After feasting on a couple extra portions of sugar free cookies, I once again felt 'guilty' for over-consuming more than the 20 grams of carb intake I had planned for the entire day.
All of a sudden, a flush of obsession took over my psyche.
So in alliance with my personal life philosophy that had guided success throughout my life, I decided to 'go hard or go home'... and so I ate, and ate and ate... I began filling the emptiness inside my stomach, a stomach I now believe today represented a voided spirit.
After cakes, cookies, ice cream and anything else that was easy to uptake, my body finally created a satiated response to my brain. I knew I needed to 'let go' and unconsciously manifest the 'emptiness' that encompassed my body, my mind and my spirit by releasing the poison inside of me... so I 'let go' and continued to do so for the next few years.
The Female Athlete Triad
The Female Athlete Triad (F.A.T.) is a disease that affects many women who participate in sports that require a physical standard such as gymnastics, ballet and fitness competitions. Three Conditions define this disease:
- Disordered Eating
- Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle)
According the American Academy of Family Physicians, this disease goes largely unrecognized and is more rampant amongst athletes who have continuous 'weigh-ins' and have a 'win at every cost' attitude.
I understand these studies. I have read them all... because I experienced all three symptoms.
My personal story can be characterized as a story of a girl who experienced "Female Athlete Triad" - or even "Fitness Bulimia".
I grew up normal. While my shyness prevented me from playing any sports, I did participate in leadership activities and cheerleading in high school. As the oldest daughter in a house of 4 kids close in age, I became over-responsible of the household operations at a young age. When adversity in life came early for me, I focused on cleaning endlessly and creating lists and chores I focused intently on until the presence of the initial pain left my psyche. My ability to transfer negative emotions into productive actions was the first sign of my acute obsessive compulsiveness to focus on a project until life appeared 'close to perfect.'
As I matured into a young woman, I was persuaded to compete in a string of successful pageants and eventually tried my luck in fitness competitions. My need for endless challenges and constant mind activity was evident when I worked as a part-time trainer during college while filling my schedule with additional classes that required me to study a lot.
I was always too scheduled in school studies, too ambitious with work goals and too persistent in my efforts to reach a level of unattained 'perfection.'
While my efforts to keep my mind constantly occupied prompted much of my latter problems, the most influential figure of my childhood memories come from a woman who struggled with her weight her entire life: my mother. Not only was I groomed and molded to be everything she couldn't be due to her health, but I also inherited poor self esteem due to my constant measurement between my physical beauty and self worth.
1. Disordered Eating
Bulimia is a disease that most commonly found in girls of later adolescence and early adulthood. Those who suffer experience episodes of binge eating (typically carbohydrates) and then follow it up with periods of food restriction, vomiting, laxative abuse or excessive exercising.
I partook in disordered eating 6 years ago when I began the "Body for Life" Program and limited my caloric intake 6 days a week and splurged on the 7th day. On Sundays, (my 7th day) even though my shrunken stomach couldn't hold too much food, I preceded to eat anything that was on my 'bad foods' list.
Each night I would go to bed in a terrible sweat from my body trying to metabolize all the foods eaten. Eventually, I involuntarily vomited from the pain of my fullness and my body's inability to digest properly. The next day I would fast the entire day, and rely on laxatives throughout the week to assist me in processing the foods inside my colon.
Fast forward 4 years later, after my 7th competition in 2003, I started showing progressive signs of Bulimia. At this point I was so fixated on success measured by body weight and caloric intake.
Besides intense competitions, in this volatile 10 month period I also graduated college, moved to a big city, competed in pageants, broke up with a long term boyfriend, changed jobs and traveled internationally. These key changes created a need for a 'comfort' zone where I felt I had control over my transient life.
Bulimia Forum Threads
Most people didn't know of my condition, in fact, most people were shocked when I had the courage to disclose this secret to them. I was widely recognized as a 'go getter', a 'perfectionist' who always did the 'right thing'. Unfortunately, no one knew how to respond to my condition, and surprisingly, most pretended they never heard my confession.
Looking back, I realize that they just didn't know how to handle it. These are the moments when you realize that friends are people who adjust their profile in order to serve the love needed for that moment. Regrettably most people couldn't handle being the one to giving love and support vs. normally receiving it from me.
I attempted recovery by befriending a client I knew was suffering from Anorexia when I was a fitness manager. In disguise, I attended an eating disorder group session with her. After listening to the sob stories of diverse people who seemingly lacked the same background as me, I left and never went back.
As I reflect on the experience, I realize that I felt very uncomfortable due to lack of similarity I felt with the group. Today I know that this disease is a silent hell that many people in industries of 'body perfection' and 'fierce competition' don't talk about.
While experiencing disordered eating patterns, I lacked proper nutrients to feed the bones that I trained so vigorously upon each week. I started noticing quick injuries. That is when I realized my bones were starting to weaken.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine, and wrist.
Luckily I am still young and only experienced the beginning stages of porous bone structure. This weakened structure worsened due to my intense training program I performed month after month. I would work one muscle body part per day, coupled with cardio for a minimum of 45 minutes, and a cardio session I sometimes performed twice a day a minimum of 2x/ week. This routine was hardly providing my bones with the calcium it needed to withstand the pressure I was applying to it weekly. As a result, my bones started taking its toll.
My acute signs of osteoporosis were apparent when I easily sprained my ankle preparing for my athletic jazz routine and needed crutches for a month. That ankle didn't heal for at least 6 months. Besides my ankle, I started feeling tenderness in my shoulder blade and wrist. It suddenly became difficult to perform extended push ups or pull-ups.
I never sought professional help for my bones besides check ups on my ankle. While I can take glutamine routinely when preparing for a show, I could never take any other pill regularly. I began consuming calcium tablets when given to me, but that was the extent of my efforts to heal my aching bones. While my acute osteoporosis was triggered by continuous physical pressure, another big influence to this condition was my lack of menstrual cycle.
Amenorrhea (secondary) is the absence of menstrual periods for 6 months in a woman who had previously been regular, or for 12 months in a woman who had irregular periods. This problem is seen in about 1% of women of reproductive age.
I didn't have my period for over 2 years... not one. At first I was concerned and went to see a gynecologist. She recommended that I cease exercising so much, gain some body fat and begin taking the hormone progesterone to trigger a period.
I walked away from that appointment with as much cynicism as when I came into it... I never did like the way doctors diagnose patients. So, after pleads from family and friends, I agreed to take progesterone for a small time period. After 3 days and 7 extra pounds, I stopped the treatment. Not only did I feel uncomfortable, but I also read additional material that did not recommended its usage.
In the end, I decided to let nature take its course on delivering a time when my body felt it was 'safe' to be fertile so I can idealistically bring a child into the world. Right now, my body was smart enough to realize I was undergoing a lot of instability and needed to cease having a fertile playground just in case a baby was conceived.
I finally recovered after many years of thinking, evaluating, praying and training my mind to stay focused on the root of the cause. I can best describe the healing process in 4 words:
It is in this crossroad in life when you realize that you could either seek a level of higher consciousness to lead you out of this pain, or you could retreat back into the cycle of cause and effect. In this personal recovery, I began re-defining my philosophies of life and made a promised contract to myself that I would halt any actions that brought me to this moment in time.
Not only would I halt trigger actions, but I would also need to re-wire the mind that created the problem. They only way to do either is to dig really deep into my life patterns and become acquainted with the Maria I thought I was, and the Maria that I truly am.
I stopped competing. I stopped hanging around certain people. I stopped being obsessed about 'over-achieving' goals. I stopped trying to cheat time - and I stopped relying on my own self for recovery alone. I sought role models, I became a role model, and most of all, I developed a passion in my faith that all things in life happened for a reason.
Focus 1: Persistence
have been accomplished by people who have kept
on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."
On this journey to a better self, I realized that I would fail numerous times. I failed as many times as it took to finally 'get it.' I recognize that the answers are all available to us once we submit ourselves to letting go of all we know. In doing so, we start anew with a mindset that will guide you towards future success.
| Who Was Dale Carnegie?
Dale Carnegie was an American lecturer and writer on self-improvement. After stints as a salesman and actor, he began teaching public speaking in New York City at a YMCA. His popular classes eventually became the Dale Carnegie Course, a pioneering training program in communication and interpersonal relations for people in sales, business management, and other fields.
Focus 2: Reflection
Besides staying on track, I also grasped that in order to stop a weed from growing; you need to figure out where the root of the problem lies. I began journaling my thoughts. I also started journaling not only my daily routine, but also my thought routine. I started picking up on 'trigger' thoughts and 'trigger' people. Things that 'trigger' you is the stuff that 'sets you off' towards a destructive direction.
| Who Was Lao Tzu?
According to legend, Lao Tzu ("old man" or "old sage") was the ancient author of Tao Te Ching, the most widely translated Chinese work of all time and the classic book of the religion or philosophy known as Taoism. Scholars disagree whether Lao Tzu was a real person or a pen name for the writers of Tao Te Ching, which is often called "the Lao tzu."
Focus 3: Patience
When things get destructive, the only way to fix the situation is to allow the problem to run its course. In life, things get worse before it gets better. It took me over a decade to begin developing symptoms that led me to this present day, it will equally take me as many years to break every brick down and build a new house based on health and vitality.
| Who Was Alexandre Dumas Pere?
Alexandre Dumas wrote the classic adventure novel The Three Musketeers and some of the most famous and popular stories in French literature. Beginning in 1844 he had a string of brilliantly successful books, publishing The Three Musketeers (1844, first printed in serial form) and following it with The Count of Monte Cristo (1845), Twenty Years After (1845) and The Black Tulip (1850), among many others.
Focus 4: Faith
but they were truly religious men because of their faith
in the orderliness of the universe."
Even though I often felt unhealthy, fat and unsuccessful, I had to 'believe' I was already what I dreamt of in my mind. If you want to be a winner, pretend you are already a winner... having faith that you alone hold the power to your future.
Faith is an internal confidence that you are truly master of your own destiny, that there is an external power guiding you towards the formidable goal to a better self. You've got to believe in something bigger than yourself... for that is the only thing that will take you out of the hell your in.
To Prevent F.A.T. I suggest revisiting pieces of your inner self and current life circumstances so that you can prevent similar consequences occurring to you or those you love. Having an aptitude of emotional intelligence, life balance, internal adaptation, and positive energy will assist in preventing life to reach points of chaotic control.
| Who Was Albert Einstein?
Thanks to his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein became the most famous scientist of the 20th century. In 1905, while working in a Swiss patent office, he published a paper proposing a "special theory of relativity," a groundbreaking notion which laid the foundation for much of modern physics theory. (The theory included his famous equation e=mc2.)
Focus 5: Emotional Intelligence
The most important lesson I learned through this experience is to engage with your 'emotional intelligence'. E.I. means you have emotional aptitude to process how and why you feel the way you do. This internal reflection allows you to make rational and intelligent choices when reacting to stimulus that is bothering or uplifting you.
Taking control of your inner self is a priceless discipline that only few can master. By being able to master the thoughts processed in my brain during an 'episode', I was able to halt any further action by acknowledging the toxic material that entered my mind and spirit.
Focus 6: Balance
It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface."
It is important to note that everything in life is a balance of extremes: love and hate, courage and fear, life and death... one cannot exist without the other. So while you may be in a good state of psychology today, it can be the complete opposite tomorrow.
The way to maintain continuous 'flow' in your life is to live life in neither extreme... but smack dab in the center. I was imbalanced in my life - I didn't allow anything less that what I considered 'perfect' and began handling everything in my life: from the food I consumed, the workouts I performed, the activities I engaged in were all led by an extreme nature.
| Who Was Confucius?
Confucius was an ancient Chinese teacher, philosopher, and political theorist. Born into a poor family, he managed stables and worked as a bookkeeper while educating himself. Mastery of the six arts-ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and arithmetic-and familiarity with history and poetry enabled him to begin a brilliant teaching career in his thirties. Confucius saw education as a process of constant self-improvement and held that its primary function was the training of noblemen (junzi). He saw public service as the natural consequence of education and sought to revitalize Chinese social institutions, including the family, school, community, state, and kingdom.
Focus 7: Adaptation
We are animals of routine, but this static environment we believe exists in our daily lives is only a figment of our wishful imagination. Life is fluid and ever-changing. Nothing stays the same and the art of a warrior is someone who can adapt to all changes.
I lost sense of 'physical' control in my life... but in truth the real lack of control lacked internally. Life changes, but my spirit doesn't have to. As long as you are locked down in your value system, your philosophy on life and your spiritual center, you can avoid most problems involving desire for 'control' in your physical environment.
| Who Was Ernest Bramah?
Ernest Bramah Smith was a British author, better known by his pen name, Ernest Bramah. He initially tried farming, but moved into journalism and became secretary to Jerome K. Jerome. As a writer, he achieved the remarkable feat of being successful on a continuing basis in two strikingly different forms of fiction.
Focus 8: Energy
Our world is full of energy. From the foods we eat to the people we hang around. If you want to be 'alive' and 'real' then consume whole foods and hang around energetic people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of toxic things in life - and I found that the people who brought life back into my life were people who exhibited compassion, wisdom, faith and love.
| Who Was Hippocrates?
Hippocrates is perhaps history's most famous physician. By rejecting superstition in favor of scientific observation, by classifying diseases, and by creating a set of moral and professional standards for physicians, he earned the title of 'Father of Medicine.' He also gave the world the Hippocratic Oath, a code of ethics for physicians which is still taken by graduates at many modern medical schools.
Today I take calcium pills to assist with osteoporosis, I adjusted my diet to be more moderate in nutrients to assist with my eating disorder, and I finally got my period back. While I will always feel I am in 'recovery zone', I know that this disorder chose me for a reason.
Despite popular beliefs, eating disorders are not caused by media image pressures alone; it is also a combination of genetics, personality traits and spiritual challenges. I still consider myself as a work in progress and will always be in 'recovery mode'.
In many ways, I feel like I'm still at the 'worst' stage (the after-effects of allowing your metabolism to recover) before it gets better part of it... but I realize that in life everything happens for a reason. God doesn't make a mountain you can't climb. Whenever trials are presented to you, they are like gifts; for each problem unlocks perennial wisdom that you could not have achieved otherwise.
For those of you who are suffering from this condition or know of someone who is - keep in mind that in order to solve a problem, you have to first change the mind that created the problem. Dig Deep - real deep.
When you find the 'real you', your consciousness will prevail and a deeper meaning of who you are, what you are experiencing and why it occurred will make total sense. Exhibit Reflection, Persistence, Patience and Faith... understand your emotions, balance your life, adapt to your environment and transfer your energies.
Today and always, I pray for all of you.