Ever since I changed my habits, people often asked me the reasons behind my decision. My answer used to be that I wasn’t taking care of my health as I should have and that I decided to make changes which made me end up discovering my most valuable passion. But the truth is, there’s so much more behind the reasons that took me in this direction. While I was writing, I felt scared about people comments and the impact that this simple post might have on others. But from my past experiences, I learned that fear is not bad after all; we all have fears. Our paths are never a straight line. But what if we could share what happened to us to help others without expecting anything back from them?
I can finally say that I am ready to share this. My purpose is to raise awareness to prevent eating disorders and to give hope to anyone who might be struggling.
Some years ago, I decided to follow my dreams far away from home. When I made this decision, I didn’t know that my passion for figure skating which was only a hobby, would lead me to a dangerous obsession. I started skating when I was around ten, and since then I knew how much I loved it; I couldn’t explain what I felt when my skates were touching the ice. I was a girl who usually got bored with activities, and school wasn’t appealing to me; my parents described me as an easily distracted girl. Finally, I was committed to skating. I stepped outside my comfort zone, and I convinced my parents to let me go to a boarding school with a figure skating program. After all, I loved skating so what could go wrong, right?
At the age of 15, I flew from Mexico City to Minnesota. My parents traveled with me, and while we were on our way, all I could feel was excitement. I could feel butterflies in my stomach. When we arrived at the dorms building my mom said: ‘’Ximena it’s not too late, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.’’ I rolled my eyes and told her how sure I was about my decision. My mom looked down, and tears were rolling down her cheeks. It was time to say goodbye. I waved my hand as my parents’ car slowly faded into the snowy road. I went to my room, and I tried to distract myself before I would call my parents’ and tell them I changed my mind. I was scared, but I knew it was too late. The butterflies in my stomach disappeared, and instead, I felt empty inside, yet I was willing to finish what I started.
The dorms were not what I expected them to be. The building was old; I didn’t like the smell in my room, and my door squeaked just like in the scary movies. There was a girl who showed me around the school. I liked her since the first day, and she was Mexican as well. We were walking around the school when she mentioned that years ago there was an accident that caught the dorms building on fire. Fear was all over me since then. Weeks passed, and I couldn’t get what she told me out of my head. Whenever I was walking in the dark hallways heading to the ice rink at 4 am, I would run as fast as I could just to get out from the darkness. Also, I remember how my whole body would be trembling, and my teeth chattering whenever I went outside. I knew that I couldn’t take for granted the opportunity that I was facing, so I kept my head up, looked forward and stayed as strong as I could.
Eventually, I made some good friends and dated. I fell in love for the first time, and I wasn’t missing home as I did before. But things got out of my control when I found myself in the downward spiral of an eating disorder. To be honest, I didn’t realize the moment when I switched from being a happy and healthy person to a completely isolated, weak and unstable one. Most of the girls and even some boys were concerned about their weight and also struggled with the unhealthy and limited food options that the school offered. As a result, I started restricting my food and increasing my exercise. I lost several pounds in few months. My friends, family, and boyfriend were concerned and tried to help me, but my eating disorder was so loud that I didn’t care about anything or anyone else. I would lie about what I was eating and how much I was exercising. I was hiding my dangerous behaviors as much as I could. My illness consumed my mind, and I only cared about being skinny no matter what I had to do. Months before, the hardened mattress in my bed was comfortable because I had a healthy amount of body fat, and my body didn’t felt rigid against the mattress, but as my weight got lower and lower every week, I could no longer sleep because my bony body would feel uncomfortable against the hard mattress.
My body became weak, I could no longer perform in sports as I used to and my period stopped. Sadly, I quit skating since I had no strength and felt dizzy all the time. I was not aware of the damage that I was causing to my body, and I kept neglecting that I was sick and needing help. One day, while I was going upstairs, I felt my heart beating faster than ever, so I stopped in the middle of the stairs and tried to breathe in and out. Suddenly, my heartbeat was so slow that I wondered if my heart was still beating at all. How could I be harming myself and my loved ones without doing anything about it? I couldn’t keep on destroying myself. It was time to go back home, even if I had to leave my boyfriend who supported me every single day. However, I didn’t know that recovering would be so hard.
The day I got back home, all I could see in my parents was sadness and pain. My unhealthy appearance hurt them. I felt extremely bad with myself. I wondered if my parents would trust in me again after hurting them in such way. ” They’ve always cared about me, supported me, made me the happiest girl in the world, and yet I was acting selfish without realizing what I was causing. My family immediately offered me help, but I didn’t accept it. I felt ashasmed. All I could think about was where would I take the courage to move forward and fix what I had done. Anyways, I pretended that I had everything under control, so days later I planned a welcome party to see my friends. Surprisingly, some ‘’friends’’ hurt me by calling me ‘’Sick Anorexic’’ and criticized me instead of showing some kindness or at least respect. As a result, I decided to not involve anyone else besides my family and close friends during my recovery process. Recovery was tough and full of ups and downs which made me seem like an unstable person; however, few people knew what I was dealing with. Every day I had to decide between my disorder taking control or moving forward towards freedom. Learning to eat normal portions again and getting to a healthy weight was a real challenge. Ultimately, I learned that storms always end in rainbows. For a long time I wondered why it happened it me and if it would eventually lead me to something else. And yes, it was just like that. It stopped raining and the rainbow appeared, this time I knew that I had discovered my real passion. I got involved in the wellness field. I got certified as a Health/Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer, and since then I knew that my recovery was solid. It took me time and many different experiences to realize that I’ve become an entirely person. Life sometimes seems unfair and challenging but at the end we only learn and we become stronger. I had to hit rock bottom to realize that we shouldn’t take our health for granted, that we shouldn’t criticize other’s because we don’t know their battles and our comments can have a negative impact on them. With time and by getting to know my body, I learned that I can work hard to achieve my desired appearance by eating right and training hard; but I also learned that my shape has nothing to do with my worth as a person. Sometimes I would look leaner if I work hard while some other times I can look “softer” and it’s totally fine! But at any stage of my journey, I promised myself to never risk my health again and to love myself exactly as I am. Balance is not perfection; it’s an everyday practice. But feeling good about ourselves despite the conditions surrounding us, means we are on the right path. By sharing my story I want to help/prevent others and by helping I realize that every single struggle was worth it. Finally, I want to thank my family and friends who supported me through this phase of my life, I’m so blessed to have the right people surrounding me.
“LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL AND OUR CHALLENGES HAPPEN BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BECOME A BETTER VERSION OF OURSELVES “
Xo Ximena Ni