I am a clinical psychologist, life coach, and NASM certified personal trainer. I love understanding the relationship between our mental and physical selves. The way we take care of our bodies correlates with our levels of self-worth and our mental health. Mental and physical health are undeniably intertwined; there is more research every day to confirm this statement. In my opinion, the field of clinical psychology has not placed enough of an emphasis on physical health. Humans deserve to be treated as whole individuals, and physical health deserves to be part of the picture when creating effective treatment plans.
I decided to share my personal journey with mental health and weight loss with the hopes it could help at least one person. If one person reads this and feels they can relate, then my decision to be vulnerable will have been worth it. Sharing this story is not easy, and it has taken me years to make peace with this part of my journey. I share it with the humble hope it can be of benefit.
I thought that if I could “just be skinny” I wouldn’t be depressed. I vividly remember the day the scale hit the heaviest number I had ever seen. 215 lbs. I was 18 years old, and still thought Taking Back Sunday and heavy black eyeliner was cool. I was a senior in high school filled with insecurity and low self-worth. I remember seeing the number, feeling sick to my stomach with shame, and thinking: “that is IT, I am doing WHATEVER it takes to finally be skinny.” I had other self-loathing thoughts too. I was not kind to myself in this moment.
I thought if I could change my external world, that my internal pain would go away. I have so much compassion for that younger version of myself. She was doing the best she could do at the time. And in a world that associates physical appearance with happiness, I was just practicing what I had learned from society. I thought I NEEDED to be skinny to be happy.
I extreme dieted and sometimes didn’t eat at all. I ate the same three meals every day for a year. I exercised twice a day and took diet pills. I never felt skinny enough, but I was getting closer and closer. Then one day it happened, the outcome I had been pushing myself towards. I hit my “goal weight.” The endorphins and excitement lasted about five minutes. Ultimately when I looked in the mirror I still saw a woman who was incredibly unhappy and who still felt she “wasn’t good enough” even at her goal weight.
This belief that I “wasn’t good enough” showed up in so many areas of my life. Including my relationships with men. I put up with things, that now, I would have called out in an instant. I finally started to heal my relationship with myself and heal the childhood trauma I had experienced, in therapy. It was not easy, but working through my childhood trauma enabled me to start to heal the relationship with myself.
Growing up, I had internalized the idea that food should be used for comfort, that food was a way to “feel better.” I was using it to manage my emotions. Therapy helped me identify and let go of this habit, and learn new ways of managing my emotions. I slowly built up my own self-worth. During this time, I was pursuing my doctorate in clinical psychology, and becoming a certified personal trainer. I was on a mission to heal instead of “get skinny.” I slowly healed my relationship with exercise and food when I realized that I didn’t “NEED” to eat healthy. I realized that I “DECIDED” to eat healthy, nourishing foods. I did it for myself because I loved and valued myself, and I loved the way eating healthy foods made me FEEL. There was no extreme diet to stick to, just an overall decision to make healthy choices that fueled my body. It didn’t hurt that lifting weights was the best endorphin rush I had ever experienced, and I had created a community through my personal trainer network.
If I had not done the internal work, I would never have maintained the level of fitness and health I still have today. For the last seven years, I have enjoyed the benefits of being at a healthy weight, and even more importantly, maintaining a healthy relationship with myself. Of course, I am not perfect. There are days where I still feel insecure or use food as a way to deal with my emotions. However, the foundation I have now is from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing. I am committed to nourishing my body with foods that feel good and taking care of my mental health using healthy coping skills.
I honor you wherever you are on your health and fitness journey. No matter where you are, I encourage you to take the time to do the inner work. It is the only way for healthy habits to stick. I also encourage you to accept yourself and practice compassion no matter where you are at; this compassion will allow you to change, and change for good.
Thanks for getting vulnerable with me!