Vanessa wasn’t an athletic kid although she always admired active women. Every 4 years she would sit in front of the t.v. mesmerized by the twisting, turning, and powerful movements of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. But, for various reasons she never had a chance to participate in any athletic pursuit until middle school when she worked up the nerve to try out for the cheerleading squad. And much to everyone’s surprise, she made the team! Now, all that inactivity as a child, paired with less than ideal eating habits and a genetic propensity to being heavier resulted in a somewhat chubby body. Vanessa was very aware of this and after some teasing from classmates about her “big butt” began to try to change her eating habits.
“Low Fat” diets were all the rage back in the 90′s as were the bone thin bodies of Kate Moss and other waifish models. And a waif, Vanessa was not. So, in an effort to fit into those cheerleading skirts, her Girbaud jeans (remember those anyone?), and to get rid of her “big butt” she plunged herself into a low fat diet often eating less than 10 grams of fat per day. She was also walking, running, going to gymnastics and tumbling with her cheerleading squad, and also going to cheer practice. Over just a few short months in her freshman year of high school, she dropped from a weight of around 140lbs on her 5’4″ frame, to barely 90lbs. She stopped menstruating, looked weak and frail, and began to worry her friends, teachers, and parents. Her mother threatened to send her to “Woodland Hills”, the local psych hospital, if she didn’t gain some weight. Of course, she resisted for quite a while… but as bodies will do when pushed to extremes, it rebelled. Even though she was eating barely anything (less than 500 calories per day) the weight loss slowed, stopped, and then she began slowly gaining weight. She also began binging and purging. The years of caloric deprivation had become too much and she would binge unintentionally. First, just picking at some cookies or cake left in the house, then completely losing control and eating until she was literally sick. Of course, the only thing she could do to mitigate the damage was to purge. She would make herself throw up until she tasted stomach acid burning her throat and mouth. Surely, that meant she had gotten all of it up. Often, she would gag until she coughed up blood, knowing in the back of her mind she could rupture a blood vessel and potentially bleed to death. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting all those calories up.
Meanwhile, her wait rose to around 130-150, fluctuating between months of starving and then losing control again and gaining it all back. She began to realize she was probably never going to be a waif. Inspired by some of her Dad’s fitness magazines and Oxygen, and as silly as it sounds, Demi Moore’s body in “Striptease”, she decided she was going to start lifting weights. And lift she did. She read plenty of Muscle and Fitness, Oxygen, Self, and basically every fitness magazine she could get her hands on. She tried every bodybuilding split known to man and followed every bodybuilding diet she could find. She did get stronger. A lot stronger. She built a good bit of muscle despite the misguided training. But, she didn’t lose much fat. Her body composition was better but nothing like the models in the magazines. She wondered why this wasn’t working. So, she would try to lose weight reverting to her old food depriving ways… only to binge and purge a few weeks later. This continued for… years. Well into college. She continued to lift weights and looked fit but nothing exceptional happened. Her weight stayed within a “healthy” range but her results never ever matched her efforts.
Despite what seemed like wasted effort, her boss at the recreational center where she worked as a weight room attendant, thought she had potential as a trainer and suggested she get her trainer’s certification. And she did… and she trained clients, taught aerobics classes and loved it. She changed her major to Exercise Science and decided to pursue her passion for exercise as a career. But, because she never really dealt with her diet issues and was still trying to lose body fat and was failing to see her body change in a way that resulted her training she felt she might not be “cut out” for training. Would anyone listen to her advice? She also wanted financial stability and she was living in small town in Louisiana at the time that she felt couldn’t provide enough clientele to support full time training. So, she decided to go to nursing school and gave up her training job. She did manage to compete in a fitness competition right before starting nursing school. She got lean, really really lean but lost a lot of muscle and had to do an unsustainable amount of cardiovascular activity and eat a very low calorie diet to get there. This she knew she couldn’t keep up further making her feel as though she just wasn’t cut out for a career in fitness. So off to nursing school she went. And wow… was that hard. The stress level was high, the hours were long, and Vanessa was miserable. But,her pride wouldn’t allow her to quit. She also continued working out on top of her school load. She couldn’t and wouldn’t give her workouts up.
Three years after beginning nursing school she graduated, moved to Texas and continued to workout with a vengeance and working in the very intense and stressful Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital. She dreaded work. She cried before almost before and after every shift. She questioned her decision to go into nursing. Maybe she should go back training? No, she decided it was too financially risky. Plus, she was still struggling with the food issues. WHY WHY WHY couldn’t she lose fat? Why was she always tired? Why didn’t anything work besides starving? Something wasn’t right. So, she thought, maybe I should just go to grad school. Being a Nurse Practitioner would mean more money and shorter work days in a less stressful environment. Plus, she could help people stay healthy! She could encourage others to exercise, eat well, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Perfect right?
Well, grad school was of course hard. She managed to still workout and even found a completely new style of fitness that involved really intense training, olympic lifting, powerlifting, running, rowing, gymnastics, and a really supportive community. And she was pretty decent at it. This became her new passion. She wondered if she should even finish grad school. But again, that pride thing kept her from quitting. So she trained, and trained hard. Learned some new theories on working out and nutrition (What? Her beloved oatmeal isn’t helping her lose fat?) and started to feel better about her competence athletically. But, she was still plagued with fatigue and body fat that wouldn’t budge.
While finishing up school she began working in physician’s office that specializes in balancing hormones including the thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and the adrenal hormones. Some of the patient’s symptoms seemed eerily similar to her own issues with fatigue, weight, and stress. She got some blood work done. And voila. There were some definite issues there. It wasn’t clear what had caused the issues or how long it had been this way. Perhaps the eating disorder at such a young age and the consistent nutrition issues since were to blame. Maybe it was the stress of school. Maybe (probably) it was a combination of these and many other factors that led to the hormone imbalances. She learned a lot in just a few months of looking at her own hormones and making some dietary, lifestyle, supplemental, and medication changes.Things started to change. She started to lean out, she got stronger, her fatigue and depression lifted. She decided maybe she COULD do a competition again? And she did. No starving and no insane amounts of cardio. She managed to get her bodyfat into the low teens and felt the most confident she ever had, both onstage and off.
With her new found health came a new found confidence in her ability to help people attain optimal fitness. Who else could better empathize with those who want to get into better shape and feel stuck and frustrated than someone that has spent the better part of the past 16 years fighting that fight and learning what does and does not work. And now she also had the medical knowledge to pinpoint problems that most trainers wouldn’t think about. So, she decided that perhaps she’d return to her passion and combine it with her medical knowledge to help people in a unique way achieve their healthy and fitness goals. You can rest assured that Vanessa will work with ALL her HEART to assist you in becoming your healthiest, happiest self.