At Ned, we believe that we can all feel better and live better through simple means and a deeper connection to the natural world. Sometimes, the things we think may help may also hurt. Jess Christen, nutritional therapist and health coach shares her experience with just that.
Overcoming food and exercise addiction to regain my health and discover my true identity!
For as long as I can remember I compared myself to others. As far back as 2nd grade I remember looking at other girls and feeling I needed to dress or look like them. This outlook continued for me throughout my high school and college years.
I played soccer in high school because everyone else did, even though I hated it and in all honesty was not good! In college I floated from friend group to friend group trying to blend in with the sorority girls, and then the “fit” girls and struggled to ever really find my own identity or to be comfortable in my own skin.
This feeling of insecurity quickly turned towards my body as I got older. Trying out every diet, cleanse, and workout regime I could to mold my body into what I thought was considered “desirable.”
This did not yield many results in college when I would eat pizza and binge drink every weekend, but when I graduated I discovered running.
Initially I started because I knew it was a great way to burn calories, and it worked. My body changed pretty drastically within a few months and I started getting compliments and having everyone around me ask what I was doing.
I also discovered I was pretty good at it, and this was new to me. I had never really found anything I excelled at and also enjoyed. And I did, I truly fell in love with running, how it made me feel and how it made me look.
This turned into a passion for food as well. I taught myself more about how to use food as fuel to support my running and my body, and over time this is what I became known for.
I was the “fit” friend the friend everyone came to for health advice, I was associated with being the epitome of healthy living.
Eventually, though, what was happening on the outside was not reflecting what was going on inside. I slowly developed an addiction to running, and started using food as punishment and restriction.
I would get my run or workout in NO MATTER WHAT. Even if it meant waking up at 4:00 AM or canceling plans. I would get severe anxiety if I was ever in a situation where I might not be able to run or sweat, and it would consume me.
Food became a source of control. If I knew I would be going out and having a drink or dessert it meant running more that morning. Going out to eat would create panic over whether I would be able to eat anything on the menu, god forbid it was not in line with what I viewed as being “healthy.”
This emotional turmoil finally started to manifest itself physically as well. My hair started falling out and thinning, I stopped taking hormonal birth control and didn’t get my period for over 2 years, I was exhausted all of the time, and started developing severe gut issues.
And then, out of nowhere, I gained 20 pounds and nothing I did would change my body.
I finally realized this lifestyle I was leading that I thought was “healthy” was now what was actually making me unhealthy and sick both mentally and physically.
I felt totally lost because I had tied my entire identity to fitness, and now the one thing I had finally found that made me feel confident and special was now doing the complete opposite.
I came to a heard realization that even though I was “thin”, which is what I always wanted, I wasn’t actually happy and I was far from confident.
What did I do?
This is a hard question to answer without writing a novel, but I will do my best. I took a huge step back and recognized that everything I was doing was because I hated myself. I hated the way I looked, I felt undeserving of success, and love and was always trying to change.
I realized for my entire life I had been chasing what I thought I should be rather than learning what that actually was.
I took an entire month off of working out and challenged myself to find other activities that brought me happiness.
I started blogging about my struggles, I volunteered, I started making more time for friends, for cooking, for hiking, for reading all of these things I had lost sight of because SO much of my time and energy was consumed by what I was going to eat that day, and how I was going to then burn off those calories.
I slowly started adding more foods back into my diet, foods that nourished my body and my soul, foods that helped to rebalance my hormones and replenish the nutrients and minerals I had stripped from my body due to the amount of stress I was putting on it.
I did some serious work on not just learning to love myself but learning to forgive myself for all of the years I spent battling my body and having such terrible, negative thoughts about who I was. I worked with a therapist and I leaned on my close friends and family for support.
Where am I now?
I am far from perfect, but can honestly say I have finally discovered who I am. I finally feel confident, proud, and sexy not because of the size of my jeans or how far I can run but because I have a badass life.
I have created the business of my dreams focused on supporting women who have struggled with similar issues, I have cultivated deep and meaningful relationships with people who support me, believe in me and push me to be the best version of myself.
I have a balance with food and exercise that has brought freedom I cannot even put into words.
So, I truly believe everything happens for a reason and we all have a path. I wouldn’t change mine for anything because it has molded me into who I am today and taught me invaluable lessons that some people never learn.
I hope you all have the chance to live your best life, to find what makes you tick and to pass that on to everyone around you.
About Jess: Jess is a Denver based Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, IIN Health Coach, Certified Yoga Teacher and owner of Pureliving her online nutrition business and host of the Pureliving Podcast. Jess’s passion is supporting women who are struggling with exercise and food addiction to overcome this in order to regain their health and re-discover their true identities. She is a former cardio junkie turned weight lifting lover, foodie, wine-o and dark chocolate obsessed. You can find her outside hiking, blasting country music in the car or grabbing coffee with friends. She would love to connect with you, learn more at jessicachristin.com.