Sophie Smith-Doré

Founder of Musclebound Mama

When I say that I have been all over the map with my physical conditioning – I’m not exaggerating. Maybe you can’t identify with all of what I describe here but I’m willing to bet there’s a piece in here that will resonate with you and that is exactly the reason I’m here. If you see yourself in my struggle you are closer than you think, to overcoming that obstacle – if you can see it, you can fix it.

I don’t know where you’re coming from and what your personal experience is, but I can tell with absolute certainty – since I have been able to do this, you can too.

Like many children, I had a challenging upbringing. I was born in a small factory town to 17-year-old parents who didn’t have the luxury of completing their high school education. My mother was a highly toxic woman and while she gave me a much better upbringing than she herself had, it was far from adequate. I witnessed and experienced traumatic abuse that even now, I don’t fully understand and have spent most of my adult life recovering from.

Physically I was quite a typical child. I was tall and lean until puberty and the divorce of my parents. The hormonal change combined with the emotional toll of such an upbringing weighed heavily on my 12-year-old body and mind. I began coping with food as an outlet for my anxiety because I was unable to communicate it verbally – and no one – not even my extended family, believed it. Growing up in a low-income home meant there wasn’t much focus on nutrition so, not much attention went into what I fed my body.

As I got larger I was teased more and more by my peers and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how that affected my already struggling self-esteem. I started to believe the things I was hearing, not only from a toxic mother but also from my peers – I was fat, slow, lazy and well, worthless.

Like any child in my situation, I did my best to fit in and the fastest way to do that was to drop the weight. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do it properly and so, by the age of 13 I was engaging in disordered eating. I was heavily restricting my calories and purging, at which time I quickly saw results, as did the rest of my peers. As the approval of my peers became more obvious my disordered eating became more dangerous and I would continue with these behaviours on and off until I moved here, to Ottawa at 19 years of age.

After moving to Ottawa, I found myself relying on food once again to cope with the anxiety that came with starting over on my own in a city so far from home. I quickly shot up to my all-time weight high of 203lbs – size 14/16. I knew I needed to get out of my pattern but I didn’t know how. I joined a gym and went hard for several months until I lost interest in the activities I was engaging in and lost confidence in its effectiveness. Disappointed, I stopped going and would remain in this pattern for about two years and again fell back to my old habit of disordered eating – but this time, it nearly killed me.

I was now engaging in such dangerous eating patterns that I was losing my hair, sleeping constantly and in a continuous state of confusion and anxiety. Finally, I collapsed on a running trail and woke up in an ambulance. I would spend several months in hospital recovering from Anorexia.

I left the hospital program at a healthy weight, with a healthier mind and a promise to myself to spend the rest of my life working to stay well. It was a good foundation BUT, the story doesn’t end here – and the work hadn’t even begun.

Shortly after leaving the hospital, I became pregnant with my beautiful son. I developed post-partum depression during the fifth month of my pregnancy, at which time I was unable to exercise and I gained a lot more than baby weight, putting me back up to a size 14/16 for the first year after my son was born. Shortly thereafter, I began my well intentioned but terribly misguided, fitness journey which saw some major derailments.

On September 24, 2009, I got a call from my brother telling me my stepfather had died. I immediately left for my hometown to be with my family and get answers. I was unprepared for what followed. My step-father had been murdered in his bed and our family home was a crime scene.

The funny thing about being a child of abuse is that you work tirelessly at trying to forget the abuse – even excusing it and justifying it on your abuser’s behalf. The reason for this is heavily layered but in my case, I grew up feeling so unloved and worthless at her hands that I spent my life waiting, hopeful, for any small scrap of love and validation she might drop in my lap. So, when asked in a police interview the day after I arrived in town, “do you think your mother could have done this” my answer was “the woman who raised me could have done this – but I’d like to think the woman she is now, couldn’t”.

I would spend the next 354 days literally destroying myself to distract myself from the fact that I truly knew my mother murdered my stepfather in his bed, while he slept, and played the mourning victim for nearly a year. I lost my marriage, myself, and I had, for a short time, relapsed into my old patterns.

The day she was arrested was the day that changed my life forever. I walked away from her, and my entire extended family who chose to support her and deny the truth of who she really was.

After giving myself time to heal, I began working with a coach. He had a tough case with me, given my history with disordered eating, and my other less-than-coachable characteristics (which I still try to convince myself to this days is part of my charm), but I trusted him and learned from him and realized that there was something positive to come out of all of this. Slowly, I learned to nourish my body into performing rather than punishing it into performing.

Together, with my coaching and my extensive work in therapy, I found my power and decided that I can help others the same way he helped me.

I would go on to study sports nutrition, metabolic science, cognitive behavour therapy and commit to continued learning in not only nutrition science, but in emotional wellness. I certainly do not believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that every experience contains a lesson that we must determine the value of. I learned that I can help others discover their inner power and I feel truly blessed to be able to do just that. Today, I am a married mother of 2 children, hopeless animal rescuer, and Pflag Canada Chapter Lead in Arnprior, Ontario.

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