Today is my 31st birthday. I still cannot believe how quickly the first 31 years of my life have passed. It is completely true that the older you get, the faster the years tick by. My thirties have been amazing so far! I have gotten married, traveled a ton, started my private practice, opened myself up to consulting work, and started working with eating disorder patients and athletes – my two passions as a registered dietitian.
I am so grateful for all that has happened in my life and for where I am now. I have never felt more mentally and emotionally strong and confident. Some of the things I struggled with throughout my 20’s made me into the person that I am today. Probably the most significant event of my early teens and 20’s, was my struggles with food and my body. There were obviously other struggles and events as well, such as breakups, living in 3 different states, family complications, and losing touch with friends; all of which have molded me into the person that I am now.
Today, as I reflect on what I have learned in 31 years, these lessons have a lot to do with what I have endured and recovered from. Here are the top 10:
- I am so much more than what I look like – our fatphobic society does a great job making us believe that what we look like physically is the most important thing. From shaming overweight individuals to glamourizing eating disorders; we are taught from a young age to hate food and our bodies. It took me a long time to learn that I had so much more to offer than what my body looks like.
- My body is an amazing machine – even with everything I put my body through, it has 100% healed and works like the machine that it truly is. Humans suffer illnesses, diseases, and injuries, but our bodies constantly fight back to keep us alive and healthy. Today, I do workouts that I enjoy to keep that machine running smoothly and healthfully.
- I can push myself farther than I once thought – during the 7 weekends that I traveled with CCM Hockey, I worked 7 days a week. Most weekends after getting home at midnight or 1:00 a.m., I had to be up by 5:00 to head to work the next day. There were many weeks I thought “I can’t do this”, because I was mentally and physically exhausted. Yet, week after week, I was able to push myself and get through every difficult time. The same is true of the 5 marathons I completed and the daily fight of recovery.
- I don’t have to have all the answers – I was petrified to start my business, but it had always been a goal of mine. It is easier now than ever to do this, but it is still terrifying. I would tell my husband, “I’m not smart enough to do this”. He would remind me that I didn’t need to be a genius; I just had to start. So, that is exactly what I did. Sometimes, I have no clue what I am doing… I just do at least one thing for my business every day and I learn as I go.
- I would rather have a few great friends, than a lot of so-so friends – I have a handful of really close friends that I know would do anything for me. Throughout my eating disorder I lost touch with lots of different “friends” that came in and out of my life. However, that handful of really close friends that I have now never left my side and have provided constant support.
- I thrive with a great support system – the decision to marry my husband is one of the best I have ever made. He has provided constant support; through helping me with my eating habits, to encouraging me to quit my job and start my own business. I also have amazing parents and in-laws that are not only so much fun to be around, but provide me with so much love and joy it is indescribable.
- Great conversations are so healing and impactful to relationships – I love having those deep and meaningful conversations that only you and the other person understand. It is so important to have someone in your life that you respect and trust to have these kinds of conversations with. They help to solidify and connect your relationship more than anything else.
- I need time alone – I spend a lot of time alone and I am comfortable doing so. When I have been around a lot of people for a week or even a weekend, I know that when I get home I will need some alone time to unwind. I even enjoy weekends alone when my husband goes hunting or to a work conference; which is something I never thought I would be able to do.
- Until I made my passion my job, I was not going to be fulfilled in my professional life – I have worked in every arena of nutrition – clinical, community, foodservice – but I always knew I wanted to work with athletes and individuals struggling with eating disorders. Every position I had where this was not the focus, I felt distracted and unhappy. I finally listened to that voice, took responsibility for my professional happiness, and made the decision to make my passion my job.
- Being self-employed is extremely difficult, but completely rewarding – I have always had jobs where all the resources I needed were right at my fingertips. Being self-employed is not like that. It feels like you are starting from scratch and fighting to get the answers you need. When I was just getting started (which I still am) I literally took it one day at a time and learned through every mistake – I still make a ton! But being able to help someone feel better about themselves by quitting dieting, or seeing an athlete excel after explaining to them what to eat before a competition, has been the best reward in my professional career so far.
I invite you and encourage you to reflect on all that you have learned during each of your birthdays. It is so interesting to look back at how much you have changed in just one year. It is also amazing to think about all the people you have impacted and set personal goals for your next year of life. I believe birthdays are more of a “fresh start” than the new year. You have your own personal end dates to your goals; one of which should be to improve year after year.