To conclude NEDAW (National Eating Disorder Awareness Week) we wanted to highlight Kristen Likopulos. Kristen is a part of the OG Afterglow Crew, being on our front desk as of opening day, taking on the role of Studio Manager, helping to create our Glow Girls program and then returning from her mat leave as our Saturday YogaHIIT teacher. From the beginning Kristen has been open with us about her Eating Disorder and recovery. She is a strong and vulnerable woman who we admire and love. Now you get to share in her journey….
I want to give fair warning before you dive into this post, please be aware that I am discussing my experience with my eating disorder. There will be issues discussed that could be triggering and I want to be sensitive to your own journey if you are in a place of recovery or currently feeling overwhelmed by ED thoughts.
Six years ago, I had the word “Balance” tattooed on my arm. I was going through one of the most challenging phases of my life and I needed it there to be a permanent reminder for me.
Now, before we settle in and learn some more about my story, let me introduce myself. My name is Kristen. I am a mother, a fitness instructor, a yogi and a woman who has battled through disordered eating and exercise addiction. I am an advocate for self-love and acceptance. I am also a work in progress.
My journey through disordered eating and exercise addiction began in my early twenties when I was planning a trip to Costa Rica. I was excited, but there was a feeling of fear that I couldn’t shake. I would have to wear…a bikini…the horror! Yes, to most women wearing a bikini is a nauseating experience, but the reasoning behind this is not because our bodies don’t belong on the beach baring skin. It is because the media has a skewed sense of reality on what the female form should look like (don’t worry, I won’t get started on that topic today). Anyway, back to Costa Rica! As I began leafing through the many styles of bathing suits, I also came across a fitness DVD and it promised 6 pack abs in six weeks. “Um…yes sign me up!” I thought and before I knew it, I fell down the rabbit hole.
My 6-week ab challenge had ended, but soon after that a new challenge arose. I had lost 15 pounds at this point, but I wanted to lose more. I was fitting into
size zeroes and I was being commended (at first) on my new, strong physique. I did what my brain kept telling me to do…I kept going.
Next came the counting of calories and the elimination of food groups. This also seemed like a good time to take up running on top of my other exercises, because…why not? I ran and I counted, and I ran, and I counted until my life became an endless cycle of running and counting. As I lost more weight, I lost more friendships and I also lost the most important relationship of all…my relationship with myself. It was at 90 lbs when I hit rock bottom. At this point, I felt like I was watching my life from the sidelines and living it in a robotic state. I was tired, sore and I had lost my period. My body was in starvation mode and I was not quite sure who I was anymore.
My re-birth, which is how I like to think of it, started slowly and with lots of help. I needed to be surrounded by my biggest supporters, so I moved back in with my parents. There was nothing more nurturing than the love and support of my family. This would be the time where I would take control back of my mind and my body. I started weekly “weigh-ins” with my Doctor and went to a reiki practitioner to help me feel more grounded. Next on the list was finding a therapist who made me feel comfortable, rather than triggering me when we spoke. I would be lying if I said it was an easy process or that I didn’t slip up as I had many missteps on the way.
In the following years during my recovery, I started to realize that when I was
being my authentic self, it didn’t matter what shape or size I was. I found
happiness within myself. I started to practice mindfulness in so many
areas of my life, by being mindful of how I ate or moved my body I was able to listen to what I needed most – foods to help nourish and fuel (even cupcakes to celebrate birthdays). Ironically, I went back to school to study holistic
nutrition and came to realize that the best moments were spent over dinner
eating and talking with the ones I loved.
Fitness was a slower transition for me, but when I came through the other side, I began moving with the sole purpose of enjoyment and not to shed pounds. I felt strong and happy again! Throughout all of this, my love for fitness did not fade so I decided to become a certified fitness instructor. I was able to overcome my obsession with exercise and food and turn it into my passion!
I love teaching people how to fuel and move their bodies and I love jumping around and sweating alongside my students, making sure my classes are inclusive for everyone. I just need to look down at my own arm occasionally, to remind myself about that powerful word “Balance”.
I no longer own a scale, my measuring spoons are now only used to make muffins..not for portion control and spoiler alert my period came back (TMI?) and I am now a mom of a wonderful little boy named Myles. Don’t get me wrong, those disordered thoughts still creep in my head from time to time, but I now have the strength and support to help keep them at bay.
Before I go, I’ll leave you with this – our pasts do not define us they grow with us and help to strengthen who we are today. If you’re ever feeling isolated or lost – maybe you’ve gone down a rabbit hole too – no matter how big or small your issues may seem, know that there are people out there who have been there as well and are there for support. Hey, I’m one of them and I am always here to chat.
Hope to see you on your mats soon!