Like most women, I did my first diet when I was a teenager. Atkins and his "carbs are bad" message destroyed my relationship with food.
Then in 2007, something clicked and I decided I was not living in that body one more minute – I wouldn’t stop until I was happy and proud of my body.
That was a decision that introduced me to clean eating and created an eating disorder.
I lost another 40lbs the same way I had 2 years prior but I still wasn’t happy. I hated my body. So I thought I needed to just keeping losing more weight, despite having reached my “goal” of 115lbs. I got down to 105lbs and still wasn’t happy so I enlisted the help of an IFBB figure pro and started lifting.
Within 4 days of trying to follow the "clean eating" meal plan she gave me, I had my first binge and within 8 months, I was sitting in a therapists office, being diagnosed with full blown bulimia bawling my eyes begging him to tell me why I couldn’t control myself with food. You can read more about my battle with bulimia in this piece published on Tiny Buddha.
A bulimia diagnosis was a shock because I never threw up and I had always been under the impression that bulimics made themselves throw up. Turns out, bulimia is just binge eating with a compensatory behavior element – my compensatory behaviors were over exercise and severe calorie restriction.
I spent the next few years desperately trying to recover from that – all the while still obsessed with building the perfect body.
In 2010, I joined the fitness industry as a personal trainer and nutrition & wellness coach.
In 2010 I took personal training and nutrition and wellness courses so I could start training other people.
I saw the incredible difference the right training and the right food (when I was actually able to stick to it) made in how my body transformed and wanted to help other women learn to transform their bodies in the same way so they could love theirs too. Except, while I was proud of the changes I’d made, I still didn’t really love my own body. But I blamed my body for it.
In 2012 when I was confident that it wouldn’t trigger a relapse, I competed in my second figure competition – I thought that winning a competition in which you were judged on your body would make me finally like it and be happy.
I won… but it didn’t help. I still hated myself and my body and even though I wasn’t a practicing bulimic anymore, I was still bingeing sometimes.
I spent years digging into the psychology of weight, dieting, food issues, body image, why we struggle, how to change it, the neuroscience of habits and motivation, because I was still struggling with a lot of it and because I wanted to be better able to help clients who were all also struggling so hard with food or just kept falling "off track” and being unmotivated.
And that made me drop out of the fitness industry
I’ve been a figure champion. I’ve written for bodybuilding websites. I’ve been featured on Bodybuilding.com and in one of their print ads. I’ve been the Canadian Trainer of the Year.
But I left all that behind because I've learned too much to believe in the weight loss and fitness industry anymore. I'm even rather ashamed of the role I played in perpetuating "clean eating" and "build your perfect bikini body" type messages.
The reasons we make the food choices we make and hate our bodies have nothing to do with food or our bodies and everything to do with our thoughts, beliefs, emotions and habits.
I learned that it's never been about the food or our bodies.
Weight and food issues are the result of what's going on in our brains.
I learned that it wasn’t my body that I hated, it was me. The stories I had been telling myself about who I thought I was and what I was worth, the habits that had been hard-wired in my brain from dieting/food restriction were driving all my destructive behaviors.
When I learned how to change those things by changing my brain, every thing changed. I don't stare at the mirror in disgust anymore, I eat whatever I want, whenever I want and I'm not consumed with food or scale obsessions anymore. I don't even think about those things anymore.
I'm finally just happy, healthy and free.
So, Cognitive Eating was born
In my own search for healing, I read everything I could get my hands on - gratitude, meditation, mindfulness, mindful eating, acceptance and compassion therapy, intuitive eating, CBT, you name it. I found that no one approach worked on its own for me so I developed my own strategies and techniques based on everything I was learning -- and it was working! I started using them with clients -- and their food issues also began to resolve.
I've since completed mindfulness, cognitive behavioral coaching and MBCT coaching certification courses and have created Cognitive Eating. CE, and all my programs are based heavily on CBT, mindfulness, acceptance and self-compassion because those things change your brain and your brain controls everything. Once you change that, literally everything changes. Forever.
Because I spent so many years struggling with my own weight & food issues, and have spent my entire life watching so many other women (and girls) struggle with the same ones, my vision is of a world in which our daughters can grow up not knowing the destruction and dysfunction of diet culture – a world in which they’re just kind to themselves. I envision a world in which they sit around eating without shame; where rather than talking about “being good”, thigh gaps, hip dips, bat wings, stretch marks, belly rolls, and love handles, they’re discussing their courage, their hearts, their brilliance, the impact they’ll leave on the world, their dreams and all the ways they’ll surpass them.
And because of the impact I've already seen it have, cognitive eating has the power to help turn that vision into reality so my mission is to share the power of CE with the world.
You don't have to do it alone.
Reach out for help.
NOTE: While counselors or therapists often use CBT to deal with mental illness or a patient’s mental/emotional conditions and/or processing trauma, MBCT & cognitive eating does not. My roll as an MBCT & cognitive eating coach, in its most simple form, is to encourage, coach and/or act as a facilitator of a client’s self-reflection, decision making, planning for the future, and creating life changes. As an MBCT & cognitive eating coach, I am obligated to refer clients in need of mental or physical health therapy to an appropriate licensed professional.