Purging demons: False perception of Anxiety and Disordered Eating

Editor note: I held off on publishing this blog post for a couple of months. I knew Kristen struggled with anxiety when we met but had no idea to what extent or how she coped. She made vague references to some of her struggles in the past of eating issues but really it seemed somewhat light hearted and very much in the past.

One day Kristen seemed very upset and sick. I knew something was up and asked her what was going on. She finally opened up and shared that she had been purging. I was shocked. Suddenly all these different moments of her going to the bathroom for long periods made sense. There were times that just being anxious from her ex or family would have her go and purge in the bathroom.

Her struggles of self worth always seemed to come back to how she looked. Purging in some way was similar to someone cutting themselves. Purging was a way for her to find momentary relief and quickly self loathing and guilt.

The fact that Kristen shared this released a huge burden and at the same time gave me the keys to the city for asking her regularly how she was doing. I could only hope she would be honest with me. I also tried to look for triggers that might set her off.

The episodes became less frequent to the point of almost sporadic at best but still I would just have to trust she was being honest. I would get anxious myself if she was in the bathroom too long. If oddly she had mouthwash breath during the day. I worried. I knew that this could manifest into other things besides the obvious damage it had done to her digestive system.

Reading this write up, this confession by Kristen even opened my eyes more. I didn’t realize she purged after Fit Con 2015 until I read it here. I won’t lie, it hurt to read. It hurt because I wished she would have been open enough to talk to me while I know how much she was hurting inside holding that in.

Please read on.
– Shawn Bellon

Raw, exposed and alone in the bathroom where she hid her struggles from everyone.

“I thought a lot about this and I wanted to just get my thoughts around it and tell you a little about my past experience with my eating disorder. Found some photos just to timeline it all, showing how warped the brain can get and how it’s truly impossible to know what someone is experiencing in their life by just an outward appearance; during all of them I was bingeing and purging. The bottom two are me recovered and feeling pretty good.
I want to say the purging started in 05/2012 if I am remembering correctly, but my obsession with my body image started even as early as 8 or 9 thinking I had fat legs and into Jr High/ High school I would weigh myself all the time and try to keep calories under 1000, counting what I would burn doing cardio vs what I had eaten for the day. I was always aware of my body and had always been dissatisfied, I can even tell you what my weight was in 10th grade, at my first wedding which was in 1998, the day I went into labor;my focus was my body image and weight during all of the big events in my life. I ruined family and social events and vacations with stress over where and what to eat and when I could work out.

Over the years times of binge eating were rotated with times of starvation. Up until 2012, I would attempt to exercise off what I had consumed during a binge or starve for a day or two. My weight fluctuated from 123 to 155, but I remember even being at 123 in a size four thinking I was too heavy. Then, and Im not sure the exact way it came about, but I tried the purging part after a binge and I felt great, it felt so good to get rid of everything and to feel empty inside, at that time I was around 135 and a (what I thought was a disgusting) 22% BF, and that continued on until July 2012 when I decided I was tired of all of this, needed more structure with my eating and a true fitness goal so I planned to compete in a figure competition. The prep for that allowed me a more ‘normal’ way to obsess and control my eating, and the binge/ purge cycle was postponed for a few months.

I was at about 114 in the first two photos in the green panties, this was the week of my first show. I was really pleased with my progress but still found a million and one imperfections with myself. I did my first show 09/2012, second 10/2012. After that I relaxed on my eating a little and didn’t get too heavy, landing at about 125 and 16% BF for a few months , all the while thinking 16% was way too high. In January I started the binge/ purge cycle again , at the same time deciding to compete in my third show… I had a few episodes, did the show, repeated the cycle, did a fourth show…on and on… then when prepping for my 5th show in 10/2013 , with my 37th birthday coming up and my head in the toilet I decided I was done. I saw I was better than all of this and realized I needed something to focus on outside of this mayhem.

It was a wind down from there with the dieting and the binge/ purge would come and go, but even leading up until Fitcon of last year (2015) I was practicing it. My last episode was June 2015.

It has been an uphill climb. I have been to therapists about this, have tried support groups, have studied and read up on eating disorders and it’s funny, but I still did not consider myself a bulimic, like I wasn’t as bad as what some people were, I didn’t vomit after every meal so I still had it under control you know? Anyways, I still doubt myself and beat myself up constantly, it’s a struggle for me at times just living in my own skin. I know for a fact when things get out of control or I feel stressed or hurt, I turn inwards and my focus is the weight; it’s like obsessing about this blocks out all other troublesome issues.

I hate thinking about what I have done to myself physically, let alone emotionally… I have had to have a lot of dental work, my teeth would just break off from the acid of the vomit, plus my metabolism took a hit, my digestive system is probably permanently damaged as well, plus training gains have definitely been stalled.”

To Shawn: During the last year you have stood by me and helped me and pretty much saved me from all of this. If you want to do a little write up, I would be ok with it, but again, I would like some people blocked and maybe just have it on the business page and IG and I would like to see it first. I guess my motive for having it out there is to let other women know it’s common; I get so many comments about how good I look and how some want to be as lean as me and how they just don’t have the self control and Im thinking all the while, ‘if you only knew’… plus when I was going through all of this , while looking at others in the fitness industry, I thought my experience was so isolated. I was so ashamed and now I see how many women have dealt with this, but we are so close-mouthed about it all we never reach out and get the help we need.

Editor note: Fast forward to this year where Kristen finished as the female best raw lifter at the IPL World Cup 2016 (Fit Con).  Kristen went on to share the following post on social media which I was just floored by! What a turnaround!

“I wanted to take a moment and talk about commitment and the post Shawn did this morning with my box squat, the photo contained my words from a simple text I sent him while I was downstairs training after I had started warming up. The text and that post got me thinking about commitment and what it means, specifically, to my training.

To start, these are my numbers this year for IPL worlds: 300,200,400 in the 132s. Big numbers for me; I have them written on our chalk board, I put them up after IPL Fitcon. This morning, not feeling too hot, I wanted to just stop mid-stream and go back to bed, but I looked at those numbers and realized I won’t be hitting them by quitting, so I continued on with my work out and yes, I was mentally detached and there was little steam, but I finished with what I truly felt was my best effort. That is when I sent that text, thinking, if I stop a rep or two shy on a consistent basis, I’m giving up A LOT ground and I’m not willing to do that.

Commitment on my part is about more than the physical component of my training, it’s a mental commitment as well. Those times when my body really does hurt, when I’m tired, grumpy or finding myself too busy , it is easy to stop, thinking “I can do this next time” but I don’t, EVER! Why? Because I have committed myself to the training.

IPL Fitcon was my best meet to date, and on that day I committed to doing my best up on the platform. I have NEVER done that. What have I never done, specifically? Mentally allowed myself to be truly good at something and show it, in public and going after it with all I have. I have a tendency to want to be low key and fly under the radar, a lot of that comes from the feeling of not deserving. Well, I committed my mind to that meet and I gave each lift all I had.

It worked, who knew?
So my point? Commit to taking that road to reach your goal. Commit to the effort, to the hard work, to the frustrations and to the feelings of success. Allow yourself to be good at something! I look at those at the top of our sport and they never downplay their accomplishments- think about that. They also put in the work and they note their failures and learn from them. Lastly, they support each other, always cheering for their teammates AND opponents.

I am grateful for this sport, for my teammates, for my coach and for the hard work I put into this. I’m excited to see how this year evolves for myself, my husband AND for all of you!”

Editor note: Sometimes the first step in recovery is to just communicate with those you love and trust. And for us being communicated to, we need to stay supportive, patient and hopeful.

Here is Kristen at 2016 IPL World’s: