Thursday, 18 August 2011

My Fitness Story... - Jenny


Today's contributor only wishes to be known by her first name. Jenny responded to me on Twitter when I put out a plea for posts.She has agreed to tell her story but doesn't want it associated with her tweeting because as she said in an email to me, it's "just not necessarily an image I want to project right now". I'm happy to respect her wishes.

Her story is about how she overcame an eating disorder which affected her for a long time in her teens and early twenties. Eating disorders affect many people in the UK - it is believed that more than 6% of adults suffer from some form of eating disorder, and around 40% of those are bulimic. Yet, it is rarely talked about, so I am really grateful to Jenny for writing her story in the hope it will help others. Over now to Jenny to tell her fitness story...

Up until last year after the birth of my third child, I worked as a Personal Trainer and Fitness Consultant. The vast majority of my sessions were with women who were struggling with their weight and for a lot of them, this was a problem they had always had. They had fallen into the "diet" trap whereby their efforts to lose weight would be done in sporadic bursts. My whole philosophy of exercise is that it needs to be done consistently and you need to enjoy it. If you go all out for 3 weeks and then stop, you will gain nothing. I believe the same is true for diet. I really don't think you can beat a healthy balanced diet and that you also have to accept that you eat foods that aren't necessarily good for you but as long as they aren't the staple of your diet and you ensure that you cut back a little afterwards, then your weight will be stable.

As a trainer, I was often advising people of this. I am a fairly slim size 10 and would often get the "but you have never been big/had a problem with food regulation etc etc" as if I couldn't possibly understand how they got to that size in the first place. However, I do have my own story and although I have never been big, I did have a huge problem with food. 

From the age of 14 up until the age of 26, I was bulimic. At some points during that time, it was worse than others but it was always there. When I was going through a particularly bad phase, I would be sick after I had put anything in my mouth and would binge on massive quantities of food. My knuckles were raw, round my mouth always looked dirty and I felt horrible all the time. I had no concept of eating normally, I couldn't enjoy food as I just panicked about the calories that were in it. 

After about 10 years, I had had enough. I wanted someone to come along and make it better for me, to give me something that would switch off my unhealthy relationship with food. It took me a long time but I came to realise that the only person that could do this was me. I had to totally change the way I thought about food and also try and understand why I was like I was. Initially, I had used food as a coping mechanism but over the years, this had escalated to the point where I associated food with any emotional reaction - happy or sad, good or bad. 

I have always exercised but I started to use it as a control mechanism. The more I exercised, the better I felt about myself. Being a person of extremes, I also took that a little too far at some points, but I managed to rein myself back in. 

With regards to the food, I developed a strategy and set myself little goals. I would use distraction to take my mind off food by drinking water instead or going for a walk up and down the stairs. I made myself slow down to eat and chew every mouthful 20 times so my body could start learn what it was like to feel full again. I would set myself the target of only being sick once per day and then once per week etc etc. But fundamentally if I had a set back I didn't give up. If I didn't keep to my goal for the day, I would just start over the next day and eventually, it worked. 

I finally gave up completely when I had my son who is now six. Throughout that time, I exercised regularly, no matter what my circumstances. Even now with three small children, I fit in a minimum of 3 x 20 minutes every week, come rain or shine. I really feel it is integral to my sanity and plays a big part in keeping weight stable. No matter how much I might not want to go for a run at 9 o clock at night, I do because I know that I will feel better for it and I also understand that consistency is the key.

Thanks to Jenny for bravely writing her story for my blog. Her sheer determination won out in the end and she rightly took the view that if she had a bad day, that tomorrow is a fresh day and to start again. It's just a shame that she didn't have access to support services as there are more and more organisations that offer support and help for people who suffer from eating disorders. I hope, if anyone who is going through the same is reading this, that they are able to seek out that help as it impacts across your whole life.

Feel free to share experiences, as always, in the comments below. My guest posters really do appreciate the messages of support they get from readers.

If you would like to share your fitness story, then please contact me on Twitter or email me on the address on the About Me page. All contributions are really appreciated so do get in touch, even if you feel yours is not a worthwhile story. If it's a personal experience, it is. Do please join in - or ask your friends if you know someone has a story to tell, even if they don't blog.

I'll have a new episode in the My Fitness Story... series next week.

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