Trigger Warning: Baby loss and eating disorders. This post talks about choosing weightlifting over weight loss and eating disorders.
Consumed by various eating disorders from the age of around 13, which resulted in me almost dying at age 22, this is the story of how discovering Strength Training and Weightlifting saved my life, and while I will always shout for weightlifting, rather than weight loss, as a goal.
How it all began
I don’t remember ever thinking much about it prior to hitting the hormones, but the world doesn’t let you get far in life before it reminds you that as a woman, you have an unwritten demand to be constantly concerned about the size and appearance of your body.
For me, remembering the pre-occupation, it must have reached a peak moment of concern around when I was 13. I must have been worrying for quite a while, but I KNOW I was 13 the first day I decided that I wouldn’t be eating that day.
The point at which my body was starting to develop became the point where I was painfully aware I wanted nothing more than to shrink it down to nothing. Because what else were we taught as children of the late 80’s/90’s?
Skinny was in. Diets were (and still are) the main topic of conversation, and the only thing I knew for definite was that I needed to be smaller to be acceptable.
This all happened to coincide with my severe social anxiety starting too.
Fast forward 15 Years
I was 28…
In those 15 years I had gone from starvation, bingeing, compulsive over-exercising, calorie counting and obsessive weighing, and many terrible therapists, to full-blown bulimia and eventually to such an extreme that I was diagnosed with purging anorexia, from which I almost died around when I was 22.
I have been through all of the diets. I have tried them all. I’ve lived through all the methods of making myself smaller, in the hopes, I could disappear, or, under some ridiculous illusion maybe I could find myself shrinking myself to fit.
After I almost died, I got a referral to the most amazing treatment facility and had the most incredible therapist, who I can’t actually say enough about, and I felt like I had finally got to the point in recovery where you are doing okay.
It’s a constant battle, and anyone who has recovered from anything will tell you this. It’s daily. It’s for life. But if you’re trying, you’re doing great.
Then there was 2016
In December 2016, almost halfway into my pregnancy with our 4th child, we went to an ultrasound scan and discovered that our baby had died. This moment was something that haunted me, and I think will haunt me forever. The image from the scan was scarred in my mind.
This triggered my eating disorder to start again, and I got back into the fully-fledged habit of needing to shrink myself into nothing to cope with pain so overwhelming that just to know I would wake up each day without my baby was too much.
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And then I found it
I had wanted to get into weightlifting for a long time. But what does someone with an overflowing bucket of mental health issues do when one of their issues is major anxiety?
I booked a strength coach PT. THIS is where changing my life happened. I changed to weightlifting not weight loss
I never wanted anyone who was going to stick me on a treadmill for half an hour. I needed to learn weightlifting. I found the perfect coach, and I turned up. I turned up because the anxiety of a new place was nothing compared to the anxiety and pain of baby loss.
So I went. And it’s the best decision I ever made.
Through strength training, I have found more than I ever expected when I walked into that gym.
I found therapy. I found achievement. I found focus and passion for something that WAS NOT removing weight or food from my body.
Instead of shrinking myself, I found I wanted to chase my strength. WOW! I could lift ‘THIS’ weight, and I couldn’t do that yesterday. It was a buzz, it was high. I wasn’t competing with anyone but myself each time. And this became my new form of achievement and nourishment.
I started wanting to eat because it made me strong. I was seeing my body as the strong and capable thing that it was, for perhaps the first time in my life. I was moving in a way that didn’t feel awful. I didn’t feel like I was dying through sweaty, unenjoyable, intense cardio workouts.
I was THRIVING. I became so passionate about this method of moving, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
I barely even thought about food anymore, not in the same way. I didn’t want to lose weight, in fact, my body and weight became the biggest of afterthoughts. I wanted to eat. Eating suddenly became something I enjoyed again.
I wanted to enjoy life as much as I enjoyed weightlifting.
I felt happy. I felt capable. I felt strong. I felt completely empowered.
I suddenly realised how much joy I had been taught to deny myself over my lifetime. You shouldn’t enjoy eating unless you’re in a small body. You should cut out food groups unless you’re in a small body. You shouldn’t eat all morning. You should only eat this much at this time of day. You should do horrific, high-intensity workouts 7 days a week or you’re failing. NO EXCUSES. Eye roll.
Because we have been taught for so long now that being in a smaller body is more important than enjoying food and movement, and life for that matter.
But do you know what my entire life (so far) of experiences has taught me?
Finding methods of movement that are enjoyable to YOU, and eating food that brings you joy until you are content and satisfied, is far ‘healthier’, and will bring you to a much better place than chasing goal weights and BMI’s.
I have been in the obese BMI category, and have been healthy and thriving. I have been in the healthy weight category and almost dead from abusing my body to be smaller.
True health, happiness and a ‘healthy’ weight come from finding the place where you can feel good mentally and physically without torturing yourself (or having others torture you) under the guise of ‘health’.
Weightlifting not weight loss changed my life!
Lauren is a Home Educating mother of 4. She’s a blogger, content creator and photographer, who is also currently studying to take her fitness qualifications so she can help more people who struggle with mental health, disabilities and weight stigma to access help to find movement that brings them joy without the pressure for weight loss. Her main blog is The Heaton Family, along with her Instagram @theheatonfam.
To contact her, drop her an email firstname.lastname@example.org
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