Getting healthy takes bravery, and so does sharing one’s transformation story with others. That’s why we were so excited to chat with Brenda of Candied Chocolate about her struggle with bulimia, and her subsequent journey to a healthy lifestyle. Learning how to be healthy is all about finding balance and cultivating a healthy respect for one’s own body. Brenda told us what it finally took for her to take her health seriously, and how she manages to find balance today.
1. Take us through a brief overview of your transformation.
At the age of sixteen I became bulimic and for the next nine years struggled fighting it. It was only after I found my passion in fitness that I was able to fully recover. What I am going to say now will perhaps sound incomprehensible, but if I could turn back time and change my fate, I wouldn’t. Yes, those long bulimic years were horrible. Yes, I suffered. But I had to destroy my body before I could learn to love it. Bulimia made me who I am today. It turned me into a warrior and that warrior will never be defeated again. I’m now four years bulimia-free and I couldn’t be more proud of myself and of the woman I’ve become.
2. What finally made you decide to get serious about your health?
Good question. You see, I’d always wanted to be a mom. But I knew that if I continued binging and purging, I would seriously reduce my chances of getting pregnant one day. The thought of me not being able to have kids was just terrifying. And that was my wake-up call. So one day, I woke up and decided it was time that I stop purging, that I stop hurting my body. I literally went cold turkey. Now many people ask me how I managed to do that. Honestly? I’m not quite sure. But my boyfriend – who’s now my husband – was a huge help and support to me.
3. What’s your morning routine?
Every day I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare for my 6:00 a.m. gym session. It’s a challenge but it’s definitely doable if you go to bed at a reasonable hour and you prepare your gym bag the day before. I work out from 6:00 a.m. to 7:15 a.m., and at around 7:30 a.m. I’m back home. I then prepare and eat my breakfast, which is probably my favorite part of my morning. I mean, who doesn’t love eating breakfast food? Then I shower, get dressed, and by 8:30 a.m. I head to the office.
4. Tell us about a few of your favorite healthy meals that are quick and easy to make?
For breakfast, I love having overnight oats. It’s so easy to make — you just add oats, almond milk, peanut butter, some fruits to a mason jar and you let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and voilà. For lunch, you can never go wrong with chicken or fish, brown rice and grilled or fresh or steamed veggies. And for dinner, I love nothing more than a big salad (spinach, tomatoes, cucumber) with cottage cheese, chickpeas, avocado, and a whole wheat toast. But if I’m out of cottage cheese, I’ll make myself some veggie dogs with grilled veggies. They’re so delicious!
5. How do you approach days when you just don’t feel like being completely healthy?
If I don’t feel like being completely healthy it’s probably because both my body and mind are tired. So, I cut myself some slack. I’ll still try and have as many nutrient-dense meals as possible, but I’ll also have that donut or cupcake I’m craving. I don’t believe in deprivation of anything and I don’t believe in strict diets. If you want to be successful in leading a healthy lifestyle, you need to be able to take a break. You need to learn how to practice balance.
6. What are some of your favorite sources of health and fitness inspiration?
Nowadays, a lot of people turn to social media for health and fitness inspiration. I’m, however, very careful about that as I find there’s lots of misleading information out there. I prefer turning to professionals — so personal trainers at my gym, local registered dietitians, chiropractors, you name it. I also love doing research by reading books and scientific journals. But I also love reading magazines; I’m a woman after all 🙂 My favorite ones are: Shape, Women’s Health and Inside Fitness Women.
7. Do you still set goals for yourself? If so, what’s your process?
I do. For instance, I recently decided to gain muscle. So I sought help from a registered dietician. I love having someone guide me and having someone I can stay accountable to. Further, I think it’s important to have one big goal and be able to break it down into smaller goals. In other words, you need to be aware what smaller goals will help you navigate your way towards the big one.
8. What advice would you give to someone who wants to eat healthy and stay fit, but has suffered from disordered eating in the past?
Seek professional help. There are so many professionals out there – from dietitians to nutritional therapists to personal trainers – who can help you and guide you in the right direction. As mentioned earlier, I would be very cautious about following the advice of fitness influencers. A lot of them sell workout and nutritional plans without having any sort of degree or certification. That’s some dangerous territory. So the morale of this story: Find someone you can trust with your health!
Brenda is a 29-year-old marketing guru and blogger. She currently works for AskMen, a men’s lifestyle publication, and runs her blog Candied Chocolate, a personal blog on fitness, food, health, and wellness. She also happens to be a strong advocate for self-love and self-acceptance. Her main goal in life is to be healthy and happy, and to help others be the same.