Nothing brings me more joy than to see one of my client’s thrive and continue to push themselves to evolve morsel by morsel, thought by thought, every single week. The client I write about is Liz and she is a very inspiring young woman. As you will see from her before and after photos, she suffered from a severe eating disorder. I consult many young women who are waging a war against themselves and sadly, many do not get help and continue on a downward spiral. This was not the case with Liz.
I started nutrition consulting Liz, the famed blog writer of Veggie Girl, about a year ago and she has made SO much progress that I’m absolutely elated to share her story with you today. One very important area (as you will see from her story) that Liz addressed was her support network. It is extremely important to make sure you surround yourself with loving, positive people who are supportive of your goals. If you feel alone and you don’t have loving family or friends, there are options for you ie. support therapy groups etc.
Love, above all, is one of the most healing emotions. Of course, and it goes without saying (but worth saying) that self-love is something that we must practice every day, but love from others helped Liz find her way. Here’s her story, in her own words:
There is a familiar saying, “You are your own worst enemy.” While I had heard it many times before, I never fully understood its meaning. Little did I know that, from ages 12 until roughly 22, I would not only learn the meaning of that phrase, but also endure its consequences and powerful wrath.
I was always blessed as a child, having nothing but positivity, support, and care all around me – everyone from my parents and friends, to my peers and mentors, seemed to root for me at everything I did. And I did everything as a child – I was always busy, happy, and enjoying life. I danced, ice-skated, painted, played sports, traveled, volunteered as part of Girl Scouts, spent time with family and friends, had collections – so much to be thankful for, that I could be a part of.
But when I entered my teen years, something switched in my mind – all of that positivity and undying love seemed to pale in comparison to societal pressures to be absolutely perfect. I began to stress myself out for no reason at all, and no one could help me to calm down. I also became very sick over the years and was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and multiple food allergies. Between physical sickness and emotional distress, I was starting to waste away and the Liz (or Elizabeth) that everyone knew started to fade away – just a shell of insecurities remained on the outside. A cold, hard, anti-social individual is what I was turning into, and I did not have the full strength to get better – yet.
My health kept getting worse in a downward spiral of restriction, anxiety, and Crohn’s flare-up complications. I had to stop dancing and doing a lot of exercising, and try to get better. After a few years off from dancing, I decided to return at the age of 20. But I knew that I did not want to reenter the world of ballet, tap, jazz, or even figure-skating – been there, done that, I thought and felt about it all. I wanted to try something different and also not over-exert myself. My self-consciousness was bad enough at this point, so I wanted to do something I could possibly enjoy and maybe get myself back out there in the world – not hiding away from everyone and getting weaker.
My mom found a ballroom dancing studio a few miles (if that) from home; and even though I was apprehensive at first, I figured I should give it a shot. I missed dancing, and I really wanted to have something to provoke me to take better care of myself. When my mom and I entered the studio back in June 2008, there was just one person there – his name was Slava. He greeted us as we walked in, and asked if we were interested in some lessons. Even though I was hiding my frail body and shy, stone-cold persona beneath a baggy sweatshirt and yoga pants, the young dance instructor that greeted us was very warm, kind, and made me feel welcome.
Little did I know that Slava, the dance instructor, (who was just one year older than I was) would end up being my best friend; and not only my best friend, but also the one person who was (and still is) able to unlock my full potential, get through to me, and challenge me in ways that other people do not (or cannot). In the beginning, we were strictly dance instructor/student and new friends – I still was too independent to express the extent of my ill-health and my “hidden desire” to get better. No one else was able to help me, and I would not let people really do so either; and I still had issues helping myself. I had to take a year off from dance again, since I continued to relapse with any progress that I made towards reaching better health. But then I returned to dance one year later (July 2010), and my friendship with Slava only grew stronger.
A lot has happened, but let’s just say that it is now 2011 and I am happier, healthier, stronger, and wiser than I have ever been. My Crohn’s Disease is under control, I nourish myself adequately, I have the stamina and energy for dance, I am more social, and more enjoyable to be around – and Slava was truly the one (even though he does not think he deserves the credit) to tap into my true self and get me to make progress and continue to make progress. With his challenges, support, and constant care, I was able to trust my body and learn to love myself, instead of being enemies with myself. I am so grateful for Slava – he saved me before it was too late. While I am less independent now, I think it was worth it – I had to turn to trust and turn to others in order to trust myself and to love myself.
Feeling healthy, strong, confident – that is true beauty. I am finally living life to the fullest and I am so thankful to have my family and friends by my side – especially Slava. While I now understand the meaning of “You are your own worst enemy,” I am happy to say that I am continuing to move away from having that statement describe my situation. It is a long process, and far from perfect; but such a worthwhile journey to embark on before it is too late. The journey is easier when you leave behind some independence and take the hand of the person you can trust and open up to the most.
Liz before: Liz now!
Joy McCarthy, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Health Coach of Joyous Health, loves to inspire others to eat well, live well and be happy.