01 Nov Let’s Get Real About: Body Image, Coach Ally’s Story
Hi! Many of you know me as Coach Ally, a mother, wife, and friend. On the outside, you may see me as this strong, confident, fit woman who seems to have it all together. But what you see on the outside isn’t what is always going on the inside. I am here to share my story of my battle with disordered eating & body image struggles for almost 20 years. I wanted to share this with you ladies because I know I am not alone in this battle and many of you, unfortunately, can relate to some parts, if not all of my story. I hope in writing this I help someone who has felt how I feel and this motivates them to take baby steps to change the mentality so many women struggle with. I also hope, selfishly, that sharing my story helps me. I hope it helps me fight harder to not focus on what I eat so much, eliminate the negative thoughts I have, set a better example for my kids and most importantly, to love the body I was given.
When I was 16 years old I was first diagnosed with anorexia athletica. This is an eating disorder characterized by restrictive caloric intake & obsessive-compulsive over-exercising. For the first time in my life, I became the one type of athlete I never wanted to be. Between my strive to be beyond perfect at everything little thing I did, combined with my first heartbreak, it was the perfect storm. Eating & exercising was the only thing I felt I could control 100% and the competitor in me (insert eyeroll) looked at it as a challenge.
Once I saw small results, I kept challenging myself to take it to the next level and before I knew it I was at an extreme level. Skipping one meal turned into starving myself all day long as well as going to softball or volleyball practice and then driving directly to the gym to get hours of extra cardio in. (Damn, that still makes me cringe & cry today!) Anyways, when my friends & family saw how frail, literally and figuratively, I had become they finally intervened. I met with my team of doctors who worked with me to overcome this monster. Instead of going to school somedays I was at multiple doctor appointments and I was even sidelined during my most crucial softball season for some games due to a heart condition I had developed from all my over-exercising.
The irony of this all was that I was finally where I thought I wanted to be. I was the thinnest I had ever been, yet I still hated how I looked and to be honest, I hated myself even more than I did before the eating disorder. This was my lowest point of my life by far. As most of you know, I am a fighter & I don’t give up easily. I was determined to not let this disease win. The following 5 years or so after my intervention, I was in & out of therapy. I would have months of great success and then months of reverting back to old thoughts and habits. I fought each & every day to make a conscious effort to eat, not obsess over caloric burn and most importantly, love myself. It was and still is the hardest thing for me to do.
About three years into my recovery process, I met my husband in college. He was adamant about helping me beat this thing and had a way of getting through to me. Not only did he make me feel good enough, but he forced me to break some hard habits like tossing all scales (food & weight), deleting myfitnesspal (something I still struggle with), etc. He was a turning point for me in this journey and I am forever grateful to him for that.
Around this same time, I ironically found a passion and career in fitness. I chose this career path because I found pure joy in helping and coaching others. Watching other people work hard, step outside their comfort zones and succeed gave me a sense of pride that I never had before. It was something that made me feel great about who I was for the first time in a long time. Today I am blessed to have a career that I am able to inspire, support & push women to be the best version of themself everyday. Although sometimes I feel like a hypocrite as I tell my clients what to eat, how not to over exercise or to stop being so hard on themselves, I know I am coming from a good place and can deeply relate to their struggles. Coaching and training others has been something that has helped me continue my fight against my disordered eating & body image.
As much as my therapy, my husband and my career has helped me conquer my struggles, what no one really talks about is how you never 100% recover from an eating disorder. Yes, I no longer have an eating disorder, but the eating disorder forever has a part of me I’ll never get back and it will ALWAYS be a part of me. I am physically and mentally in a better space then my lowest point, but still to this damn day, I fight those voices inside my head. People often comment on my discipline with food and exercise and it always stings a little bit for me. I wish so badly I could not know how many calories are in everything I eat, have enormous guilt about not exercising or have negative thoughts about my body, but 20 years later, I am still not able to do that 100%. Some days are better than others and it still takes up more of my head space then I would like to admit, but it is 1000x better than previous years. And for me, I proudly call that a WIN.
Lastly, I know I am the extreme case, but I know lots of women out there battle body image and confidence every day. Women are so hard on themselves and are pressured from society & media outlets to have this unrealistic perfect skin, hair, and/or bodies. One thing I have realized from working with amazing women like yourselves is that we have different bodies, beliefs, backgrounds and goals. This is what makes each one of us so beautiful on the inside and outside. I hope women everywhere can work together to help one another see that in ourselves, lift each other up and eliminate the perfect woman we all think we need to be.
I am very damn proud of who I am today as a mother, wife, friend, coach, and overall the woman I have become. I hope I continue to fight this battle and each day love myself and my body a little more. I hope for years to come I can be an inspiration to women and young girls of all sizes, fitness levels, & backgrounds everywhere, especially my amazing daughter & son.
Thank you for letting me share my journey. I am always here for anyone who needs to talk. And in the words of my beautiful mother.. U-R-LOVED. ❤️