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Body Image, Crash diets and How I ended up here.

Updated: Nov 4

"So, insert highly restrictively caloric diets leading to so much fatigue that binge eating became so enticing, that is what I knew and so that is what I did. Maybe it wasn’t a diagnosed Eating Disorder but looking back on the phases of binging and restricting...

 

As a child growing up in Lethbridge, Alberta my parents made sure they found some sort of activity for my sister and I to do. I was lucky enough to be enrolled in dance for 12 years.

At the time I never could’ve guessed it would create such a strong foundation for what I have decided to dedicate my time and career to – movement, in many forms.


Another thing I didn't realize at the time were the body image issues that came along with my 12 years of dance.

You see, I was never the "skinny girl", I never had a thigh gap, when I sat down, I could see my "rolls" poking out from beneath my crop top. I distinctly remember when I was in jazz class at about the age of 8 and one of the smaller girls poked my stomach and called me FAT.


I can remember when I was 10 years old standing infront of all of my peers and my ballet teacher told me infront of EVERYONE that I would need to lose 10lbs before the year end show so I could fit into the tutu..

These things stuck with me, they contributed to the formation of a thought pattern firmly rooted in my belief that I would never be SKINNY therefore, I would never be GOOD ENOUGH.


I danced tap, jazz and ballet both recreationally and competitively between the ages of 3-16 years old. After I left, I began to explore classes at the gym and used to love the Women’s Only facilities offered in the city at the time. Even though I enjoyed it at first, I never stuck with it. I got bored of it, to me it wasn't something I did for myself or looked at as self-care it was something I did out of obligation, because I was always searching for the "perfect body" so that I could finally feel enough.

 

At the age of 16, my family moved to Calgary, I didn’t have my usual gym partners and I fell out of physical fitness. On and off I would attend gyms for the next few years, but I was(mostly) a very sedentary person between the ages of 16-21.


Over this time, I picked up unhealthy lifestyle habits (excess alcohol, LOTS of fast food, smoking cigarettes etc.), I gained a substantial amount of weight, my energy levels were at an all time LOW, I not only disliked my body but I could not stand looking at myself in the mirror.


I had no self-esteem, I allowed relationships in my life to occur without boundaries, I didn’t understand WHO I WAS or WHAT I WANTED. I felt like life was happening TO me.

When I was 18 years old, my family moved to beautiful Victoria, BC, where I am currently located.

I decided to join them in the move after visiting and realizing just how beautiful this island was. I felt like there was something here for me, and holy was I right.


Living in James Bay when we first moved into the city was a blessing. We were a 5minute walk from the inner harbour one direction and a 10minute walk from Dallas road in the other, it was an easy city to be active in.


Especially after my only method of transportation (mom’s minivan) was totaled when I was rear-ended on the highway just months after moving here.

The accident was a blessing in disguise leading me to work with a Kinesiologist and learn more about the benefits of resistance training on recovery, through this process I was able to lose about 50lbs, I felt better than I had in a long time.


But it didn’t take long for me to get back into my old (unhealthy) lifestyle habits and forego my new gym routine. At that time my mindset was, “I’m already thin, now I can let loose a bit.” But moderation is something I never knew.


Growing up I witnessed my mom’s many experiences with different diets: the cabbage soup diet, weight watchers points system(which I too took part in when I was only 13 years old), Atkin’s diet, following the Glycemic index, various cleanses and crash diets that “worked” for a time until it was so unsustainable all of the weight was gained back and usually more.

I witnessed exercise as a punishment for calories consumed instead of enjoyment, as a consequence of prior actions rather than as a celebration of our bodies and what they can do for us.


I saw a direct correlation between body size(mainly weight) and self-worth re-affirming what I already believed to be true.


So, insert highly restrictively caloric diets leading to so much fatigue that binge eating became so enticing, that is what I knew and so that is what I did. Maybe it wasn’t a diagnosed Eating Disorder but looking back on the phases of binging and restricting, the phases of rapid weight loss (ex. 20-30lbs in a month), to rapid weight gain (30-40lbs over 3-4 months) there’s no doubt I had an extremely unhealthy relationship to food, exercise and my body, which we now know to be classified as disordered eating.

What distinguishes disordered eating from a full-blown eating disorder? It is all about degree. An individual with disordered eating is often engaged in some of the same behavior as those with eating disorders but at a lesser frequency or lower level of severity.” – Psychology Today blog written by Dr. Carrie Gottlieb, Ph.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201402/disordered-eating-or-eating-disorder-what-s-the


 


In my early 20’s I took to running which allowed me to lose a lot of weight (at the time was my main goal), but it also opened up so much more for me. I learned that I could actually ENJOY exercise again, I learned that this island is a beautiful place to explore, I was able to discover what the term “runner’s high” really meant and I LOVED it.





Running on a regular basis was great, until it led to repetitive use injuries because I wasn’t moving my body in any other way. So, after working with my physiotherapist and massage therapist, I found my way to yoga. I practiced yoga and pilates for about a year before I was approached by the studio owner. She suggested to me that I consider teaching yoga as she thought I would be very good at it.


So, I decided to obtain my 200hr Hatha yoga teacher training as well as my Mat Pilates training and have been teaching both of those modalities in the greater Victoria area since early 2012.


No matter where my movement practice has taken me and no matter what modalities I teach or coach, Yoga and Pilates remains a strong part of the foundation of how I move and how I teach others to move as well.


Although I had found a love for exercise once again, my unhealthy relationship with food and body image would arise anytime I was experiencing large amounts of stress or grief which, can be a common theme of your 20’s.


When I felt I couldn’t cope, I would often turn to food and that would lead to me then making exercise my punishment or neglecting it entirely.

Throughout my journey, years of teaching yoga and pilates, attending fitness and health related classes in college and university, working as an assistant to health and fitness programmer and obtaining my group fitness certification as well as teaching multiple classes a week, my relationship to food, exercise and my body ebbed and flowed and there were more times than not I continued to fuel the negative aspects.


There I was AGAIN, in my late-20's, struggling with my weight and self-image, teaching yoga, pilates and group fitness classes when standing infront of a group of people made me want to crawl out of my skin.


I felt ashamed. I was a fitness professional who was UNFIT. I was a wellness “expert” that was UNWELL. I felt like a FRAUD. I knew I had to take control of my life… YET AGAIN.

I finally sought out coaching for my nutrition, and although I can say it’s ALWAYS a work in progress, I have come leaps and bounds from where I was at the beginning of this journey.




I learned how to use food as FUEL and not as a COPING mechanism. It took YEARS to unlearn these healthy behaviors (some of which I am still working on), it took years of trial and error, of working with different coaches, reading new material, trying many different recipes, tracking macronutrient intake to make sure I was eating ENOUGH. In the picture on the RIGHT I was eating approx. 2400cal/day.


I attribute a large amount of my change in mindset towards food to CrossFit. I found this modality of fitness in 2017 and quickly fell in love with it. The amount of variety, the aspects of strength, balance, endurance, the ability to continue to learn and grow. What I figured out VERY quickly was that in order to maintain a high volume of training I had to eat a high volume of HEALTHY foods. This further took me down the path of using food as Fuel – to aid in my recovery and improve my performance rather than just a means of comforting or controlling bodyweight.


In 2019 I obtained my CrossFit Level 1 certification.


 

At this point I had learned a lot about what I wanted out of this industry, I had learned a lot about myself and what I was capable of, a lot about my deeply engrained beliefs and habits that were holding me back. I was able to create a complete shift in mindset with the help of SO many coaches and years of trial and error.


Without a doubt the most rewarding part of it all has been using these experiences with my clients and students as to better help support them, relate to them, help work towards their goals while making space for the things that arise while creating change in their lives.

I continue to strive for balance in my own life: personally, professionally and otherwise.

The measure of balance changes at different points in our lives in correlation to our responsibilities and goals and as such it is crucial to take a straight forward, realistic, HONEST approach to any type of change.

Therefore; you will NEVER see me promoting “fat burning” products or “get skinny fast tools”.


What you WILL see is an approach to fitness that is simple, easy to understand and fun. It will incorporate aspects of all modalities I teach as needed based on your own individual assessment and goals.


You can expect to feel supported, encouraged and empowered by me.

I aim to take a wholistic approach to training, because WELNESS is more than just FITNESS and happens predominantly OUT of the gym.

Thank you so much for reading my story, if this resonates with you or you have any questions, please reach out.


-Ashley


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