Ambassador Profile: Bethany.

Ambassador Profile: Bethany - GirlGains Community

My journey to finding great mental and physical health started for me when it was a matter of life or death. I don’t have any memories growing up of a single period in my childhood where I felt confident or happy with myself. Years of bullying, comparisons to others and pressures from everyday society meant I only knew how to hate myself instead of love myself. All of this lead to me struggling with Anorexia and Depression with it beginning in February 2010. With many failed attempts to lose weight prior to this, I thought I’d try again and this time it worked but with it developing into an Eating Disorder, it wasn’t healthy.

After a few months of being in denial, I finally asked for help to recover only to be turned down for the help I needed because, I quote the doctors, “Anorexia isn’t a good enough reason to have a nutritionist.” They got me a counsellor whilst my parents had to pay privately for a nutritionist who we had to travel 1 hour and a half there and back each week to see. It took a while but I eventually became physically recovered. Mentally I had improved but I knew that I still struggled a lot with food and exercise as although I was eating enough food, what I was eating was very structured and was weighed and eaten at certain times.

This period of physical recovery lasted around two years. During that time, I found my passion for health and fitness and decided that I wanted it to become my career because I loved the feeling exercise gave me. It made me feel strong and made me feel like I was the one in control, not my Eating Disorder. I quit my job in a supermarket and qualified as a Level 2 ETM instructor and Les Mills instructor. I got a job teaching and it was going well. However as summer of 2012 was approaching, my moods started to dip and my doctor changed my anti-depressant medication in the July of that year. Changing medication triggered me to relapse and I became worse than I had ever been and the next year can only be described as absolute hell.

It wasn’t my intention to relapse, it was simply out of my total control due to the medication but no matter how much ifought the relapse, it happened. My weight plummeted and I turned to exercise to try and ‘deal’ with everything that was going on which only made me worse. My mentality drastically worsened to the point where i was suicidal, self harming, exercising for over five hours a day despite being in agony through injury and my body just breaking down, I couldn’t sit down for more than an hour a day, forcing myself to just walk anywhere and everywhere because of the fear that I was going to get ‘fat’ if I sat down and even that hour was torture, I became physically violent towards my family and was ready to end it all. Throughout the whole year, I saw various physiatrists literally begging for help, begging to be put into a hospital. I rang rehab after rehab asking to be taken in but was told that I wasn’t ill enough for them yet and quite frankly we couldn’t afford £4000 a month. One doctor tried to section me but not for my Eating Disorder because according to him, despite being skin and bone and being the weight of a child, I didn’t have an Eating Disorder. He just laughed.

So with all of the rejection I had faced, I though life was over for me. However, my guardian angel came when I got my mom to ring a friend who I had became close to at the gym, Dawn, to see if she knew of anyone who could help me. Dawn revealed that she was a nutritionist and wanted to get me better if I would let her. I didn’t even have to think about it. Straight away it was a yes as if I said no; I’d have been dead in a few months if that. Dawn was already like another mom to me so I trusted her with everything and knew that she would do all she could for me.

Recovery with Dawn began on June 1st 2014 and since then; there has been no looking back. It was a slow process to get me to gain some weight and repair my body because of the damage I had done through over exercising but eventually we got there. But it wasn’t just physically that I needed to recover. Mentally I was screwed but Dawn was and still is, by my side everyday repairing the damage in my head. I have gone from being hopeless, alone, scared, quiet, unconfident and abusing my body to having true friends who have my best intentions at heart, excited about life and what is ahead, confident with my body, having a healthy relationship with exercise, not being scared to sit down at all, having a healthy relationship with food allowing myself the foods that were once off limits for me. To put it shortly, I am completely the opposite person to who I was. It has not been easy in any way and there have been many stumbles and periods where I thought I was going to slip back again due to several life events occurring that were out of my hands. But taking everything day by day has gotten me through.

Throughout this period of recovery, like I’ve said my relationship with food and exercise has changed. Exercising, especially lifting weights is now a tool that keeps me not just physically healthy but mainly mentally. I still suffer with depression and am borderline bipolar but exercise gets me through the difficult days. The physical strength I get from picking up a barbell turns into mental strength and releases all stress and anger I have inside me on those bad days and keeps me focused. I no longer abuse my body with exercise but exercise because I love it and want to keep my mind and body strong.

With my healthy passion for exercise that I once had returning, I decided that I wanted to continue pursuing my career in health and fitness and am currently doing a course to become a Level 3 Personal Trainer. I want to show others suffering from an Eating Disorder that they can be healthy again because I’ve been through it and am now healthier than ever before. I hope that having someone by their side that has been through the same thing and understands it all will just give them more strength. In the future I’d love to hold seminars to groups, speaking about my experiences, holding training events, healthy eating talks...my list goes on.

One thing that has really helped me in my recovery is the #GirlGains community. I have found friends through being a part of the movement who are now like sisters to me and are by my side day in day out. The #GirlGains community has showed me that it is okay to just be who I am and that healthy is different on everyone. It has made me accept myself and has made me face fears I didn’t think I’d overcome. It is an absolute honour to be an ambassador for a movement that has helped me so much. To be part of something with so many other girls who I look up to is overwhelming and I can’t wait to see the message of #GirlGains spread even more.

Believe in yourself and love who you are.

Bethany x