My story and the creation of beauty.in.strength
I was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was always an athlete. Growing up I competed in soccer, softball, track, archery, and made my parents crazy when it became indoor soccer and indoor track as well. In high school, I excelled at running and this became my main focus and dedication into college and out. In college, I always pushed myself to my limits. I worked as a cashier (same job I had since 16), track coach, and a bible school teacher while taking 7 classes. I graduated early with the highest honors.
This sounds amazing on paper, but the background of my college experience was that I had been developing a negative relationship with food since high school. I struggled with control. I had lost family members nearly every year since 5th grade from drugs, suicide, illness, or age. When I was growing up, if my life became something I couldn't change, I searched for control. During the school year, my control became my grades. I would avoid social situations and be overwhelmed with anxiety if I did attend them; I needed to get work done. I would go through periods of not caring about my diet at all and typically would hit my highest weight. Summer left no school work so my focus would become food. This cycle began to merge together to where I would exercise every time I ate to burn more calories than what I had consumed. Of course, the treadmills that decide your amount of calories burnt are not accurate, yet I held them as the truth. I got to the point where the days I worked from open to close, I'd only drink a monster (the zero kind) until I had lunch that was a side of vegetables from Panda Express. Dinner was when I got home & sometimes would be Cheerios (since 1 calories per cherrio was awesome to me).
I thought I was being healthy. I would pick a goal weight and work until I reached it. It NEEDED to be below the average for me to be satisfied. Once I hit the goal number, I'd eat everything I could for few weeks then pick a new number. I decided I was doing such a good job, I should run a half marathon and so I began training while not allowing myself to eat over 1000 calories.
Sprained an ankle. Ignored it. Ran 5 miles on it twice. Time to heal was extended by my poor nutrition.
I finally could run again and entered a partner Pentathlon. I volunteered to run the two mile, 400, & 800. After the two mile (in which I did poorly), I was told by a trainer that my hamstrings were cramping up severely and I needed to drink/eat more than water. My electrolytes and potassium levels were too low.
I ran my other races ignoring the trainers. I went out to eat and devoured a cheese steak. It was glorious.
Driving home was a different story. I felt like I was going to pass out. I got a surge of pain throughout my entire body with every slight movement. I made it home some how. I don't remember it.
Upon entering my parent's home, I began vomiting until there was absolutely nothing left in me and even then my body wanted to keep it up. I couldn't move without pain.
It was the worse pain I have ever been it. My parents and brother called the doctor and were able to get me stable again. At this point, I don't even remember how.
I needed to eat better.
I was up to running 8 miles a day at this point and I did put in effort to eat more/better. Problem was I didn't know what that meant. I thought that meant maybe eating 1200 calories or 1400?
I got a sharp pain in my foot and had to stop running one day. Next day, it happened again. I kept ignoring it until I could no longer put any pressure on my foot without wanting to scream. I had torn the ligament connecting my toe to my foot.
Boot, crutches, boot, physical therapy. Once again being told by my doctor that malnutrition was only going to hinder the healing process.
Nearly 6 months later, I could be allowed to wear a sneaker and I would be able to walk the multiple miles in Disney World.
My boyfriend (Matt), now husband, knew the life style I was living for so long & was the only person I'd let know even some of my thoughts. He'd talk me out off the ledge when sadness became too much & worked with me through my eating.
I never let anyone know everything I was doing. It was my own inside secret and I was not ready to change. This time I was. I was tired of hurting myself and being the cause of why I couldn't compete how I wanted anymore. I was tired of hating myself.
So in Disney World, on a day I was told that my father had cancer, I searched for an escape. This escape had been running, but that was gone.
And so, some how I found myself in the hotel gym with Matt. Being stubborn, I tried to do what I wanted: squats, pull ups, deadlifts. I failed. I cried out of frustration.
Matt showed me the ropes & over the new few months we would develop a schedule and by October I would be working out in his parent's basement with a universal and bench 5 days a week after a full day of teaching.
In sharing my story, I realized that changing a lifestyle needs to come from the want to change; the realization that you need to treat yourself better. I realized I wanted to change in that Disney gym when I saw firsthand how weak I was compared to what I thought.
I didn't start to lift to get in shape or have a better body. It wasn't to be a bikini competitor or to have abs.
I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to be strong.
I slowly learned you needed to EAT to gain muscle. You needed to EAT to look the way I had always wanted. Self research would guide my next 10 months of lifting. I didn't know bikini competition existed until well into lifting.
Then when one appeared 20 mins from my house and people told me I couldn't do it or that those girls were disgusting,
I did it.
And I placed.
Upon discovering this show is when I created my "secret instagram" beauty.in.strength. I told NO ONE, not even my fiance. I didn't even show my face since I was a teacher.
Beauty in Strength became my identity because that's all I ever wanted; to be strong.
I had been strong in times of depression and death; I had been relentless in never giving up.
The strength that individuals show in these times of darkness is the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was taking control of my life & I wasn't sure if it would even work.
If you knew me a few years ago, I am a different person now. I'm confident. I'm proud.
I know what I want and I've gained the knowledge to understand nutrition. I coach myself & now I coach others.
Most importantly, I am now happier than ever.
This is my story as transparent as possible. I think there is value in knowing others' journey. I have never been perfect & I will never be perfect. But, my life is one of choice now; not control.
I choose to live happy.
Copyright © Bethanne Harris All Rights Reserved