So, I've kept my new project under wraps for the most part. I've mentioned a little bit about it to a few people and am still not quite ready to divulge all the AH-mazing details of the project, but it's a mentorship program for teen girls and deals with body image/fitness/nutrition. This program is very close to my heart for several reasons...number one, my own teenage daughter, but also because of my own experiences and my own issues that I still struggle with even today.
I may have touched on it a little throughout my blog, but it's not something I talk about very much, although, when I asked, I am very open about it. I've suffered from disordered eating ever since high school. It really came to a head in college, to the point that several of my friends had to intervene and I was hospitalized for a time. There are actually only a very few people that know that about me...I never talk about it. In fact, I don't even think my ex-husband knows about that. It's not something I'm proud of and it's certainly not an experience I like to relive. In fact, being hospitalized sucks...it just downright sucks. You are completely out of control of your own self while you are there. I was 19. I played the game...I just wanted to get out, so I told them what they wanted to hear, I did what I was supposed to do, I ate their food, drank their shakes.
At 20, I became pregnant and it was like a switch flipped. I was "healed", miraculously, by this baby growing inside of me. I would risk nothing for the health of this child. I was really healthy for a good while, but when things started going wrong in my relationship with my daughter's dad, I reverted back to old behaviors. This time, I found running. I could walk out my front door and run for two hours and be alone with my thoughts and my tears. Before long I was running 50 miles a week and just over 110lbs (to give you a frame of reference: at single digit body fat, totally dehydrated, I can stand on stage at 128lbs). I was living on carrot sticks and fat free ranch dressing...no joke. Soon I was getting injured frequently, even a stress fracture to my femur (the largest bone in the body...not an easy task!). I had to give up running after a few years.
In 1998, a friend of mine at Gold's in Seattle told me he wanted to get me off the treadmill and into the weight room. Considering how many injuries I was getting, I decided that I was game for this new activity and it had always intrigued me, but I had no idea where to start. So I teamed up with my friend Mike and his wife, Nicole and started lifting. I loved it!! One thing that doesn't usually take people very long to figure out about me is that I'm kind of obsessive when I find something I like. If I like it, I want to do it often and I want to do it well and sometimes, it consumes me, which is not necessarily a good thing. Weight training was a HIT with me and of course, it didn't take long before I decided I wanted to compete. Yep, I was going to be a bodybuilder.
This was the healthiest I had been in a long time. I was eating often and learning about clean eating, food combinations, etc. Mike and Nicole and I trained together for a few years and then I met Brett. And I liked him and became consumed by him...and while I was still working out, the competition idea was out the window. We ate out a LOT, we drink wine...a LOT lot!! I became a big drinker.
After the twins were born in 2006 I decided I was done with the heavy drinking and eating crappy food. I really wanted to get back in shape and look like someone who had never had twins and the gym was also my outlet from being a trapped housewife. I did the whole "not eating" thing. Protein shake in the morning, nothing again until dinner. I had no understanding of how the metabolism worked and just figured, like many women, that the less I ate, the better. Of course, as soon as I started working out with Butch I started getting the daily "what did you eat" lecture. When I decided to train for a figure competition, I started working with a nutritionist who had me eating 1800 calories a day and 6 meals a day. It seemed like a TON of food, and it was, comparatively speaking, but my body quickly responded and clearly liked the fact that I was feeding it well.
Since then, I have done 7 competitions and learned so much about nutrition and our bodies. However, I still haven't quite figured out how to get my head right with my body image. I still look in the mirror and see something other than what other people see. Don't get me wrong, I have days and times when I am really happy with what my body looks like and I'm very good at telling myself how great I am. :) But, especially after competitions, I struggle with the mirror...a lot. I struggle with comparing myself to my stage body. I struggle with comparing my stage body to other people's stage bodies.
I know enough about nutrition now, that I no longer struggle with "disordered eating." But the body image piece of it is something that is ongoing for me and I know it is for many, many other women. I have learned what I need to help me deal with this...friends who serve as my "mirror of truth". Friends who I know will tell me truthfully what I look like and I believe them when they tell me what they see.
As you see my teen project unfold, hopefully this gives you a better understanding of why it's so important to me. I feel that as competitors who are able to achieve the incredible physique, we have a great ability to use our knowledge and our drive to push our bodies to the limit, to influence the teen girls who desperately need role models. I believe that we are obligated to share our talents and gifts in an effort to help and benefit others. I am so passionate about this issue and it is only a small part of what I can do to give back, as I have been blessed by so many who have shared their gifts and talents with me.