Athletes & Eating Disorders: What Coaches Can Do Better

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This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the New Hampshire Eating Disorder conference where I heard a few presentations on the topic of athletes, health at every size, and of course eating disorders. Disordered eating and eating disorders are very prevalent among athletes and it’s important that we as coaches stay informed.

We all come to the table with our own stories. We have our own biases and beliefs about health and fitness and what that all looks like, and unfortunately, without meaning to, we push our values onto others and often do more harm than good. Just today I shared a post on Instagram and a girl direct messaged me saying that she was recently told she should get her body fat under 16% to be competitive in Crossfit (she’s currently at 17%). She was also compared to another athlete who’s been doing the sport much longer and who, by the way, is a completely different person. This girl told her coach that she has a history of disordered eating and has been at 11% body fat and amenorrheic in the past. Her coach responded “wow a lot of women can get to single digit body fat and be fine”. This coach was obviously extremely rude and harmful, and frankly should not be a coach. Unfortunately these are the types of conversations that are happening between athletes and coaches every day.

I want to share a few things that I believe we coaches need to be aware of and how we can do better.

Health is not an obligation

This statement was given by health coach Ragen Chastain and really hit home for me. We as coaches get trapped in this idea that health should be the number one priority for everyone. We want our clients to be healthy and thrive and feel their best, but how is this message coming across? That if you’re not healthy then you’re less than? That your self worth is determined by your health? We aren’t blatantly saying these things, but that’s how our messages can come across. We push our values and beliefs onto others. Our ideas and biases about what health means and what health looks like closes us off to helping more people. It’s creating a barrier for people to come and talk to us. We need to be careful about what we’re saying and how its coming across.

Solution? Ask yourself if your message is in the best interest of your client. Ask if you’re promoting health at every size. Is your message inclusive to all people of different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, social classes, etc. Obviously someone's going to be left out, and we’re not perfect but we can be conscious of who we’re speaking to, and what we’re saying.

Healthy behaviors and habits are more determinants of health than weight

9 times out of 10 a client comes to us wanting weight loss. For aesthetic purposes, for a weight class sport, to “be healthier”, whatever. It’s important for us as coaches to recognize that weight isn’t a determinant of health, but rather behaviors are. It’s also important for us to convey this to our clients. A study at George Washington University states “there isn’t even one peer reviewed controlled clinical study of any intentional weight loss diet that proves that people can be successful at one term significant weight loss...it is unscientific and unethical to support the continued use of dieting as an intervention for obesity”. Basically-diet’s don’t work and promoting weight loss to be healthier can be harmful.

Solution? If you’re thinking about offering a weight loss service, ask your client WHY and really listen. Give them resources for health at every size and size acceptance. Promote gratitude for where their body is at at any stage. Be honest and don’t make guarantees (especially for weight loss). Let healthy behaviors be the focus of your programs, rather than weight loss.

Look out for warning signs

Sometimes warning signs are obvious but more often not. There are physical signs we may or may not see such as: amenorrhea, dehydration, weight changes, stress fractures, dental issues, GI problems, muscle weakness, etc. Then there are psychological/behavioral signs: dissatisfaction with shape/weight, excessive exercising, depression and isolation, avoidance of eating and eating situations, anxiety and obsessive thoughts, use of laxative and diet pills, etc. Working with athletes and being mindful of disordered eating gets tricky, because many of the traits of one spill into the other. For example: a desirable trait of an athlete could be commitment to training, pursuit of excellence, fighting through pain, selflessness, mental toughness, etc. These traits we praise in athletes are huge red flags for someone with an eating disorder.

Solution? It’s important that we as coaches aren’t feeding into the disorder. Don’t put a person’s self worth into their performance. Make sure you’re not “accidentally” emotionally and physically abusing your clients. Us coaches may be the first line of defense in helping someone who has an eating disorder, or who may be on the path to having one. We must stay educated and informed around this issue.

Don’t be a part of the diet culture problem

Even the eating disorder and body positivity community have a diet culture and a fatphobia problem. Ragen Chastain brought to my attention the “good fatty/bad fatty” mentality. That we support fat people as long as they’re “healthy”. For example, a fat powerlifter is more accepted than a fat person who doesn’t exercise. We say it’s OK to be fat, as long as you care about health/fitness/etc.  

Solution? We need to recognize that health, fit, athlete is not a size. We as coaches need to work on celebrating and affirming diversity in body sizes. This includes intersectionality as well. Remember that we’re not just talking to white females. We’re talking to a complex variety of people that all deserve a place at the table. We may have done a good job at “no negative body talk”, but what have we done to actually celebrate diverse bodies?

Let me just say that no body is perfect. We all mess up and make mistakes, but what can set us apart from other coaches is checking in with ourselves and doing our own work. Asking ourselves how we’re engaging in diet culture. Being real with ourselves about our biases and stigmas. Identifying where there are gaps our inclusivity. I know I can do better, we all can.

Resources

AED  Academy for Eating Disorders:  is an international transdisciplinary professional organization that promotes excellence in research, treatment and prevention of eating disorders. The AED provides education, training and a forum for collaboration and professional dialogue.

ANAD – National Assoc of Anorexia Nervosa & Related Disorders:  The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. is a non-profit corporation which seeks to alleviate the problems of eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

BEDA – Binge Eating Disorder Association:  is committed to helping those who suffer from binge eating disorder conquer their disorder. So if you or someone you care about lives with binge eating disorder, BEDA can help. If you treat the disorder, BEDA can help.

EDC – Eating Disorders Coalition:  Their mission is to advance the federal recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority.

FOR-U  –Focus On Recovery-United, Inc.:  is a peer support program dedicated to promoting a culture of wellness by encouraging positive change in the lives of adults, their family members, providers, and the community.

IAEDP – International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals:  is well recognized for its excellence in providing first-quality education and high-level training standards to an international multidisciplinary group of various healthcare treatment providers and helping professions, who treat the full spectrum of eating disorder problems.

MEDA – Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association:  is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders and disordered eating. MEDA serves as a support network and resource for clients, loved ones, clinicians, educators and the general public.

MGEDT – Men Get Eating Disorders Too:  is specific to the needs of men including definitions and symptoms, treatments, links, support, etc. MGEDT seeks to raise awareness of eating disorders in men so men are able to recognize their symptoms and access support when they need it.

 N.A.M.E.D. – The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders:  is to provide support to males with eating disorders, to educate the public on the issue, and to be a resource of information on the subject.

 NEDA – National Eating Disorder Association:  is the largest not-for-profit organization in the United States working to prevent eating disorders and provide treatment referrals to those suffering from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and those concerned with body image and weight issues.

NIS – NORMAL In Schools:  is a national nonprofit arts-and-education organization that educates about the devastating impact of eating disorders, the therapeutic impact of the arts, and related issues such as body image, self esteem and family communication.

Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness:  is a source of community outreach, education, awareness, and prevention of the various eating disorders to reduce the rate and severity of eating disorders among people of all ages.

BeyondHunger is dedicated to helping individuals overcome the obsession with food and weight and find a natural, loving and peaceful relationship with their food, weight, and selves.

If you’d like additional resources please email me at info@christinaennabe.com.

Exercise for Your Mental Health: Why Is It So Damn Hard?-guest post April Kurtyka

Exercise: you know it’s so good for you, there’s no debating its positive effects on your mental and physical health. But what do you do when anxiety keeps you from it because you’re afraid of feeling your heart beat too fast or depression makes you feel like getting off the couch is just way too much for you to take on today?

Have you heard the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”? That’s how I take on new things while living with depression and anxiety. If I were to look at all of the things I need to do this month, I would freeze. I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s all too much- and quite honestly- it’s super triggering for both my depression and anxiety. The same thing happens when I say, “I really want to get in shape”. Um, yeah, but how do I do that? I am already overwhelmed at the thought of what getting in shape might entail.

The thing about accomplishing anything when you have mental health concerns is that it has to be something that you really do want to accomplish. So, why do you want to exercise? Is it because you want to be healthier? Because you want to fit in to those shorts you love? Or maybe because your friend said it helped with her depression so much? Find your why. This is crucial because if you don’t even know why you’re doing this then it’s not too likely you’re going to stick with it on the hard days (spoiler alert: there will be hard days). What is going to get you off of the couch or make you want to risk the feeling of your heart racing?

Once you have a clear ‘why’ in mind look at what attainable steps you could make for yourself to get you moving. For example: If you’re planning on exercising in the morning, one of your goals could be to put your workout gear out the night before. I do this all of the time because I am not a morning person- I need all of the help I can get to accomplish anything in the morning. The next step would be to wake up, get those clothes on and maybe just walk down to the end of your street and back. Maybe that’s all you have time to do, the stamina to do, or the desire to do- doesn’t matter. You accomplished this goal to get out and exercise. Eventually you can make a goal to walk around the block, or jog to the end of the street and back. The point is, if you want to be able to run 2 miles a day- start simple. Your body and mind will thank you.

Now maybe accomplishing these smaller tasks of getting out and exercising isn’t your problem, maybe your perspective on them is. Are you saying to yourself, “Yeah, I jogged down the street and back- who cares?! I should be running 2 miles by now.” Then you give up- because you’ve convinced yourself that where you’re at is not a good enough place to be. If that is what's going through your head, then what we really need to be focusing on is your self talk. One of the best ways to deal with that negative self talk is to offer yourself some gentleness, compassion and then reframing.

For example, you can say something like: "Yep, it's true I've accomplished more challenging things before I started struggling with anxiety/depression/whatever the issue is. But that's exactly it; I'm learning to manage an illness, which like other illnesses, changes my range of function. I am doing what is within my capacity right now.”

Or think about it from this perspective- what would you expect from someone recovering from cancer? Yes, I get that cancer and mental illness are different. But mental illness is REAL, just because you can’t see it (much like cancer) doesn’t mean it's not there. It's not something that you can simply think yourself out of. So it's more important than ever to be compassionate and gentle with ourselves as we navigate getting shit done while living with anxiety and depression.

Another thought, and I know this sounds silly, but you can celebrate what you’ve done daily or weekly as well. You can look back and say, “Damn, I got outside and walked 4 days this week. Thats awesome.” Recognize your accomplishments, no matter how seemingly small they are. Remember, accomplishing those small goals will give you the confidence to keep going and run those 2 miles- or whatever your exercise goal might be.

Lastly, sometimes it’s hard to see if something is working for you or not. I suggest making a list of issues you would like to see improved by exercise. Maybe the list is something like: I want to sleep better, be able to focus, and have more energy/drive to get me through the day. After a week or two of exercising- reassess your situation. Have any of those things improved for you?  And don’t be afraid to whip out your ‘why’ and reflect on what that means to you and if you feel like you are fulfilling your reason for doing all of this in the first place.

To recap:

  • Find your why (I refuse to sit and watch my life be taken over by this! I am ready to do something about it!
  • Be honest & realistic with what you can accomplish. Start where you are, go slow, pace yourself. (I want to run 2 miles, but first I will start with the block)
  • Re-adjust expectations daily in relation to health & needs (maybe you’re on your cycle and need to take it a little more easy than normal)
  • Focus on accomplishments of small achievements (Yay! I walked 4 times this week!
  • Reflect on where you were and where you are now. Are you seeing improvement? (I slept so well this week!)

Exercise is absolutely essential for our mental health, there are a countless number of articles in medical journals from around the world that have proven that, but now it’s time to prove it to yourself. Remember to show yourself compassion, doing something small is better than doing nothing at all. But most of all, please don’t forget that you’re worth it.


April is a life coach for women who experience depression and anxiety. She likes to mix conventional (nutrition & exercise) with not-so-conventional (tarot & intuition) coaching to empower her clients to heal.     www.RootsofAwakening.com   Insta:  @RootsofAwakening   Email: April@RootsofAwakening.com

April is a life coach for women who experience depression and anxiety. She likes to mix conventional (nutrition & exercise) with not-so-conventional (tarot & intuition) coaching to empower her clients to heal.

www.RootsofAwakening.com

Insta: @RootsofAwakening

Email: April@RootsofAwakening.com

 

 

Ways You're Self Sabotaging & How to Correct It

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You have set goals, you have a clear vision for what you want, but when it comes to execution you struggle. Instead of your behaviors and actions supporting your goals, they're interfering with you accomplishing them. You notice yourself procrastinating, making excuses, and getting distracted from your vision. You're succumbing to self sabotage. 

Why we do it:

  • lack of self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and self-belief
  • difficulty managing our daily emotions
  • reacting to situations and people in ways that hinder our progress and prevent us from reaching our goals and objectives
  • coping with stressful situations or high expectations

Some common ways self sabotage is manifested:

  • holding ourselves back from taking risks
  • not taking action because we fear to make mistakes aka perfectionism
  • people pleasing
  • worrying incessantly without looking at situations objectively-analysis paralysis
  • setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others
  • allowing our inner critic to take charge and negatively judging ourselves
  • comparison thinking and measuring our value based on what others are doing

Do any of these sound familiar? So how do we stop self sabotaging?

3 Steps:

1. Self awareness is the first step. Identify which behavior you’re exhibiting (try using the list above). When does this behavior happen the most? What triggers you? What excuses are you making that are holding you back?  

2. Identify a behavior that's healthy that can replace the old one. What would be more appropriate? What are reasons for making this change and why is this a better behavior?

3. Practice the new behavior until it's become habit. Visualization and positive energy around this new habit can help it become ingrained. 

If you need support stopping self sabotage, and finally accomplishing your goals, email me at info@christinaennabe.com or fill out a contact form to get started. 

 

Can You Love Yourself and Want to Improve Yourself?

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There is so much black and white in the health, fitness, and body positivity communities. On one hand you’ve got people preaching “don't settle, be better”, and on the other hand people preaching “you’re perfect just the way you are”. One side believes improving yourself is the gateway to self love, and the other believes you can’t love yourself if you’re trying to improve yourself.  

I found myself getting caught in the middle of these conflicting arguments, and being completely confused and frustrated.  Any time I wanted to improve something about myself, especially my outward appearance, I'd feel ashamed and hypocritical. How can I preach self acceptance if I don't accept myself? Then I thought, well wait, why does it have to be all or nothing? What if we could love ourselves while also wanting to improve ourselves? Crazy concept right? But guess what, it is possible. It's possible to want to lose weight and love yourself. It's possible to be happy with your life and want more money. It's possible to be fulfilled and want to go back to school. It's possible to want more as long...as long as your self worth isn't tied to the outcome.

In my coaching practice I teach people how to build self acceptance while also working on improving their lifestyles, because there is no black and white when it comes to health and wellness.  I don’t believe that if you want to be better, then there must be something wrong with you.  I don’t believe that wanting more out of life and holding yourself to a higher standard means you’re lacking in value and worth.

I’ve spent much of my life living in black and white and there’s not a lot of peace there.  If you’re feeling conflicted as I was, and struggling between wanting to love yourself and improve yourself “health”just remember that you have the choice. You get to decide what works for you. You don’t have to feel shame for wanting to strive for more. Your self worth isn't defined by your outcomes. You're worthy just by being on this planet.

Are you living in black and white? Do you struggle with loving yourself and wanting to improve? Comment below or message me at info@christinaennabe.com. I'd love to discuss this with you.

 

What I Learned From 7 Days of Rejection

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Fear of rejection is a common theme in most people's lives.  The fear of looking foolish, and receiving negative judgments. The fear that getting a "no" means that you weren't good enough, or someone didn't like you. The concerned thoughts of "what will people think of me?"  I've experienced these fears nearly every day of my life, and because of that, I've tried to hide from rejection.  I've hid by: not applying for jobs I wanted, not asking people to do activities, not going to networking events, not being honest about my feelings, not asking for help from others. By hiding from rejection I've stunted my personal and professional growth, and have cut myself off from building relationships.

My life and business coach gave me an assignment that forever changed the way I view rejection.  Inspired by 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang, my coach challenged me to do Rejection Therapy for seven days. I had to actively pursue being rejected. I had to come up with ways of asking for things to get a "no" response. By doing this, I would be facing and (hopefully) overcoming my fear of rejection.

When she first asked me to do this, I gave a weak reply of "ok..." and then immediately went into panic mode. I could barely sleep that night from anxiety. I knew that I could easily half ass it by approaching people I knew instead of strangers, or saying I did the assignment when I really didn't, but knew I'd only be cheating myself. If I really wanted to get rid of this fear, I had to face it head on.  I decided to record all of my experiences for accountability and shared them every day for 7 days on my instagram.  Here are my experiences: 


Day 1-Ask a stranger for $20:

I was so nervous that morning that I was sick to my stomach and physically shaking. I knew that I needed to get it over with first thing, otherwise I'd be sick all day.  I went with Jiang's first idea which was asking a stranger for $100.  Of course, I was too scared to ask for $100, so I played it safe and asked for a $20 instead. I approached the first person I saw, and stuttered out my request. I was expecting an immediate "no", but instead she said she didn't have $20 to give me, but then proceeded to give me $10 because that's all she had in her wallet. I was so caught off guard by her genuine kindness and willingness to help a stranger. 

Lesson learned: Don't be afraid to think bigger. If I had asked for $100 I probably would've gotten a direct "no".


Day 2-Ask to do my own haircut:

After surviving day 1 of my rejection challenge, I felt exhilarated about coming up with creative ideas but I was also still anxious every time I thought about it.  This day I knew I was getting my hair done, and figured it was a good opportunity for rejection. I knew it had to be something more out there than my first attempt, because I wanted to get a "no". When I asked my hair dresser if I could do my own hair, she looked at me like I had two heads. She didn't understand what I was asking. I mean who would come to a hair dresser asking if they could cut their own hair?? She wanted to try and appease my request but kindly explained why that wouldn't be a good idea. Thank God, because I did not actually want to cut my own hair.  Knowing I'd be seeing this person again in the future, I ended up explaining to her my challenge. 

Lesson learned: I was very concerned about what others would think of me. Even though I don't know my hair dresser that well, I still cared enough about what she thought of me that I felt the need to tell her about my challenge, for fear she'd think I was crazy or a weirdo.


Day 3-Getting free guacamole at Chipotle:

I went into Chipotle and asked if I could have my guac for free. Without hesitation the cashier said "sure". I had built it up in my head that I was going to get a no, and although it may have seemed like a small request, I wasn't expecting to get a yes. Because of my anxiety, I had thought something was going to be a bigger deal than it was.

Lesson learned: It only took two days of this challenge for my anxiety to subside drastically. I definitely still experienced some butterflies in my stomach but knew that despite my physical signs of nervousness, it didn't prevent me from taking action. And recognizing that getting a"no" wasn't as big of a deal as I was making it in my head, the anxiety passed. 


Day 4-Get a warehouse tour at Target:

I wasn't nervous making this request, but getting those "huh?" looks from people still made me feel awkward. I asked the customer service reps at Target if I could take a tour of their warehouse. After some confused looks back and forth, they asked management. They ended up saying no because it wasn't Target's policy to give tours to the public.

Lesson learned: One of the challenges within this challenge was filming. I wanted to be discreet with my camera and at the same time wanted to make sure I was capturing my interactions. I noticed when people eyed my phone nervously, probably thinking I was trying to punk them, but because my request was made purely out of curiosity and not to be malicious, they were willing to help me out.


Day 5-Have Happy Birthday sung to me when it's not my birthday

This was one of Jiang's ideas in which he did get a "yes" to his request, but I did not. At the restaurant we went to, I asked the waitress if I could get "Happy Birthday" sung to me even though it wasn't my birthday. She said they don't do "Happy Birthday" due to the set up of their restaurant and not being able to have waiters gather for safety. I had never heard of this safety policy at restaurants before, but then again, I've never asked to have people sing to me for my birthday. 

Lesson learned: I never pushed back on any of the "no's", and I think if I had for this particular one, I would've gotten a "yes". Even if they did legitimately have a safety policy in place, I probably could've asked for the waitress alone to sing me Happy Birthday.  The point of this challenge isn't to get rejected, but rather to allow myself to experience rejection. But that doesn't always mean I have to accept the first answer I'm given.  I think too often we hear "no" and think "well, that's it, onto plan B"...but what if we didn't accept that first no? How often would we actually get a yes?


Day 6-Ask a stranger to take a picture with me

I knew one of my rejection attempts was going to be asking a stranger to take a picture with me, unfortunately the day I planned to do it turned out to be the worst weather of the week and there weren't many people outside. I decided to ask the first person I saw. When I approached these two women, and asked for a picture, they asked "why?", which at first caught me off guard.  I didn't want to lie or fabricate a story to get them to say yes, so I felt it was best to just be honest, and surprisingly they were cool with my simple response.  However, the woman who took the picture with me asked that this not be posted on social media, so I made sure to block out her face.  I was honestly expecting a rejection for this one partly because of the weather, and partly because it's a very strange request. 

Lesson learned: It's probably rare that people would flat out say "no" to a request without a reason why. Sometimes they just need a little more information. They either want to know YOUR why for asking, or they want to explain THEIR why for saying no. I also believe part of getting a "yes" just requires the courage and confidence to ask for what we want. 


Day 7-Race a random person up a flight of stairs

For my last rejection attempt, I was the least nervous and least prepared. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but thought of racing a random person up a flight of stairs while I was at the gym. This was why the intro in my video was recorded after it already happened. This was probably my favorite one because it was so chaotic to film, and the whole experience was hilarious to me.

Lesson learned: I made sure to apply my lesson from yesterday, because if I had just asked the question without trying to coax her a little bit, she probably would've easily said "no".  To get a yes, sometimes we just need to be a little persistent. 


I'm grateful for my coach for challenging me to expand my comfort zone and do something I never would've thought to try on my own. My intent for this challenge was to get rejected, and because of that I never personalized or internalized the rejection. The biggest lesson I learned from this week was that rejection doesn't define me. A rejected request is not a rejection of ME as a person. Anyone who struggles with the fear of rejection should try this, because rejection can actually be a blessing if we can get beyond our ego and understand the lessons from it. 

Would you ever try a Rejection Therapy Challenge? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

The Truth About My Journey to Becoming a Bikini Competitor

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Scrolling through my Instagram account, my feed is saturated with pictures of chiseled abs (I can feel my waist band pinching into my stomach rolls), sculpted shoulders (I think of my undefined weak arms), and perky round glutes (I can see the dimples in my thighs as I sit in my chair).  I scroll through image after image of incredible weight loss transformations, and think to myself “THIS is what the peak of health and fitness looks like, this is what I need to become”. I talk to friends and strangers online who are prepping for competitions; I hear motivating things like “I’ve lost X amount of weight and eat a ton of food”...”I’m the most lean I’ve ever been and I’m getting stronger in the gym”...”I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been”...”I’m eating donuts on prep with If It Fits Your Macros”...”Being on stage is so much fun, I love competing”.  I decided that these were things I wanted. I wanted to feel those things, look that way, while having that same type of freedom, so I hire a coach, and register for my first ever NPC bikini competition.

A few weeks in: sure enough, it’s just like everyone told me. I’m losing weight consistently, while eating a package of pop tarts a day and only exercising four times a week-this is amazing!  I’m eating about 1700 calories, which is easy. I have to weigh and track everything I put in my mouth, and take my body weight every morning, but I’m seeing progress, so I know it’s working.

2 months in: I’m not dropping weight every week anymore, but I’m getting stronger in the gym. I just need to increase my cardio from twice a week to three times a week, and drop my calories by a couple hundred.  No big deal. I know it’s all about calories in vs calories out. I eventually drop another couple of pounds, and feel reassured by my friends and coach, who keep reminding me to trust the process. Every night I body check in the mirror, not liking what I see, and pinch my belly rolls in disgust. 

3 months in: my clothes are falling off me now, but my weight loss has stalled again. I check the scale twice a day, hoping for progress. I’m doing an hour of cardio almost every day, and lifting weights four days a week.  I’m starting to feel less energy at the gym, and I’m not as strong as I used to be- but that’s OK, because I’m starting to see muscle definition. I’m only eating about 1400 calories now but I still get to have my favorite foods every day, so I’m happy with that.  I’ve started posing practice and stare at my reflection from wall length mirrors that hit me at every angle. I’m self conscious and highly aware of my body. All I can focus on are the areas that aren't lean enough, but I’m pushing through and people are admiring my determination.

4 months in: I hit my lowest weight ever and everyone’s telling me how great I look in my progress pictures, even though I feel bloated from not being able to go to the bathroom regularly. I start taking laxatives and drink dandelion tea, which people suggested to help with stalled weight loss. My calories are around 1200 now and I still manage to fit in a half a Pop-tart into my macros. All I can think about is food and my post show cheat meal.  I start hoarding food until I’ve got two full grocery bags of treats. I create a Pinterest board full of desserts, and scroll through it every night before bed. My bikini came in the mail today- and I don’t feel lean enough to wear it.

5 months in: I’m at about 1000 calories now and all I want to do is sleep.  My two a day workouts are getting harder and harder to get through, and some days I cry on the Stairmaster... but I’m seeing abs for the first time in my life.  It doesn’t matter that I’m snapping at my boyfriend daily and our relationship is rocky, that I don’t get to see my friends as much because I’m busy working out and meal prepping, that I have to bring my food with me wherever I go, that it’s painful to sleep because my bones are jutting out.  I don’t dwell on these things, because I have a goal and I’m so close to the finish line. I know that will make it all worth it.

6 months in: only a few weeks away from my show, eating 800 calories a day, mainly made up of plain chicken breast, egg whites, and protein powder, and working out twice a day every day. I binge on tortilla chips one night after my workout and feel so guilty that I try to make myself throw up.  I’ve never in my life tried to make myself throw up, and I feel so frustrated that it’s not working. My boyfriend comes home during my attempt and I’m forced to stop before I get caught. I cry myself to sleep for sabotaging my progress.

Show day: it’s finally here! I’ve reached my goal! I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished and I’m anxious for what’s in store.  I’ve got my cold chicken breast, rice cakes, and asparagus in Ziplock bags. After awkwardly being naked in a room full of women getting spray tanned, I’m bronzed and feeling glamorous in my sparkly red bikini.  I feel great- until the moment I step out on stage into blinding light in front of a crowd of strangers. My anxiety goes through the roof; this is not the feeling I expected. Everyone said how much they loved being on stage, and here I am panicking.  I smile and eye flirt with the judges, while screaming in my head, “Make it stop make it stop make it stop!!!” I get off stage and instantly feel horribly self-conscious. I know my body did not look as chiseled as my competitors. I could tell that my suit was digging into my love handles and my posing was horrible. The adrenaline high has worn off and I feel mentally and physically defeated.  We’ve been at this high school from 8am to 6pm, and all I want to do is eat. I tell my friends, “fuck it, let's leave” and I don’t stay for the end of the show. I devour a burger, fries, a donut, a cupcake, and a Mcflurry- and still feel like I could keep eating. I question if all this was really worth it, and I sigh with relief that it’s all over.

First thing in the morning: I go to Ihop and order 2 pancakes with toppings, bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns, and finish the entire thing in less than 5 minutes.  On the way home I eat most of the treats I’ve hoarded over the past few months. My body is in pain and my stomach looks like I'm pregnant, but I'm happy to finally not feel hungry. 

That night: I go out to eat and get a bacon cheese burger, chili fries, onion rings, and a beer.  The next day I eat an entire large pizza by myself and still feel hungry and don’t know why I can’t stop eating.

A few weeks later: I’m back to eating the way I did before prep and exercising a few times a week, but I’m bloated and the laxatives I’m taking every day aren’t working. My hair is falling out. I’ve gained 10 pounds back even though I vowed I would never be fat again.  My size 00’s don’t fit anymore and I feel like a failure for rebounding.

3 months post show: I’ve gained 25 pounds and am heavier than when I started my prep.  My digestion is still horrible. I’m depressed and hate the way I look, and I’m back to restricting my calories to lose the weight, but it doesn’t work.  I then realize this is only hurting my body more. I realize that restricting my calories and beating myself up in the gym were what caused my issues in the first place.  I decide it’s time to stop ignoring my body’s signals and I begin to list and trust it instead. I see a naturopathic doctor who tells me I have a low functioning thyroid, low metabolism, adrenal fatigue, and a myriad of food sensitivities. She confirms my suspicion that all of this was triggered by over exercising and under eating.  

1 year post show: through intuitive eating, starting Crossfit and powerlifting, along with a variety of other tools and tactics, I lose most of the weight I had gained.  I still struggle with body image, and having to get rid of all my small clothes, but I’m feeling my best physically and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. I know I’ll never put my body through hell again. I feel empowered to share my struggles with the world, and help others recognize they don’t have to go to extremes to be healthy.  I find others who have shared their similar experiences with damaged metabolisms, disordered eating, and exercise addiction after prepping for a competition, and I realize I am not alone

Almost 4 years exactly post show: after two years of working on healing my body, I’ve finally found homeostasis.  I don’t regret going through my bikini competition experience. At the time I thought I was doing all the right things to become healthy. Sometimes I do wish I hadn’t hurt my body the way I did, but I didn’t know any better.  If I hadn’t gone through that experience, I never would’ve been able to educate others. I never would’ve known that thinness doesn’t always equate health.  I never would’ve known what it took to become a bikini competitor.

Please be aware that the thoughts and experiences I’m sharing are my own, and are not a representation of anyone else’s fitness journey and not a generalization of fitness competitors. However, if you’re thinking that the best way to reach your goals is to enter a fitness competition, please realize that these are the types of things you may experience. My journey showed me that my road to self-acceptance and optimum health didn't end in a mirror, or on stage in front of judges. It begins and ends with respecting and honoring my body and myself, and eating and living in a way that embodies that.

If you want to stop resorting to extremes to lose weight, gain body acceptance, and find a healthy balance between nutrition and exercise, I'm currently taking on a limited number of 1:1 clients.  If you are ready and committed to creating transforming changes in your life, to feel confident and capable, to believe in your self worth, and be empowered to take decisive action, contact me for a powerful coaching session.

It's OK to Not Be the Best

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We live in a society that glorifies “the grind” and “the hustle”.  If we’re not working as hard as we possibly can, then we’re not doing enough.   

I used to live by this mentality.  I felt that if I wasn’t the best at something, then I wasn’t good enough.  This way of thinking kept me from doing A LOT of things, and living my life to the fullest.  I was always afraid to try new things, because I knew that I wasn’t going to be great at whatever it was, and I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone.  I limited my growth and said no to possibilities.

It’s only been recently that I realized it’s ok to not be the best, because what does “being the best” really entail?

For me, being the best meant always comparing myself to others.  In trying to be the best at something, there has to be a standard right?  There has to be something we’re comparing ourselves to.  This lead into never feeling satisfied or good enough.  An example of this was when I competed in my bodybuilding show. How I looked had to stack up against 100 or so amazingly fit women.  Throughout the entire prep I felt like I wasn’t toned enough, not skinny enough, my butt wasn’t big enough, my posing wasn’t on point enough, my hair/makeup/tan wasn’t perfect enough.  Even though I was at the peak of my physical aesthetic, I was never satisfied.

In trying to be the best for my competition, I also isolated myself.  I couldn’t go out to eat with friends because I was on a strict diet.  I couldn’t go out after work because I had to go straight to the gym for my second workout of the day.  I didn’t even allow myself to go to family gatherings because I was so consumed with the outcome.

To be the best at something, you have to dedicate everything to it.  It’s not something you can dabble in part time.  You have to put your all into it.  Eat, sleep, and breathe it.  How many hours a day are elite athletes training in the gym?  How often are they saying no to social events?  How often are they thinking/saying anything unrelated to their performance?  How much are they sacrificing?  All so that they can be part of the 1% of the population that can say they’re the best. 

But what happens when the moment passes?  What happens when you’ve tied your identify to that one moment of glory?  Are you going to cling to that moment for the rest of your life?  I’m not saying effort and dedication aren’t things to be proud of, but being part of the 99% of the population that isn’t “the best”, I realized I was holding myself to unrealistic standards.  And the biggest problem was, I was putting my value and self worth in my success.  By just focusing on success and not the journey, I was never going to arrive at happiness.  There was always going to be an undercurrent of agony in thinking “why haven’t I succeeded yet? What’s wrong with me?”

What helped me get out of this mindset was realizing I had to focus on the process itself and enjoy the journey, rather than focus on the outcome.  Rather than feeling like I had to excel at something, I learned to better myself in a general sense by exploring new opportunities and interests.  And the funny thing is, when I did that, success happened anyway as a by product.  When success happened I could celebrate it but it wasn’t what I clung to, because my identity wasn’t tied to it.  

When I tied my identity to something, and then it went away, I lost myself.  I became depressed.  I lowered my self worth.  I didn't know who I was without it.    

To focus on the process and the journey, I knew I had to first accept that it’s OK to not be the best.  The process also had to be sustainable, valuable, and something I enjoyed.  And whatever I did, I had to be in the NOW.   I had to be completely in the moment.  By being engaged in whatever I did, I could pull myself out of the negative thought process of wanting to be in the future and wanting the end result.  And I knew that if I felt disappointment when “failed”, then it was because I set wrong expectations.

By living in the moment, focusing on the process, and accepting that it's OK not being the best, I now experience more fulfillment.  I am not as overwhelmed by new projects.  I do activities that feel authentic to me.  I live with a mindset of abundance, instead of scarcity, and I don't let the fear of the unknown stop me from trying. 

Why I Promote Holistic Abundance Over Weight-Loss

When I started my career as a health coach, it was with the intention of helping people create better lifestyle habits and healthy changes.  Along the way, however, I let my insecurities about my own body steer my path away from promoting health toward promoting weight loss, because that's ultimately what I was seeking.  I believed that by focusing on reaching my ideal weight, and having my ideal body that I would be at the utmost peak of health.  You can read more about my story here. 

In striving for the "perfect body" I received a lot of recognition.  People would ask me what I was doing to lose weight, and so I'd tell them.  Because what I was doing worked for me, I believed it could work for everyone.  So I'd promote nutrition programs that were essentially diet programs, unintentionally feeding into the diet culture mentality.  Although I'd always remind people that what the scale says isn't a true indication of progress, weight loss was still the ultimate focus.  During this process many issues would come up for my clients which made successful dieting all the more difficult.  

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  • poor relationships with food
  • stress at work and home
  • lack of nutrition education
  • time management issues
  • poor personal relationships
  • lack of body awareness
  • body dysmorphia
  • false stories and beliefs

 

The struggles my clients had around food and eating were much more complex than not knowing how to weigh and measure portions, and track in MyFitnessPal.  I realized that the only way to truly help my clients was to stop focusing on weight and to start focusing what truly mattered.  To stop focusing on transforming their bodies, and instead focus on transforming their lives. 

Now when I work with a client we not only discuss nutrition, but we also discuss work, relationships, health, lifestyle habits, mindset, body image, etc.  In looking at the entire picture we can see where patterns cross over in various areas of their lives.  For example: A client may come to me because they want to lose weight, but in diving deeper I discover they have a lot of stress at work...we dive deeper and discover the stress at work is actually due to the fact that they're not speaking up about projects....diving deeper...they're insecure of what others will think of them....diving deeper...this insecurity is preventing them from having a romantic relationship...diving deeper...they don't feel good enough to have a relationship...diving deeper...they believe they'll feel more confident if they lose weight. 

By getting beyond the surface issue we can see that this person's goal really isn't weight loss.  It's to feel confident and worthy, and to stop people pleasing. Had we just focused on the weight loss, they probably would've ended the program continuing to feel insecure, regardless if they had lost weight. So often we think that by having our "ideal body" then the rest of our life will also magically improve, but unfortunately it doesn't (usually) work that way. 

If we REALLY want to improve something in our lives, it takes getting at the heart of the issue, and I can guarantee it has nothing to do with how much we weigh. 

If you're ready to stop focusing on weight loss, and start focusing on improving multiple areas of your life, I would love to support you to set and fulfill those meaningful intentions in 2018. 

My private 6-9 month Holistic Abundance Program focuses on and honors you — 

Together, we work through the limiting beliefs, fears, and false stories holding you back from feeling good in your body, listening to your own voice, and living with purpose. We work to empower you to make decisions, take actions, and show up for your life in ways that feel authentic to you. 

Some of the areas we focus on might include:

  • Creating a life you want to live
  • Feeling good in your skin
  • Learning how to eat intuitively
  • Healing your negative relationship with food
  • Empowering you to take action in all areas of your life
  • Finding activity/movement that you enjoy
  • Having more confidence and joy
  • Living a life of fulfillment and purpose
  • Letting go of old habits and false beliefs that are not serving you

Spots are limited.  If you’re interested in starting this journey in January, I’m opening up time on my calendar to connect with you this month (December) and I’d love to invite you to a free phone consultation. Email me at info@christinaennabe.com and I'll be in direct contact with you.  I can’t wait to connect and get to know you more! You can read more details about my private coaching here

 

Is That You, or Your Ego?

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As a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, I still struggle with negative self talk and the false stories I tell myself.   Recently I was called out on it, which was uncomfortable as hell!  I was putting off projects, relying on others to get things done, and making excuses.  I said to myself “I’m not ready!...”I need to wait for so and so’s permission!”...”XYZ isn’t good enough!”

Then someone challenged me by asking, “Is that you talking or your ego?”.  

Of course I started coming up with more excuses as to why my thoughts and feelings were valid, but in diving deeper, I realized it all traced back to the labels I put on myself and the stories I believed because of fear.  Fear of what people would think, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of the unknown, and on and on.  And ego LOVES fear.  Without it, ego cannot survive. Ego is the part of ourselves that wants to protect us and keep us safe.  Ego thrives off of our fears by not allowing us to experience change and being uncomfortable. Ego must assert its power over us by feeding into our insecurities.  It’s the voice in our head that tells us we’re not good enough, not capable, not worthy.  

I used to hear “ego” and think it described someone who is full of themselves. Someone who is overconfident, narcissistic, and selfish.  My whole life I tried to avoid this label of being “egotistical”, by being a people pleaser and perfectionist instead.   By staying quiet, not stepping on anyone’s toes, by not sharing my voice, and by making myself small.  I created a low sense of self worth.  And the whole time I was trying to avoid ego, I was actually giving it exactly what it wanted.

When I gave into ego, I ultimately:

devalued myself

closed the door on opportunities

limited possibilities

stayed stuck

became depressed and anxious

was slow to take action

stunted my personal and professional growth

suffered

I created false identities:   “I’m a bad public speaker”...”I’m not organized”...”I’m not a leader”...”I’m too sensitive”...”My shyness is a weakness”...”I can’t do it”.  But after being called out, I realized that in trying so hard to avoid being egotistical, that’s exactly what I had become. In trying to protect myself from criticism and the opinions of others, I was actually being self centered.  My original understanding of being egotistical wasn’t exactly right, because it also meant focusing on yourself above others.  By creating these false identities, I was doing a disservice to the people I cared about, and I wasn’t being the real me.   

So how did I start the journey of finding my true self?  I had to start by asking myself some hard questions:

How do I identify myself?

I am a coach, mentor, and ladypreneur.  I am not just a physical being but a spiritual being.  I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person which are strengths, not weaknesses.  I am a daughter and a wife.  I am unique just by being myself and worthy of love.    

Where did my false stories and labels come from?

Being bullied at a young age because of the way I looked was the source of a lot of my insecurities and fears. As a female in our society, those insecurities were perpetuated the more I grew up.  This manifested into people pleasing, and perfectionism.  

How have they protected me?  

In wanting others to accept and love me, I shied away from attention.  By giving over my power to others I could avoid being bullied.  

How have they not served me?

I became isolated, depressed, and insecure.  I became stunted in my personal and professional growth because I was afraid to take risks and share my voice.  I was untrusting of others and wouldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable.  

What action steps do I need to take to break from my false identities?

I had to stop hiding and start putting myself out there.  At first it was mainly through online platforms where I could share my stories.  In doing this, many people shared with me that they could relate to what I was speaking about, and that I had helped them in some way. This made me realize that by not sharing my voice, I was doing a disservice to the people around me, and to the world as a whole.  By being open, I was able to help others.        

Was I ready to change?

Although a simple question, this one was the most difficult to answer.  Was I ready to get uncomfortable and be vulnerable?  Was I ready for the possibility of rejection and people disliking me or my message?  Was I ready to face the challenge of shifting my mindset and changing the beliefs I have had since childhood?  YES wasn’t an easy answer, but it was a necessary one.

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My eyes were opened to just how destructive I had let my ego become.  Now I am better able to notice when my ego is wanting to take control, and I ask myself “is that me or my ego?”  By starving the ego, and not giving it what it wants, I am better able to feed my soul and discover my true self.  

People pleasing makes you a liar

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“Most people pleasers are also persistent liars”.

Being a people pleaser myself, when I heard this statement, I immediately thought of reasons why this wasn’t true.  I mean I would never intentionally do anything to hurt someone!  My career and life’s work has centered on serving and helping others…prioritizing others above myself!  How could I be a liar??

But when I sat down and thought about it, I realized how often I do lie, even without realizing it.  I lie to my friends when I say I want to go to a party, when I actually just want to stay home and watch Netflix.  I lie to my boss when I say I can take on another project, when actually I’m so stressed I contemplate quitting every day.  I lie to family who ask how my life is going and I put on a smile on my face and say “great”, when actually I’m so depressed it’s a miracle I can get up in the morning.  I lie on Instagram, posting motivational quotes about how we need to have a positive body image, when in reality every day I still struggle with body dysmorphia.

People pleasers don’t want to tell the truth, because in reality the truth is often painful, and we don’t want to inflict pain on anyone.  We want people to be happy.  We want to give, and put others before ourselves.  We get satisfaction out of making these “small” sacrifices for the good of others.  When we set aside our wants/needs/desires, we feel like we’re doing our jobs as parents, siblings, spouses, coworkers, and friends because others get their wants/needs/desires met.    

And then we wonder why people take us for granted.  We wonder why people don’t take us seriously.  We wonder why we’re under appreciated.  We wonder why we’re so anxious and depressed.   And yet, we still lie.  To others and ourselves.  Telling ourselves that people pleasing is a GOOD thing, when in actuality we’ve been doing more harm than good.

By not allowing ourselves to have a voice, and an opinion we're doing a disservice to those we care about.

So how do we break this awful habit?  How do we start living in autonomy and being truthful to who we are?  Maybe you’ve been living as a people pleaser your whole life, and you don’t even know what you want!  A good first step is therefore to get reacquainted with yourself.  Ask what are YOUR wants/needs/desires?  What lights you up?  What drives you?  What makes you happy and excited about life?  Write these things down, and practice saying them out loud, so that when someone asks you a simple question like “what do you want to eat?” your initial response isn’t “I don’t know, whatever you want”.