led to the amazing individual you are today. I can honestly say that you are one of the most gorgeous people inside and out that I have ever known. You don't even have to say that you are happy in your own skin because you just live it. That is one of the many reasons that I admire you...you dont spend the time on talking as much as you do just living. You can see your pride in yourself, your confidence and your passion for life in everything you do and I feel blessed that you are willing to share it with all of us! Thanks again for sharing your story. I read every single word and had only appreciation for your willingness to share and admiration for your strength. See you tomorrow :)

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  5. I think it's amazing that you shared such a personal journey on here. You have shared so much of your life through this blog. You are always one of mine and Jim's favorites, so strong, confident, and beautiful. I would have never known or guessed that you had been through something like this. What an amazing story of recovery. You have been through so much during your lifetime but are stronger for all of it. Seriously amazing story.

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  6. Rachelle, what an amazing story. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing. Your story to recovery is amazing. You are one of the runner bloggers I see as a strong, fast runner. This part of you has always been there I think.

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  7. Rachelle - you exude confidence, strength, and a zest for life! Its takes a lot to share a story like this. I'm so glad for you that LOVE yourself and have such an incredible passion for running, healthy living, and life in general. I'm very inspired by you!!!

    After the holidays we need to all find a way to meet up for a run and breakfast one weekend. Maybe Andrea and I will venture down to Utah county.

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  8. Wow, I had NO IDEA any of that history, but I think you are so brave, and so wonderful for sharing it publicly. I look up to you SO MUCH and am SO THANKFUL I'm getting to know you! Thanks for being such an amazing person.

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  9. I was the same way.... I weighed myself every day.. even sometimes twice... I wanted to loose more and more weight so I kept restricting calories and exercising. My husband told me I looked scary and he could see my ribs. If I gained even one ounce I would have a conniption. I would go in the sauna to loose water weight. I would go tanning to loose even more water weight. I thought about cutting my hair. I would not allow myself to go anywhere. I didn't allow myself to have friends because if I did.. I thought they might offer me food and that was the enemy. I was so alone, and I knew if I told anyone I was afraid to eat, they'd think i was crazy!!! (which I guess I kind of was) Every day in the bathroom Id look in the mirror.. and I think I knew too that it wasn't healthy because Id just wish and pray that some day this would end... I cried all the time. People seemed to be very judge mental and they would tell me to "just stop". My mind didn't work that way. I couldn't just turn it off, I had to pray for strength every day... and You are exactly right... Recovery is even worse. It's a very long and hard process but even with gaining the necessary amount of weight your body needs... helps with just depression! You're body has nutrients and can think straight... and it did wonders for me. I remember the first time I laughed. I remember the first time I was able to go to a baby shower and have a little half of a roll. That was nothing to most people... but that was a huuuuuge accomplishment for me. Sometimes I get down on myself for not doing better but then I remember that I never want to go back to what I was and remind myself that I can do hard things... because that was thee single most hard thing I ever done in my entire life. Thank you for sharing your story. If anything its a simple reminder to a fellow annorexic that it's not worth it, and to keep pressing forward. Thank you for being so honest and so sincere... Your posts are not forsaken. They reach out touch many . Especially me.

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  10. Thanks for sharing this. I really appreciate it.

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  11. wow and wow! rachelle, you are freaking amazing adn inspirational. THANK YOU for being such an encouragement to us all. Everyone has their story but not everyone is brave to tell it.
    xoxo

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  12. This is a truly incredible story. As a therapist I have worked with girls who have eating disorders and saw first-hand the challenge and struggle it is to get on top of something like that. To be where you are at is remarkable.

    Thank you for sharing this!

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  13. It is always so great to read your posts. This one especially, thank you for being so honest. Our journey is similar in many ways. You are an inspiration!!!

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  14. Wow! so glad I stopped by to read this. It must've been really hard for you to lose Trevor during that time but you stuck it out and look at you now girl...YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION! you really are. I had no idea, nor would I guess you had body image issues in the past, nor were heavier. When I found your blog in August this year I remember thinking "wow this chick can really kick some ass" lol you are so hardcore! as I said, an inspiration.

    I am so proud of you not only for sharing this, but for accepting yourself and making the changes needed to feel better in your own skin. I think a lot of people would benefit from reading this. WOW! you are so GREAT :D

    xoxox

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  15. You beautiful lady...this post was so hard to read because I also suffered from anorexia in high school (not near to the level you experienced) and I know how hard it is to fight. I am SO GLAD that you survived it and that you were able to become the wonderful and strong person you are today. You nailed it in those last few paragraphs--it's about finding your passion and learning inner joy. You look fantastic and you are such a kind person. I am so glad that you've found happiness; you definitely deserve it. Thank you for sharing this. You inspire me in new ways every day. :)

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  16. Thank you for sharing your story! How did you find the perfect balance of food and exercise for you? This is still something I struggle with. I've always said that I like food too much to not eat, but even with healthy eating and running the scale isn't really going where I'd like it. I'd love any advice you have to give!

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  17. You are so fit, strong, and beautiful, now, that it's difficult to imagine you any other way. Thank you for sharing this very inspirational story.

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  18. Rachelle, I actually feel a little floored right now... In all this time reading your blog I had no idea you had had these struggles. Maybe I've just been oblivious or something. So many girls in our little fitness blog world struggled, or are struggling with eating issues, but I feel like I can tell by the things they say, the attitudes and priorities they have... I never suspected you because you are so strong and smart... I hope this is coming across as a compliment (bc that is the way I'm intending it to be.) I guess what I'm really trying to say is well done on the recovery, you seem to be one who has really broken out of a crazy, vicious cycle and done so healthily... There is so much so many people could learn from you.
    Just another amazing thing to make you pretty much the most inspirational individual I've ever known! <3

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  19. What an incredible journey! Though I'm sure you didn't see it at the time, or maybe even don't feel it now, you have a lot of strength and fight in you.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  20. I had no idea that you had overcome so much in your past!! You radiate confidence and strength... I'm so proud and happy for you knowing now that you have walked through. Thank you so much for sharing your past with us! I'm so inspired by how amazing it is that you can come from that and just shine with healthiness and positivity! I am very excited to meet you this summer!! Amaze by u lady!!!!!!!

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  21. Thank you for sharing your story. It is very impressive what you overcame. It is really brave to talk about it too, I don't like talking about having had an eating disorder, although I know it can help other people. You are strong and healthy and definately in great shape now!

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  22. Thanks for sharing your story. You really are an inspiration and BRAVE for sharing all this. Sometimes I wonder why it is so hard for us to learn to love our bodies.

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  23. This is really a special story-thank you for being so brave and sharing it! I've always loved reading your blog because of your honesty. Please keep writing!

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  24. I LOVE your honestly Rachelle. You are so amazing, and I look up to you in so many ways!

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  25. I'm so glad you over came your eating dissorder and that you were brave enough to share it. I'm sure your post will helps someone out there. I still can't get over how small you got...scary. You are so lucky to be OK. :) Jessica

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  26. WOW!! I want to talk to you more about all of this. YOu are amazing!

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  27. Thanks for sharing. I'm amazed and humbled by your strength. I'm so glad that you are in such a happy place now.

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  28. I just thought I'd comment again b/c this post is so awesome and you are so special! hope this week is treating you well xoxo

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  29. I'm not going to lie- I was completely horrified reading this. 71 lbs! Rachelle! I am so so grateful that you were able to overcome this addiction. How terrifying this must have been for your family. When I see you I just see this strong, amazing young woman. Now I know why I see this- because you have been through hell to get there. Stay healthy friend. I love you.

    And thank you for sharing this. It's so important to be honest- it helps us, too.

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  30. So I missed this post the other day, and I am so sorry I did - Rachelle, this story made me sad, happy, scared...I was there once and it is a vicious cycle, it is hard and it hurts and it hurts those around us...thank you so much for sharing this story, I am not ready to share mine, but it shows a lot of courage and I admire that, thank you

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  31. Your journey amazes me girlie. You have had a lot of trials in your life and I LOVE seeing where you are right now. You are a kick ass, hardcore, super fast runner and a fantastic, loving, kind-hearted, caring woman. and I am SO thankful I have gotten to know you over the last year. I can't wait to see what the next year brings us. Love ya girl!

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  32. Thank you for sharing this. I think it's so hard for us as women these days because everything is distorted. We're told we are perfect the way we are, then praised when we lose weight. We're having weight loss products pushed at us instead of vegetables and other nutrient rich foods. So frustrating. Plus, if you want to quit drugs you get them and everything to do with them out of your life.. but you have to eat. You can't just eliminate food from your life.

    I admire your dedication to finding what healthy is for you. You are so inspirational and I can't wait to see you on Monday!!

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  33. Sorry I'm late to the game, but Rachelle thanks for sharing. You are so strong and brave! I think you're pretty dang amazing for putting this out there, I know it'll touch so many. It did me.

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  34. LOOOVE THIS POST! I love this topic. It so important to young girls. That's why I love the GOTR program. Wish I would've had something like that when I was younger.
    Jamie
    www.runningdivamom.com

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  35. Wow, Rachelle. I am so sorry that I missed this post. I just read your comment on Danielle's blog and was really curious as to why/how I missed such an important post. You are such a strong and beautiful person. You are perfect. This post touched me in a way that I cannot even explain. Thank you so so much for your honesty and for sharing your journey to a strong, healthy, and happy runner!

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  36. I know I'm really late to the game. Lily told me about your struggle with anorexia this morning on our run because I was telling her about my own. I started starving myself when I was 14, ended up in an inpatient program, but never really fully healed. I lived on ensure and only ensure for the 5 years after that, it was an "either drink it or my home nurse would come put tubes in my nose and pour it in" option. I still struggle with eating and body image issues, but I'm much better. Thank you so much for sharing your story, you are an inspiration!!

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