I have to tell you – having a podcast is not something I ever considered and that will amuse you if you happen to be a follower on Twitter where I’ve been ranting about the fat loss industry for over a decade. But, here I am. So, I wanted to use this episode to tell you about who I am and why you might want to follow me.
I’ll start with today. I’m the founder and head coach at Musclebound Mama. Basically, I help women change their relationship with food – and I do this for a very important reason.
Twelve years ago I started a Twitter account with the handle @muscleboundmama as a consumer of the weight loss industry. I followed every fitness and weight loss account I could find, determined to finally have the body I chased my entire life. It wasn’t long before I started falling into every trap of the industry. It didn’t take me long to realize that the industry preys on women with low self-esteem and pushes gimmicks, magic pills – and shame. I was in shock at the fat-shaming so many coaches engaged in. With every coach I had, when I brought up my struggles with compliance and the stress of being a single mama and all the things I’m about to share with you, I kept hearing “get over it”. They fed the shame. So, I decided to be the change I wanted in the industry.
My story is important context because everything I do comes from my experiences growing up. Like many, it’s a sad story, but I’m not sharing it so you can tell me how great it is that I survived it – I’m telling you because I know my story isn’t unique and if you see yourself in my story, I want you to know that if you feel trapped as I did, you are not destined to stay there. I do want to tell you that my story could be triggering for some of you. If you’re at the point in your recovery where hearing about physical or sexual abuse, depression or anorexia is problematic for you – you might want to skip one. I just feel it’s such important context.
I grew up in a small factory town to teen parents. My mom was also the child of a 13-year-old mother so there were some obvious socio-economic challenges ahead – which resulted in my mother repeating the abusive behaviour she herself grew up with.
My parents divorced when I was 11 almost at the very moment puberty started and that’s when I started developing body image issues. Body shaming was a regular practice in my extended family and literally everyone had something to say about my body every time they saw me.
Like one in four women, I was raped by a boy I liked when I was 13 – and it fed my belief that I wasn’t worthy of love, so I started purging meals the very next day. I would go back and forth between purging and restricting all through high school and feeding that belief that I wasn’t good enough. Like most kids in my situation, I binge drank, put myself in dangerous situations, and leaned into the idea that I wasn’t worth anything. I attempted suicide at 14 and woke up in the hospital after having my stomach pumped of all the pills I took. I was asked by the doctor why I did it while my abusive mom was in the room – so I said what they both wanted to hear – that I didn’t know why and I wouldn’t do it again. It was never spoken about it again – as if it never happened.
At 18, I got brave and moved to Ottawa, into a roach-infested apartment in Vanier because I knew nothing good would come of staying where I was. I put myself through college by working full-time hours between two jobs which meant sleeping for about 5 hours a night to fit it all in. I was going to be the first in my family to graduate college and I was going to do whatever it took to do that! As you can imagine, that took a toll and when I finished, I began to struggle with depression. I didn’t realize it was depression at the time of course. It eventually became anorexia and landed me in the hospital where I spent 3 months recovering.
I left the hospital in 2005 and in less than a year, became pregnant with my son. While I was no longer restricting or purging, I was still very much struggling with depression and the pregnancy really took its toll on me. My son’s birth was traumatic and we nearly lost him twice in the first 24 hours. I remember feeling like the Universe was telling me I wasn’t meant to have him because everything was going wrong – and on top of it all the biggest driver of my depression was my fear that I was going to be the mother mine was.
I recovered from depression when my son was around a year old. I was learning every single day that I was not my mother and he was healing me in so many ways. I felt well enough to begin my journey back to ME. That’s when I started my Twitter account and became a musclebound mama.
On September 24th, 2009 at 823am, my brother called me to tell me our stepfather had died and they didn’t know yet what how. It was the day after my baby brother’s 16th birthday and he was the one who discovered his dad. It would become clear that he was murdered in his bed while he slept and it was 5 blows to his head with an aluminium baseball bat that killed him. I suspected my mother immediately.
The thing is, she was playing the grieving victim and as a survivor of childhood abuse, the opportunity to be valuable to my abuser was more appealing than the truth. I tried to convince myself I was wrong as I stayed to take care of everyone but the thing about smothering your truth for drips of validation from your abuser, is you have to have an outlet in order to keep up the act. Mine was a relapse.
I had again sacrificed my mental health for my abuser. As time went on the role lost its value and her guilt was too much to bear. I struggled with ending the relationship but wanted to be there for my baby brother. Then, less than a year later, on September 13th, 2010, she was arrested and charged with 1st-degree murder.
My aunt called to tell me about the arrest and to share that it was the family’s decision to support her. My response to her was “Okay, I’m done”. I called my brothers to tell them that I support whatever decision they make but I can’t be part of her life anymore. The brother I sustained the abuse with was at that point unable to label his abuse as such and was in the validation seeking stage I had been in. He made it clear he was supporting her and that he didn’t want to speak to me again. My baby brother, who in one year lost both of his parents refused my offer to allow him to move in with me and instead wanted to support our mother – which I completely understood. That day I said goodbye to my entire family with an open invitation to my brothers I was sure they’d never accept. I was officially mourning the loss of a family that was still very much alive.
Here I was, a self-employed single mama, scrambling to pick up the pieces. I decided to put my focus into competitive bodybuilding where I still felt very connected to my eating disorder. The rigidity of competitive dieting was too close to that which I engaged in with anorexia. So, I moved to competitive powerlifting which was exactly where I wanted to be. Because there was cake!
So, here’s where my story all falls into place…
With my newfound focus on health, the emotional work of healing from my traumas, I decided to build a safe community for women to change their own relationship with food. The focus of MBM is on flexibility, balance, developing new skills, and a shame-free community. For most, losing weight is something we take on when we are at a crossroads in our lives. We want change and we want to make ourselves a priority but we don’t know how. It requires vulnerability and self-compassion but most of us aren’t very good at that. That’s why people are drawn to the quick fix fad diets. They don’t know how to do the hard emotional work and so they take the path that doesn’t require it. Unfortunately, that path is paved with gimmicks, shame, and fear and the worst part – there is no cake!
Thanks for listening to my story today. I thought since we’re going to have a long successful relationship, you should know more about who you’re tuning into. Some weeks I’ll rant and rave, some weeks I will strive to educate or empower you. But, I will always be real with you – and I will always encourage you to eat the fucking cake!
You can find this track here: