I always felt different, weird, like the outcast and black sheep of my family and friend group. I always had secrets for as long as I could remember. Sides of me that no one was allowed to know about. As a little girl I was holding on to a secret that I was being sexually abused and groomed by my grandfather. For 6 years of my young life I learned to lie and hide from the world. It would be a skill I held onto for long into my adulthood.
When I was 10 years old, my mother confronted me about changes she began to notice in me. I think she already knew in her gut what was happening to me, but one day she just came out and asked me; “Is your grandfather touching you in inappropriate ways”, and I just blurted out “yes”. I thought it was my escape from him, from being abused, from shame; but it took 25 more years until I felt like I could finally breathe again.
My parents did all they could to make sure I knew I did nothing wrong. They pressed charges against him, took him to court, put me in therapy right away and most importantly, they believed me. They even cut off contact with family members who didn’t believe me. However, there had been so many years of damage, hiding, secrets and abuse, that I didn’t know how to live in truth and honesty. It felt scary and vulnerable, and all the sudden, my family, the police, detectives, therapists and other girls in group therapy knew my most “shameful” secret and it stripped all my self confidence away. I just wanted to hide away, and that is what I started to do.
I quit dance and gymnastics, I started wearing baggy clothes and presenting myself in a way that would make people stay as far away as possible. I didn’t want to go to therapy anymore, because there were girls in my group that experienced way worse things than I did, and then that made me feel bad that I was struggling when what I experienced wasn’t even “that bad in comparison”. So I quit, and found other ways to cope.
The next couple of years I mostly used food and T.V. to cope. Food made me feel comforted and I could lose myself for hours pretending I was living the lives of my favorite t.v. characters. Because I was eating more, and moving less, I quickly gained weight leading into my teen years, and we all know how mean junior high kids can be. I was relentlessly bullied over my weight throughout my teen years, and even into my adult years. When food didn’t numb my pain anymore, and I started hanging around older teens I got into drugs, alcohol and the attention of guys to push away the bad thoughts and feelings.
I also dove head first into diet culture very young, and it had its hooks in me before I had a fighting chance. Diet culture further stripped my self-confidence because no matter what I did, I could not lose weight. I would starve myself to the point where I would lose control of my cravings and then binge and couldn’t stop. It was a vicious cycle of binge/restrict for the next 20 years. There were times when I was able to restrict myself and do well for weeks or even months at a time, but eventually I couldn’t maintain it any longer, and then I would just give up. Anything and everything was up for grabs and I would get so depressed because I felt weak, like I had so self control and like a failure. My first wake up call was when I was 20 and I almost overdosed at a party. I didn’t eat all day because I was planning on going out that night drinking and we were mixing drugs into all of that. Not long after that I was forced into a rehab program, and was able to somewhat get my life together.
I wish I could say I was clean and sober from that point on, but that wasn’t my journey. However, I will say having my son 2 years later was a turning point in my life. My husband and I knew that we had to really try and give him a better life than we both had. Over the next couple of years I put my all into being a mom and a wife. My husband joined the Army, we had another son and I was really happy, but I still struggled with my self worth and identity. I was unhappy with how I felt physically, and would avoid leaving the house as much as possible, even though I was able to lose weight a few times. I was still very much in my binge/restrict cycle, but I didn’t want to ask for help, because I didn’t want to go through the shame again of someone finding out about my secret. So, even though I would lose weight, I would always gain it back and then some.
After my second son was born, while my husband was deployed, I suffered from postpartum depression. I had it in my head that I needed to go back to college and get a degree. I sat down one day, and scrolled through the campus courses and decided that I was going to get my degree in health and preventative care. I realized that I didn’t really know how to take care of myself. I knew that everything I was ever taught, didn’t work. It only made me feel worse, either physically or about myself. So, I decided at that moment that I was going to figure out this health and wellness thing. Not just physical health, also mental health and spiritual health.
It didn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, that decision to go back to school happened when I was 28, and I didn’t start treatment and CrossFit until I was 32. I had to try a bunch of different things to try and find what worked for me and my growing kids. I also had a husband who got orders to Germany, so in the middle of all of that, we were living in a foreign country, and you know you have to dive deep into the culture and the food when living in Europe!
So, I did, and I was at the heaviest in my whole life when I walked into a CrossFit gym, defeated and realizing that I could not do it on my own.
Besides my husband, I never accepted help from anyone. I always thought I had to do it on my own, but I was blessed to find the Coaches I did. They cared about whether or not I was in class, how I was moving, how I was taking care of myself. They never judged me or made me feel dumb, weak or unintelligent about health and fitness. They only encouraged me. I did have some back issues, so I was able to also find yoga to help with stretching, but I quickly realized there was a healing aspect to yoga as well. Through yoga, I was encouraged to reach out to a therapist who works with disordered eating, and it was just a rollercoaster of growth, learning and healing since 2014.
I knew that I wanted to help others in any way I could, and although I wanted to be a CrossFit coach, I was not confident in myself enough yet, so I first trained to be a Yoga teacher. I was able to complete a 500 hour certification program while I was finishing my bachelors degree. A few years later, my husband was ready to transition out of the military, and we decided we wanted to open our own affiliate.
I was noticing a lack of CrossFit gyms in my area who had the kind of coaching that individuals, like myself, needed. We wanted to open an affiliate where everyone was scaled appropriately and felt included no matter their body type. Where you feel comfortable wearing the damn shorts and everyone is going to clap for cellulite, because we all have it! A place where everyone is celebrated simply because they want to be a healthier version of themselves, physically and mentally. And we did, for 5 years. I was able to get my L1 and L2, as well as become a nutrition coach through precision nutrition.
Last year we closed down our affiliate because we had to make the hard decision to put our family first again. Running a gym is a 24/7 job, and our kids are growing up. We have an almost 18 year old, who is autistic and an almost 13 year old who really needs us right now. So, we closed and I moved on to just coaching, which is all I really wanted to do anyways. I am not a business woman. I am a caregiver. I love to take care of my family and pets, and I love to care for other people. The most important part of coaching is caring. If my coach didn’t care, I don’t know if I would be here today. I tried a million times on my own, and it wasn’t until I reached out to a community, and opened my heart up to support, was I able to reach goals and overcome challenges I never thought possible.
I found my new CrossFit home at CrossFit Virilis in Cibolo, TX and now I get to help coach others there. I love the community and it’s been a joy watching people change their lives with fitness and nutrition.
When Leah reached out and asked me if I would like to coach for Empowered RX it was immediately "YES".
Guiding women and girls to take back their power from toxic diet culture and educate them on habits, fitness and nutrition that will help set them up on a journey to reaching their goals in a safe and sustainable way is my purpose. I truly love what I do, and I am grateful for all that I have been through and endured so I can have the experience and compassion to help others who are on their own recovery journey. I hope to be able to do this for as long as I can and continue to inspire and motivate others who live their best most fulfilling lives, because we are all worth it.