My Battle with Disordered Eating and How I Got Over It

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Many years ago, I struggled with disordered eating habits. For a period of about three years, I had daily battles with my mind, food, and personal issues.

I debated for a while as to whether or not I would share this with the world in such detail, but I have been receiving more and more emails from women who have, and are, battling the same disordered eating patterns that dominated my own life for a few years.

It’s my hope and intention to provide some insight into a form of disordered eating I experienced, and maybe even help some people who struggle with similar issues. But, please, keep in mind that what helped me conquer my problems with food may not be the best solution for you.

A Little Background Information

When I first started working with clients over eight years ago, I supplied them with basic nutrition information. Most people asked me about counting calories, weighing food, nutrient timing, and meticulously tracking macronutrients. During that time early in my career I had zero issues with food and my body image, and I never over-thought what or when I ate. Naturally I was surprised at how obsessive and controlling many people were about how, what, and when they ate.

I just wanted people to focus on eating real food the majority of the time – meats, veggies, fruits, etc – and enjoy things like ice cream and pizza once or twice a week.

At that same time, I was blissfully unaware of how many calories were in common foods, mostly because I just didn’t care. I was amazed that so many women could immediately recall how many calories were in a hamburger, slice of pizza, a quarter cup of peanuts, or a chicken breast; it was as if they had a calorie catalog in their brain.

Then over a period of a few months, I started to look closely at labels and tracked how many calories I consumed along with grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. This first started out of curiosity, but quickly turned into a compulsive habit.

In addition to counting calories, I also adopted other nutrition “rules” as well, such as eating 5-6 small meals each day, measuring and/or weighing everything and eating only “clean” foods. The stress from taking so much time out of my day to think about and prepare food, and the lack of flexibility, caught up to me. On the weekends I would reason that, “I was good all week long, so I deserve a cheat day.” On those self rewarded cheat days, I would eat anything and everything I wanted, only to feel horrible both mentally and physically afterwards.

I Completely Lost Control

The disordered eating habits didn’t escalate overnight; about a year into the disordered eating was when my problems with food, lack of control, personal troubles, and self hatred peaked. And that’s the period I’m going to focus on during this article. It’s this time, the time when I truly had no control over when or how much I ate, that I will reveal in detail.

When the disordered eating was at its worst, all I thought about, from the moment I awoke in the morning to when I fell asleep at night, was food and my lack of control with what I put in my mouth; this is no exaggeration. Every thought revolved around food or negative self talk about how much of a failure I was for having no control over inanimate objects.

No longer could I rigidly follow my old eating patterns – 5-6 small meals, counting calories, eating clean, weighing food and keeping my daily intake at a certain level. I completely lost control and couldn’t stop eating compulsively; and I battled daily only to fail over and over again.

Once I put food into my mouth, I lost all control and would just keep on eating. My “full” sensor was completely out of whack and I was a seemingly bottomless pit.

Jars of peanut butter. Boxes of cereal. Loaves of bread. I ate in massive quantities throughout the day.

And because I had no control over food, I tried to take control elsewhere via self induced vomiting. I tried on dozens of occasions to make myself puke, but it never worked. I started to drink “weight loss teas,” but they were just glorified diuretics. I would attempt to count every calorie I ate on days where I was “good” and didn’t binge and tried to keep my total intake below 1100 calories (these days rarely happened).

As a result of binge eating on a very frequent basis, I got up to a soft and pudgy 140 pounds. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but for a girl who was used to weighing 115 pounds, it was a lot.

To make the situation worse, I developed gastrointestinal issues as a result from severely overeating on a recurrent (practically daily) basis. Things got so bad I had to get a HIDA scan (hepatobiliary scintigraphy – fancy way of saying scanning the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and small intestine via nuclear medicine that uses a radioactive chemical to highlight the organs).

The scan results revealed some glaring issues (including bile leaking into my stomach) that were causing me a lot of stomach pain and upset, and I was prescribed some pills for a couple of months.

(Note – once I got control over my issues with food and disordered eating habits, it took a couple of years to heal the damage that was done from all of the overeating).

Bring on the Cardio

Because I was unable to self induce vomiting or control how much I ate, I figured I would do the next best thing – burn as many calories as possible through exercise. I would spend hours each and every week on the elliptical machine, bike, treadmill, and stair stepper. Yes, I was a “cardio queen”. I would try daily to “undo the damage” I had done from overeating.

I meticulously kept track in my training journal how many calories I burned with my cardio marathon sessions (little did I know at the time that the cardio machines greatly overestimate how many calories are truly burned).

I would lift weights at least four days each week, and I performed at least one full hour of cardio each day. At one point I was even running sprints a few times each week as well.

It was Personal

There were also larger personal problems I was battling at the same time as the disordered eating, but I won’t talk about those here. In fact, the two issues (personal problems + disordered eating) went hand in hand.

In retrospect I realize it was the personal issues that added fuel to my disordered eating fire – I would try to comfort myself from my daily personal problems and self heal by eating food. The only time I didn’t feel pain, sadness, or remorse was when I was eating. As long as I was chewing something, I was “okay”.

Bottom line, I was a huge mess (emotionally, mentally, and physically) and my body was over-stressed. Not only was I severely emotionally stressed, but I was working out for hours every day of the week and overloading my system with tons of food.

It was no wonder that I also battled severe fatigue along with depression, gastrointestinal issues, and disordered eating on a daily basis.

The Repair Process

I sought help from several counselors, but to no avail; things kept getting worse with both my disordered eating and my personal life. I started to question everything at one point – who I was, what I was doing, what purpose I served in life. I completely lost sight of things I was once certain of and no longer recognized myself; I was a totally different person.

But it was time to defeat my disordered eating patterns and break free from binge eating.

Long story short, things in my personal life reached a tipping point, and I knew I had some tough decisions to make and that I had to finally take control of my life – personally and with food. In the end, I made drastic life changes.

Some of the changes included giving up my training business that I was building, making a huge personal decision, and moving to a different city.

I knew that such radical changes needed to be made; I needed to “start over” and create a new beginning for myself.

It was actually these personal life changing decisions that initiated the healing process for my disordered eating habits. Once I started to rebuild my foundation, re-discover who I was and who I wanted to be, the roles in life I wanted to fulfill, and the future I wanted to create, that is when I finally took control of my problems with food too.

However, I desperately needed to adjust my relationship with food, and so, over a period of years, I developed and tweaked some nutritional guidelines I follow for overall health and performance. I also had to relearn what it meant to feel hunger (I completely lost this natural feeling for a few years) and start from scratch to improve my relationship with food. As time has progressed, I’ve simplified my guidelines more and more.

Some people scoff at my nutrition recommendations as being “overly simplistic”, but they are very effective and were initially developed out of sheer necessity. Plus, who said something must be complicated to produce results? That hasn’t been the case for me or my clients over the recent years.

I always start out with the simplest and easiest nutrition guidelines possible, and only make tweaks when absolutely necessary. Why do something complicated first when something much simpler could be all you need to achieve the desired results? This is what I call Sane and Simple Nutrition.

How Things are Going Today

First, I encourage you to read How to (Once and for All) Break Free from OCD Eating Habits, Regain Your Sanity, and Eat to Build a Better Body, Simply. That article reveals some important information.

Bottom line – I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and living a life I wouldn’t change for anything. I’m surrounded by people I love, and who love me for who I am. I have a “job” that allows me to help people and that brings me joy each and every day. I no longer question who I am or the person I want to be; I know without a doubt. And, let’s not forget, I’m now a self-proclaimed Beautiful Badass as well. I’m always striving to become the most awesome and strongest version of myself.

I’m grateful for those “dark years” and wouldn’t change them if I had the opportunity. Those trials I endured and the resulting changes I made caused me to grow up and taught me very valuable lessons I couldn’t have learned elsewhere.

My relationship with food has improved dramatically over the years, but I don’t expect to ever return to the mindset I had pre-disordered eating days. It’s something I have to be careful with because I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely “cured”. Those who have had similar experiences can probably relate to this statement. However, I’m making whatever changes I can to continue to improve my mindset and further my progress as much as possible.

It’s because of my battle with disordered eating that I developed my current nutritional guidelines that I use with myself and my clients – they’re simple and as stress free as possible, but also effective. You can find them in Sane and Simple Nutrition.

If I have to put in a great deal of thought or effort into my daily nutrition, bad things happen and I risk tail spinning back into disordered eating habits. That’s why I abstain from counting calories, weighing food, eating a certain number of meals each day at set times, and other strict rules that require much thought or effort. (Note – I am not claiming that people who do those things have disordered eating habits or will develop them; I’m simply saying that such acts lead me back into bad habits. Some of those methods could even help some people who struggle with various disordered eating habits. No one is the same and one method will not work for everyone).

It’s my sincerest hope that, if you too struggle with disordered eating habits, that you’ve received a glimmer of hope from this article. You’re not alone, and no one is totally exempt from the potential of developing disordered eating patterns.

It’s a challenging battle, but it CAN be won . . .

 

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  • “I freaking LOVE this info! I'm determined to be a Beautiful Badass!” -Tina V
  • http://Www.marshallroy.com Marshall Roy

    Wow Nia. I am so impressed that you had the courage and humility to share this story with us. I'm sure it goes a long way with your clients knowing you've overcome your own issues with food.

    I could not agree more with your simple stance on nutrition. My own “rules” are pretty simple (much to my clients' annoyance sometimes): Food is not a reward or an amusement. Eat for nourishment and fuel. If you couldn't grow it or kill it, don't eat it.

    Thanks again for sharing this and for being such an inspiration to your clients and readers!

    • Katie Dontwanttotell

      The story is very inspiring, but you point a very important fact – we all need to eat. It should’n be some kind of a reward because it is our basic need. Nia made a big battle against her weakness, but should be aware of problems with a bad nutrition. The gold is somewhere between those two borders and the art lays in spotting it.

      Best regards

      Katie from http://topproducts.bestinternetmall.com/

  • Maria

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us Nia. I too have battled with disordered eating and I can completely relate to a most of your story. I spent most of my youth depressed and then two years worrying non-stop about how I looked and constantly thinking I was fat (even though for about a year of that I was pretty much annorexic, and the next year I was actually nicely lean). I've always been a tom-boy and thought I never cared what I looked like, but when I decide to do something I do absolutely anything I can to get there. Except I never “got there” in my mind. I still always thought I was fat and never let myself have “unhealthy” treats! I'd also avoid social situations involving food; even when I was on holiday with my friends, I didn't eat out with them. I made my own food.

    When I decided to stop worrying about how I looked and concentrate on strength, the two years of extremely strict dieting got to me. I'm currently trying to lose all of the weight I added through that recent binging (10kg!), but I'm doing it over a long period of time so I can concentrate on my strength and build a healthy relationship with food again. Balance and moderation are things I need to work on! IF is helping me a lot. I feel like I am in control again. Eating every 2.5374 hours makes you think about food non-stop and means you are never full. Even though I am larger now, my self esteem is so much higher because I'm not focussed on being lean; I'm focussed on lifting that goddamn weight.

    One thing we must *never* forget is to never be afraid to ask for help, in all aspects of life. It took me far too long to realise that. But, like you Nia, I wouldn't trade in those dark times for anything. These are the times we learn the most about ourselves. We grow the strength to overcome the problems, and this prepares us for anything life throws at us!

    Keep on being awesome Nia. I think I'm becoming your number one fan! (Aside from your mum, of course!) x

  • Erica

    My relationship with food has improved dramatically over the years, but I don’t expect to ever return to the mindset I had pre-disordered eating days. It’s something I have to be careful with because I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely “cured”. Those who have had similar experiences can probably relate to this statement.

    I relate to this so much. I also really appreciate that you are keeping your nutrition principles very simple. I've found that the same works for me, finally. Eating whole, real foods. Lots of veggies/meat, little dairy and starchy carbs. Not eating until I'm overfull, etc. I can't wait to read about what you do.

  • Anna

    Thanks so much for that Nia!! It seems i'm not the only one you have these problems…My story is identical to yours in a way, though i'm still struggling to find a way out of it :-(

    You know what is the most difficult point though (and the one I still can't answer)… How do you go from full control of what you eat (counting calories, meals, macronutrients etc etc) and probably overexercising, to a healthier approach? I mean, if I directly stop counting what I'm eating and also cut back on exercise, wouldn't I gain weight? And if so, how will I be able to persuade myself not to go back to my old habits of reducing calories and overexercising in order to loose that excess weight? For me now it seems like there is no way out of this :-(

  • Kate

    Thank you so much for that post. I too had/have disorders with food, and before reading that post I thought I was the only fitness freak with food issues, that there was something broken with me to why I can become completely obsessed with counting nutrition and calories and then spend the next day gorging myself with “healthy” food, feel terrible and work out for 3 hrs and not eat the next day to make up for it. Reading your story makes me feel less of a failure and has encouraged me to take control. Thanks!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks for the kind words, Marshall. It's my greatest hope that I can help others who have been in the same position.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you for sharing your personal story, too!

    I definitely agree with you – IF has helped me tremendously, which I talk more about in next weeks article.

    I also do my best to just focus on getting stronger in the gym and not worrying so much about how I look or the number on the scale.

    I wish you all the best!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks for sharing, Erica!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Anna, I know exactly what you mean. I was there.

    I had to start slowly. For me, I started to follow something similar to intermittent fasting – that way I could eat meals that actually allowed me to feel full.

    I also followed some simple principles – eat primarily real foods but enjoy other things (like ice cream, pizza, etc) a couple of times each week. Also, don't list anything as being “bad” or “forbidden”.

    When it came to training, and I'll talk more about this in a couple of weeks, I had to change my mindset from training for fat loss and physical appearance to improved performance. I cut out all cardio (except for walking my dog) and focused on getting stronger in the gym.

    You may want to confide in someone you trust as well and see if they can help you.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    I think because I was constantly educating myself about nutrition and reading stuff on a daily basis, I couldn't help but over think everything!

    I lived and breathed fitness every day with myself and my clients. Yes, I felt horrible because I “knew what I should do” but just wasn't able to do it myself. I felt like such a hypocrite because I would tell my clients one thing, but I had absolutely no control.

    It definitely takes time to heal, but it's very possible. The first year was the hardest, and things are still improving to this day.

  • http://www.sirenabernal.com Sirena

    Hi Nia,

    Wow. I want to first thank you for writing this. I have just recently started reading your blog, and this piece really stopped me dead in my tracks.

    Second, I want to commend you for having the bravery and courage to open up about your struggle with food. I kept nodding my head as I was reading it as I too, wrote a very similar piece about my experience on my blog.

    I can relate to the binging, the digestive issues, and the lack of control. You said something that really hit close to my heart:

    “I am grateful for those “dark years” and wouldn’t change them if I had the opportunity. Those trials I endured and the resulting changes I made caused me to grow up and taught me very valuable lessons I couldn’t have learned elsewhere.”

    I've been there too. To some really dark places in my heart, and although it totally sucked at the time, it was the best thing that could have ever happened, because it's brought me to where I am today. And I'm damn proud of it.

    Thank you again for sharing this, and I look forward to connecting with you more.

    Talk soon,

    Sirena

  • http://readyin5weeks.blogspot.com/ Kristy

    Nia, Thank you for posting this, I think the problem is more widespread than people realize. I know so many women who count the calories, do excessive cardio and binge, I am fairly sure they purge too but it is not something they want o admit or even can admit. Hopefully your message will help someone else. You have come a long way, keep up the good work!

  • http://www.women-workout-routines.com Rumiana

    Nia, it was so touching to read your story, you brought tears to my eyes. I also had health issue, different than yours and I know that you need guts to share it. Your story helps many people, you are treasure!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you, girl. I truly appreciate the feedback. It was my sincere hope to help someone or at least show women they aren't alone, and that “fitness pros” are not exempt from such experiences.

    I'm glad to know things are well with you now!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Yep, I have most definitely come a long way. I didn't include every detail of my struggles as they blog post would have been too long.

    Thank you!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks, girl! I appreciate it.

  • http://ronellsmith.com Ronell Smith

    Nia,

    Thanks very much for sharing your story. Inspiring, to say the least.

    RS

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks! Just doing whatever I can to help those who have been through, and going through, a similar situation.

  • http://beheavy.wordpress.com Dana

    Thanks for sharing this Nia. I think when you get really involved in fitness it's perhaps even easier to slip into overthinking eating. I struggle daily with the desire to eat to get strong and the desire to be “lean.” Most of the time wanting to be strong wins, but it's not always easy.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Damn, I know exactly what you mean about eating to be strong or focusing on eating to be lean. Like you, strong usually wins. ;)

    Thanks!

  • Heather

    Thank you for your courage to discuss close personal issues. As a fellow fitness “pro” you are absolutely bang on when you say we aren't exempt from falling prey to the same issues that plagues other women. I personally didn't have any eating issues or weight issues until I entered the fitness world. Your story, and others like it, need to be heard. We are too bombarded with media hype that floods our minds with falsehoods and false expectations. I always find it refreshing when someone has the courage to stand up and tell their story, the truth….it always wins, and sets you free :) Thank you!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    I know what you mean – it wasn't until I really started my personal training career that I developed the disordered eating problems. Constantly thinking about, talking about, and learning about nutrition was part of the problem. That, and so much contradicting information!

    Thank you for the kind words!

  • http://www.JenComasKeck.com Jen Comas Keck

    Excellent post Nia. I think many women will be able to relate, and I know that I can! And I agree with what Dana said – being a fitness professional brings on added pressure of looking a certain way and it's really very easy to slip into dangerous territory.

    I appreciate you sharing your story!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks, girl. :)

    Just trying to share the best I can. Hopefully some people will benefit. The only problem is there isn't a “single” solution, which makes it really hard.

  • Grainne

    Thank you so much for sharing. I'm still trying to get my own eating back on track and get back down to my happy weight. I was successful at my fat loss….and then rebounded like crazy. I had that feeling of never being full and not being able to stop. Peanut butter, sugar, cakes, chocolate. Nothing was safe!

    You've given me hope that I can eat like a normal person again and not yo-yo or constantly think about not eating or overeating. Thank you!

  • http://www.999fitness.ae Amna Al Haddad

    Nia,

    Reading this reminds me of myself in some ways more than the other.

    Funny though, this post really was written in the right time – a sign for me maybe? Just the past two days I was about to explode thinking about things like nutrition, and how much I should be eating and what I should be eating. In fact, part of me wanted to give up all my training and dreams to compete as an athlte just because of the idea of “food” and what I should and shouldn't have.

    I have alwas lived on also a simple plan – eat whole foods majority of the time, eat your meat, your veggies…but it's okay to indulge every now and then in a small scoop of ice cream. Being told, I need to be off dairy 100%, made me crazy, literally.

    It can be a daily struggle….so I a really looking forward to reading your new post on the simple guidelines. I had a eating problem at some point, and I feel it resurfacing again…and I don't want that.

    Thanks for sharing your person story with us,

  • Jackie

    Hi Nia. Thank you for taking the time to write up and share your personal struggles with disordered eating. I can completely relate as I am currently suffering from binge eating, too much cardio, the negative self-talk mindset, and constant food thoughts. It is always inspiring knowing that one can get through it and come out much stronger.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you for sharing. I hope I provided insight and helped some people out. Hopefully the info next week will help as well.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Yep, I've tried some of that stuff too. Going dairy free. Going grain free. Putting entire food groups permanently “off limits” just turns things into a mind game. Not good.

    I hope the following article will provide further insight.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    You DEFINITELY can get out of it. Just take whatever steps you can (even really small at the beginning), and I think it helps to confide in someone you trust who is understanding.

    I wish you the very best.

  • http://www.michaelgrayfitness.com Michael Gray

    Nia,

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey! As always, I appreciate your openness and honesty!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you, Mike. :)

  • Becky

    I'm so proud of you. Now my journey begins! We know we are not alone in the battle with food, but it does isolate us from others and therefore we feel alone. Thanks for sharing Nia, I hope I'm next to share how I beat my life long battle of my eating disorder!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    I wish you the best with your battle, and it CAN be won. It just takes time and persistence.

  • djohnson

    Best wishes for the future. Recently started a program based on advice from Mr. Gray. Food will be the longest battle. Your words truly resonate.

  • http://fit4lifehc.org John

    Great Post Nia, thanks for sharing it. It is a huge help to know that there are other folks out there that go through these struggles. I think that people look at other people that they consider to be in “shape” and think that the don't struggle with things like food and motivation.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks, John!

  • Scott

    Thank you for sharing your battle. I wish I could have more people take the time to read this! Sometimes you have to look and see where you have been to see how far you have come.

    Continue to share your life experences and training. If more women would look at how you do things and NOT what the media wants you to do, the World would be a better and healthier place!

    Best,

    Scott

  • http://www.miketnelson.com Mike T Nelson

    Wow, excellent read Nia! I really appreciate you sharing a truly personal experience!

    This is a message more need to learn from!

    Balance and control are HUGE things. The extent that people will go to regarding those 2 things are profound.

    When I started working with clients, I figured I had enough physiology to help them through any issue.. I was in for a rude awakening. To my dismay, the root of most of their issues were not related to physiology, but to psychology. I joked that I did all this college for years upon years to be able to explain everything and set up a “perfect” plan, only to have nobody follow it.

    What I attempted to do (unsuccessfully) was to divorce the mind from the body. Over time I learned how to implement both sides and not separate them.

    If I could wave my magic wand, the first thing I would do is get rid of people's wacky ideas about food. As woo woo as it sounds, what you THINK about the food you eat matters.

    Rock on

    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks for sharing, Scott!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks, Mike!

    Yep, it's hard to separate the two, and I DEFINITELY wish I could erase peoples' minds sometimes when it comes to nutrition as well.

  • http://www.momwod.com Julia

    thank you for sharing your story. I have many times in my life battled what FOOD was really all about. proud of you for being courageous to share your story.

    Love you, *mwah*

    (see you in 10 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thanks, girl! Yes, ma'am! See you soon!

  • Iowamom

    Your honesty is greatly appreciated! I watched my sister live (barely) through 6 years of an eating disorder and it's so amazing to see you well and strong. My sister beat it but paid for it with ruined adrenal glands. We're just so happy to have her around…..even without adrenal function. :)

    I look forward to reading more about your path to healthy nutrtition!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you and I'm glad to hear your sister is doing better.

  • Donna

    Adding my gratitude that you shared your disordered eating story. It's so close to my own story. I used to do constant cardio trying to undo bad food choices, and because I couldn't make myself barf either, I often chewed food and then spit it out! In my 50's now and still struggling to understand the best approach, and then trust it. There is so much conflicting nutritional advice/info that my head spins. Your approach is refreshingly uncomplicated and it makes sense. Now I just need to trust in it enough to do it wholeheartedly.

    Knowing that you've had your share of food struggles too, only adds to my respect for you. Sorry to admit that I kind of thought you were one of the naturally thin and easily fit ones. (Shame on me–I should've known that you weren't a “skinny bitch”). :) Truly, thank you for this latest post.

  • http:/gordonwatts.com/#health Gordon

    @ Dr. Nelson:

    You raise an important point: It's what we THINK about food that matters.

    For many women, I hear that they 'think' that they would *look* bad if they gained a little weight.

    While I can't speak for all guys, I can speak for myself: Whether a woman is a little thin or a little heavy, that matters not; rather, if a woman is healthy, both in body and spirit. (Both are important.)

    To clarify: A woman Nia's height (5'6″) would not look ugly *soley* based on her weight unless she were, like under 95-lbs or over, say, 250-lbs, BUT (and here's a crucial thing), even a man or woman the 'right' weight can look unattractive either due to being in bad physical health or bad spiritual health, so exercise on both areas is important.

    We all have bad views of ourselves, and we must each fight our own battles, but I just figured I'd throw that out there in the hopes it helps someone find a more accurate perspective.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you for sharing, and I know it helps to show people that I am human too, and I have also had my fair share of battles when it comes to food.

    I wish you all the best.

  • LD

    Hard to read your former struggles mirroring my current disastrous cycle. am hopeful the binge to excess as well as gym to excess somehow stops. glad there is light to be found at the end of the tunnel. i think i can i think i can or something like that. Thanks for the inspiration lady.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    You can definitely overcome the struggle, but it will take work.

    Don't stop trying.

  • Shahnawaz

    Amazingly insightful. Thanks for sharing. The bit about the dark side of cheat days, and of problems with eating coinciding with personal problems rang a bell.

    Loved the simple sincerity of the post. Really nice.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you!

  • Bridget

    I almost didn't comment because so many have already commented before on having the same struggles and thanking you for sharing, but then I thought it wouldn't hurt for you to know that you have touched and helped yet another person with this brave, hopeful article. I too have suffered (and suffered terribly and continue to intermittently suffer) with these same issues and every single minute I am trying to overcome them. Thank you so much for sharing; I am just about to go on to your follow ups where no doubt I will learn more and more. One of the primary forces behind my own battle was the years of fitness and figure competitions that I have done, and the transition from competition dieting to 'normal' person. I remain a work in progress, but am extremely thankful to have found your articles and facebook site. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I truly appreciate it.

    Yes, hopefully the follow-up articles will be helpful as well.

    Thank you again, and I wish you all the best.

  • http://chocolatechillimango.com/ Viviane

    Hi Nia,

    Love this article and your approach. You never preach, just share you experiences. As someone who battled anorexia for years, I can relate, albeit with somewhat different disordered eating.

    Even after I was 'cured' I knew my relationship with food and my eating habits were not really healthy. Subconsciously i still had habits, ingrained over many years, that had not been shaken.

    It was only after I started eating to have the energy to train and DO STUFF with the energy i needed that I gradually let go of those habits.

    But I consciously also challenged myself with food that I had rejected for years and I now eat a healthy balanced diet and am fitter and healthier than I've been all my life.

    Unlike you, I've always been a grazer by nature since childhood so small frequent meals suit me really well. If i don't eat frequently, my blood sugar drops and I'm not much use to anyone :-D

    But I also don't berate myself for having that chocolate or cookie. I eat well for 80-90% of the time and listen to my body as to what it really craves.

    Thanks for sharing. Big fan!

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    I'm so glad to know you found a way out! And THANK YOU for sharing what works for YOU!

    That is so important and something I try to stress – people need to find what works for them, and thank you for proving that!!!

  • Rebecca

    Thank you ♥

  • http://www.beautifulbadass.com Nia Shanks

    You're very welcome!

  • BigDaddyV

    YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

  • Maureen

    Thank you so much for this post! Currently I am having some serious issues with food..so I'm trying to work on that.

  • Eberburger78

    I have been exactly where you were. You explained it perfectly. As I share my story I’m finding that more people than I’d ever thought have disordered eating. There is comfort in knowing that your not alone. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  • Melc911

    Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712865060 Renee Armour-Florea

    Nia, I originally ”liked” your page via Facebook because I thought “Beautiful Badass” was absolutely the best title out there. After reading your post, I am so thankful I found your page. Alike many other females, I was in the same shoes (10 yrs!) and loved when people called me the “cardio queen”. If only they knew why I was on the stair stepper for so long. Anyways, I finally feel I am a “Beautiful Badass” and am so excited to see where you take us in the future!

  • Tracey Woods

    Thanks again for sharing, Nia. Great testimonial! I feel like you were telling my story as well. You make the quality of life better for a lot of women. Keep up the good work. I will be following you for years to come. You are my motivator! Ever time I read an artical or check my next workout I think about how great it is that you have made it okay to be a girl and a bad ass. What it boils down to is this. Until recently I spent most of my life feeling like a wooly mammoth, the only one of my kind, then I found you and a whole network of women that love to be strong, love to be themselves and are the genuine article. In all my years as an athlete, a trainer, or any of the many things I have been for the past four decades, I have never been more motivated to be the best ME I can be. Thank you Nia and thank you to all the other Badass Women. Trace

    • Nia Shanks

      :) Thank you for sharing. Yes, it’s all about being the YOU possible!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.steezy.1 Emily Steezy

    Your history is eerily similar to mine, and per the comments, it seems many other womens’ as well. I think what resonated with me the most in this post is needing to “relearn to feel hunger”. It probably took me 3 years of hard work to learn to eat like a normal human again after having eating disorders, and I NEVER want to lose it again. I find, just like you, that if I keep it simple and eat only real, whole foods, my body will tell me what and how much to eat, and I refuse to count calories or put myself on any sort of plan or schedule because it is a very slippery slope to being back tallying everything I ate that day as I fall asleep. Never again.

    And if I even start getting into how serious strength training has transformed my mindset, body, attitude toward food I will go on forever and I’m sure I won’t say anything you haven’t said. It is all so simple and wonderful that I don’t know why more women won’t get on board.

    Anyways, I am very happy to have come across Beautiful Badass and am looking forward to following your blog. Thanks for being a positive force in the dysfunctional world that is the fitness industry.

  • Courtney

    Thank you for this. I am where you were–compulsively overeating and up in weight–pudgy and uncomfortable in my own body. I hate it. I don’t know what to do. Every day I tell myself it will be different, but it never is. How did you lose the weight and get in such good shape? Was it just the eating or did you have to follow a new/different training regimen as well?

    Thank you!

  • nkl228

    This is so real and accurate for me. At this very moment, I am sitting home after calling in “sick” to my job after binge-eating about 2,000 calories for breakfast this morning because I felt so guilty and ashamed I couldn’t face going into work. I have been alternating between a highly restrictive 1,000 calorie/day goal and binge-ing until I’m sick for a while, though it has gotten a lot worse in the past month. With insane amounts of cardio and restrictive eating I have managed to not gain more than a few pounds, but I am starting to worry about my internal health, both physical and emotional. I have never revealed this much about my struggle with food to anyone, including my boyfriend and my therapist, but something about this post just made me want to share that for once. So thank you for that. And thank you for giving me the advice that might have finally woken me up to the reality of this abusive pattern.

  • Scott Dewhurst

    So much of this seems similar to what I’m doing now. Following IF to the absolute minute, stressing over timings. When I have my last meal I clock watch and feel anxious if it looks like I might go over my ‘eating window’. I think badly of myself when I see myself in the mirror. I’ve tried inducing vomiting a number of times and even taken a heavy dose of laxatives to try and ‘pass weight’. Just last night I’ve removed every single picture of my off facebook and refuse to look at any photos of myself my friends take. I’ve got the myfitnesspal app for my iPhone and religiously record everything I eat and stress really badly over the details. As a male it just sort of feels like this is supposed to be something females go through. I hope I can get over it as you have.

  • Dora

    I love all of your articles, I feel like you wrote them for me. And I especially like how you bring this back to self-love and self-esteem and letting go of the picture of perfection that we feel we need to achieve before we can love ourselves. Thank you.

  • nikki

    I’m very thankful that I found this article in that I have finally admitted to myself that I have a problem with disordered eating. i thought i was alone but I now have gained to the courage to seek out my college’s counseling services, so for that i thank you. thank you for giving me the faith that i can conquer this.

  • soxfanshan

    Thanks for sharing. It’s comforting to know someone else has beaten my current battle.

  • Rebecca

    I came across your website a couple of days ago and now again after searching the web for articles on disordered eating…thank you so so much for adressing/aknowledging DE – most people in the fitness industry don’t, even though it seems to affect so many people, and especially women nowadays.

    I am one of them and have struggled with compulsive overeating periods vs overexcercising and dieting (also linked to personal/psychological issues) for over 10 years and although I found a way to manage it through healthy eating and exercise habits last year, I gained the dreaded 8-10kgs back again as I was dealing with other issues for a while….although I should know better by now, I was falling into the old ‘restrict binge restrict’ trap once more – THANK YOU for reminding me that it isn’t the right way

    I will be looking through your website and if I have the spare money at one point I might even ask for professional advice – thank you so much again for the article and your website though!

    Rebecca

  • femsly

    its like I wrote this!! i need help !! its so hard