My Core Story

Looking at the person I am now and thinking back through my fitness journey, I always thought I’d never go through an experience like this. Growing up as a dancer alowed me to maintain an active lifestyle. Aside from those party years in undergrad I’ll talk about in a bit, physical health was always a part of my life. Going back to my childhood, I find it important to thank my mom for the opportunities she has provided and for pushing me to be the person that I have become. It is because of her that I am so focused, determine and driven. As a young ballerina I felt forced to attend classes when I really didn’t want to go. There was several times where I would sit on my bed and cry my eyes out so I didn’t have to go. Thing is, this never worked. I had to go to class anyways and even though I struggled, I enjoyed every grueling minute of it. At the end of class I would feel so accomplished regardless of the mental frustration. Eventually pushing through became natural to me. I was never the prima ballerina and never had the desire to make a career of it, partly because I think I didn’t realize the opportunity I had at the time and the other part because destiny had something else in mind for me. While I enjoyed performing, it was a little more stress than I could handle, I guess my forte is helping others manage thier stress. While ballet taught me many things, I never fully gained the confidence necessary to excel. Maybe that’s why I find so much joy in being able to be a part of other’s doing so. Anyways, during middle school my mom and I moved from Texas to South Florida and at that time I took a year or so off from training and performing because our lives were in transition. In middle school, I tried out for my school’s Cheerleading team and didn’t make it so I joined the YMCA and signed up for gymnastics; maintaining that active lifestyle. Unfortunately, since gymnastics was new to me, I wasn’t very good at it and got discouraged early in the game. I must say, I’m a very competitive person; mostly competitive with myself. Eventually my mom found a fantastic ballet studio near our house called the Academy of Dance. While I experienced the same struggle of not wanting to go to class, I still did it anyways. When high school began, my mom finally gave me the choice to either continue ballet or do my own thing. I decided to do my own thing. I think she was satisfied with the foundation she laid for me. For a few months “doing my own thing” meant doing absolutely nothing. During that time my mom would make comments like “when I was your age, I used to run miles”. While I never let it show, these comments hurt deep down. Looking back and trying to figure out why she made these comments, all I can think is that she only wanted the best for me. She didn’t want me to be lazy and complacent. Eventually in my freshmen year of high school I tried out for the softball team, which was certainly an experience. Softball really wasn’t my cup of tea at that point in my life. When I was younger, really anything that had to do with the outdoors really wasn’t my thing. I had tried karate back in Texas and that didn’t work either, because it was HOT. Anyways, sophomore year I decided to try something new and join the soccer team. While I always enjoyed being a part of something, it was the sport that I didn’t enjoy. I used this as an excuse to become complacent. I remember making comments to my mom like “Thank God I have good genes because I would hate to have to go on a diet”. Little did I know, it wasn’t my genes that I should have been thanking, it was my active lifestyle. I was always able to eat anything and everything my heart desired. In my junior year of high school I decided not to continue team sports, ballet, or anything else for that matter. I decided to rebel. I decided that it was more important to hang out with friends, experiment with drugs and alcohol and be a general menace. This pretty much lasted throughout the rest of high school and ruined my first real relationship. I had become addicted to substances to gain the confidence that I never really developed for some reason or another. Drugs and alcohol was my self-esteem. Since I was no longer physically active and I was consuming a massive amount of alcohol, I started to gain a little bit of weight. The party scene introduced me to cocaine, and eventually other drugs that I used to keep my body the way I was used to. Instead of waking up and having a healthy breakfast I would do a bag of coke to “get my metabolism going” then I would do another instead of going to a ballet class. I started college and somehow survived through my freshmen year. Around that time I also decided to become a vegetarian (first in High School for the animals, then) in college in an effort to lose the “freshmen 15”, or in my case 30. The drug use and unhealthy lifestyle became a habit and a dependency that continued through my sophomore year of college. In my sophomore year I met the boy who I thought was the love of my life. Hell, he might have been but my loss of control ruined that as well. At that point in my life meeting him was probably the best thing that happened. While he did drink and party, he adamantly refused drugs. For this reason, I stayed away from the illegal substances but still drank heavily. While I was with him I also started to eat meat again. I became more confident in myself because he truly loved me. He loved the person I was and the way that I looked. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough for me. Even though I was dabbling in some “alternative modeling”, I still felt like I wasn’t pretty enough, or I wasn’t skinny enough. I didn’t have the body I was used to. He would always reassure me and tell me that he liked my “big butt”. For some reason, I didn’t and let’s all be honest, what we think is all that matters; right? Wrong. My relationship with him got rocky towards the end and I realized that I had become codependent (probably on his words of affirmation). During one of our many brief break-ups he encouraged me to do something for myself so I took a few ballet classes at my old studio (which had since become the Arts Academy of Hollywood). I only ended up going for a couple of months but it did make me realize how grateful I am for the opportunities that my mom had given me as a child. Anyways, fast forward a couple of years; we broke up – for good. I started doing drugs again, which thankfully only lasted long enough to get me through the break up. Eventually I graduated from college and started looking for a job. With a degree in Psychology, I found it hard to find an entry level job that would hire me without any experience. Somehow I got lucky and ended up landing a job in the field of Substance Abuse. Another god-send. This made me sober up again – for good. It also encouraged me to get healthy. I became a vegetarian again and decided to start working out here and there. After working in an entry level position as a Behavioral Health Technician for some time, I felt the need to continue moving forward. I started taking C.A.P. classes (Certified Addictions Professional) since I was one of the few people in my field with a Bachelor’s degree. I wasn’t able to start the classes as soon as I had wanted because my position required that I work odd hours. Eventually I got promoted, started the C.A.P. program and I decided to apply for Master’s program. I applied to a couple of schools and was accepted to the Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Program at Nova Southeastern University. For a few months I was taking C.A.P. classes and graduate classes at NSU until the C.A.P. program was discontinued indefinitely. I also joined a really nice gym and started working out like a fiend to cope with stress. Around that time, one of the clients at my job introduced me to calorie tracking which motivated me to fully jump on that fitness bandwagon. I was determined to “get fit” and “tone up”. However, somewhere along the lines I developed an eating disorder; whether it was to cope with stress or to elevate my lack of confidence, it has manifested its way into my life. The calorie tracking started by cutting calories down to 1,200/day and taking every group fitness class my schedule allowed for. I wasn’t taking into account any macros other than the calories. It had become the epitome of the “diet” that I said I could never imagine. I was measuring out every little thing I put into my body. Down to the calorie free hot sauce, coffee, truvia, spices, etc. I wouldn’t go out with friends for fear that I would eat more than I was supposed to or that the calories I would consume from drinking would put me over the edge. “Hanger” became a regular emotion. I started taking everything out on the people who I was closest to; my mom receiving the brunt of my fits. She started to make little comments here and there when I started to drop the weight but I disregarded it. I would continue to flip out on the littlest things like using whole eggs instead of just egg whites, or not having one of my healthy substitutions available. I began to cook to be able to control. I realized this was my sickness; it is the control that I crave. Somehow my efforts to become healthy had become unhealthy when I looked in the mirror and saw what 98 pounds looked like. It looks sick. Starting out at about 125 pounds, my goal weight was initially 115. After achieving 115 through watching and cutting calories as well as exercising I decided to shoot for 110, then eventually 105. I wasn’t adding on calories for the ones exercising subtracted and once I got to 105 I kept up my routine and continued to lose weight because there were still days when I would feel “fat”. I know, completely irrational. Around the end of August 2013 I realized that I no longer enjoyed drinking alcohol because of the empty calories. They were cutting into the healthy calories I could consume from food. After a binge weekend on vacation, I returned to my last year in grad school deciding to abstain from alcohol. Both for health reasons as well as professional reasons (after all, I can’t feel good about being a Substance Abuse Counselor and doing the one thing I ask my client’s not to do). Anyways, in an effort to gain some healthy weight beginning in 2014 I decided to reintroduce seafood into my diet and focus on the important macros. I also decided to introduce heavy weights into my workout routine and try to lay off cardio. There are still days where I look in the mirror and want to change something. Whether it is wanting to gain or lose, I still haven’t reached perfection. The thing is, I never will. No one will. This is because we are human and we are IMPERFECT. Being able to understand this and accept it is the challenge. This diet or that diet isn’t going to make us perfect or even happy for that matter. It’s the healthy, balanced lifestyle that will. The happiness comes from within.

It’s a lifestyle, not a diet

Working through an eating disorder is unbelievable hard. It’s mental and it’s physical and it’s hard to understand. Ensuring that I am getting in the proper nutrients and activity to sustain and maintain a healthy body is crucial through my journey. Every day is a challenge to focus on recovery. While I still am, and will continue to be a work in progress, I hope that I can be an inspiration for others to live a healthy and fit lifestyle. I enjoy cooking and creating and enjoy sharing my creations even more. Welcome to my relationship with food. Throughout these entries you will see the shift in personal preference, from being a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian to a Pescetarian to a Vegan. What works for me may not necessarily work for you, my goal is to share with you the things that make me happy. I hope you enjoy.

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Jessi's Fitness Food Share

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