For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an athlete. I started swimming on a team around age 7-8, though swimming in the lake was one of my earliest memories. Swimming brought me such joy, but being in a swim suit also caused so much angst. I’m pictured below, 6th in from the left. I was around 10 years old here. Boy I remember those days. My best friend Corey was to my left and I loved my coaches and fellow team mates. Such fun!
I had always been a bigger child. Yes, I am more muscular, have broader shoulders than most females, but it was my stomach that caused so much pain. It was around this time that I started to hate my body. I remember constantly looking down at my stomach and trying to suck in. I was desperate to be thin. I was so self conscious. My parents cooked healthy food, I didn’t believe I over ate (not that I knew what that was back then) and I was very active on the swim team. So I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t thinner.
I can’t remember exactly when my fear really took hold, but it was somewhere between 10-12 years old. When it did, it had it’s claws in me for 15 years. 15 long years of struggling with the fear of being fat, of eating “bad” foods, of believing my self worth was tied into my weight, my fear of not being loved and struggling with an eating disorder. I’d like to say once you’ve conquered an eating disorder you are completely healed. You never have another negative thought or say another mean thing to yourself. This isn’t always the case, I have good days and not so good days. But each day is a blessing and a gift from God. Everything that happened growing up, and up until now has crafted my journey as a wife, a mom, a sports nutritionist, a coach, etc. Ultimately, the journey to creating Fueled Coaching and Nutrition started way back when I was 10 years old and it’s what drove me to my passion for nutrition. I made a vow to myself many years ago that I wouldn’t let my past negatively dictate my future and that I would do everything in my power to make sure no one suffered like I had. This fueled (haha) the creation of Fueled Coaching and Nutrition. Read on if you’d like to learn more about my journey till today.
Growing up in an Italian family, we had a lot of cookies around the holidays. There were dozens of cookies, all different kinds and they were delicious. Going to my grandparents, I loved cookies and would sneak them and eat them, feeling bad about myself even more. Each time I ate something I deemed “bad,” it was as if I could feel the fat growing in my stomach and thighs.
As the years went on, and I became a better swimmer, I did lean up, but still, to me, my stomach was bigger then everyone else. I’d think to myself why, when I swam 12+ hours a week and spent several hours lifting weights (as a 12-17 year old) did I still have a stomach? I don’t think I was an over-exerciser then, it was truly how much I needed to do to be as good as I wanted. My body and feelings of being fat were something I could never understand, even as I entered college. Swimming at a Division 1 level had always been my dream. Well, the Olympics were actually the dream, but swimming Division 1 was one way to help me get there.
When I entered the program at Miami University, I wasn’t the fastest swimmer on the team, but I wasn’t the slowest either. I was determined to be the best swimmer that I could, no matter the cost. The first year of college was hard. A tough school academically, and a tough coach. Plus as all athletes know, coaches have different styles, and adjusting to a new style is hard. I didn’t have that great of a year and watched as another swimmer did. The coach would call out this person as someone to emulate, and as I watched her, she grew thinner and thinner. She was able to keep swimming, and doing quite well. So, I followed and began eating just a bit less. And then less, and less. Enough to swim, but enough to be noticed that I was thinner, and took it as praise.
Eventually I ate less and less until people started to comment that I was too thin and was made to go to an eating disorder group. The group was probably the worst place for a competitive athlete to be. If someone only ate this much, I was going to eat less. At the time, I knew what I was doing wasn’t great, but it felt good to be thin. And then, feeling like I was being forced to eat, I decided to start throwing up everything put in front of me. It was another challenge. At first, it was just a plate of food, but eventually it grew to where I would buy a loaf of bread, sneak into the bathroom, eat it and throw up. I knew this wasn’t normal, but I believed I would keep the calories out of my body if I could just throw them up. Bread, cookies and cake, all the sugary, terribly processed junk I could eat.
Being bulimic, your body does absorb some calories, and I put on enough weight to appear normal. My secretive binging and purging lasted throughout college. Upon graduation and moving home, I finally decided I didn’t want to spend my life looking into a toilet, a sink, a plastic bag or garbage bag and I sought help. I had been forced to see a counselor in college, but they didn’t really seem to help or care. Maybe because I didn’t want help and I didn’t care. I can’t even remember how I met my counselor in my home town, but I did. She changed my life and helped me to see myself as a beautiful, good person, no matter my size. I won’t lie and say that from that moment on, I was good to go, no more binging and purging. I had several more years of set backs.
After graduation from college, I worked at a hospital in NY in the cardiac cath lab. I loved the job, and my friends. This was the time I first got into triathlon, and completed my first Ironman in 2006. But I was itching to explore and move. It’s too long of a story for now, but I took a trip to South Africa, met my now husband. After a period of dating, moved to Oregon. In Oregon we opened a triathlon shop. The MultiSport Advantage. This was back in 2008, and I thought if I tried hard enough, and shared my passion for nutrition and training, we’d be successful. We met amazing athletes and we’re still friends with some today. Unfortunately not being able to control how many athletes worked out with us, or if we’d have enough money to pay bills, my eating disorder came back full force. We sold our business and that was the only thing that saved me. I do miss that shop and our team camaraderie. I think that’s why having a team is so important to me and why creating Team Fueled Racing means so much.
Here’s a pic from IM Canada in 2011, wearing our team kit from our shop.
From Oregon to Washington, DC. I was offered a job teaching sports nutrition at PowerBar. I loved it. I got to travel around the country, going to Ironman’s, marathons, group runs, etc. I taught sports nutrition clinics 1-2x week, and my love for teaching sports nutrition grew even more. I can say the industry has a “look.” Thin, athletic, a good athlete, etc.” I had my first experience in business where someone told me “if I have to buy you the next size up in our team gear, it won’t be good.” No direct “you’ll be fired,” but close. I laughed it off, but it definitely secretly hurt me that I wasn’t thin enough. I knew I was very good at what I did and by that time, I had learned that I was more than just my body type. So I was strong enough to withstand that comment. I knew that I could turn said manager in for his comments, but I chose to show him it didn’t matter. Here’s a pic from the Halloween half marathon (Wicked Half Marathon I think) in Virginia Beach.
While we were in the DC area, I tore my hamstring severe enough that it ripped from the bone, and became tethered to my sciatic nerve. I spent nearly a two years documenting my injury, surgery, re-learning how to walk and eventually run again. That was on my first blog, which is floating around still today. For a while we weren’t sure I’d every be able to run or ride again. After some amazing work from surgeons, physiatrists, chiros and PTs, I was able to heal and resume training. My injury is what drives my passion for the injury prevention side of my coaching. It’s also what allowed me to realize that being an athlete (and fast) wasn’t really important. I am blessed to be able to do what I love, no matter how fast.
After several years in DC, Brett took a job in Texas and I left PowerBar. We knew we wanted to have a family, so I thought, it’s time to take my part time coaching triathlon and nutrition full time. We loved Texas. I completed my master’s degree in exercise physiology and sports nutrition at Texas Woman’s University. I still coached my own athletes, in addition to working for the DFW Tri club. I got to lead 2 grant funded Women For Tri teams. I met some amazing women in that group and many are pictured throughout my coaching website.
I knew when we had kids that my old fears of my body weight and stomach would rear their head. So I pre-emptively sought out an eating disorder therapist to make sure I was not going to fall back into the binge purge cycle. Thankfully, with Grant and Lochlan I did not. For most of my college years through pregnancy, I did not look at the scale. For too long that number indicated my self worth. I was worried with weight gain from pregnancy, even though logically I knew I was growing a human, it would be too much of a trigger. I wanted to make sure that if I gained 20-30lbs with pregnancy, it didn’t cause a relapse. I didn’t know my numbers then, but I know I gained around 25lbs with each.
Here I am with Grant and pregnant with Loch, around 5-6 months pregnant.
After Grant (my first) I bounced back to my body shape fairly quickly. Lochlan has been more of a struggle. I still don’t put much credence in the scale, and choose to use how my clothes fit and feel as my guide. I know that no matter what, I’ll never be the thinnest or leanest athlete and that’s ok. I’m more muscular and I’m ok with that. I won’t be a physique athlete because I enjoy carbs too much. I’ll never be “ripped” because I think life is too short to deprive yourself of delicious foods. But what I can do is help athletes to the best version of themselves as possible. Whether that’s training for their first marathon, or first ironman, losing body fat, or nailing their Ironman race fueling plan. My passion now lies with serving others. Everything I experienced in the past has brought me to now. I get the honor and privilege to provide athletes knowledge and guidance from my own past, my schooling and experience. I use science based information with a little “art” on the side. Every athlete is different, so we can’t say only one way works for everyone. I like to break through the myths in social media, the fear mongering and give it to you straight. I’ll be writing and providing you with videos with my best nutrition, training, injury prevention and family + training info. I’m happy you’re here. Please reach out and say hi, and let me know what you might be interested in learning more about. If you find encouragement with other like minded (and awesome if I do say so) athletes, join our free Facebook group The Fueled Endurance Academy. Happy Training!