Coach Real Talk with Ashleigh
To this day, I scarcely feel at total peace with this body of mine. I feel like a failure admitting that, but I also know that I am a work in progress and that’s ok. When I was asked to open up about my darkest moments I really struggled to articulate it in a manner that didn’t sound clinical and diagnostic. The only way I could think to do it was to write myself a letter – a letter to Ashleigh at age 19, on the cusp of what would be her most challenging and terrifying adventure. So here it goes…
It’ll first start with you receiving comments from those around you, they won’t be positive but they’ll be different to the negative taunts that sound so familiar. You’ll latch onto these remarks; you’ll place your worth on them. People will notice you’ve lost weight, that you’re eating healthier, you’re exercising more. The comments will then change to stares, to gawks and pointing fingers – yes they’re looking at you. All 33kg of you. You’ll think they’re gawking at your ‘hard work’ – the hours spent on the exercise bike, the kilometers run of a morning and the meticulously weighed out meals.
No, they’re staring out of fear because they see you, in complete and utter objectivity. They see your hollow eyes and gaunt cheeks, your bowing legs and furry skin. You’ll just want those fingers to keep on pointing because for the first time in your life you feel important, almost beautiful.
For years to come your days will look the same. You’ll wake up and weigh yourself, hoping for even just ten grams difference from the day before. You’ll then run, 6 to 8 kilometers, and come home to calculate your first meal for the day. You’ll then spend day in, day out meticulously planning and researching clean meal ideas. You’ll try them, but it’ll make you feel heavier, you’ll feel undeserving of such an amount of food and slowly the list of foods that are safe, that you allow yourself, will get shorter and shorter. Then, you’ll sit and cycle all the days’ energy away until you’re at a nice non-threatening 0 kilojoules for the day.
You’ll spend years dreading the touch of others – even hugs from Mum. Gestures that once were such a comfort to you, the only calm for your anxiety, will fill you with disgust. You’ll convince yourself that you aren’t isolating yourself, instead you’ll just tell people you like your alone time, you like your own solitude. No, that isn’t true – you just want to put the energy you should be putting in your loved ones into yourself, because you think you’ll be more worthwhile to them once you’re at that certain weight.
This might scare you, it may not. But this is going to be your life for the next six years. You’re weight is going to go up and back down. You’ll have periods where you grossly overeat and drink and stints where you have nothing but green tea and oats. You’ll stop exercising because you hate the feeling of more weight moving against your clothes, then you’ll go to spending hours at the gym – morning, noon and night.
The next six years are going to be tough, they’re going to be long, but you’ll reach a point where you’ve had enough. Your relationships with your parents, with your family, will never be what they were. You’ll lose relationships, you’ll lose direction – you’ll completely lose who you are and lose sight of who you want to be.
A time will come when you’ll learn to appreciate your body for its ability and its potential strength. You’ll learn your worth is in your spirit, your soul and your mind. You can’t see it now, but someone will ask you one day what you love about yourself and you’ll reply…
I love my sense of humour and my sarcasm because it makes myself and my loved ones laugh.
I love my kind eyes and how I can wear a smile on my face without even moving my mouth.
I love my strong body and it’s ability to grow and change.
I love my mind, because goddamn – it’s strong.
Day-by-day, challenge-by-challenge your journey with this body of yours will see you build a strong, beautiful home out of this house. You’ll come to understand that life isn’t always about having control. That just because you may not have control of the trajectory of your life right now, doesn’t mean you have to control every little element, every calorie, every movement to bring yourself calm. Embrace the chaos, the change, the people, the food and the experiences. Because life is too god damn short to spend it fixated and alone in the dark. You’ll see it, in your own time.
I love you,