Fight the Good Fight

Sorry in advance for the length, we will start with 5th grade Amanda, a chubby little child. Or so I thought. Turns out it was probably just baby fat that I still needed to grow out of but seeing all my friends tiny always killed me. I would have dance parties at one of my best friends house and she would offer me shorts because we got so hot…they never fit. This picture is 5th grade Amanda. Observations: I had bigger boobs then, I’m not sure why I choked myself with scarves, thank GOD I eventually got braces (:

Fast-forward 1 year to middle school. At this point my brother had recently shot up like a bean, lost a ton of weight from growing, and looked awesome. He NEVER worked out but started to now because of his natural weight loss. I vividly remember him saying “I was lucky to naturally lose weight, I have to keep it up now.” During 7th grade I finally started my growth spurt. I was quickly growing and quickly losing weight (just because of growing, I wasn’t working out or eating any different). I remember my goal going into high school was to be “skinny” (whatever that means) to look good in dance dresses. Well God blessed me and just that happened. I was so excited to go to high school “skinny.”

Freshman year – 14 year old Amanda looked healthy and full of life. Besides the bad fashion sense and poses ;)

Fast forward to sophomore year. Here is where I thought the same thing my brother had said “man I got skinny out of no where. I better do something to keep this up!” SO this is where it all really began. I decided I was going to run. Run for fun and not obsessively. I would run a couple days a week and loved the high I got from it. Still ate the same but did some exercising.

Throughout junior year and senior year – I became OBSESSED with running. We are talking 5 miles a day and eating close to nothing. I would rarely have breakfast. I made my mom only make half a PB&J for lunch and maybe an apple. For dinner I would cut out all carbs and usually have just veggies. I thought this was healthy. I truly thought I was doing something great for myself by eating close to <400 calories a day. I remember going to my sandwich my mom made me and scraping off peanut butter because there was “too much fat.” I remember taking food from dinner to my room and telling my parents I ate it when, in reality, I threw it away. I would spend evenings at lifetime fitness on the stair master for 40+ minutes without my parents knowing because they had mentioned I didn’t look healthy. People at lifetime would ask me if I was okay – I thought they were crazy. I would skip out on hanging with friends because it usually involved food and calories were a no no. I was mentally ill and not even realizing it. I dropped a ton of weight and no longer looked healthy. I was slowly killing myself without realizing it.

The next picture was the summer after graduating high school planning on going off to college in the fall. However, during senior year my parents threatened that I would not be going anywhere if I didn’t agree to get help. So, attitude filled teenage Amanda said FINE. Knowing 100% I wouldn’t change a thing, I was just trying to please them.

My mom took it upon herself to sign me up at a mental health/nutritionist office at Alexian Brothers. I remember every time I went to see my therapist I felt like a low life who was worthless. Looking around the waiting room seeing everyone in there and how different they were from me killed me inside. I hated every single minute I spent there. I would cry when I had to go but I knew I wanted to go to college.

18 year old Amanda was 88lbs on my first visit there. I remember the nutritionist telling me she was going to hospitalize me right then and there OR I would have to agree to follow her strict plan for me. This plan eliminated ALL physical activity (including PE at school which was humiliating). It involved a certain amount of calories a day broken down into fats, carbs, and protein. I think this was one of the hardest parts of my journey. Its hard to understand from the outside but I would sit in my room and cry at how much I had to eat. I just couldn’t do it. There was no way I was going to be able to follow the plan. So what did I do? Faked it for my parents. I faked what I ate. I would say I ate it but actually threw it away again. I would pretend I was doing fine when really I was dying inside. I knew this wasn’t helping a whole lot. Every time I went to my sessions with the nutritionist she would weigh me. So what did I do? I would eat a TON the day before and CHUG so much water right before getting there knowing that water weight would add to that scale number. And it worked! Every time I went I gained a little weight and eventually she told me I was cleared! I had made it! I was going to start this new life at college and everything would be great right? WRONG. So damn wrong.

Freshman year at college you always hear about the freshman 15 and you have a fitness room so conveniently located on campus for you. HELLO RELAPSE. I fell right back into my old ways. Freshman year I ran EVERY SINGLE DAY 5 miles (how? I have no clue). At the dining center I usually would have a plate of broccoli and maybe an apple. I NEVER indulged in the ice cream that I so wanted. I have actually found out that I was known as broccoli girl around campus…so that’s really good.

Sophomore year at college was even worse, if you can imagine that. I, at this point, had a car on campus so I would drive to Lifetime Fitness and would do 2 to 3 classes and then hop on the stairmaster. I spent a good 3-4 hours just working out. And I continued to eat nothing. I would do egg whites only. Absolutely no carbs whatsoever – even eliminated fruit here. I ate loads of broccoli; I became afraid of going out or drinking because of the calories. I hadn’t had a menstrual cycle for 4 years. Quite frankly, I wasted a lot of time over something so stupid. This is when my friends started to get on me about my issue. They so badly wanted to help me but I was not ready for help and was still not seeing the problem so I was just mean. I would yell at them. I would tell them to stop telling me to eat more. I would tell them they are crazy. And somehow they stuck by my side still.

Junior year I lived at home and commuted. I was literal skin and bones slowly killing myself. My mom told me she cried every night worried I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. (I still cannot believe I put her through that torture). Reality was I had been battling anorexia for 4+ years now and wasn’t accepting it. I wasn’t seeing what I was doing to myself.

Winter term of junior year was my turning point and a day I will never forget in my journey. I was sitting in my room at my parent’s house scrolling through facebook and saw a familiar face posting about her battle with anorexia and where she was now. I was immediately wrapped up in it and coming to the realization that was me. I was anorexic. I needed some serious help if I didn’t want to die on any given day. In this post was something about a girl named Christina Montalvo. Sounded like a great name so I decided to look at who this was. After scrolling through her website I was hooked. I wanted to meet her. I wanted her to help me because, up until this point, no one else could. No one understood what I was going through. It was easy for outsiders to tell me to eat a cheeseburger and not workout at all but it was hard for them to see how that actually impacted me. Those comments killed. I wanted to burst into tears because I was officially at rock bottom inside and didn’t know what to do. So, I called my mom into my room and said “mom, I want to see this girl. I want her to help me. I don’t want to die.” I remember looking at my mom and watching her eyes swell up while tears rolled down her face. She looked at me and said “Amanda, I will do anything you think will help. I have prayed every night God doesn’t take you from me just yet and eventually you’ll be ready for help.” We instantly contacted Christina about my story, what I needed, and where I was at. I will never forget the email she sent back. She was the sweetest, kindest, most understanding person ever. She said ABSOLUTELY and set up a time to meet me at Starbucks.

The day came and I walked into starbucks to see this pretty lady sitting at a table smiling and waving at me. I immediately knew this was going to be good. How could it not be with someone that is so trusting, understanding, and welcoming. We sat and talked for a while at starbucks just about everything. I remember her telling me she is so proud of me for embarking on this journey and could not wait to begin. There was not one ounce of “do this or else” (like the previous nutritionist). There was no “this is going to be extremely difficult and I need you to follow exactly this.” There was no “oh my gosh you really do need help.” She acted as if it was nonchalant and that this was going to be fun. Years later I came to find out that she was actually really nervous to take this on because she could tell my life was withering away and she so badly wanted to help but didn’t know how to respond.

At this point we were looking at January 2014 and I was 20 years old, about to turn 21. My first appointment with Christina was a simple one. I drove to her house and went to her cute little garage gym. I remember she weighed me but would not tell me the weight because that was not what she wanted to focus on. (AGAIN not what the other nutritionist did) . Found out down the road that it was 88 lbs. 20 years old and 88 lbs. I think this is where Christina realized how much was going to be needed yet she still stayed so patient, upbeat, and positive. Which 100% rubbed off on me. What I loved was that she wasn’t telling me I had to stop working out, I would just workout with her in the garage. I was all in, someone to talk with while working out?! Sign me up. So the journey began I would see her 3 times a week and spent an hour in her garage with her. She led me through very low impact workouts to start with since I really needed to not burn calories. I didn’t even notice that though. I just thought “Im still working out, this is great!” She would write meal plans for me but EXPLAIN them to me. Explain why I am eating this or that. What certain foods would do for me. How healthy doesn’t mean restricting. She seriously took so much time explaining every little detail to me that I was intrigued and so interested in listening to her. (once AGAIN something the other nutritionist never did)

Do not get me wrong, it was still a battle training my mind to be okay with it. I still got anxious eating certain foods. I still was skeptical about how much I was eating. But I TRUSTED Christina, and because of that, I continued to listen to her. She was my guide, my mentor, and my friend through all the ups and downs of the mental changes I was making. It wasn’t always pretty, there were tears, there were times I questioned her, there were times I wasn’t following what she said and we had to go back to the drawing board. It was a long process to make it to the end. But the process made me grow as a person more than Christina will ever know. There is no battle comparable to battling yourself. Especially your mind. I was so sick and had so many mental changes to make. I will never regret the process I went through. I will never wish it didn’t happen. Quite frankly, I am happy it happened. I have become a strong individual with a “badass” mindset always wanting to be better. I have come to love weights and staying healthy through lifting heavy and eating intuitively.

There is something to be said about all of us and the journeys we have embarked on. We all have a story to tell that we can be proud of. Coming out stronger than ever from a hiccup in life is a beautiful thing and I am so proud of every single person who has. Seriously. We are awesome, empowering, and beautiful human beings. Shapes, sizes, colors, whatever are nothing. Once we learn to take investment in loving ourselves, so much can happen just as it did with me. It took me 6+ years to fully complete my journey out of anorexia. But I love myself more than ever now.

To anyone battling ANYTHING – keep fighting the good fight. Keep working towards whatever it is you dream of. Keep proving people wrong in life and rising to the occasion. God made you a fighter, you are capable, you are amazing, and you CAN do this.

Now, 25 year old Amanda is continuously trying to grow in the gym, in life, in my walk with God, and in my strength as an individual. Theres no journey quite like a life changing journey and I have fallen in love with this lifetstyle!

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me." Psalm 138:7