Ashleigh is a first-year student at the University of Iowa + is a Blogi CHAARGtern. CHAARG has helped her eating disorder recovery + is an incredible role model for *finding your fit* —
I developed anorexia my sophomore year in high school, and with it came a lot of insecurities, not only about food and body image, but about exercise as well. My mom made me stop exercising at the time until I got myself to a healthier weight. When I eventually got to a weight when my doctor said I could start working out again, I was no longer in shape like I had been. I struggled to run a full mile, something that didn’t used to be difficult for me. I was also very discouraged with my workout routine. Every time I did one of my mom’s workout DVDs, it brought back bad memories of doing them just to burn calories.
We did eventually get one or two new workout DVDs [one of them being yoga, which is how I started getting into it!], but I was generally still bored. The workouts were helping me get stronger, but not really to the level that I wanted. I wasn’t motivated to lift heavier weights or go harder in my workouts. Essentially, as I starting memorizing the workouts (because I did the same DVD so often), I got plain sick of them.
When I started college touring in 2015 and 2016, I knew I wanted a school with a great gym [among other things, of course ; )]. After committing to the University of Iowa, I was so excited to start school, not only because of the new experience of college, but because they have an INSANE gym.Even though I had no idea where I would begin, I knew that I would at least have the resources.
Then, summer of 2016, I found out about CHAARG and joined about a week later [didn’t take much convincing for me, haha]. I had no idea how or when it happened, but I was suddenly thrown into a world of girls who worked out, lived healthy, balanced lives, and supported each other–even if they lived thousands of miles away and had never met! I was shocked that something like this could exist. At first, I admit, I thought it would be something that none of the girls really took seriously, but I quickly learned that assumption was wrong. I signed up for Bootycamp, completely terrified but so ready for a challenge. After week one, I was so excited and happy. The workouts were challenging, but they were challenging in the best way. Even better, I was having fun doing them, and when I posted about my progress on Instagram over the next few weeks, girls all across the US were cheering me on. Logging bolts, I was motivated to run longer distances. 3.5 miles became 4.5, 4.5 became 6, 6 became 8, and just before I left for college in August, I had reached 10 miles.
I finally felt happy and confident in myself, and it was only amplified when I stepped on to campus last fall and met the Iowa CHAARG exec team. The first time I met our chapter’s ambassador, Maggie, was at a kettlebell class at the university rec center. She was so nice and welcoming to me, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I immediately felt like I was part of a family, even if we had just met, which is something I had never felt working out in my basement at home by myself. I was also surprised in myself. I was going out and meeting new people, and I was trying a completely new workout — one that I discovered I really enjoy.
My whole experience in CHAARG in under a year has completely changed me as a person. I went from being incredibly shy and awkward to… well, okay, I’m still shy and awkward, but way less! I’ve learned to embrace who I am. I’ve learned to try new things [especially workouts!]. I’ve learned how to properly love my body and treat myself with respect and kindness. I’ve made new, amazing friends, in person and online. I went from refusing any and all public speaking roles to becoming a small group leader. CHAARG has peaked my interest in fitness and nutrition so much that I even decided to declare a second major in health and human physiology. To say that CHAARG has impacted my life would be an understatement. Looking back at how I used to be, I don’t even recognize that girl. CHAARG has helped me become so much happier, healthier, and confident. 🙂
If a CHAARG girl thinks she may have an eating disorder, I would recommend asking for help immediately — whether it be from a nutritionist, a therapist, or a doctor. I did, unfortunately, deal with some professionals who were more concerned with money than helping me because they cared, but the best thing to do is [as some say when they’re talking about therapists] “shop around,” meaning explore as many options as you can. I eventually found a nutritionist who helped me a lot in the process.
I would also recommend not solely focusing on the physical recovery. Yes, it is important to get your body back to a healthy physical state, but eating disorders don’t only damage the body — they damage the mind significantly. Even when I got to a healthy weight, I still had a terrible relationship with and mindset about food. I had made the decision to recover at home and not go into an inpatient treatment program because I [thankfully] somehow realized that, yes, inpatient treatment might give me a fast fix in regards to my weight, but I would probably come out of it even more stressed and mentally damaged because I wasn’t relearning how to eat [which is something I definitely had to do] but I was just eating to hit a goal weight so I could leave the program. Inpatient therapy might absolutely work for some people, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
I would encourage any CHAARG girl with an eating disorder to seek and accept help, but also know that recovery is not the same for everyone. It’s about what makes that girl feel comfortable and what makes her fully realize what she did to her body and how to treat it better, instead of having her gain a bunch of weight to show a certain number on the scale then claim she’s healed. Eating disorders aren’t only physical, but they’re mental, too. It took me much longer to recover at home my way than it would’ve if I went into the program at the hospital, and I accepted it because I now know how to care for my body and I’ve recovered better mentally because of it.
#CHAARGJourney highlights our members’ amazing journeys through CHAARG — physically, mentally, emotionally. Continue to follow Ashleigh’s CHAARG Journey on Instagram. We love you, Ashleigh, ++ are so thankful to have you a part of the CHAARG Community.