My favorite game growing up was playing with Barbies. I have three brothers, so I never had to share them, and any given afternoon you could find me brushing and braiding Barbie’s hair, changing her outfits, and basically dreaming I could be her (fun fact: we share the same last name, so we’re probably cousins).

The trouble with wanting to be Barbie, of course, is the fact that I was human sized and not extra extra extra small.

So, I tried to squeeze myself into the mold and began my first diet at age 12 in seventh grade. In social studies I sat next to the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen: a ballerina with dark curly hair, dark skin, and bright blue eyes. I was convinced that if I weighed myself every day, I could eventually be as beautiful as she. So every afternoon after school I’d either do exercise videos or run. I was rigid about each piece of food that went into my body.

To the rest of the world, I mostly hid how much I thought about my image and decided to just dissociate from my body altogether when I went to college to study Biomedical Engineering.

That’s when my perfectionism about body, brain, and image came to a crashing halt.

I was stronger than any girl I knew, more aware of any food that came into my body, and smart, but the pressure to be perfect was so overwhelming.

I focused more on getting straight A’s than learning the material. The devastating failure that I couldn’t always be perfect sent me into a tailspin and into a full blown health crisis.

You’d think this was an awakening point for me, but transformation didn’t come. As I sank into a darker place, I begin gaining weight.

The weight was a placeholder for emotions I didn’t know how to unravel. It was a literal, physical anchor for me on Earth when I wanted to numb out. It forced me to physically take up space when I wasn’t able or willing to do so with my soul and spirit. It protected me from unwanted sexual attention, and gave me invisibility when I needed the solitude to come back to myself.

So I entered the dieting dilemma. I gained and lost and gained and lost weight entering into a roller coaster ride from hell. My diet cycle included being vegan, eliminating food to just juice, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, paleo, to just name a few. If you’ve been on a diet, I’ve either heard of it or been on it too.

Finally, years later, I hit rock bottom and I stopped fighting with myself and food. I started listening to my body and honoring the food that I wanted and needed, I started doing my work and expanded my routine at CrossFit. I remember the day my trainer told me that my thighs were MADE to squat. I accepted who I was and realized my lifelong journey wasn’t about food. It was about finding myself.

I found my way and promised not only to reclaim and remain healthy, but to help those that have lost their way.

I’ve had some wonderful experiences and I’ve opened a successful CrossFit gym, taught mobile yoga, and launched online coaching and classes to women that have experienced my struggle.

Currently, I’m studying to get my PhD in Psychology and Somatic Studies and my lifelong commitment is to remind women that you can be heard, understand and accepted and oh yeah, it’s not about the food.