Since becoming a coach/trainer so many people have confessed their deepest and darkest struggles with me.
I feel extremely blessed knowing people feel comfortable enough to be honest & open with me about their current hardships with weight, self-confidence, anxiety, etc. because by doing so it has allowed me to help them reach far beyond their initial goals.
Because of this I would like to share one of my own past struggles that still comes back to haunt me today.
At 10 years old, I suffered from my first eating disorder. It all started when I had fallen ill with strep throat and my throat became very irritated and swollen. I remember that morning clear as day. I was getting ready to take a bath and was finishing my blueberry Pop-Tart on the side of the bathtub before getting in. Being a hyperactive kid, even while sick, I was rushing to finish my Pop-Tart when I began to choke.
Terror set in immediately! I couldn’t breathe. I began to panic, jumping up from the side of the tub not knowing what to do. Thankfully my Grandmother was close by in the hallway and saw the look of terror and my hands at my throat and she knew immediately what was happening. My frail, 75 year old grandmother rushed over to me and saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today if she had not been there.
Little did she or I know that this would be the catalyst to my eating disorder. From that day, I went close to 8 months without swallowing a single bite of solid food. Even the mere thought of attempting to swallow food would send me into a panic.
Being 10 years old, a shy child, and a poor communicator, I struggled to get my parents to understand what I was going through.
My mother blamed herself. I could see the look of sadness daily in my father’s eyes as my body began to waste away.
For a short time, I was still allowed to go to school. I had to see our counselor at 10am daily to talk to him and drink a meal replacement shake. Next was lunch, where I would have to sit on a stool isolated from everyone to choke down another shake. This was due to me bribing kids with a candy bar my grandmother always packed to “accidentally” spill my shake at lunch so didn’t have to drink it. My grandmother thought I would eat the bar if I let it melt in my mouth, which I never did. These shakes would take me so long to drink I would never get time to go outside to play. Think about being 10 years old and how much recess meant to you?!
As the months went on, I started to become weaker and weaker. My mood started to diminish and I had very little energy to do anything. I could no longer go to school most days. I spent most of my days under a big homemade quilt with my best friend Ricco (my border collie).
Every two weeks, my parents and I would make the drive up to Menninger’s Mental Health Hospital in Topeka, KS to see a psychiatric specialist to try and figure out what was going on with me. They had already run all the physical tests, things like scopes and barium x-rays to make sure nothing physically was wrong with me. I swear I was radioactive that year from all the tests and x-rays I completed. From what I can remember of these sessions, they included lots of crying and arguing from my parents with me repeating the same thing I always did, “ I’m afraid to eat”, “No, I don’t think I’m fat”, “Yes I want to eat”. Let’s just say these visits didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
Fast forward to about month seven. The only thing I was able to consume were liquid shakes, Carnation Instant Breakfast shakes, to be specific. To this day I have not and will never drink another one of those. These were not giving me the fuel or nutrition I needed to survive. I was about 5,5” in 5th grade and was now weighing in around 65 pounds. The doctors finally told my parents that soon, as soon as two weeks possibly, my body would begin to shut down. Their only option would be to admit me into a recovery program in Topeka where I would be monitored 24/7 and if they couldn’t get me to eat, I would then have a feeding tube inserted.
The thought of trying to eat terrified me, but the thought of being taken away from my home and family terrified me even more. I was a complete disaster days before I was to be admitted, crying and trying to talk them out of taking me.
My grandmother came to my rescue yet again. She talked my parents into letting her try something and if it worked they would hold off on admitting me into the hospital. My grandmother knew me better than anyone and knew how to get my attention. She explained very calmly, in a voice only a grandmother can have, that I only had two options from here. She told me in order for me to get better I would either have to be admitted into that hospital alone, with only the hospital staff around me, hooked up to different machines in order to keep me alive or I could trust her and attempt to eat and swallow just 1 little macaroni noodle with her right behind me just in case something happened. She told me she saved me once and she would do it again. She promised she wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me and if I did this and then continued to add things little by little each day I wouldn’t have to go to the scary hospital.
She convinced me, I opted to try to get that tiny noodle down. I remember my hand shaking as I lifted it to my mouth asking her if she was ready, just in case. I chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and then finally swallowed. The action felt so foreign to me. It had been so long since I had chewed anything. But I did it! I had finally gotten it down, no problem at all. Which I’m sure came as no surprise to my grandmother. I turned around to see a smile of pure joy on her face and as soon as the shock of actually swallowing something went away, I was just as happy!
I slowly started to add different foods back into my diet again and continued to grow stronger and healthier day by day. By the time the next school year rolled around, it was almost like nothing had happened.
To this day though I am extremely careful when eating and if you ever dine with me, I am always the last person finished. I eat very slowly, making sure to chew my food a set number of times. After experiencing everything I did though, I think I can handle a little OCD. Haha.
I know my eating disorder is quite a unique one but I do hope I can help others feel safer sharing their own struggles. You will never receive judgement from me, we all have different hardships that we have had to overcome and that makes us who we are today.
I know I am a stronger woman today because of this and of course from the quick actions of my beloved grandmother.
If you need someone to listen to your story, I can be that person for you. I would be blessed to be part of your journey.
Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.