Interview 30: "The scale doesn't measure your spirit and soul."

I am very excited to share Nicole’s incredible journey with you.  My hope is that you read this interview and do a little self reflection of your own.  That you will look within and see if you’re treating yourself with the kindness and care you deserve.  

What I found so interesting is that Nicole and I are 10 years apart in age but our stories parallel each other so completely.  The same sort of negative self talk, the same comparison complex and the same social triggers.  The same eating disorder and obsession with over exercising.  I am so proud of Nicole for all the work she’s done and I hope you can learn a few things from her story!

Nicole is 23, loves running, training and kickboxing.  She is a huge dog person, coffee addict and has a deep love for family and friends.  Nicole is a project manager at a commercial construction company and just took her Connecticut State Police exam with the hopes of entering the police force!  She has an immense passion for helping others and has a strong belief in giving back.  Nicole has created a beautiful life and continues to grow into an amazing woman.  She has a unquenchable passion for traveling and loves to do anything outdoors.  Nicole is a truly vibrant and beautiful person both inside and out.  

I think Nicole's dedication to living so vibrantly comes from tackling a huge obstacle in her life. Let me take you back several years to where her battle with Anorexia began.  When Nicole was really young she remembers looking at her legs and wondering why she looked different from her friends.  “In 5th grade I looked down at my legs and was like ‘why do they look like this?’  All the girls in my grade have really stick legs and mine are so big” Nicole remembers telling her mom.  She was still too young to take action or really understand but that all changed when she entered high school.  Her best friend’s boyfriend wasn’t the kindest kid in school.  He and his friends would constantly nag her and poke fun at the way she dressed.  She wasn’t into the skimpy clothes the other girls wore and she realized it was because she didn’t like the way she looked.  She figured they would stop making fun of her if she started wearing those clothes.  But she wouldn’t feel comfortable in them until she was skinny.  Nicole began with the simple thought of “I’ll eat healthy and workout.”  That soon morphed into “how many calories can you burn and I’ll eat less.”  At a certain point “I would eat and the guilt just felt like it wouldn't go away until I burned it off.  It was a constant cycle of burn, burn, burn and then if you DO eat then get that out of you” shared Nicole.   She knew it wasn’t right but she couldn’t stop. 

Throughout high school she was very aware of her body and the emotions around working out.  She discovered that walks with her family made her feel good.  So she took that and ran with it.  Literally.  In the beginning of her new love for running she was doing some 5K’s just for fun, but as she ventured further down the path of Anorexia she realized she was doing it because she “needed to” not because she wanted to.  “I would spend 4 hours a day at the gym and not really eat”  she shared.  She was in a constant battle of what she knew her body needed, nourishment, and the realization that she couldn’t get herself to do it.  

Nicole kept a journal documenting how she felt during all of this throughout high school.  Before she went off to college her mom found that journal and that was the catalyst for her to seek help.  She learned that Anorexia had become her comfort zone.  That it was one thing in her world she could control when she couldn’t control much else.  But she realized she wouldn’t be able to live the life she always envisioned for herself if she kept going at this pace.  “I wanted to have the full college experience and I wasn’t willing to compromise my life and experiences to weigh a certain amount.”  

I so applaud Nicole for this realization.  It took me many more years to come to this conclusion on my own.  I wanted to have the experiences AND be at a certain weight.  But what I realize now looking back is I was still overly consumed by my body and how others might be perceiving my body that it took away from all these amazing life experiences.  Yes I have a ton of memories and have seen incredible places in this world but had I experienced those moments through the lens of self love as opposed to doubt and insecurity I know those moments would be cherished and experienced more deeply. 

As we spoke she talked a lot about her recovery and the steps she took to get to where she is now.  “I look back on it and in that moment I want to tell my past self ‘hey its going to be ok, recovery sucks but you’re a fighter. You’re going to run a marathon and you’re going to travel. There is more to life than numbers and calories.”’  Nicole attributes her recovery in a large part to who she surrounded herself with.  She let others care for her and provide different perspectives from what she was used to.  It helped her see what was going on in her head differently. 

“The one thing that I remember constantly thinking when I saw models on TV is ‘that is what fit is, that’s how I should look, and this is how I’m going to do it’  [referring to Anorexia].  It’s hard constantly seeing these images.  People see these crazy fit posts and it became the standard that says: “this is what a woman is” and if you don’t look like this then you’re not a woman.”  Nicole talked about how her therapist gave her two different pictures: one found under the hashtag “fitspo” (fit inspiration) and the other an untouched picture of a regular woman.  She asked Nicole to choose which woman was more beautiful.  She couldn’t.  “Both” she said.  “They’re both strong, fit, and healthy.”  The next words out of her therapists mouth shaped a large part of her recovery:  “Now, why can you look at these and see that but you can’t look at yourself and see that?”  This question is something we should say to ourselves every time we play the comparison game and come up the loser.   We don’t think like that.  But I think it’s time we do.  We need to look at ourselves and our incredible bodies and capabilities with the same praise and admiration as we do for others.  

Life is not a one size fit’s all deal.  “A number on the scale can measure your gravitational pull but it doesn’t measure your strength, spirit and soul” shared Nicole.  The scale doesn’t measure your spirit and soul.  How beautiful is that.  Your weight is simply a number.  Your soul and spirit can change the world!  

Nicole continues to grow into a vibrant healthy woman with the mantra: “I am strong, I am fit, I am healthy.”  She surrounds herself with people who share her values of self acceptance, giving meaning to fitness experiences and truly embracing the journey.  Her kickboxing coaches have become big brothers to her and her Team in Training [fundraising for Leukemia and Lymphoma society] marathon runners are family.  “Without them I wouldn’t be in the place I am right now.  A lot of my goals scared me and this team helped me get there.  They instilled my confidence.”   It has taken her years to find this sort of self assuredness.  In fact, she hasn’t weighed herself in over six months which is a huge change from four times a day.  

I asked Nicole to share her top tips with you.  Things that helped her throughout her recovery and continue to serve her as she continues to live into her dreams:  

1. Always always always listen to your body. If it’s tired let it rest, if it’s hungry, feed it.  It’s so important to give your body what it needs for you to reach your goals. Listen to your body, get in touch with your soul and everything will fall in to place.

2. If you have a dream and a goal and it scares you then it’s meant to be.  Life isn’t meant to be lived in a bubble. It’s meant for you to go out and be the fullest you you can be.  There is only one of you living out your dreams and goals.  By you doing that it could inspire so many more out there.  It becomes a whole wave of positivity and support in this very negative world.   

3. Patience.  I know a lot of people get so wrapped up in “I have to do this in this time.” But everything that’s meant to be will happen when it’s supposed to happen. And you going out and trying to make it happen before it’s supposed to happen will make it combust.  We get wrapped up in I want it now. It’s going to happen when you need it to happen and when it’s supposed to happen. Be kind to yourself and stop being so hard on yourself.

Nicole is wise beyond her years.  She's battled through Anorexia only to come out on the other end with joy, patience, and lessons that will serve her for years.  I know her story and the positivity she continues to share will inspire others to take control of their own confidence. Thank you Nicole for sharing your story and for being the joy that you are!

Thank you for taking the time to engage in my 30th interview of inspiring women.  Please feel free to share your comments, feelings and send this to a friend you think would benefit from reading this!  If you want me to interview someone you find incredibly inspiring, I would be truly honored to meet them. This is a journey that has no parameters or rules.  Let’s have fun with it and continue to spread the message of empowerment, love and kindness - to ourselves and others!

You can follow Nicole on Instagram @Nicole_RunsALot