On 10/13/17, Sparkpeople.com published part of my story titled "The Eating Disorder Hiding Behind One Woman's Perfect Body" (not my title!). While perfection is an elusive and subjective ideal, this is not something I strive for or consider myself to be. I also believe that when we have our minds immersed in achieving perfection, it can be the fastest route to derail otherwise healthy objectives. As an extremely flawed individual, my main goal has been to overcome the one thing that has continually brought me to my knees: bulimia and BED (Binge Eating Disorder). It is a behavior that makes me feel completely insecure and the thing that I feel compelled to do when I feel insecure. Crazy, right? Being aware of the vicious cycle that feeds upon itself, realizing this - and then engaging in the behavior anyway!
I have been asked repeatedly after the publication of my story how I overcame bulimia. There isn't a simple answer with the ability to be summed up in a couple of paragraphs. I have blogged about the process since 1/01/2016 and each post of my blog contains insight, motivation and inspiration though there are several that speak directly to the topic in great depth. Feel free to contact me with specific questions. I'm an open book and I don't judge.
What I can speak directly about are the comments that I traded one obsession (BED) for another: figure competition. I totally understand why some may see it this way! However, there is also a lot of misconception about the sport of bodybuilding. Some do take it to extremes: the mantra 'Eat, train, sleep, repeat!' comes to mind. I participated in group practice for show prep and witnessed obsession first-hand. I can assure you it wasn't from me! Peak Week frenzy (the week before stage appearance where competitors supposedly turn into real beasts!) was a great example. I completely missed the boat on this one. I felt confused by all the different methods used for timing one's physique to look dry and tight on stage on a very specific day, even down to the specific moment for stage presentation. So confused in fact that I just decided "It will be what it will be - I've done my best to this point and now I'm just going to enjoy the ride." While I took a first place trophy as well as two second place awards, after the show, I washed off the spray tan and make-up and took a vacation! I ate and drank whatever I wanted and didn't lift a single thing. Other than my spirit and soul! Now I'm back in the gym training to stay strong and fit and trying to decide if I will compete in Nationals July 2018. I'm not sure I take competing seriously enough to go through the extreme focus and commitment required. Read as: Lack of obsession!
Doing a show was a huge decision for me and in many ways, I was extremely uncomfortable. I wondered if I would be able to face the emphasis on looks, comparison and judgment: could I do this and not fall apart? In the past, most everything that caused stress ultimately led to a binge. I wanted to face this challenge and my fear of judgment and own it completely, for better or worse, whatever the outcome. I also knew that I would share my experience and I asked myself how I wanted that to read? All of these things kept me on track and this is at the core of how I finally overcame bulimia - by choosing a different behavior every time I would have otherwise caved in to bingeing. It is a learned behavior that when repeated often enough in response to particular cues becomes a habit. Habits can be broken. For many, this process can feel like an impossibility. Think of how hard it is for the average person to stick to a diet, even when no eating disorder exists!
Back to the subject of perfection. I didn't so much as flinch upon receiving the judges' critique on how I could have improved my ranking: "1. Work abdominals; 2. Firm glutes/hamstrings; 3. Tighter overall condition "(You be the judge - video performance for one of my Second place wins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=budf3zeMI20). I knew there was a reason I didn't take all First Place awards and the critique is right-on. A person obsessed with perfection might have been brought to shame over this professional observation though I just smiled. Why would I be upset over what is an accurate critique? I also know that perfection doesn't exist, not in people anyway. My decision to enter a figure competition was not about chasing perfection. My identity is based on being a fighter, a survivor, an achiever, and rising above fear and doubt. I also didn't want to get to an age where it just wasn't possible to do this. One thing I don't want is a long list of regrets for a life not lived, opportunities missed, dreams left in the dust.
I didn't obsess over the food or about working out when preparing for competition; this was a fun process for me and I already had my diet well in-hand. I've learned that obsessing over something can be the fastest way to take the joy out of it and can also set one up for failure. A perfect example is dieting. When a goal of perfection is set in motion, any slip-ups to the plan can be seen as complete failure with diet derailment as the impending outcome. The frustration that comes with not seeing results fast enough lead many to wonder why they are working so hard and sacrificing so much for minimal improvement. With a mindset of 'Perfection or nothing', disappointment can turn to completely abandoning a diet and exercise plan. I had many moments of "Yikes! How can I get on stage to compete when my body refuses to agree with my time frame?" However, I stayed the course because I knew that eventually it would have to. What other option could there be when you are determined and you stay in charge of your direction? While I wasn't in the condition I hoped to be in, this was largely a learning process for me. And quite frankly? I was just thrilled that I didn't fall in my heels while struttin' around the stage!
I have been touched by all the comments and the sharing of other's struggles from Sparkpeople.com and I have to admit, it brought more than a few tears to my eyes. For all those in the throes of struggling with eating disorders, I understand your pain and my heart goes out to you. Never forget that you are not alone and that there are those who care deeply about your distress.
*SparkPeople.com was ranked by Hitwise as the 6th most visited site in the "Health and Medical/Wellbeing" category (and 3rd among diet sites).