Hey guys!! I’m so excited to share this guest post with you guys today! I’ve known my friend Jess for a few years now because of my CrossFit gym and I’ve watched her create her own business and follow her passion. Like me, Jess has gone through the ups and downs of obsessing over food and exercise and has learned so much along the way. Now she’s taking everything she’s learned along the way to help others flourish and thrive in their own lives with her personal coaching. Jess is truly one of the kindest people I’ve met and her own self-reflection has helped her grow so much and has even helped me along the way! Today Jess is sharing a little about her story in hopes of other connecting with others and helping other grow from within!
To find out more about Jess and her personal coaching, click here! Hope you guys enjoy reading this post from Jess! She’s just the best!
Before I was a wellness coach, I was someone who struggled deeply with her body. Like many clients I work with today, I was food and fitness obsessed, perpetually under eating, over exercising, and running my body into the ground.
My entire life was consumed by the hustle for an ideal body, and when I wasn’t hustling, I was berating myself for not having that ideal body. I’d spend hours reading about the latest diet trends, meticulously counting calories and avoiding carbs, and working to burn off the “bad” foods I’d eaten. I’d even monitor my body for changes by looking in the mirror several times per day.
I went on my first diet when I was sixteen, and within a few months, I had lost more than ten pounds. Mind you, I was already at a healthy weight. I lost my period, the palms of my hands were peeling, I was SO moody, and I didn’t let a day go by without a strenuous workout. I quickly learned to get my workout in at the beginning of the day, otherwise my entire day would be consumed with anxiety about when I’d be able to fit one in. Despite my health concerns, I could think of little else aside from how much (little) I was eating, if my clothes were looser, and what my workout was going to be.
The external validation I received from others regarding the changes to my body only confirmed the misconception that my worth was defined by my appearance. A leaner body meant more love and affirmation, and I wasn’t willing to let that go.
While this obsession started in high school, it really took off in a different direction in college when excessive amounts of alcohol were involved every week. In order to maintain my weight, let alone lose any, I had to be even more strict during the weeks to account for the booze, late night binges, and hungover eating. I remember telling myself during my senior year that I just had to make it to graduation, and then my life would find a better balance and I wouldn’t have to obsess.
This notion of “I’ll be able to live the life I really want when…” didn’t stop when I graduated. It continued through my mid-20s, save for a time when I focused on my well-being while living at home with my parents. It began to feel like the ultimate betrayal to myself. I knew I deserved and wanted a better life; one in which I was treating myself with respect and honoring what was truly important to me. But I just couldn’t shake the incessant need to feel validated by my body, and my inability to live my life according to my authentic expression was suffocating. I had no idea how closely related these two issues were at the time.
It wasn’t until I quit my corporate job and started traveling abroad that I began to understand the roots of my obsession with my body. It didn’t have anything to do with food or fitness—I was simply trying to solve internal struggles with external means, digging myself into a deeper hole as the days went on.
While still unable to draw the connection between the two, I sifted through the areas of my life that felt out of alignment including my career, my social scene, my drinking habits, and my lack of
boundaries, just to name a few. I found meditation and started to take steps towards a more authentic expression of myself.
I knew there was more to life and there was more to me than how I presented my body to the world. I decided to spend my energy peeling back those layers instead of obsessing about my food, my workouts, and the size of my jeans. I started to consider what I really wanted to pursue for a career outside of what was expected of me, I re-evaluated my social scene, and I did a shitload of meditation and journaling to uncover who I really was as opposed to who I thought I needed to be.
I started to ponder what I believed in without being influenced by my upbringing. I identified relationships that weren’t serving me and enforced boundaries. I paid attention to instances where I was censoring my thoughts and opinions out of fear of the reactions of others, and I forced myself to speak anyway. I started wearing clothes that felt authentic to me, even if they weren’t “in style” at the moment.
To my surprise, my food and body obsessions slowly started to dissipate. I began to understand that I was previously living a life that was rather self-absorbed by being so concerned with my appearance and how everyone perceived me. And more importantly, I began to entertain the idea that my worth wasn’t actually tied to the way I look. I say “entertained” because that mindset was the most difficult to shake. (Read about my journey in detail here)
As I unpacked the root causes of my body image obsession, which I believe is an absolutely necessary foundation for change, I began to realize that I no longer knew how to eat intuitively, and I felt physically unwell most of the time. My mind was swimming in a pool of conflicting nutrition advice, and without arbitrary rules (given to me by someone who knew nothing about me), I felt utterly helpless.
- Am I allowed to eat brown rice?
- What about white rice?
- Is that Paleo?
- Should I be eating gluten-free?
- How much protein is too much?
- I hear adding butter to my coffee is like magic! Should I do that, too?
Without any guidance, I was at a standstill. I had zero concept of what consistent and balanced food intake looked like, and on top of that, I was suffering from missing and irregular periods, poor digestion, terrible energy, brain fog, and declining performance in the gym. So, in an effort to heal myself, I set out on a mission to “unlearn my diet” and all of the rules I had learned over the years in hopes of regaining my physical health and developing a stress-free relationship with food.
Discovering how to eat intuitively and how to develop our own healthy eating framework requires a sufficient amount of experimentation, as we all respond differently to foods, have different lifestyles, and have different preferences or goals. Through some trial and error (a necessary and even fun(!) part of the process), we arrive at what I call our “balanced baseline”: Our own personalized food framework that allows us to—more or less—maintain our weight, feel energetic and strong in our daily activity and athletic pursuits, and move through our days without stressing about our food choices (Read more about how to develop your Balanced Baseline here.)
I remember a time when I didn’t think it was possible to live in a state that didn’t involve either gaining weight or trying to lose it, and I thought I would be on the hamster wheel of food obsession forever. The truth is that we don’t have to live like that!
Living within our own balanced baseline is a truly magical place to be, and it sets the foundation for any changes going forward (based on new goals or priorities). As I navigated and unpacked both sides of this common equation—the deeply rooted causes of my body image obsession and the lack of clarity around my own personalized nutrition—I became aware of the importance of developing a strong foundation based on these factors: Discovering The Why, Developing a Mindfulness Practice, and Being Your Own Guru.
- What is Your WHY?
- Why do you want to develop and maintain healthy eating and movement habits? If it’s going to be a sustainable motivator, this needs to be something more deeply rooted than aesthetics.
- While I think it’s fine to have short-term aesthetic goals every now and then (based on what YOU want, not someone else’s standards), they should not be your primary motivator, as that only perpetuates the notion that you’re defined by your appearance.
- You have so much more to offer the world. Some of the reasons I eat a healthy diet and regularly engage in physical activity are because I’m more emotionally sound, I’m able to show up independently in this world, I enjoy and need to be challenged, my energy is better, and I’m able to fully participate in other physical adventures with more grace and ease. It’s also really damn fun most of the time. (You can read about how to drill down and discover your Why here)
- Develop a Mindfulness Practice
- Mindfulness has been a powerful aspect of my healing process. Discovering meditation, along with understanding the notion that we are not our thoughts, changed every aspect of my life, especially my relationships with food and my body.
- By learning to ground ourselves and be present in the moment, we can identify previously unnoticed thought patterns, detach from them, and eventually change them. (Read about the power of meditation here)
- Be Your Own Guru
- After outsourcing the knowledge of what was best for me for so long, I no longer knew how to trust my intuition or my body. My energy was in the toilet, my period had been missing for more than two years, and my digestion was in a constant state of distress, yet despite all of these warning signs, I continued to mindlessly follow the advice of people who knew nothing about me or my struggles.
- As a coach, my intention is to listen to your struggles and help guide you inward. You have many more answers than you think you do; it’s simply a matter of learning how to tap into them after ignoring them for so long.
By focusing on these three integral steps, you’ll be setting a strong foundation for developing stress-free relationships with food and your body. Your precious energy will be directed towards other areas of your life, and the incessant desire to change your body will begin to dissipate. It takes time, to be sure, but it’s the most worthwhile time you can spend if you’re ready to finally live a life feeling at peace with food and your body.
Basic meal prep is a huge part of my self-care routine, as a mostly balanced, whole foods diet allows me to show up as my most energetic and authentic self. I make it streamlined and stress-free by cooking individual meal components that you can mix-and-match for variety.
Peeling back the layers of food and body obsession is a process that can take a sufficient amount of time and energy, but you don’t have to do it alone. I’ve been deep in the trenches, and I remember feeling like I would never be able to find my way out. But there is a way, and you don’t have to do it alone. Through my own healing process, I’ve developed a passion for helping other women live a life beyond food and body obsession while guiding them through developing their own personalized lifestyles that enable them to feel like their best selves.
I graduated from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in 2016 and received my Precision Nutrition Level 1 Sports Nutrition certification in 2017. I currently work remotely with women one-on-one via phone or skype, and I am offering complimentary initial 15-minute consultations for any of Juli’s readers to discuss goals and determine if we’re a fit for each other. During this time, we’ll discuss your diet and lifestyle history, current mindset and roadblocks, and goals (mindset and physical). From there, we will develop a personalized program, and packages vary based on goals and preferences, and timeframe. Here’s to taking back our power!
If you don’t see a time that works for you, please reach out to me via email, and we’ll come up with an alternative.
Contact me via email with any questions. I’d love to hear from you!