You’ve made it to Part 5! I commend you for sticking around this long to read my story. Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth sharing because thoughts of “Madison, no one cares and wants to hear your how-you-found-food-freedom saga.” But I know I am not the only one who struggled (and still sometimes struggles) with this obsessive, destructive mindset around food.
So, sharing feels like I’m participating in my own healing, perhaps by letting this all go by exposing the sunlight to it, and maybe helping or inspiring someone else to take the steps they need for their own healing. But I will just say this. I’m not fully “healed”. I’ve simply educated myself, sought the help I needed, and have to get REAL honest with myself about what is giving me life, and what might cause me to fall back into the obsessive behaviors. It all takes time. One. Step. At. Time.
And you can do it, too.
After a year of focusing on others + neglecting myself, I finally took charge of my health again. My husband and I decided it was best for me to stay home for a while and take care of myself before jumping into another job.
So during that time, we started a routine of P90X every morning and then I would make him breakfast before work. It sucked at first, but eventually we felt great moving our bodies first thing in the morning. But over time, the same ol’ corny jokes (we get it, Tony!) replayed week after week got extremely old, and we were no longer interested.
A little disheartened, I turned back to what I knew best: running. I was never the long-distance runner, because I thought it was so boring to be in such misery for so long, but somehow through the coercing of friends, I decided to train for my first 5k. It was the Color Run, and it was super fun.
During that same time frame, I came across an online community of women led by two fearless instructors who are too cute to boot. I joined the Tone It Up team in January of 2013, and started implementing their nutrition ideals + workouts into my routines. I ate it up. I posted all of my workouts + meals on Instagram…so much so that I had friends get annoyed by it, so I created a separate account just for fitness (which eventually turned into N&N). If you scroll back to the very beginning of my Instagram feed, you can see where it all started for me.
But more than anything, I think it was the radical support of the online community through Instagram that shifted my perception of my body. I didn’t weigh myself. I don’t even think I had a big physical change, but that wasn’t my goal. I focused on fueling + moving my body the best way I could, and changed my self-talk to positive, uplifting words.
Through the Tone It Up community, I learned to love myself again. And the coolest thing? I was a runner-up winner for their Bikini Series Challenge 2013.
So much of the way they built a community inspires me to embody the same community with the N&N Tribe. It was the catalyst for me, and I can only hope to recreate a fraction of a similar thing for others. That’s why I’ll always be a #tiugirl at heart, and might blast social media with ridiculous posts from time to time. Joining Tone It Up was the pivotal moment for me to discover self-love again, and so it is something I will always go back to and encourage others to try!
A few months into diving headfirst in all things #TIU, I started doing CrossFit at my brother-in-law’s home gym. Talk about drinking the kool aid. I fell in love, and fell HARD.
CrossFit completely shifted my focus. Instead of pant size + weight, I focused on strength + performance. My body composition did a complete 180. I put muscle on fast. I felt strong, empowered, capable, and like I was a part of something greater than myself. I learned skills I never dreamed of and moved loads of weight I never knew I could touch. The new mantra I lived by was #strongnotskinny, and I loved it. I felt like a complete badass.
RANT. Of course, the physique of CrossFit women gets criticized. But one thing I noticed was that regardless of what you look like, women’s physiques are ALWAYS under scrutiny. #fuckoffmedia I am so sick of women being objectified and told what to do with their bodies, and we as women are often to biggest culprits in shaming others, mostly out of our own insecurities about ourselves. END RANT.
Whew, ok now I feel a little better.
So, from 2013 to 2016-ish I lifted heavy almost every day, fueled my body with real food, got CFL-1 certified to coach Crossfit, and chased my goals of studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in June 2015.
I loved it.
I loved it for so long, until I didn’t. I loved it until the day my comparison struggles + obsessive patterns came back, knocking on my door like that long-lost acquaintance from high school you’d rather avoid.
In Spring of 2015, I started experimenting with tracking macros. VERY LOOSELY. Tracking macros is kind of like counting calories, except you are focusing on protein, fat + carbs ratios. I did it more out of curiosity for performance, recovery, and ensuring I was fueling my body properly. I counseled several athletes at our gym on how to do it for themselves, as we worked together to achieve their goals, along with the proper nutrition education from my NTP background.
Over the course of the next two years, I would track, and not track, and still lift 4-5x a week. Spring 2016, it seemed like tracking macros was the thing EVERYONE in the Crossfit realm became obsessed with (it’s even more of an obsession now) — and so I decided to dive head first into tracking with another nutrition coach. My goals slowly switched from performance back to body image, and that meant obsession was right around the corner.
I should have known better.
When tracking macros seriously over the course of a few weeks, my coach required me to weigh myself every day, and check-in weekly with progress pics. I could see more muscle definition, better recovery in workouts, improved digestion, but that decreasing number on the scale is what caught my attention the most. It enslaved me again.
Even though I was adamant about eating whole foods to meet my macros, I slowly started letting the junky, nutrient-deficient things sneak their way in. Don’t get me wrong. I am all about balance and love a cupcake or a spicy margarita from time to time, but I knew in my gut those choices weren’t serving me, even though the number on the scale reflected that I was doing everything “right” to achieve the results I thought I wanted.
But it came with a cost.
After an indulgent wedding weekend in Mexico, I freaked out about losing all the progress I had made. *newsflash a weekend on the beach doesn’t set you back THAT bad*
I remember over the next few months of summer feeling like I couldn’t get a grasp on anything food or fitness related. I felt like I failed as a nutritionist + CrossFit coach because I wasn’t the leanest (cough, just because you have 6-pack abs doesn’t mean you are healthy, cough) or the strongest (cough, someone will always be faster, stronger, better than you, cough) or felt like I “had my shit together” as an adult. (who really does?)
I became MORE anxious, and my body reflected my inner state by causing me severe knee pain, poor recovery from workouts, bad skin breakouts + poor sleep.
I was so heartbroken + torn because a place that gave me such confidence started to turn into a source of extreme anxiety.
And in August of 2016, that’s when I knew I had to quit. I had to quit it ALL.
I quit tracking macros.
I quit taking progress pictures.
I quit coaching.
I quit CrossFit. *gasp*
Anything that brought me anxiety or thoughts of comparison, I had to step away from for awhile. I had to unfollow A LOT of athletes, nutritionists + food bloggers on Instagram. And if you’ve followed my journey for awhile, you may have noticed the subtle shift of obsessive CrossFit posts to more yoga + mindfulness as of late. I knew it wouldn’t be forever, but the CrossFit culture and I needed a break for a little bit. #itsnotyouitsme
So, after several months of some serious self-care, yoga + meditation, long walks with my dogs, and repairing my broken relationship with food, I find myself at a new chapter that has yet to be written.
I find myself focusing on food as fuel through intuitive eating and *minor* tracking to ensure I am eating enough only because I typically undereat. Don’t worry, I’ve had a serious talk with myself about choosing to do this, and I am solely doing it out of love, self-care + information collecting. It takes a daily mental check-in with myself, so soon as my intentions shift from positive to negative, I step back and don’t track.
I don’t weigh myself, and I haven’t taken a progress picture in almost a year. I try to go by how my clothes fit, my performance in the gym, my digestion, my skin, and my hormone cycles. It’s a day to day process that takes a lot of trial and error, but if you are willing to listen and pay attention to your body, it will tell you what’s going on.
I find myself choosing movement that feels best for me at the time, while focusing on cycle-syncing so that I can best balance my hormones. (that’s another conversation for another time!) I lift heavy when I want to lift, and I step back and do something else when it doesn’t feel right.
My biggest lesson, and offering of advice, is to view nutrition + exercise as something that nourishes you, brings you joy, uplifts your spirit, makes you sweat, improves your mood + self-esteem, tastes really good, and comes from a place of love. Because if you are constantly trash-talking yourself in the mirror, or playing the if-then game in your head, you are never going to be satisfied.
And you know what? You might not think your body can sense your self-hatred or negativity towards it, but it most definitely does. And I don’t know about you, but I know that negative talk wouldn’t be an environment where I’d want to change either, so think about your intentions + your self-talk and choose to nourish your body the way it deserves.
Your body is the only one you’ve got.
Honor it. Love it. Cherish it.