Senior Year of high school 2005. Post-college Summer 2010. Comic-Con Fall 2014.
The first sentence is always the hardest because there are so many places to begin my story. Currently, I’m a 31-year old certified personal trainer, who also teaches ESL to Chinese children, coaches high school volleyball, and battles anxiety and depression. I grew up in PA, fell in love in NY, and now live in Concord NC with my two mini-dachshunds and my very tall boyfriend. My own journey and education in fitness has had many ups and downs. Getting to this point has been a long road. Though it’s difficult to divulge my personal struggles, I know I’m not the only person dealing with mental disorders, the stigmas associated with them, and the added physical stress and obstacles that accompany them. It’s my mission to help everyone achieve fitness goals and healthy, sustainable lifestyles, no matter what the circumstance or struggle.
In high school, I knew something about my thoughts and reactions were different from other students. I had very specific ways that I needed to do things, trouble reading and comprehending what I read, and an overall discomfort or emotional response to overwhelming situations (that weren’t overwhelming to most students). I constantly pressured myself to perform perfectly and try everything to impress an absent parent with sports, music, arts (seriously, everything!). I was constantly fighting to be loved and feeling like I was never good enough. Those feelings and insecurities controlled how I acted, thought, and felt about my abilities and my physical appearance.
By my third year in college, I sought out professional help and received my diagnosis: General Anxiety Disorder with OCD Tendencies and Mild Depression. Symptoms including: trouble compartmentalizing, lack of concentration, excessive worry, racing thoughts, agitation, irritability, panic attacks, feelings of worthlessness, and extreme sadness. Completing school work, choosing a career path, having friendships or relationships, and even dealing with some family members was frustrating, without fully understanding what I was dealing with and why. Each therapy session was an opportunity to learn more, deal with childhood and family problems, and find ways to cope with the insecurities. (Yes, these descriptions of my past problems are vague, but delving deep into every past heartache and obstacle would turn this into a novel. Maybe someday…)
During college, I also dealt with serious self-image issues that led me to try countless ways to look “thinner” no matter what the cost. (I really wish I could have an intervention with my younger self sometimes!) I was taking diet pills and supplements, trying several kinds of trendy diets, drinking shakes and teas, buying workout DVDs, and constantly scrutinizing every inch of my body. From high school to post-college, my weight fluctuated more than my hair color. I scoured the internet and listened to bad advice for quick fixes that only hurt me. I must have spent several thousands of dollars to achieve unrealistic results. Needless to say, some helped me lose weight and others did not. From high school through college, my weight fluctuated more than my hair color. None of them helped me become healthier or stronger.
It took too long to figure out that the problem I thought I had with my physical appearance wasn’t going to be solved by a quick fix. It also took too long to realize there is a connection between anxiety & depression and body composition. I was stuck in a loop of stressing about my body, battling anxiety and depression, trying insane ways to lose weight, not understanding why the efforts weren’t producing results, and repeat. Finally, it clicked, and I knew I needed to get educated in health, fitness, and nutrition to not only help myself, but help others stuck in the same loop.
It’s now been a decade since my first diagnosis and I’m still coping with anxiety and depression symptoms and learning about healthy ways to improve my mental, emotional, and physical fitness levels. One of the most important things I’ve learned over these years has been “consistency”. This is a key to accomplishing any goal and staying on track with progress. Losing the mindset of needing a quick-fix broke the “loop”. Consistency takes time and effort but the results are life-long and gratifying.
I can’t change my past or undo the “get thin quick” mistakes that I made, but I did learn the right ways to help myself, and now, I help others achieve realistic goals too. Today, I stay consistent with my nutrition and fitness training. I use what I've learned about macronutrients and nutrient timing as eating guidelines. For fitness, I utilize variety and progressions of strength training, HIIT cardio and resistance, circuits, and occasional steady-state cardio. I’m excited to share more about my journey and what I’ve learned. In upcoming blog posts, I am going to address how stress affects the body and ways to deal with it. If you’re dealing with a mental disorder and have had trouble controlling weight or achieving weight loss goals, I’m here to help!
SMASH your fitness goals! - Ash