My Why

In the last year that I’ve taken on competing in a strength sport, I’ve been asked various versions of the same question time and time again: “so what made you choose THIS?” I usually answer this question as short, sweet, and honest as I can. Typically, my answer starts and ends with the fact that I come from a very competitive and athletic family full of coaches, athletes, and trainers. My mom was a competitive bodybuilder during my childhood while my dad did CrossFit and became a strength and conditioning coach. Typically, my answer is that I picked something in the middle of the two of them, and while that is true, it’s not necessarily how I got to Powerlifting.

The full truth is a much longer and is a much less charming story than that. The truth is that I didn’t grow up much of an athlete like the rest of my family. I played sports in school, but I didn’t really care about them. Basketball and volleyball were just a way I chose to fill my time because that was all I knew. As dramatic as it sounds, I always saw myself as a chubby, uncoordinated disappointment compared to the rest of my family. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was ever going to be “better looking” than my parents. It seems ridiculous, but I envied my friends with overweight parents because I figured they never had to be in their perfect shadow. I hated my body from a very young age. I have a specific memory of myself getting ready to go to “meet the teacher night” at my school right before I started the third grade – I tried on everything in my closet and nothing felt right. I sucked in my stomach and stared at it in the mirror until I was completely disgusted by my body and never wanted to leave the house again. I was probably about 9 years old and already struggling with an extreme lack of self-confidence. When I look back on this, I see there was no one at fault for any of this. This world is just broken, I was born broken, and this was always my struggle.


By the 8th grade I’d developed body dysmorphia and a very unhealthy relationship with food. There were times throughout high school where I would try to restrict myself to 500 calories a day. Some days I stuck to it and other days I just couldn't, but I was always reminding myself I should be smaller. The smaller I got, the more compliments I got and  the more boys wanted to date me (should have stayed chubby and avoided all the turds I dated before Garrett). There seemed to be a correlation between weight loss and the positive affirmation coming from everyone around me.


When I started college, my anxiety reached a new level anytime I was close to going home for the weekend. I feared I was gaining the “freshman fifteen”. I feared coming home from college and assumed anyone who saw me would think “wow, she got fat!” I feared that the compliments would stop, the way people looked at me would stop, and I would go back to being the "fat" one.  This obsession catapulted me into Bulimia which I battled for 2 and a half really long years. It was easy to hide and even easier to control. I was hollow - physically and emotionally. I saw every activity and every relationship through the lens of this disorder. It silently ran my life, controlled my choices, and suffocated my joy. I truly believed with all of my heart that I would never grow into a place of accepting how I looked. I decided that this was just my life now, there was no healing in my future and there was no way I could ever find my way out. 


I began lifting weights with my mom in January of 2014 when I was 18 years old. This was the first time I had stepped into a weight room since I’d stopped playing sports in high school, and I pursued fitness as a means to cope with my problems. I thought it might make me skinny and heal me from my eating disorder. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. It just became another fixation, another way to shrink. I trained like my mom, a body builder, for a long time. While I genuinely loved and looked forward to going to the gym, it still felt like a punishment a lot of the time. My mind still wasn’t right and the way I was approaching it was obligatory. If I wasn’t there for 90+ minutes 7 days a week, I was lazy and I was failing. I grew passionate about gaining strength, but juxtaposed that passion with an obsessive need to eat less and do more cardio. I continued like this for a few years: lifting weights, eating as clean as I could, fearing food, binging, purging, and carrying a deep sadness with me wherever I went.


I made a decision to really make it all stop in mid-2016. I made it a few months by fighting tooth and nail with myself, asking for help, being honest with my parents, and just doing my best to quit. Then, in January of 2017 I decided to start focusing on strength goals rather than aesthetic goals, and I wrote myself a "power building" program (a hybrid of powerlifting and bodybuilding).  I began to care less and less about my body. In March I started to consider training for a powerlifting meet, so I slowly took my workouts more and more seriously. On my 22nd birthday in June, I signed up for my first local meet and from there I fell in love with the sport because I was excited in a way I had never experienced before. The meet itself was a huge turning point for me, because it was my first time to be engulfed in the powerlifting community. As an introvert who prefers to be invisible in most social situations, this was a rare occurrence where it was impossible for me to go unnoticed. So many people talked to me, rooted for me, and took a genuine interest in who I was and how I performed. 


Eventually I had made it 1 year without falling back into the cycle of Bulimia - the longest that I ever had. I was excited, but cautious because I was still waiting for myself to screw it all up again. I was eating with true balance, and not always worried about my size. I did my best not to focus on things that didn’t have eternal value and I prayed every day for a renewed perspective on who (and whose) I am. My mind felt clearer than it ever had before and I was less selfish. Today, close to 2 years removed from it all, I am confident that I am no longer stuck in that place. Everything that I eat now is out of need to fuel my body and/or enjoy an experience with my loved ones. I don’t experience any form of food guilt, and I’m able to remain mindful of my choices without being obsessed or consumed by it all.


Powerlifting didn’t give me a better body, but it gave me a better appreciation for what it can accomplish. I no longer find my value, or lack thereof, in how I look. Instead, I value my body for what it can do. I have the strength to lift close to twice what I weigh. I have the energy to work long weeks and still spend active time with people I love. I am strong, and I think that is kinda cool. But even when I can’t do this anymore, I value MYSELF for who I am. At the end of the day, all that really matters to me is that I’m a child of God. He pulls me out of darkness and covers me over and over again even when I don’t want it and even when I’m so comfortable in my own sadness that I forget how to talk to Him.


Let me be clear, the moral of this story is NOT that cardio is bad and weight lifting is good. The exercise that is good is the exercise that you love and look forward to. Powerlifting did NOT cure me. I still struggled, I still needed counseling, I still required an unending amount of grace and patience from the few people who knew about it. It was not the only factor in my life that had to change for me to start recovering. However, I believe it was one of the many catalysts God used in my life to help pull me out of it. I had a lot of lifelines, and this was just one of them.


Today, I know with confidence that God wants me to use my story, my experience, and my knowledge to help other people to become strong as well. I’m finally in a place where I’m qualified not only to talk about it, but also practice what I preach like I have been for the last year and a half. It is super strange to start posting all my thoughts and convictions on social media and I have literally no idea what I’m doing or if it even matters most of the time. That’s okay. If it’s relatable to any one person, then it’s worth it. My hope is that I can bring a balanced, whole, sustainable approach to fitness for people at any experience level and change the way people see themselves. I want to show people that you can achieve real, substantial results without sacrificing all the other parts of who you are or how you live. I mean GEEZ, for the past 6 months I’ve added 40 lbs to my squat, kept my weight within a 5lb range, and enjoyed plenty of meals and experiences with my loved ones.


If you’re interested in fitness and weight loss for the first time, let me help you. If you’re interested in strength for the first time, let me help you. If you’ve been doing this fitness thing for a while now but you need the extra support, let me help you. I believe everyone will the ability to pursue physical fitness should. If you are reading this realizing you have struggled with something similar to me, please realize that you need professional help. I will always offer a listening ear but I cannot fix your disorder. When you’re ready, I’ll be here to help you get strong too.