I lost all the weight (and then some) and I felt worse about myself than I ever had.
For much of my life, I've defined myself by a single number: 125, also known as my "ideal" weight in pounds. But I've always struggled to maintain that weight, so six years ago, I made a New Year's resolution that this was going to be the year I was finally going to lose those last 15 pounds and get the super-fit body of my dreams. It wasn't just about looks. I work in the fitness industry—I'm the cofounder of ATP Fitness Coaching and program director at Green Mountain at Fox Run—and I felt like I needed to look the part if I wanted clients and other fit pros to take me seriously. I made my goal, came up with a plan, and threw myself into dieting.
It worked! At least at first. I was doing a popular "cleansing" diet and as the pounds quickly dropped off, I started receiving all those wonderful compliments. Clients, colleagues, and friends all commented on how great I looked, congratulated me on my weight loss, and wanted to know my secret. It was exhilarating and I loved the attention, but all the comments brought out some very dark thoughts. My inner mean girl got very loud. Wow, if everyone thinks I look so great now, I must have gotten really fat. Why didn't anyone tell me before I was so fat? Then, I worried about what would happen if I gained the weight back. I couldn't keep up this diet forever! I was scared that then people would see how weak I really was. I reached my 15-pound goal, but I was convinced I would have to lose more weight, just in case. (Here's what it's like to have exercise bulimia.)
And just like that, I slipped into eating disorder behavior, exercising compulsively and restricting my food even more. I've had an eating disorder in the past—I spent years compulsively exercising and restricting my food—so I was well aware of the symptoms and could see the harmful cycle I was caught in. Still, I felt powerless to stop it. I finally had the body of my dreams, but I couldn't enjoy it. Losing weight took over my thoughts and my life and every time I looked in the mirror all I could see were the parts I still needed to "fix."
Eventually, I lost so much weight that others could see what was happening too. One day, my boss pulled me aside, telling me how concerned everyone was for my health and encouraged me to get help. That was a turning point for me. I did get help and with both medication and therapy, I started to get better and regain some weight. I had started out wanting to lose weight so I could look like the image I had in my head of the "competent fitness professional," to build credibility in myself and my career. Yet I ended up exactly the opposite of what I try to teach people. My so-called "perfect" weight? I could finally see that it's just not sustainable for me, and more importantly, it's not healthy for my body or conducive to the life I want to live.
I don't make weight-loss resolutions anymore. I want to live my life now, not "weight" until I am perfect enough to live. These days it is all about building and strengthening my authentic and unique self, from the inside out. Instead of focusing on a silly number, I'm working to build an inner voice that is kind, compassionate, and supportive. I've kicked my inner mean girl out of my head and my life. Not only has this made me happier and healthier but it's made me a better health coach too. My body and mind are both stronger now and I'm able to run, dance, and move my body any way I wish without worrying about the mirror or the scale.
Now I make what I call "release-olutions." I'm making goals to release negative influences in my life like my inner mean girl, the quest for perfection, the relentless need to fit in, regrets, resentments, energy-sucking people, and anything or anyone else that brings me down instead of builds me up. I look at myself now and I know that while my body may not be perfect, it's as fit as I need it to be, and that's an amazing thing. My body can do almost anything I ask of it, from carrying heavy boxes to picking up children to running up stairs or down the street. And the best part? I feel totally free. I exercise because I love it. I eat healthy meals because they make me feel good. And sometimes I eat Christmas cookies for breakfast too. I'm so much happier at this weight and, interestingly enough, that's the perfect place to be.
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