Jiu-Jitsu helped me overcome an eating disorder
National Eating Disorder Awareness Week was 2 weeks ago and it inspired one of my students to share her story in the hopes that it can help someone struggling with this. Needless to say, I am humbled that she asked me to help her with this, proud of her as a strong woman and proud to be her instructor. So here it goes:
Everyone has a story: Jiu-Jitsu saved my life, Jiu-Jitsu helped me overcoming a problem in my life. Jiu-jitsu improved my life. Whatever it is, everyone has their story. As for me, Jiu-jitsu saved me from an eating disorder 4 years ago and in lieu of National Eating Disorders Awareness last month, this is my story.
In 2009 at the age of 16, I lost my father to a horrific battle with cancer. By age 18, 2 weeks after my 18th birthday, my mother remarried. During that 2 year span from losing father to my mother remarrying, I felt like the world around me was spiraling out of control. And while some people grieve by eating their feelings, I took an alternate turn and found control in my eating.
By my senior year in high school, I was down 25 lbs and living under a 1,000 calorie a day diet. I knew I had developed an eating disorder and I needed help fast. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle, there’s no glamour in starvation to be thin. Someone once said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” but skinny feels like nothing. An eating disorder is a living hell. I discovered their was a lot of pain that controlled eating could not fix.
In 2011, I started college. Being a freshman was like a breath of fresh air, no one knew me or my past. My freshman year I was introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu for the first time. They offered free classes at school and the guy who taught the classes was always inviting me to try a class. So I bit the bullet and did it. I’m not going to lie, I thought my first jiu-jitsu class was extremely awkward. I was a gymnast and a swimmer growing up with zero background in martial arts so this was completely new to me. But there was something about jiu-jitsu that I fell completely in love with and that was being able to use my body, just the way it is no matter how small, to control my opponent and defend myself.
For the first time, in a long time, I felt empowerment and it felt amazing. Over the years, jiu-jitsu has given me the confidence to learn to love my body for what it can do versus what it looks like. I love my legs, they are strong and powerful. I’ve learned that I have to feed my body so that I can have the energy to train. Throughout my jiu-jitsu journey I’ve found healing on the mats.
Overcoming an eating disorder is a long process that can be extremely hard to go through. Learning how to love yourself is like learning how to walk all over again. You’ll fall down 7 times, but you can stand up 8, and with each small step recovery is possible. I’m not defining my beauty based on the number on the scale or how I may look in my clothes. I’m defining my beauty on my strength, my confidence, and my self-worth. This life is worth living. I have dreams and goals to accomplish, to become a black belt one day, and an eating disorder is not going to control my life.