Special Guest Blog: A Fresh Start
Note from Coach Rachael:
I am beyond honored that one of the athletes on the Rachael’s Runners subscription has decided to share her journey with all of you. I first met Jennifer Ciuffo last year at a run clinic and was honored when she jumped on my subscription. One of the downfalls of not working with athletes in person every week though is that I’m not able to see when they’re struggling. And Jennifer was struggling.
She recently published an extremely brave post on her social media, and I reached out to her and asked if she’d be willing to share her journey with the Rachael’s Runners universe. To my delight she agreed. We’ll check in with Jennifer regularly as she incorporates healthy living back into her life. You can read her original post below.
While the truth in beauty can be skewed in our weight-focused society, we all know what it’s like to not feel comfortable in our bodies. Returning that comfort is our goal here for Jen. I’m not a weight loss coach. I’m a run coach with a focus on sustainability – both physically and mentally. My coaching is about proper movement, good training, and avoiding burnout. Along the way, I’ll provide coaching tips for Jennifer and for anyone else who struggles to bring balance and health into their lives. I’ll be joined by my colleague Lindsay Ford of Permission to Eat. Lindsay is a Nutrition Coach whose client approach is similar to mine.You can find my and Lindsay’s tips at the end of this blog.
Thank you for reading, and a special thank you to Jennifer for her bravery and candor in sharing this process with us.
A Fresh Start
By Jennifer Ciuffo
Recently I shared a post on Instagram and Facebook that left me feeling very exposed. So I decided to come back and share some more. The amount of support I received was overwhelming. Even more, the number of people who reached out to me because they felt the same way was both comforting and sad. Comforting because I know I’m not alone. Sad because each and every one of those people who said they were in the same boat as me is a truly remarkable and amazing person who deserves to be nothing but happy.
My story isn’t much different than anyone else’s. In high school and college I was an athlete who thought they were fat. What I wouldn’t do to be that “fat” now. I struggled with disordered eating, going through phases of severe calorie restriction and then binging and purging. I let how I felt about my body control my social life. I didn’t want to go out in public because I didn’t want people to see me. I still struggle with this, but work on it on a daily basis.
After college, I was in a long term relationship with someone who was 11 years older than me. I thought we were happy and over time I gained weight. What can I say? I like to eat. I eat when I am happy. I eat when I am sad. I use food as a reward and as a punishment. What was different this time was that I had finally starting growing comfortable in my skin. I accepted that I wasn’t going to be stick thin and I should embrace the curves on my body. After all, I knew how strong it was and what I could accomplish.
Imagine my surprise, and the hurt I felt, when I found out my boyfriend didn’t feel the same way. I have two very distinct memories that replay in my mind. The first being the time I modeled a dress I had just bought for him. I told him I thought I looked “sexy” in it. His response was a laugh then questioning, “You really think you look sexy?” The second memory was when I was on vacation with him and my parents. He was upset that I didn’t want to go to the bar with him, which led him on a hurtful rampage that must have gone on for 10 minutes while my parents sat in the next room. I don’t remember everything that was said, but I do remember how I felt when the words, “You’re disgusting,” came out of his mouth. I felt embarrassed and betrayed. He was confirming the terrible thoughts I was always fighting.
After seven years in this relationship, I finally got up the courage to walk away. It was the hardest thing I have ever done… and without the support of my mom and friends, I don’t think I would have ever been able to do this. During this time, I was so stressed, I could not eat. I lost 40 pounds. I’m not going to lie, I was thin and I loved every second of it. But it doesn’t matter what you see in the mirror, because sometimes what’s in your head speaks louder.
When I started dating my husband, I was ecstatic. We had been friends throughout my whole 7 year relationship and he saw me at my best and he saw me at my worst. He made me feel like I was the most important person and I felt safe and happy when I was with him. Fast forward to today, and we have been married for almost 4 years. This is where my Instagram/Facebook post started.
In those almost 4 years, I have gained 30 pounds. I’m embarrassed. I’m disgusted. I’m frustrated. I am scared my husband is going to lay a bombshell on me one day and tell me he can’t love me because I am fat. Note – he would NEVER, EVER do this in a million years. It is only my insecurities running wild in my head. But because of these insecurities, my daily life and happiness is affected. I know that looks are the last thing I should be worried about, but it is SO hard not to care in today’s society. And I’d be willing to bet that anyone who tells you they don’t care about looks is lying.
I am sharing this story because I know I am not alone and I know I need to do something to get myself back on track to being healthy. I want to have more energy, I want to feel good about how I look, and I want to be confident again because all of these things will make me a better person inside and out. I know I have so much more to give and share with others. It’s time to take control of my future and living the life I know I deserve. So friends... here goes nothing... it’s time for a fresh start.
Tips from Coach Rachael:
Does Jennifer’s story sound familiar? Here are my tips on getting yourself out of a rut that’s become more of a routine than a rough patch:
1. Aim for movement every day. When starting a new routine, the most important aspect is consistency. If you expect to work out hard every single day, you’ll burn out quickly. The last thing we want right now is for you to get discouraged. So aim to move every day. It could be a run, a lifting session, a yoga class, a hike, a walk, or a stretching session. It’s a lot easier to keep momentum if your goal is attainable.
2. Focus on establishing a new routine. It can take 3 months to establish a new routine, so when you want to start a new habit, keep in mind that the first 3 months can be the most difficult. Schedule exercise into your day on your calendar. If you’ve decided exercise is a priority, then make a list of everything that’s NOT a priority. When those things come up, keep your exercise date with yourself.
3. What you say yes to is also what you say no to. Another mindset – when you say YES to something, you’re also saying NO to something else. The opposite is true. None of us has unlimited time in our day. Some priorities are going to shift but stay steady. Your health is worth it in the long run.
Tips from Coach Lindsay:
Jennifer is so brave to share her story. Here are my suggestions as well as things to consider if there is a desire to lose weight or change your body:
1. Remember we live in a weight-biased and “smaller is better” society. Unfortunately, our current health care model and weight-obsessed culture fails to recognize that health can exist at any shape or size. Body shaming starts as young as 6 years old; young girls who restrict or diet between the ages of 14 and 15 are 5 to 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder later on in life.
2. Explore other ways to cope. Food can often be a way to soothe or cope from triggers, stressors or emotions that feel uncomfortable. This is when food can easily become the “medication” to deal with whatever is going on in the moment; however, the symptoms of guilt, shame, physical discomfort and decreased energy levels aren’t symptoms one most likely wants to always experience. Coping skills such as calling a friend, getting outside, meditation, breathing, journaling and more can be just what one needs…not the food.
3. There are no “bad” foods. Labeling food as “bad” or putting them into the category of “I can never eat this” will most likely cue the body and brain to fixate on them more. I often see this mentality with carbohydrates and sugar. Are brownies, cookies, chips and candy optimal for our body? No. AND these aren’t the enemy. Instead of labeling food as good or bad, see food for what it is…food.