I’ve been a dancer my whole life. I also been in front of crowds since I was little. I was a competitive gymnast, a cheerleader for over two decades and then a fitness instructor. I love the limelight and I loved performing. It wasn’t until I tried out for the Chicago Bulls Luvabulls in the early ninety’s that I realized just how competitive things would get for me.

I’d never tried out for something this big. At 18, I don’t think I was prepared for the severity of what it meant to beat out hundreds of girls for a handful of spots on the team. The Luvabulls allow about fifty girls to make a two week camp before they get down to the final twenty four girls. I’ll never forget our very first practice where we are taken aside, one by one, and given some pretty harsh criticism. I was told to recolor my hair, stop tanning, stop lifting weights and that I need to lose at least ten pounds. I was devastated.

I truly believe this was the start of a nasty and almost fifteen year eating disorder. It wasn’t until a few years later when I got married and had my first child did I realize I needed to start dieting if I was going to get back to that dancer body. It took having my second child from me to hit a wall and weight gain I didn’t know how to fix. I tried just about every diet under the sun to get the weight off.

I divorced my ex husband when the boys were six and four. The combination platter of competitiveness and single parenting caused me stress and anxiety. I’ll never forget the day I over ate at dinner and was so stuffed I began to panic. I spent almost two hours in the bathroom trying to throw up my dinner. It was one of the hardest things to do. Once I finally finished I had a crazy thought. If I can eat anything I want and just throw it up – I’ve found my golden dieting ticket.

I went from a solid 135 lbs to almost 90 in a matter of years. I learned to lie to friends and family when I was at social gatherings. I’d tell them I just ate or I’m not hungry just yet. I’d race home, hitting McDonald’s on the way, and scarf down two Big Macs, two double cheeseburgers, chicken Mcnuggets and 2 fries without even blinking.

I was out of control and didn’t’ know how to stop. To make matters worse no one said anything. In fact, women would ask, “How do you stay so skinny” or “You look great”! I spent the next fifteen years hiding or lying. I said no to just about every dining out invitation. I was pathetic and hungry.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2014 when I finally had an eye opening experience. I was giving the opportunity to open my own dance and fitness studio. As I signed the lease and game planned I thought about the work ahead of me. I would be a role model as the owner and as an instructor. How could I have women come into my space and look up to me as a weak 90 lb train wreck?

I decided enough was enough. The size zero clothing went in bags. I dropped them off at the local resale shop immediately. I started to learn to put things into my mouth and swallow. I learned to fuel my body with things that would give me energy. I had to learn how to eat again.

As I gained weight and struggled with my appearance I remembered that I lead. I’m a leader and need to be a healthy one. The women in my studio were my inspiration and they had no idea. They didn’t know the 90 lb train wreck – they knew the leader. They didn’t care if I was 135 or 150 – I was their role model. I am forever grateful for these women and for what they helped me overcome.

Today, I’m a strong 155 lbs. I pride myself on my muscle build and work daily on making myself stronger and healthier. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those fifteen years – but I have grown mentally stronger and now know how important diet and exercise are for living a healthy and happy life.