My name is Angela. I am a survivor of an eating disorder. I am a former smoker. I am a personal trainer. This is my story.
I’ve been an athlete since I was 6, playing softball, volleyball and basketball for all the years I can remember. Playing volleyball in the backyard with my brother taught me that a volleyball in the face is not as bad as you think.
My junior year of high school I tore my ACL in a basketball game and sat the rest of the season out. I had surgery, recovered and was determined to play volleyball and basketball my senior year. And I did. I subsequently suffer from severe arthritis in my knees, and now my hips and hands.
My relationship with food changed during my senior year of high school. I started wishing I looked as good as other girls. I wondered what it would take to fit in those jeans. Within a few months, I found myself in the middle of an eating disorder that would stay with me forever.
I thought it was just my relationship with food but really, it was my relationship with me that was the problem.
Food became my savior and my biggest enemy at the same time. I gorged myself to cope with stress but didn’t gain weight thanks to bulimia. I could stuff myself full and feel safe knowing I’d purge it not long after. It was a vicious, vicious cycle that devastated my body.
My battle with bulimia would ebb and flow. At times, it bordered on uncontrollable. Like smoking, every (and I mean every) decision of the day revolved around food; eating it, getting rid of it, and finding more of it. And I had to do it all without anyone suspecting something was wrong. After nine years of binging and purging, my body and my mind were at a breaking point.
I had a choice. I could seek help and rehabilitation at an eating disorder facility surrounded by experts and doctors. Or I could take the reins and get my own chaos under control.
Healing from an eating disorder is a process, not a destination. My healing process started the day I decided to learn to eat again. A cracker today – stayed in my body. Two crackers tomorrow – stayed in my body. And the next day, it was two crackers and a piece of cheese. Of course there were setbacks. But every single time, I recommitted to getting clean.
Even though I was healing, I kept my eating disorder a secret for years. My parents mean the world to me, and I knew that going public about my eating disorder would break their hearts because they didn’t know about it, which meant they couldn’t help me. More than anything, I didn’t want to hurt them, so like many people, I kept my story a secret, only telling a select few people once I became a personal trainer.
My husband Michael and I got married in April of 2011. I was certainly walking a fine line; the stress of a destination wedding plus a WEDDING that I was in! I felt that strong desire to look great in my wedding dress. I was flirting with danger and I knew it. I stayed clean, but I drastically cut back on what I was eating for several months. It is a scary reminder that she is always with you, even when you are approaching the happiest day of your life.
The oil and gas company I worked for was very health conscious and promoted self-care, exercise, physical fitness. As a result, the company paid for my gym membership across the street, which was also a personal training school. The owner of the gym watched me come into his fitness center every day since January 2, 2013. In early February, the owner asked me to come be a student at his school. He said I would make a phenomenal personal trainer, but the cost of the schooling was $10,000. He was out of his mind! I didn’t have the time, money or desire to make a career change so drastically.
Every day, for 5 years, I told him no.
Fast forward to 2016 and a colleague of mine and I would collectively lay off nearly 75% of our company. I was spearheading a million-dollar project with a development team in Kentucky. As the project was ending, I had an inkling that I would soon be next for layoffs.
Knowing that my days at the company might be numbered, my husband sat me down one night and asked, “If money was not an issue, what would you do with your life?”
“I’d like to help people. I want to help them live and be their best version of themselves. I’d totally be a personal trainer.”
Now that my job was ending, I had the time. I certainly had the desire. And since we’d just paid off our credit card, we had the money – even if it was a line of credit.
In December of 2016, I paid for my tuition at the personal training school in full. I graduated with honors (98% or greater) in August 2017. I gave my 2 weeks’ notice at the oil and gas company and was hired on at a gym in Cherry Creek in September of 2017.
As a trainer, if you’re not training, you’re not making money. I worked 15-hour days, 6 days a week for 4 months building clientele. It took a long time, but was finally able to reduce my working hours in January of 2018 to 6 days a week with 11-12 hour days. By the end of 2018, I had over 100 active clients. I was selling training. I loved the gym. I loved my clients. I was on my way up.
And then the world shut down in March of 2020 thanks to COVID-19.
My husband watched $50k of revenue go off his books for March, April and May. My gym closed indefinitely.
I spent 8 days cleaning the house. Doing yardwork. Having wine. Making incredible breakfasts and dinners. Decluttering and organizing the basement. Having more wine. Crying. Watching my favorite movies in the middle of the day. I had planned a surprise 50th birthday party for Michael in March and sadly cancelled it. I had lost my purpose in life. I signed up to impact people’s lives and now I had no way to do it.
A client and friend of mine called me on March 19th. She said, “If you were to have virtual personal training classes, I would go to them.” My response was heartbroken. Because I did not have a computer and we had NO money and now no income and no room on our credit cards to buy a computer. And she said, “I’m working in Parker tomorrow. I have an extra 2014 ASUS computer. It’s yours if you want it.”
I picked it up from her in a blizzard on March 20th. I sent out a couple of text messages to all my regular clients and asked if I started up these classes, would they go? Unanimously, yes. I sat there and stared at their responses. And I knew as soon as I sent out meeting links to join my sessions that I had to follow through. The instant I hit send meant I was committing.
I held my first ever Zoom personal training class on March 25th. It took me 9 days to find my purpose again.
I set my classes up as free for anyone who wanted to join and I took donations. My clients and friends and family were incredible. Generous, kind, giving, empathetic. Many of my clients do not have any equipment at home and the internet sold out quickly. As time went on, I got used to being in front of a camera and instructing from my home studio which had been STRICTLY used for decoration until then!
When I meet with a new client for the first time, the conversation is always the same. I ask the questions. They give the answers. We then determine as a collective if we are a fit to work together. I offer my story about why I became a personal trainer.
I left the oil and gas industry making 6 figures for the first (and maybe only) time in my life. But I had no purpose. I wasn’t impacting anyone’s lives. I wasn’t helping humanity. I wasn’t doing anything to make the world a better place.
My mom worked in hospice care for over 25 years. And she helped people die. I knew I couldn’t do THAT. But I could help people live.
And the truth is – if you’ve ever known anyone who went into hospice care or worked in the field of hospice care – my mom didn’t help people die. She helped them live. She helped them live through the final phase of their life. She gave them a gift of transitioning peacefully and painlessly and cared for and surrounded by those that care. I decided to help them at a different phase of their lives.
That’s what gets me out of bed each and every morning.