Growing up I was probably one of the most active, happy and outgoing little girls you could ever meet. I was always busy with sports, hanging out with friends and finding new ways to drive my mom a little crazy with my fearless antics. I was a competitive gymnast through high school and amongst the top in the northeast in Track & Field. This led me to secure a scholarship to the University of Connecticut to be on their D1 Track & Field Team. It was a dream. I LOVED Uconn. I LOVED being a part of a big team. I LOVED the freedom to go out as late as I wanted and do whatever I wanted. Fast forward three years: I was now the captain of the track team for the second year in a row, on a full scholarship and had a 4.0 GPA. Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? I thought so at the time, until my doctor told me I was dying.
“Sounds pretty great doesn’t it?
I thought so at the time, until my doctor told me I was dying.”
I weighed 122 pounds then. That’s 26 pounds less than when I entered college. I know that might not seem like a low weight to many people but at 5’8, I was very underweight. I was working out twice a day and then sometimes even going for an extra run on top of practice — all of this while eating 1,100 calories a day. I didn’t see an issue with losing “a little weight” especially because “Fat Doesn’t Fly” on the track (yes, that was an actual mantra on the team). I refused to seek help until my team doctor barred me from competing.
He said, “Brittany, your blood test results are back and there’s no other real way to put this other than ‘You’re dying.’”
This was the first time I sat back and truly listened to what he had been telling me for months. My blood cells were starving and eating each other, my hormones were completely out of whack resulting in liver problems, and I was developing an irregular heartbeat. Maybe I wasn’t going to die right then and there, but if I didn’t face the facts soon, the reality of me not making it through adulthood or developing irreversible health issues was very real.
One may ask how does this happen? How does a perfectly healthy, happy and successful girl develop such issues? Well, that’s just it. I wasn’t happy. It took me a long time to admit it but I had sunk into a pretty severe depression. There was a long line of issues that occurred in my family, there were breakups, constant pressure to be better on the track, and many more things that attributed to my perceived loss of control. But food was the one thing I could control, so I clung to it and controlled it to the max.
“But food was the one thing I could control, so I clung to it and controlled it to the max.”
Anyway, this post isn’t about how I got there but how I got from there to here, where I am now. I’ll tell ya, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t quick. I faltered often and I wanted to give up numerous times, but I’m damn proud of myself now for not. Through the process of healing my mind and body and repairing my relationship with food I’ve learned a few really important life lessons:
It’s incredibly hard to effectively focus on your nutrition and physique goals until you’ve addressed your mental wellness. If you are not in a sound state of mind, you will consistently struggle with nutrition choices, body image issues, and your drive to become the healthiest version of yourself.
Forgiveness is key. Forgive yourself for faltering on your journey. No one is perfect. You will never be perfect. Learn from your mistakes, absorb the lesson you learned from them, and move forward.
Surround yourself with those who bring you up. Whether it be in the gym, at work, in your friend group, or in your family. It’s beyond difficult to produce positive change while surrounded by a dark cloud of negativity. Surround yourself with people who support your goals and distance yourself from the ones who bring you down.
Stress is not worth the stress. Stress comes in many forms. Some of mine came in the form of worry, anxiety, over-working, and over-training to name a few. Stress is one of the leading causes in irregular hormone production, sleep disturbance, high blood pressure and depression. Choose your mental and physical battles more carefully. Ask yourself is stressing out right here and now:
• Going to produce lasting change?
• Going to make me a better version of myself?
If the answer is no, take a deep breath and let it go.
Educate yourself. There were countless times I followed terrible diets and bad advice without researching them and ended up setting myself back exponentially. Just because the Keto diet, training 19 hours a day, and eating tide pods are trending does not mean that it is right for you.
Carbs are not the devil. I literally went years without touching a single processed, starchy, or complex carb because “they make you gain weight”. But that’s simply not true. I am healthier and more fit than ever with carbs back in my diet.
Frustration is inevitable. There is always going to be something that frustrates you. Your battle with the scale, your lack of PRs in the gym, your family, your mother-in law, traffic on I-95. It’s all about how you handle it. Chances are, you probably can’t change it, so embrace it. Life isn’t always great, life isn’t always fair, but there is always something to be grateful for. In times of frustration, try to think of something that makes you feel grateful in that instance instead of dwelling on the negative.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Those you may ask might not know how to help, but they might know someone who does. And those that you think can’t help may surprise you. Asking for help does not make you weak. It makes you stronger for being willing to admit imperfection and ultimately gets you closer to your goals.
Nothing changes if nothing changes. You are the only person in charge of your health and happiness. If you don’t make the change — whether that’s eating better, exercising more or less, leaving the toxic relationship, or making a career change — no one else is going to do it for you.
Acknowledge that if you were going to do it yourself, you would have done it by now. Find a coach, professional, mentor, or friend. People who have found success almost always are accountable to someone and seek guidance from people who know what they’re doing. Depending on what your needs or goals are, there’s someone out there who can help you, who can provide a perspective that you just can’t see on your own. It’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.
Today, I weigh the most I have in the past six years. I eat over 1,000 calories more per day. I don’t feel guilty for going over my macros or my sugar goal in MyFitnessPal because I wanted a chocolate bar. I am stronger and more fit than ever. I am once again that happy, outgoing, quirky, fearless, confident girl that had once disappeared. Most importantly I am proud of who I see looking back at me in the mirror every single morning.
“Most importantly I am proud of who I see looking back at me in the mirror every single morning.”
Thank you to all of you who stuck by me and guided me through the process.
You know who you are.
Coach Brittany Power