From Bikini Fitness To “All-In”⎮ Overcoming Emotional Eating ⎮ Part 2
Part 1 about how I overcame emotional eating and binge eating was received so well, and all my fears about sharing my story have been put to shame. I truly have a tribe of the most amazing and empowering women on my side. Thank you!
A special thank you to everyone who messaged me and shared your story with me. There’s a lot of shame and guilt connected to having a troubled relationship with food, and I know first hand how much it takes to come out and share that with anyone. No matter if you’re still struggling or if you’ve overcome emotional eating, it’s nice to know you’re not alone and that others have been there, too. I’m always here if you need to connect with someone who understands what you’re going through.
Here is Part 2 of my story…
It all started with Bikini Fitness
I started my blog to document my journey from being a fitness newbie to competing in bikini fitness in 2012.
Without knowing it at the time, I was a first mover in the Danish fitness industry and one of only 15 girls competing in the first Danish Nationals in Bikini Fitness that year. Less than a year later, bikini fitness in Denmark blew up like I could have never imagined! And my blog took off!
I never set out to be a well-known fitness blogger. I just wrote blogs as a sort of fitness diary to keep myself accountable. Because it was fun. What was meant to be just a hobby and a way to build up my confidence quickly turned into a career.
For 4 years I competed in Bikini Fitness, studied physiotherapy and worked as a personal trainer, and that’s what I blogged about. My blog quickly became very popular and I was even invited to join Bloggers Delight, a platform that brought together some of Denmark’s biggest blogs. What an honor! I was invited to talk about my transformation on TV, featured in multiple newspaper articles and I guest blogged for many other blogs in the danish fitness community. I started getting paid for promoting products and writing blog posts. It was surreal!
It was also my blog that propelled my career as a personal trainer and online fitness coach. Without the blog, I might never have been able to work with so many people from the very beginning. Working with many different clients allowed me to learn quickly and gain experience in the field, which has made me a much better trainer than I ever imagined I could be. I always say that I didn’t choose this career, it chose me. And I had to learn how to navigate being a passionate health and fitness coach while still healing from my past.
My troubled relationship with food had NOTHING to do with competing in Bikini Fitness. Let me say that again: Fitness competitions did not cause my disordered eating. I was messed up way before that. No matter what I’ve heard or seen, I honestly don’t believe a fitness competition in itself can cause an eating disorder. Disordered eating is always deeper than wanting to achieve a goal and looking good on a stage in front of judges. It might seem that way, and it might feel that way if you’re afraid to look deeper, but it always goes beyond that.
However, I do think it’s possible that I (and others) was attracted to competing because I saw it as a way to gain better control over my body. It gave me a meaningful reason to control my food and a goal to work towards. I think that’s the same mindset a lot of people have when they start competing.
The problem with that mindset is, that the more you try to control something, the more likely it gets that you’re going to lose control. It doesn’t seem logical, but that’s the dynamic of trying to restrict and control every detail of your food intake. And to really break free from emotional eating, binge eating, and food obsession, you have to, first of all, give up all control.
Of course, I didn’t know that back then.
When I was competing from 2012-2015 I was still struggling with low self-esteem and low self-confidence behind the scenes. Trying to control my food and control my body to feel better about myself. There was a time during that phase of my life where I used to draw on my fitness to feel “better than” the old me.
My dedication to the gym made me more badass.
My commitment to my diet made me a better person.
Of course, that was only on the surface. On the inside, the control only gave me a brief feeling of accomplishment. Whenever I was going through something upsetting or stressful, I always turned back to my security blanket: Food. My “binge foods” were white bread with butter, pizza, burgers, pick-and-mix candy & all types of cake and biscuits. If I started eating any of these foods, I wouldn’t stop until I was physically ill, and if I ate them while I was alone I felt like I had to make myself sick.
Helping people by sharing my story, guiding them to a healthier lifestyle and being genuinely empathetic to their struggles made me feel good.
I have always been very open about recovering from stress, depression, and anxiety. What I never told you, is the underlying reasons that I had to deal with those things. The reasons why I used to overthink everything to the extent of developing social anxiety. I shared those reasons in Overcoming Emotional Eating Part 1.
In 2016 that all caught up with me again, and I was forced to make a decision. After 4 years of being a “fitness influencer”, moved to Dubai and got so busy trying to make a life for myself. I would do 40 hours of personal training per week and I’ve never been more stressed out in my life. If I had had a way out at that point, I would’ve taken it. But for many reasons I had no choice but to keep going. I reduced my time in the gym to only a few hours per week. My workouts would take 20-30 minutes instead of 2 hours. I decided to focus 100% on rebuilding myself and build the life I wanted for myself.
And I came to the realization that if there was ever a right time to change my relationship with food, this was it. They say: “if you’re walking through hell, keep going”
I figured if I could face all my demons at once, I wouldn’t have to go back to hell and face them ever again.
Let me paint a picture for you:
It was at the beginning of 2017. I had already gained around 6 kilos from pure stress since moving to Dubai. My grandfather had just passed away and I couldn’t afford an airline ticket home for his funeral. I shared my studio apartment on the outskirts of Dubai with another girl to be able to afford rent and pay back the credit cards I had maxed out on unforeseen expenses and I was working from 5:30 AM to 9 PM, six days a week.
So in the middle of all that, I made the decisions to go “all in”. I decided to finally fix my relationship with food. I wasn’t ready to admit to anyone else that I had a problem with food at the time, and no money to see a therapist. But I knew something had to be done. So I followed my instincts and decided to allow myself to eat whatever, whenever, without doing ANYTHING to make up for it afterward. No making myself sick, no extra cardio, no restricting calories the net day. Going “all-in” was HARD and I gained even more weight on top of the weight I had already gained. I went from 75 kilos in early 2016 to 87 kg. at my heaviest in late 2017. That’s 22 kilos above my lowest stage weight and 12 kilos above my normal weight where I felt good.
It’s safe to say I wasn’t very comfortable being a “fitness influencer” at the time. But I knew the work had to be done and that this was the time. That’s why, during the first few years after moving to Dubai, I couldn’t be who I used to be here on my blog and other social media. I had to do a lot of work to get to where I am today. I wasn’t in a position where I could explain to anyone where I was going. I just knew that I had to keep on going because everything I wanted was right on the other side.
… Come back for the 3rd and last episode on Sunday 19th of January.
Interestingly enough the YouTuber Stephanie Buttermore later did exactly the same thing to fix her ravenous hunger and become less food-focused. I wish I could’ve shared my journey too, but I wasn’t ready at the time. All I want to say is that no matter how hard it was to gain so much weight in such a short amount of time, it was the best thing I ever did to myself.