Extreme Dieting Nearly Killed Julie—Until Fitness Saved Her

After a bout with a severe eating disorder, Julie got her health and relationship with food right back on track!

What made you realize you needed a change?

Despite having a "successful" social and academic life in college, I developed an eating disorder in my senior year. I had gained about 15 pounds during my first three years—mostly due to beer and frequent fast-food trips—and I started the fall of my senior year the heaviest I had ever been.

One day, I woke up and it just hit me: I needed to get healthy and change my lifestyle or else it would continue down that self-destructive path. It started out with good intentions of eating less and exercising more. I started going to the gym every other day, mostly doing cardio for about 30 minutes with a little strength training. Eventually, I was in the gym every day for 2 hours: 1-1/2 hours of cardio and 30 minutes of lifting.

The following summer, I dropped to 90 pounds, eating no more than 500 calories a day. I ate strictly vegetarian, fat-free foods, and ultimately had little knowledge of strength training and a proper diet. I suffered from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and amenorrhea.

One day, my brother-in-law showed up at the gym while I was on the treadmill and told me that I was killing myself. He refused to leave until I stopped running. I felt so humiliated and defeated. My entire family wanted me to get better; I just needed to convince myself. In danger of losing my friends, my family, my internship, and most importantly, my health, I decided I needed to change.

It's interesting how seemingly healthy pursuits can quickly spiral downward. What was the most difficult part of your change?

It was learning to trust food again and letting go of the idea that training was solely for the purpose of burning calories.

Before 90 lbs.
After 120 lbs.
Age: 23
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 90 lbs.
Body Fat: 10%
Age: 26
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 120 lbs.
Body Fat: 10%

Society pressures people—especially women—to feel guilty about eating "bad" foods and teaches them that they must be slaves to cardio machines to burn anything and everything off. I had trained my brain to think, of less food and more cardio as my way to happiness. My mentality was so screwed up; it took a complete overhaul, supported by friends, family, and doctors, to get it straight again.

Eventually, I started to view food as fuel to train, and learned that happiness wasn't about burning 600 calories on the treadmill but more about hitting a deadlift PR and enjoying frozen yogurt after.

The three years between the beginning of my eating disorder and now was a roller coaster, filled with good days and bad days. But I refused to give up.

I set a goal to compete in an NPC bikini show in the spring of 2014 and placed third in my class. I still have good days and bad days, where I feel as though I don't look lean enough. The real challenge is learning to overcome those days. Food is no longer the enemy. Cardio is no longer the solution. Truly, bodybuilding has taught me to love and respect my body for all it's worth.

Great mindset transformation! What steps did you take to make this happen?

I began to actually take my nutrition and therapy sessions seriously. It was never easy. I remember eating a pasta dinner with my family and breaking down in tears because I was terrified of pasta, even whole wheat. Whole eggs were a foreign concept to me.

I decided that if I had to change my life and my outlook on health in order to get better, I wanted to do it the right way. I began to read articles on Bodybuilding.com and started following Jamie Eason's LiveFit trainer.

I decided that if I had to change my life and my outlook on health in order to get better, I wanted to do it the right way. I began to read articles on Bodybuilding.com and started following Jamie Eason's LiveFit trainer. I looked up to women like Jamie for their muscular, strong physiques. I learned about proper nutrition and the importance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. I began to rebuild my trust in foods that had forever been "off-limits."

I learned there is more to the gym than obsessive amounts of cardio to burn calories. I learned that if I wanted to build muscle and look like those women, I needed to eat, and eat a lot. I fell in love with the weight room, setting strength goals, learning techniques, and challenging myself in a whole new way. I created my own workout charts and meal plans designed for a bodybuilding physique.

I felt alive again.

What are your plans now?

I am currently training for my second NPC bikini competition with future plans to compete the rest of 2015 in the bikini division. Depending on how this season goes, I might look at moving up to competing in figure.

I am currently training for my second NPC bikini competition with future plans to compete the rest of 2015 in the bikini division.

How do you suggest newcomers to fitness start their own journey?

From my experience, it is important to find a balance and not go to extremes to achieve a goal. It may take some time, but you need to find what works for you—both diet- and training-wise. Everyone is different, and finding what works will be a lot of trial and error.

And of course, utilize Bodybuilding.com! It's a great resource for nutrition, training, and motivation. When I didn't know how to perform an exercise or was looking for a new movement, I went to muscle-group articles and videos. When I needed motivation, I read articles and forums. It has everything I need.

Supplements that helped me through the journey


Diet plan that guided my transformation

Meal 1

Quick oats: 1/2 cup


Cinnamon: 1 dash


Frozen berries: 1 cup


Liquid egg whites: 4 servings


Cheese: 2 tbsp


Meal 2

Sweet potato: 5 oz.


Chicken breast: 4 oz.


Almond butter: 1 tbsp


Cinnamon: 1 dash


Meal 3

Quest Bar: 1 serving


Apple: 1 large


100-calorie popcorn: 1 tbsp


Fat-free Greek yogurt: 1 container


Meal 4

Warheads candy: 3-5 pieces


Protein shake: 1 serving


Meal 5

Whole-wheat pasta: 2 oz.


Low-sugar spaghetti sauce: 1/4 cup


Chicken breast: 4 oz.


Parmesan cheese: 2 tbsp


Mixed veggies: 1 cup


Meal 6

Casein shake: 1 serving


Cashew milk: 1 cup


Arctic Zero frozen dessert: 1 serving


Cereal: 1 serving



Training regimen that kept me on track

Workout 1: Back and biceps
1

Wide-grip lat pull-down

3 sets of 8 reps
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

2

Standing biceps cable curl

3 sets of 8 reps
Standing Biceps Cable Curl Standing Biceps Cable Curl

3

Seated cable row

3 sets of 8 reps
Seated Cable Rows Seated Cable Rows

4
Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl

5

Single-arm dumbbell row

3 sets of 8 reps
One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row

6

Pull-up

3 sets to failure
Pullups Pullups

7

Barbell deadlift

3 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift

Workout 2: Chest and triceps
1

Decline chest fly

3 sets of 8 reps
Decline Dumbbell Flyes Decline Dumbbell Flyes

2

Triceps kick-back

3 sets of 8 reps per arm
Tricep Dumbbell Kickback Tricep Dumbbell Kickback

3

Dumbbell chest press

3 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press Dumbbell Bench Press

4

Overhead triceps extension

3 sets of 8 reps
Overhead triceps extension Overhead triceps extension

5

Weighted push-up

3 sets to failure
Weighted push-up Weighted push-up

6

Single-arm triceps push-down

3 sets of 8 reps per arm
Single-arm triceps push-down Single-arm triceps push-down

7
Wide-Grip Barbell Bench Press Wide-Grip Barbell Bench Press

8

Triceps push-down

3 sets of 8 reps
Triceps Pushdown Triceps Pushdown

Workout 3: Legs and abs
1

Leg extension

3 sets of 10 reps
Leg Extensions Leg Extensions

2

Standing calf raise

3 sets of 12 reps
Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises

3

Leg press

3 sets of 10 reps
Leg Press Leg Press

4

Lying leg curl

3 sets of 10 reps
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls

5

Wide-stance barbell squat

3 sets of 10 reps
Wide Stance Barbell Squat Wide Stance Barbell Squat

6

Plie squat

3 sets of 15 reps
Plie Dumbbell Squat Plie Dumbbell Squat

7

Stiff-legged deadlift

3 sets of 10 reps
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift

8

Hip abductor

3 sets of 10 reps
Thigh Abductor Thigh Abductor

9

Exercise-Ball Crunch

3 sets of 12 reps
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball Crunch

10

Bicycle crunch

3 sets of 12 reps
Bicycle crunch Bicycle crunch

11

Weighted plank

45-sec. hold
Weighted plank Weighted plank

12

Side plank

1-min. hold per side 3 sets per side
Side plank Side plank

13

Exercise-ball Pull-In

3 sets of 12 reps
Exercise Ball Pull-In Exercise Ball Pull-In

14

Decline Crunch

3 sets of 10 reps
Decline Crunch Decline Crunch

15

Cable Rope Crunch

3 sets of 15 reps
Cable Crunch Cable Crunch

Workout 4: Shoulders
1

Arnold press

3 sets of 8 reps
Arnold Dumbbell Press Arnold Dumbbell Press

2

Side Lateral Dumbbell Raise

3 sets of 8 reps
Side Lateral Raise Side Lateral Raise

3

Rear-delt fly

3 sets of 10 reps
Rear-delt fly Rear-delt fly

4

Front Dumbbell Raise

3 sets of 8 reps
Front Dumbbell Raise Front Dumbbell Raise

5

Upright row on cable machine

3 sets of 8 reps
Upright row on cable machine Upright row on cable machine



Julie's Favorite Gym Tracks

Linkin Park
"Crawling"
Diplo
"Crown"
A$AP Rocky w/ Skrillex
"Wild for the Night"
Martin Garrix
"Animals"
Linkin Park
"Crawling"
Diplo
"Crown"
A$AP Rocky w/ Skrillex
"Wild for the Night"
Martin Garrix
"Animals"