Some of you may have heard my recent appearance on the Whole Life Challenge podcast. If you were able to wade through the blabbering that I can sometimes do when it comes to talking about this food stuff, you may have heard a tiny snippet of something possibly surprising there in the jungle of chatter. This comment regarded my brief comment on my past negative relationship with food and myself. As I’ve been writing this blog for some time now, offering up advice on perspective, nutritional information, tips for making healthful changes, and my ever growing love for food and butter, it may seem to some of you that I’ve got it pretty figured out. The guys even asked me what my eating was like now. if I’m “miss perfect eater”. That question got me to thinking. People who see the way I eat now, the way I talk about and eat food now, the way I act in general now when it comes to food, health, and fitness, might think that all of this came easily or that I’ve just always been this way. That I’ve successfully stumbled upon total health, happiness, self-acceptance, and all of that good stuff. While I’m certainly working towards that, and I have made huge strides in that department, I feel like it’s only right that I be real with you guys. I need you to understand where I’m coming from. That I’m not now, nor have I always been glowing in a place of positivity, and that it took a lot of work out of darkness to get here. It’s something that even many of the people in my life that I’m closest to know nothing about, and something I rarely discuss, let alone on a massive public forum. This is not going to be an easy blog to write, and I’m not even sure at this point if I will publish it since I have no idea where I’m going with it. Either way, I am definitely not going to be reading through it multiple times to edit for spelling and grammar. I’ll end up editing the shit out of it and I want this sucker to be pretty much from the heart.
That said, here goes nothing.

My name is Kristin, and I used to hate myself.

For the majority of my life, I hated what I saw in the mirror. My nose was too big, my hair was too dark, I had too much chub on my stomach or my legs. I let anything that anyone said get to me at my core. I allowed everything on the outside to determine my value. I was never overweight, but thanks to our unique ability to only see our flaws, I might as well have been in a circus freak show. The first thing I did, every day, every single morning, was feel how fat my stomach was, and then get up and look in the mirror to confirm it. I remember one time in high school after I had quit cheerleading (which I only did for two years – that’s a whole other story) and thus stopped all of the gymnastics that goes with it, my boyfriend at the time grabbing my legs and saying “I liked it better when they were muscular. They’re soft now.”. He might as well have told me I was a horrible, fat, ugly person…at least in my mind. It’s over 10 years later and I still remember these five seconds like it was yesterday. I wish, with everything I have, that I could go back and tell that 15 year old girl that she is worth so much more than how hard her thighs are. It would be easy to blame everyone else. That guy, society, the media and movies, for my negative self-view and embedded self-loathing. The truth is, though, the thing that’s hard to admit, is that all of the scrutiny wasn’t really from the outside world. It was almost exclusively coming from myself. I had place my value directly in relation to how I believed I needed to look. That wasn’t the media, boys, or magazines (though it would be foolish to say that these things don’t influence us) that made me feel this way. It was me.

I remember doing endless crunches in my room at night, running for hours on end trying to loose weight so I could be popular or liked. Cutting out pictures of the girls in magazines that I thought I needed to look like. I really believed if I could just be skinny that all my problems would be solved. I hated the fact that it seemed like everyone around me had a flat stomach and there I was with this pooch. Why was my body so different that everyone else’s? Why was it so hard for me to get the body that everyone else had?

Slowly, this turned down the road of restricting food and taking weight loss pills like candy. I’m currently sitting at a healthy (for me) 143 lbs, which for my 5’9″ athletic frame is just fine. By my junior year in high school I was chilling just around 120. For me, it’s a place I should never be. People around me started expressing concern, my boyfriend would try and steal the stackers from my bag but I didn’t give a SHIT. I was getting skinny FINALLY. I had defeated food and beat my body into submission. Eventually, I ate a little to little and took one too many pills and found myself shaking in the basement scared I was having a heart attack. My very own Jesse Spano moment. Mind you, I thought it was hilarious. How fun!

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Things bounced back and forth in college. The typical ‘I won’t eat today so I can drink tonight’, engaging in some behavior that people do when they’re incredibly unhappy in themselves and don’t see much value in the mirror. I started down the path of binging and purging, in all ways that you can. It was not a proud time, nor was it pleasant. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was all just an expression of my own hatred for myself. Thanks to lots of drinking and late night food, my weight started to fluctuate a lot. I gained (unhealthy) weight and was thus even more unhappy with what I was seeing and how I felt. It’s a vicious cycle, man. Just because someone doesn’t look like they’re struggling, doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and rainbows.q

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Luckily for me, I never went as far down that path as some do, and I’m thankful for that. I teetered on that fine line for years. Food was now the enemy. A requirement that I had to manipulate. Not the stuff that I used to love so much as a child. By the time I graduated college, I had gained 20 lbs, was miserable, and needed to change something. I’m not sure what it was that made me decide to go about it by eating right and exercising, but whatever it was is what started my path to where I find myself today.

That choice eventually led me to a trainer that led me to a coach that introduced me to CrossFit (my now boyfriend coach/owner of Absolute Strength Gym) that showed me weightlifting and paleo that got me interested in real food that got me healthy that got me happy that made me finally start to appreciate my body for what it is that made me want to shape it in healthful ways instead of fighting it that turned me on to helping others do the same. That was one long run on sentence. Am I totally in love with myself these days? No. Do I still wake up some mornings and catch myself feeling for my stomach? Yup. Do I still fight that little voice in my head that tries to tell me to watch my calories? Absolutely. The thing is, that now thanks to the journey that nutrition and learning and CrossFit has taken me on, I know how to shut those voices down. I know better now, than to let them take over. My relationship with myself, and with food has (CLEARLY) changed drastically. It was a long road, but when I look in the mirror now, I do not see that sad 16 year old girl crying about her soft thighs or the fact that she doesn’t have a perfectly flat stomach. I don’t see someone that needs to battle her way to the perfect body. I see someone who has worked her way to being happy in her healthy and (thanks to CrossFit) powerful body. Food is no longer the enemy. Every single thing I eat I now view as something with a purpose. I am now able to see these foods for what they are: fuel and nourishment. Everything I eat has a purpose. It is not something that I try to consume minimal amounts of. It’s something I do with intention and enjoyment. Without the side of guilt.

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So why am I telling you this? Why bother showing the girl behind the curtain? Surely it would be wiser to maintain the illusion that I’ve got my shit figured out. The reason is simple. I need for you to understand that I know first hand what it feels like. I get what you may be going through. Not because I read about it somewhere, but because I’ve been there.  You may look at me and think, ‘She’s in shape she has no idea how I feel’. I need you to see that just because YOU think I look a certain way, does not mean I felt that way about myself. I understand feeling like you don’t have control. Wanting so desperately to change but not feeling capable of doing it. Of feeling like no matter what I do, I will never look the way I picture myself in my head. I have looked in the mirror and hated what I saw. I have felt unworthy, ugly, fat, and worthless. The person you see now, the person who writes these posts about changing the perspective, about food as fuel and nourishment, about shutting out the outside noise that is trying to bring you down, is not the same person that she was 10 years ago. Or 5 years ago. Or last year. I need you to understand all of this because I need you to see that you can turn things around. You can take that control. You can learn how to see food differently, see yourself differently, and eventually find yourself at a place of peace. It takes time, and it takes work but it is possible. For you, for me, for everyone.

More than that, I need you to know that you’re not crazy. We all struggle sometimes. I still even find myself starting to go down that rabbit hole. Looking in the mirror a little too much. Pinching my stomach. Thinking maybe I should pass on the second butter coffee today. Even thought I know better. Even though I have the education now to understand the truth behind this thinking. Even though I am light years away from where I was 10 years ago. These habits are so engrained that they are hard to eliminate forever. The thing that’s different now, is that because I know better, I know how to stop it. I know how to nip it in the bud. I know how to change the direction of things and get back to a healthy perspective.

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Do I look like those girls I taped to my bedroom wall? No. Do I look like the CrossFit girls with six pack abs and “she squats” asses? No. The thing is, I’ve come to realize that that’s ok! I’m never going to look like the girls magazines, or CrossFit, or the girl on the beach with a 20″ waist and abs for days. Why? Because I’m NOT THEM. You’re never going to look like me because you’re not me. I will never look like you because I’m not you. See where I’m going with this? We need to stop looking to others and creating these images in our heads based on them of what we need to look like because the truth of the matters that will never happen. We will never look like someone else. All we can do is be the best versions of ourselves, and that’s something that’s going to be different for everyone. How can we achieve that? How can we start working on shifting our thought process? We start by consciously, and specifically changing our focus from ‘thin’ to ‘healthy’.

That’s the first step, and it was the first one I took then really got me on a path that lead to self-acceptable and appreciation for what I’ve got going on. To the place where I don’t really care too much if I don’t have a six pack. I’m still going to work out in my sports bra and hot pants in the summer. I started focusing on what foods would make me healthiest. Not which foods would make me leanest. What foods I should avoid because they were raising my blood sugar, or messing with my cognitive function, or destroying my gut lining. Not which foods I think I should avoid because they’re going to make me fat. The funny thing is, that once you start to change the goal, and the way you see food, you end up getting out of your bodies way and allowing it to take it’s natural, healthful, fit shape. Not only that, but the idea in your head of how you should look will start to change. What do I mean by that?


 

“Does it make more sense to be at war with your body or to work with it? Does it make more sense to heal your body from the get-go or to try to bandage it up later? Does it make more sense to think of your body as a natural body or as a thing that is distant from you and requires medication? Does it make more sense to care about the quantity of calories or the quality of calories?”
– Stefanie Ruper, Sexy By Nature


Well, for years of my life, I probably would’ve done, taken, eaten, not eating anything you told me to in order to get skinny at the expense of my health. I didn’t give a shit if I was healthy. I only cared if I was thin and how chubby my belly was. Now, with all I know, I could probably Diet myself down to a six pack pretty quickly. Implement specific tactics to get it done. However, I also know what the expense would be and the impact it would have on my health. My sleep would suffer, my hormones would fall out of balance, my fertility would likely shut down, my brain would slow, my energy would plummet, my mood would tank, and my performance would suffer. I am no longer willing to sacrifice these things.

It’s not about skinny, curvy, lean, muscular or any of those things. There is no one single body that is best, ideal, or healthiest for every person. We all have a unique set of qualities that manifests differently to create our own unique best self. Yourself, healthy and happy, if your best self.

This past summer was a book mark one for me. It is the first time, ever, in my entire memory of life, that I put on a bathing suit and didn’t immediately start crying for twenty minutes. I’ve gone through the same routine every year. Try it on, be disappointed, cry, then decide by August I might be comfortable enough to not hate being on the beach. I always hid how uncomfortable I was and got very crafty at sitting in just the right position that I felt like I looked OK. How exhausting. This year, I had just come off of a big year of change. I got very in depth in nutrition studies, was reading and writing more than ever, and had made drastic changes to my diet with my health in mind. Did my body look different? Yes. It looked healthy.  That wasn’t the big thing though. I FELT different. I didn’t hate what I saw in the mirror not specifically because of physical changes in my body, but because of the mental changes that were made along the way. I felt healthy, strong, and confident. I didn’t think about how I was sitting, or who was looking at me, assuming they must be thinking about how fat I looked. My entire mentality shifted, and it was because I changed my goal from thin to healthy. By doing that, I stopped FIGHTING my body, and allowed it to find it’s happy place on its own. I didn’t starve, I didn’t count every single calorie. I just ate for health. My goals changed. My idea in my head of what I wanted to look like changed and it was truly simply a stronger, healthy version of myself. I no longer found myself trying to bend to what I thought was someone else’s ideal.

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This picture is not to show that I got my body to a certain place, and therefore was happy, but that I gained a confidence that I never had through making getting healthy my focus and priority. It changed what I wanted my body to look like. No longer super-skinny ‘heroine sheik’, but athletic, strong and once again…healthy. This picture, to me, captures the first time in my life that I didn’t have an ounce of self-doubt, discomfort, or the quiet need to cover up. It was the first time that I ever felt completely comfortable in my skin and it is not a reflection of the end product, but a reflection of the journey and path I took to get there.


 

“The modern world’s obsession with restriction has led to a wide variety of practices that are detrimental to health. These practices may masquerade as healthy, but they are not. Excess exercise is one of them. Fasting is another. Examples that might be harder to believe but are equally harmful include low-calorie diets, low-fat diets, and vegetarianism. This fact is made all the more unfortunate because these practices are especially harmful for women.”
More Stefanie Ruper, Sexy By Nature


My goal, my ultimate mission, is to save just one person even a minute of what I’ve come out of. If my years that eventually brought me to this place can help someone else arrive at their peace just a fraction sooner, then I will consider what I’m doing a success. When I write these posts about taking control, and making real changes, and telling people who are doubting you or trying to bring you down to fuck off, I’m not writing them from a soap box or an ivory tower. I’m writing them as someone who has been right there, in the trenches, fighting the dirty fight. I’ve just managed to pull myself out, take a shower, pick up a barbell and eat some butter, and now I want to help get you out, too.