By Liana Jacob
MEET the woman who battled an eating disorder which saw her become addicted to the gym to the point of shrinking to seven-stone seven-pounds.
Lifestyle coach, Jenna Lynn Smith (28), from Wisconsin, USA, never felt good enough while growing up, particularly when she began her course at university. Being far away from home also contributed to her using the gym as a way to relieve her stress, which soon turned into an obsession with becoming ‘skinny’.
She gradually began depriving herself of meals during the day to the point if she ‘overindulged’ on food, she would purge to get skinnier. This unhealthy lifestyle led her to shrink to 7st 7Ibs and a UK size two.
Her eating disorder lasted throughout her four-year course until one day in 2012 her dad sat her down and voiced his concerns over her health which turned on a switch in Jenna’s head and decided that she would fight the disorder before it led to extremes.
With a complete change in her mental perception of food being a source of fuel for her body, Jenna successfully managed to beat her condition and gained muscle which saw her reach a healthy 9st 9Ibs and UK size six to eight.
“It started from the equation of stress of my degree, being far away from home, and developing bad eating and drinking habits as a college student,” Jenna said.
“I turned to the gym as my vice to relieve my stress and anxiety and that turned into an obsession. I was addicted to going to the gym every day for hours on end and would be on the cardio machines the entire time.
“I even would study on the machines; this led to not fuelling my body with proper nutrition and I became obsessed with the number on the scale and wanted to see more and more pounds lost.
“I brainwashed myself into thinking I had to be skinnier and skinnier. It was a constant battle in my head. A typical day I would eat two or three snacks and one meal.
“If I ‘overindulged’, I would skip however many meals I thought would suffice those calories I overindulged in.
“This led to purging if I overindulged, so I wouldn’t have to skip a meal and I could rid the calories right then.
“My mindset was terrible. I had no confidence, I did not know the person I was becoming. I spent four years of my life in a trance; captivated in a brainwash I created over myself.
“I never thought I would be able to overcome the demons I created. I would turn to alcohol to numb the pain and negativity about myself.”
While she has had many of her loved ones including friends showing their concerns, it wasn’t until her dad firmly showed her the light before she broke out of her denial.
“It was a light bulb moment. I know people were talking about me behind my back, asking my family and friend if I was ok. That wasn’t the light bulb moment though,” Jenna said.
“It was when my dad sat me down on the couch in my parent’s basement and asked me if everything was ok. When I gave him the normal answer I gave everyone, ‘Yeah, I am fine. I just workout a lot’ – he didn’t stop pushing.
“He told me I wasn’t okay and shared with me a couple stories about our family and addiction, and if I needed help, we needed to get me some.
“That was the light bulb; I was killing myself from the inside out and didn’t even comprehend the damage I was doing to my body day in and day out. I told him I wanted to try to overcome this on my own before seeking medical help – and I did.
“I no longer hear that voice in my head that brainwashed me to fall into my body dysmorphia. I no longer have something controlling every aspect of my life – I am free.”
While her goals of recovering were achieved, Jenna says the hardest part was being patient and coming to terms that the process wasn’t going to be solved overnight.
She used to use cardio machines for over two hours straight a day, whereas now her exercise routine varies between cardio, weight training and high intensity interval training (HIIT).
She consumes five to six meals a day that are well balance and nutritional; starting her day with a pre-workout meal; carbohydrates, vegetables and protein.
“I had to give myself grace that this wasn’t going to be an overnight change. Another one of my mantras in life is, ‘one day at a time’,” she said.
“We cannot become so captivated in quick success or quick change when we know the process takes time. I had to be patient and consistent with my actions and my small decisions added up over time would help me succeed.
“My advice would be to think of your trigger points and write them down. Make action steps to overcome them. Take things one day at a time and don’t get discouraged if you take a step or two backward.
“You can do anything you set your mind to. You just have to make the decision to change, and have belief you can do it.”
For more information: https://www.instagram.com/jlynnruggiero/
For guidance, please see: https://harmonyplace.com/resources/cooccurring-disorders/#process-addictions