Living in a Dichotomy Between my Current Professional Life and Personal Past

I’ve been struggling. Struggling with the dichotomy between my professional life and personal past. Let me break it down here.

To a certain extent, I’m still a part of the eating disorder community. My past of anorexia automatically creates some sense of tie to that community. I can understand some of the similar experiences that other women are struggling with, and I can also speak on behalf of what it took ME to find a place of recovery and of food freedom. And so, naturally you see that I am still a part of this community, and I still advocate for women to reach a state of weight restoration, mental stability, and to separate themselves from their eating disorder.

On the other hand, I am also a part of the “health and fitness” industry. I’m a certified personal trainer. I have a specialty in fitness nutrition. I am on the journey to obtaining my health coach certification. I LOVE this industry. I LOVE the lifestyle I live in terms of fitness and the nourishment I put into my body.

And yet, I can’t help but feel like the two sometimes are at odds.

It’s a tricky balance advocating for eating nutrient dense foods and exercising, while also recognizing that this can be extremely triggering. It’s a hard thing to explain, to those who ARE actively in their disorder.

It’s difficult to explain how I can eat the food that is heavily associated with the “clean eating trends” right now in society, without feeling like I’m doing it solely to be “clean,” but rather to fuel my body with these foods because they’re actually HELLA nutrient dense. And they make my body feel good. No one can deny that avocados are a great source of fat, and sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A and potassium (and no, they don’t have to be turned into trendy sweet potato toasts in order to provide you with these benefits).

It’s difficult to explain that I love fitness and moving my body in order to increase my strength and feel connected to the body I live within, versus doing it for reasons of calorie burning.

There’s this assumption in the eating disorder community that in order to be “recovered” it means that you CAN’T possibly be taking part in what seems to be “trendy” in society (in terms of food.) It means that if you jump on the smoothie train, you’re still engaging in forms of restriction. I remember when a friend (in the eating disorder community, and actively in her disorder) asked what I had for an afternoon snack one day. “Oh, I actually didn’t have one!” I’m not one to lie about what I’m eating versus what I am not eating. It serves no purpose to anyone, especially to me. And the reply went something along the lines of, “well that’s not very good. How can you say you’re fully recovered?

Let me start by saying: if you are fresh out of recovery, have just reached weight restoration, and/or are still engaging in behaviors, by all means PLEASE still follow a meal plan. Please still follow a food structure. However, there’s a point in recovery where that structure isn’t as necessary. Where that structure isn’t really conducive to “normal living,” whatever the hell that means.

What I do know is that for me it means that I live by intuitively eating. It means that I can recognize my body’s hunger cues, when its full, and stop when it IS full, even if that means I didn’t eat “three snacks” that day. And that’s okay. It doesn’t develop any disordered eating habits for me anymore. It doesn’t affect the way I view my body that day. It doesn’t affect my food choices the next day. This change didn’t happen over night, but rather 5 years. FIVE YEARS.

I’m happy with where I am, and I sometimes wonder why I feel the need to justify it so heavily.

I mentioned this to my own therapist the other day; that I was struggling with the thought of feeling like I still HAD to eat three snacks per day, despite not feeling hungry for them. And why? Because that’s what I learned in treatment for the short period of time I was there. Her reply? “You’re not in treatment anymore. And you haven’t been for ten years.”

I sat there in disbelief. While I also felt completely validated. This battle between eating intuitively, exercising, eating “clean foods” as defined by society simply because I DO enjoy them, seems to be matched with judgment in the eating disorder community. And to be honest? I’m starting to not let this affect me as much anymore. I know where I am at in my own recovery, and ultimately that’s all that matters.

I will never market myself as an individual who eats donuts daily or who orders fries every time she goes out. Why? Because I actually don’t do that. And I don’t feel the need to market myself eating foods all the time that actually DON’T make my body feel (physically) well, in order to promote self-love or recovery. I will also never market myself as an individual who eats salads daily. Why? Because I don’t do that either. It’s a balance for me; it’s eating both, while also not labeling one as “good” versus “bad.”

I will never market myself as an individual who isn’t active. Sure, I have rest days and totally honor the days that my body needs a break. Yet, 9/10 times, I still get my butt to the gym. Why? Because I respect the shit out of my physical and mental health. Working out tends to improve upon both for me.

And so here I am today. Nourishing my body with the food that makes it feel the best, and keeping it moving. And these are two things that I encourage EACH of my clients to also reach a place of balance with.

Working as a coach, I want to empower women to feel a sense of LOVE for their bodies. Which means doing things out of respect versus hate for their bodies. I want to empower women to take up healthy lifestyle behaviors because it makes them feel GOOD, not solely to alter or manipulate their bodies.

I could care less whether they’re eating smoothie bowls or burgers, but rather I just care about their relationship WITH the food that they’re eating. To me, that’s what health is.



Nicole works as a life and wellness coach through Nicole Leigh Coaching ( Nicole strives to empower women with similar struggles to redefine and re-identify themselves, separate from their eating disorder. Through her work, she empowers women to use balance in every aspect of life to maintain lifelong recovery. When Nicole isn't blogging or counseling, she loves spending her time traveling, eating burgers, and surrounding herself with positive people.