Have you ever broken up with someone who doesn’t even know who you are? LOL Today I am grieving the loss of a totally fake relationship. I had no idea the feelings this would trigger in me. I actually cried when telling my coaches about my love for this woman, and how I haven’t been able to bring myself to unfollow her on instagram yet.
Jillian Michaels was my first fitness love, a total girl crush. I wanted to train like her, to look like her, to BE her. My actual bff and I would even discuss how I was making moves to be the next Jillian Michaels. I followed Jillian’s eating plans, bought all her books and dvds, did all her workouts, watched The Biggest Loser, and even ran my own biggest loser competitions. I had a #bodygoals picture of her on my phone and would look at it for inspiration daily.
One of my most very favorite memories ever is when my husband surprised me with a trip to see her speak. While I excitedly sat in the audience soaking up all that Jillian had to say, the woman next to me said “you must do all her workouts because your body looks just like hers.” Y’ALL. THIS was the BEST compliment I had ever received! I took a picture of myself in my hotel room that day and I saved it in my phone to add to my daily #bodygoals inspiration.
I got to see her speak again when she came to Nashville, and I was just as excited. My body wasn’t as lean as had been the first time. But I listened and recommitted to achieving that level again.
And then it happened. The PINNACLE of my fitness career…I actually got to MEET Jillian, have a full on conversation with her, and do a live, in-person workout with her! (another surprise from my husband, the best gift giver ever) It was amazing, and she was so warm and friendly and truly encouraging in our one on one interaction.
My body fat percentage was higher than it had been that first time I saw her speak, but my biceps were bigger than hers now and I was super proud of that. 😉 I could barely keep up in the workout, even tho I was super fit. And I once again committed to achieving her level of fitness and low body fat percentage. I would look at the picture of her, and that old picture of me, and feel so bad about myself and berate myself into working out harder and restricting more.
That was in September of 2017. 2018 was the year that started to change everything for me. I had recommitted to absurd levels of exercise and a very strict diet. I noticed a spot on my chest that just didn’t seem right. I had it checked out and it was a form of skin cancer that needed to be removed. Super easy and routine, however because of the location, I was told not to exercise, other than walking, for 6 weeks while it healed.
After that healed, I started back to my workout schedule and strict diet. I was always doing crazy hard workouts and challenging, advanced moves. And ironically, as I was finishing up a very leisurely hike one day, I severely sprained my ankle in two places. I was on crutches for a couple weeks and then in a brace for 8 more weeks. No running, or weight lifting with the lower body. After the 8 weeks, I was able to start my weight lifting again, still in my fancy brace, but definitely needed to take it easy.
I was just getting back into my routine when I needed to have a procedure to deal with some pre-cancerous cells in my cervix. Short recovery, but still a “set back”.
A few months later, we found out that procedure hadn’t removed all the cells and so I had a more intense procedure. Still a short recovery, but again, a “set back”.
With most of 2018 being in some kind of recovery, I was excited to start fresh in 2019! I spent January and February RELIGIOUSLY following my intense workout regimen and a “detox” reset eating plan that SUCKED. (bread is one of the best things on this earth y’all) Then it happened again – a “set back.” I was told I needed a hysterectomy (after many attempts at avoiding it).
In April of 2019 I had the hysterectomy. My recovery was slow and long. I think more from the depression I was experiencing from a loss of identity than anything physical. (Identity wrapped up in how I looked…hint number one that something was disordered in how I was living?) My body was actually good, strong and healthy. No complications at all.
During this 12 weeks of again only walking for exercise, I had a lot of time on my hands. I began to look back over the last 2 years and see what I could learn from them. One thing I learned was that following this “perfect” way of eating/moving had not prevented any of the issues I was dealing with. Even with so much focus on what I thought would keep me healthy, I was injured, dealt with cancer, and had also had the flu. I learned that I had so much more freedom and peace when I wasn’t focused on rules around food and exercise. I had more time and energy to focus on doing fun things, giving back, and building relationships. I had more flexibility to enjoy the foods I actually wanted to eat.
It was in this time of reflecting and learning that I started to experience a shift. I saw that my body was still good. It was able to recover from so much trauma, without a plan. And I realized that even tho I wasn’t at this certain body fat percentage that I had deemed “perfect”, my body was was HAPPY.
As I was scrolling instagram one day, I came across an account that was talking about intuitive eating and health at every size. The information drew me in and I started on a deep-dive into what this was all about.
What I learned was like the biggest OMG, DUH moment ever! I mean, OF COURSE we aren’t meant to live our lives with the sole purpose of getting to the smallest version of ourselves. OF COURSE we shouldn’t be consumed by counting every single thing we put in our mouths. OF COURSE we don’t need to beat our body into submission every single day with intense exercise and inadequate amounts of foods. OF COURSE we don’t need to eliminate whole food groups that we don’t have an allergy to or a moral/religious reason for. OF COURSE food literally has no moral value. OF COURSE God created us with AMAZINGLY intuitive bodies that are actually on our side! How could I have missed all this?!
I started seeking out as many professionals – registered dietitians, therapists, and nutritionists – as I could find on instagram and starting following and reading and learning more. The science and research around diets not working, the mental AND physical impacts of disordered eating and exercise, and the benefits of Intuitive Eating and Movement were overwhelming. Many of these professionals also had stories similar to mine, and that gave me so much hope.
I knew it would be a long journey and a lot of hard work to dismantle the over a decade of living in the “eat less, move more” mentality, but I dove in. I read the book, I read all the blogs, I unfollowed all the accounts that were promoting disordered eating and exercise, I found 2 amazing coaches and joined their group program, and I began to heal my relationship with food and movement.
I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy. Diet culture and fat phobia are ingrained in my mind, and permeate in literally every aspect of our culture. I’m so hyper aware of the way diet culture lies to us now that I see it EVERYWHERE.
So, Jillian Michaels, I still love you. I will always love you. You are so gorgeous, and strong, and smart, and your commitment to your health and your intense passion for helping others (even tho they both come from a very disordered, fat phobic place) IS inspiring to me. But we have to stop being (pretend) bffs. It’s not me, it’s you. You have built a huge, successful empire on weight as the measure of health. And I HAVE seen your evolution from when you first got started until now, the way you’ve shifted to promoting balance and self care over an all or nothing approach, and I pray that you continue to evolve because you have a huge platform and so many of us look up to you. But I am in a trusting, respectful relationship with my body now, so we do have to break up.
Today I know that body positivity is something I DO, not something I feel. Today I know that eating food that is nourishing AND satisfying is more beneficial to my health than food rules ever were. Today I know that moving my body in ways that I enjoy, with how it makes me feel as the only goal, is more beneficial to my health than “no pain, no gain, no days off” ever was. Today I know without a doubt that weight loss is not the goal of a healthy lifestyle, and that we can totally pursue health without ever thinking about weight. Today I know that my identity is not wrapped up in how my body looks.
I will FOREVER cherish the memories of getting to meet Jillian, but I no longer want to BE her. I want to be the very best version of ME, and I’m loving who I am becoming.
Intuitive Eating and Movement absolutely does not ignore health. It is NOT a free for all, throw health out the window and give up on yourself way of living. It IS a way to make peace with food and build a trusting relationship with your body as you focus on healthy habits while enjoying life. It IS realizing that you are SO MUCH more than a body, and that you can stop fighting with it. It is a way to take a huge weight off your shoulders and support your mental health as well as your physical health.
“Intuitive Eating is a compassionate, self-care eating framework that treats all bodies with dignity and respect.”– Tribole & Resch (2020), Intuitive Eating, 4th Edition
If you’ve read this far (thank you!) and want to learn more about Intuitive Eating, please reach out! I would love to share some amazing accounts for you to follow, and chat with you. Also, stay tuned…I’m working on an Introduction to Intuitive Eating course that I’m really excited to share!