No One's Youer Than You Series - Post 1: My Life In The Shadows
Honesty and being real are very big things for me. Although I may hesitate to share something with you, usually I’ll tell you all about an experience or a feeling.
I’m with this way with everyone.
I even have a hard time telling strangers something other than the truth. It can be surprisingly cathartic though, you can encounter so many random people in all walks of life that are experiencing some of the same things as you. Nothing makes you feel like you aren’t alone in this world than bonding with a random stranger about something close to your heart.
This is the first post of many in a series I’m starting about being true to yourself. I’m inspired by Doctor Seuss’ words,
And these words couldn’t be more correct.
I have many experiences of times where I’ve tried to squeeze myself into a mold that I’m not and usually learn the hard way that it doesn’t work for me. These blog posts will be a way of reaching out to everyone who reads my posts, mostly my friends and some random people, (if we’ve never met before and you read my blog, YOU’RE THE BEST!) and sharing things that really did happen to me in hopes that maybe someone, somewhere struggling with something will be able to make a step forward in their fight.
This is mostly a humor blog, but it’s all about my life and my experiences. You can trust that when I write something, I’ve lived it. That’s my guarantee to you!
Today’s post is going to terrify me when I hit publish. I’m talking hit publish, run to the my bed and curl up in the fetal position until I can bring myself to check my phone and social media, 2 days later…
This whole story is not an easy one to share with you, but I know personally how it felt to have someone I didn’t know share their story with me and all the healing that came with it.
Growing up, I had a healthy childhood. Apart from a little bump in the road after I was shot out of my mom’s cannon, as I’ve mentioned here, I was a thriving child. When I was a few months old, my parents, our cat, and me packed up our life in D.C. in an RV and drove to Arizona and then later up to Alaska, where we would eventually settle. My mumsy was a bit stressed about the move and that we were moving to Alaska before my father found a job. My dad wasn’t being irresponsible at all, my parents knew they wanted to move to Alaska, and it was before the days of online job searching, you kinda had to be in the place you were looking for a job. She stopped producing milk, but didn’t realize it at the time. They took me to the doctor after they noticed that I had lost a lot of weight and were accused of child abuse. Everything was remedied and I turned out to be an absolutely perfect human being (riiiiight?!?!?!)
My mom is close to perfect, but that move was really hard on her. YOU try moving with all that stress AND a newborn AND a cat in an Rv, and tell me how you fair. *Cough Cough* person who I will not name who spread the rumor that I had failure to thrive syndrome *Cough Cough*
And I give 0 shits if that was petty.
The rest of my childhood was very nutrient filled. Health food the million and a half different dietary plans weren’t around yet. My family had a very typical American diet, my dad had lived in Colorado and New Mexico areas so he’d cook a lot of enchiladas, tacos and your standard Tex-Mex, but also any other typical American meal. Mom's job was to always make sure that there were plenty of fruit and vegetables consumed as well. I also consumed at least one glass of skim milk a day (I know, the horror right?!?). But I turned out just fine. Strong bones like bull!
Junk food was considered a treat, as was candy, soda and pre-packaged meals. We didn’t buy organic but 90% of our meals were cooked fresh.
I was a happy, healthy child with zero issues with weight, energy or my body.
I’m sure you kinda can tell where this is headed.
Ballet began for me around the age of 13, before my body had hit puberty. Within the first 6 months of starting a serious approach towards ballet as my career, I was pulled aside for a conversation about my diet.
I was told that I was going to be getting a woman’s body soon, and that I should consider an all vegan diet because it would help prevent me from developing a womanly body, which I was told was frowned upon in the ballet world.
Today, I don’t believe this is the case at all, there are so many stunning ballerinas in the world who defy the stick thin stereotype and they are absolutely incredible on stage and beloved by many fans!
Despite the fact that I was an avid meat eater, and had been mocked by my friends in 3rd grade when I claimed I was going to be a vegetarian (it lasted a day and a half), I gave up all animal products.
I can’t tell you how hard that was for me!
I would sit around at meal times eating my salads and smelling my dad’s deliciously cooked to perfection meat dishes. Every now and then I would slip and steal some of his meat. I was happy to have been eating what I craved, but later I would feel insanely guilty.
Gone were all my favorite desserts and baked goods because they contained dairy and butter, but occasionally I would consume them.
Every day during the week I was vegan (usually for the most part), but on Saturday evenings and Sunday’s I would binge non-vegan food like a it was my career. Usually Monday’s at ballet contained an image of Alex’s belly looking a little more full than usual.
I slowly started sinking in to a miserable spiral. I would feel proud and happy for being vegan, and even a bit of superiority for protecting the animals, but then would feel disgusted in myself when I binged and ate something not vegan.
Then I discovered the amazing calorie counting app on the iPhone. I set my goal for 1000 cals a day and would usually come very close to it, or go over a bit. I told everyone that I was vegan because I loved the animals and I stayed a way from good fat and protein sources like peanut butter, because of the calories.
One summer I got injured and wasn’t able to dance in the summer program. I spent many summer days at home, binge watching Gossip Girl, sitting in an over split (not a healthy way to stretch at all), and amazingly sticking to a 500-800 calorie diet. I took my measurements and still have those laying around somewhere as a reminder as to how miserable I was.
But, I lost weight over the summer and was happy about that.
However, as I neared high school graduation, what I now see as extreme disordered living, became magnified.
I vividly remember one Thanksgiving.
We had gotten a special cake from a bakery (not vegan) for Thanksgiving, and my sweet tooth majorly kicked in. But my guilt from eating too much of a fattening and *GASP* non-vegan dessert, caused me to make myself throw-up for the first time. I didn't do it again for awhile, but I had still gone there.
But I was happy(ish), I was constantly getting compliments on how good my body looked, so I thought it was worth it.
I drifted into a cycle of restricting to only vegan food, to bingeing on every non-vegan food my heart desired. Somehow I managed to stay the same weight when I was dancing, and my 5’7” frame would drift between 105lbs and 110lbs. Over breaks however, I’d gain a ton of weight from bingeing and limited exercise, and would have to struggle to drop it all.
I was only mildly happy with my body now. People complimented me, but I thought I was fat and could lose more weight.
When I went to Florida for a summer dance program, I dropped to my lowest weight, about 100lbs. I remember sneaking into my roommate’s bathroom to use her scale and being pleasantly surprised by how low the scale dropped.
When I was offered a position to stay and train for the year, I was told I needed to gain weight. And boy did I.
Moving to Florida, where I knew no one was a shock on my system. The death of my father 2 months after my move also hit me hard. I used food to comfort myself and that, on top of a reduced amount of dancing I was doing, caused the scale to slowly tick upwards.
I was ashamed that I had let myself go, and that caused an even greater depression. I had friends there who treated me so wonderfully, but I didn’t feel close enough to any of them to confide my problems to them. When I moved in by myself, there was no one to tell me to stop snacking and my body just kept ballooning out.
At one point I told my mom that if I didn’t lose the weight I wanted, I was going to kill myself. I was constantly on Instagram, but never posted anything because I was so ashamed with how fat I thought I looked. I took diet supplements and tried a Sensa shaker and was always looking for a quick fix. I was still eating about 95% vegan too.
I then began to experiment with cleanses and diets. I bought expensive juice cleanses, did a smoothie cleanse, the cabbage soup diet, the bootcamp diet. Anything and everything.
I also started a job at the Fresh Market in the Bakery section. At first it started off well, until I found out I could eat the extra or defective baked goods. Again I ballooned out even more.
I was told by someone at the ballet that I needed to lose weight.
I moved jobs and started back on my diet/cleanse yoyo cycle. I’d lose a ton of weight and then gain it all back once I started eating real food and my destroyed metabolism didn’t know how to handle the new calories.
I was so alone and depressed and had no idea what my purpose in life was. I didn’t even care about my dancing, to me, the better technique would come when I lost the weight.
I would refuse to go out or hang out with friends because I was worried about the situations I would encounter with food. I didn’t want to be around food that would tempt me, or have to witness people who I thought didn’t have to lose weight, eating the delicious food I wanted.
My life was also filled with pictures of my self in a mirror. Showing my progress or regress, and usually leaving me hating myself.
During that time I would occasionally write in a journal, it was usually after a huge binge. The entries would go something like this.
I can’t believe how fat I’ve let myself get. I really hate myself. I’m going to start XXX diet tomorrow and cut out XXX and if I’m really good, maybe I can lose the weight. I’ll be better tomorrow.”
They’d usually go on longer, but the feeling was the same, I was filled with self loathing and hatred.
There is a light at the end of this dark, dark tunnel, I promise.
There were two major people who came into my life and helped change the direction away from the cliff that the car of my life was headed.
First was that I discovered Bikram yoga.
I had done Bikram yoga a few times before, but when I discovered Thavma I was hooked. The classes were so hard, but so fun and Marina and Thanos were two beautiful bright lights! They welcomed me into their studio family, and I loved every minute of my time there. There I wasn’t judged by how my body looked, but by how it worked, and EVERY BODY was celebrated as being an amazing machine that could bring one to the yoga class and complete all the incredibly hard postures.
Marina is a strong, beautiful, kind and talented woman who opened the door for me to start seeing my body as something strong and powerful that could achieve so much, not just a bag of flesh and bones that was too fat.
The second person who pushed me in the right direction was Jordan Younger (@thebalancedblonde). You probably are getting sick of me talking about her so much, but it’s hard not to when she changed my life for the better. Especially because I feel like we seem to be going through similar life changes at the same times.
I discovered Jordan’s blog back when we were both vegans, she was The Blonde Vegan and food blogging amazing recipes while living in NYC. She sold swag and was making a living as being a vegan blogger and she was 100% my goals.
For awhile, I had been considering dropping veganism. I still mostly ate that way but was starting to branch out. I was finally connecting it to the route of all my problems. But I still felt like I would get even fatter and hate myself more if I dropped veganism. Plus, there were gorgeous people like The Blonde Vegan who made it work and look amazing. Why couldn’t I?
Then Jordan dropped a bomb that shook the internet. She was dropping veganism. She confided in the world that her veganism had been linked to her orthorexia and realized that she was depriving her body of what it wanted and needed. You can, and should read the whole story here.
I’m going to pause for a moment and say that this post is not about bashing veganism. I believe that being vegan is a lifestyle that many people can live happily and healthfully. It just has to be what you choose. In my case, I forced myself into being something that I wasn’t and that backfired. You’ll see as you keep reading that this post is as all about being true to yourself!
I remember the first time I read Jordan's post, I cried. Finally, I realized I was not alone.
Just thinking about that time makes me tear up now.
I no longer felt crazy, or worthless, a waste of space or like I had to ignore my body’s cravings. For Jordan to come out and make that switch, when she was making a living off being a vegan blogger, was Earth shattering. If she could switch her life, then so could I.
Her blog pushed me to accept that I was living a lie. I was making myself miserable, and it wasn’t worth it. My body had been through so much and had allowed me to do many great and beautiful things with it, and this was how I was treating it? Starving it, malnourishing it, hating it, insulting it. What had it done to deserve this? Absolutely nothing.
Slowly, through the inspiration from Jordan and Marina, I began to love my body again and expand my diet to something that was more what it wanted and needed. And it was something that I needed mentally. I still thought I looked like a whale, and so many non-vegan foods felt forbidden, indulgent and fattening, but I was making progress.
One instance was after Jordan posted about having her first burger since she had “broke” her veganism. Later that week I did the same thing, I remember sitting down at a nicer restaurant, by myself, and ordering a burger and fries and eating the whole thing. It was so freeing and so delicious, and I felt like I was making progress.
I also must say, that throughout this whole time, I had sent Jordan a few emails to tell her how she had inspired me. She always wrote back with the kindest and most supportive things. I felt like she genuinely cared about what I was going through. She is truly one of the kindest souls and I’m sure I’ll talk about her in the future.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a section of my blog titled I <3 Jordan.
Finally, things really started to take a turn. Maybe it was my next step in life, maybe it was my close friends I felt comfortable with, maybe it was my boyfriend, but I was really making progress. My meals were a little bit more balanced and what my body wanted, but I was still going on nuts cleanses and diets and hadn’t dropped the weight I wanted.
After moving to Richmond, things were on and off better. I wasn’t as depressed all the time, although when an old injury resurfaced and I wasn’t able to dance as much, the weight ticked back up and I went back to my sad cleanses and food restrictions.
There were some moments when I relapsed back into my bulimia. One in particular was right before Thanksgiving. It caused me to get so sick that I lost my voice and wasn’t able to talk at the Thanksgiving festivities that weekend.
Then I discovered swimming. Swimming was such a gateway drug to my happiness. When I was swimming, it didn’t matter how I looked or what my technique was like, it was just what my body could do. It also had a calming effect on me and provided me with such great cross training. I was sleeping better at night and felt happier with myself. I loved my body more because I saw what an incredible feat it could accomplish. My body was a powerhouse!
My final moment of despair came at the end of my season last year. I was so concerned with losing weight, that I would go swimming, have breakfast, go to dance, come home and eat a whole pint or more of ice cream before purging it. I remember one friend commenting on how worried she was was because my waist was so small and I was disappearing. I just told her it was because of my new brand of tights, but secretly I was proud.
Finally, something clicked in my brain. I didn’t understand why I was treating my body the way I was. Why I hated it so much. It was doing amazing things. It was working so hard to push me through all this physical activity. It wasn’t giving up on me when we ran pieces multiple times or when I swam multiple miles. It was a strong and beautiful body.
I also realized that the way I was approaching food was such a big problem. I had been vegan or carb free or dairy free or solid food free or meat free or sweet free (to name a few) for so long that I didn’t know what it felt like to be living without restrictions. I dropped all restrictions and immediately felt a million times better.
Even after taking my PinnerTest and discovering my intolerances, I still do occasionally treat myself to one of the foods that should be off limits. Luckily, my symptoms are mild if I eat responsibly, but it keeps me from turning into a nut job who wastes away the day dreaming of croissants.
Many people out there might find that a vegan/vegetarian/bulletproof/paleo lifestyle is what works for them, but for me I can’t be exclusive at all. What works for me, is to listen to my body. The second I find myself trying to squeeze into a diet or a lifestyle, is the second problems start arising. Desires to restrict, binge or purge, and that’s not how I want to treat my body.
Basically this whole story was the long way of me saying how important I think it is to listen to your body and do what YOU think is best for it. Because of the rise of social media, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, even without all the full information. Society will tell you to act and look a certain way, and it’s usually because they have some way of making money off you.
Like Dr. Seuss said, “There is no one youer than you”, and that is the ultimate truth. No one has lived through the same things you have, no one does the exact same things you do in your day, and no one’s body is the same as yours. You are your own INDIVIDUAL and UNIQUE being.
I’ve discovered that I love almost all food, minus ravioli, alfredo and pepperoni pizza, to name a few. I’ll try anything at least once, and am more likely to order whatever the special is at a restaurant. I adore Bulletproof coffee, cassava chips, steak, Brussels sprouts and red wine, and surprisingly am losing my sweet tooth.
I’ve also discovered that I love all forms of exercise. I adore the feeling that I get when I push my body to the max. I no longer think of exercise as a way to burn off calories, but more to see what amazing feats my body can do. I would rather spend my day cramming in as much physical activity as I can than Netflix and Chilling. I have started up running again, because believe it or not, really miss it. I really want to be able to run a marathon one day, especially the Marine Corps Marathon. Whenever I’m in D.C. or New York, you can always find me in a SoulCycle class… or classes that is. I love that shit, it's something that really gets me connected to myself and in a wonderful place. I’ll write more about that in another post in the Youer than You series. Don’t cha worry!
On the dance spectrum, I’ve never felt more alive after a long rehearsal of some kind of contemporary or modern work. I feel so accomplished having used my body to create something beautiful and twisting and moving it in complex wats. I always want dance in my life, but only if I can always see it as a means of expression, a display of strength and the creation of art, not a vessel for self-hatred and loathing or disordered behaviors.
I wouldn't say that I'm 100% recovered from my previous lifestyle, but I'm pretty close to it. I probably never will be 100% cured and some of the urges and feelings still do come back. However, now I know how to respond to them. I have an amazing support system and a loving boyfriend who is always good about reminding me about how beautiful I am no matter what my weight is. And speaking of weight, I have no idea what mine is at the moment. I threw out my scale and don't plan on getting one back anytime soon!
But before I leave you, there are two things I want to touch on.
One, my lack of seeking professional help. There were so many times that I knew I needed to see a therapist or counselor, and many times my mother begged me to. Looking back, I see that was a huge mistake. I do wish that I had sought help from someone, and maybe I wouldn’t have felt like I had wasted so much time in such a deep depression missing out on life. I was living in beautiful areas of the country, surrounded by incredible sites and businesses, as well as amazing people, and I was throwing my experiences away because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I am so sad today that I missed out on so much of life, all because of my desire to be skinny. Does this mean I will never seek professional help? Absolutely not. If there’s ever a day or time that I find myself slipping back into my old habits, I most certainly will get help. Life is too short to spend it so miserable, and I never want to experience that dark hole of my life again.
Secondly, I want to tear down the misconception that every ballet dancer has an eating disorder. Yes, dancers are more susceptible to them because of the nature of our jobs and a lot of the stereotypes and old fashioned views in the dance world, but I know so many women I dance with who are happy and healthy. Please don’t be one of those people to automatically assume the worst about a dancer. We are more than just our weight and can do things with our bodies that would make a professional football player cry!
My goal with this post, and the No One’s Youer than You series, is to help just one person to see that they are perfect just how they are. I want to reach someone the way that Jordan reached me through her blog, and help them see that they don't have to try to be something or someone that they’re not.
If anyone has a personal experience like mine, I would love to hear about it and I’m sure it would make you feel great to share it as well! Feel free to write to me at email@example.com
As always, thank you for reading! The support I’ve gotten from you all is incredible!
XxX Slammin Lammon
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