I didn’t know it at the time, but my journey to becoming a health coach began when I was a teen. Like most of my friends, I wanted to be thin. Although I wasn’t overweight, I thought I needed to lose 15 pounds to look like the models, actresses, and everyday hot girls that all the guys seemed to want. I cared a lot about how other people saw me, and I regularly evaluated my body in front of the mirror. I was convinced that my stomach wasn’t flat enough, my butt wasn’t tight enough, and my thighs weren’t shapely enough.
So, I dove into “healthy eating” – which really meant that I dove into obsessing over calories. Every day, I kept a mental running count of the number of calories I’d consumed. This continuous adding, along with the ever-present goal of making sure my total stayed acceptably low, took every bit of spare energy I had.
The point of all of my calorie-counting was to achieve another goal – to lower the number on the scale. I weighed myself regularly, and my sense of self-worth was tied up with whether the number went down, up, or stayed the same.
As high school came to a close, I developed a clear vision of the new-and-improved Annette that I wanted to be in college. I wanted College Annette to be known for how healthy she was, because by this point in my journey, in addition to equating “healthy” with “the path to a perfect body,” I had also equated it with “virtuous.” So, I went to college with a list of rules about what I could and couldn’t eat, and set the goal of being a “perfect healthy eater.”
My freshman year, I signed up for a nutrition class. As I learned more, my food rules became stricter – and harder to follow, causing me to feel stressed and deprived. I made a show of choosing “good” foods while eating with other people, but I began secretly bingeing on “bad” foods. Why? Because they were off limits, and I was stressed, and food was comforting when life got tough.
I felt incredible shame around my secret eating behaviors. I was supposed to be a perfect healthy eater – I couldn’t let the world know that I often felt out of control with food. I beat myself up for being weak and having no willpower. I thought that if I just tried hard enough, I could overcome my challenges and become the ideal Annette that I’d built up in mind. And try I would – but the next time life got tough, I went right back to food, and subsequently, back to self-loathing.
Looking back, I marvel that I deceived myself into thinking that everyone viewed me as a perfect healthy eater – because all of that binge-eating resulted in 30 pounds of weight gain during college.
My unhealthy relationship with food continued through my 20s, at the same time that my career in health education was blossoming. Professionally, I accomplished a lot, but I felt a deep sense of shame around my struggle. I continued to think that I needed to be a perfect role model for healthy eating in front of others. This meant I that I still secretly binge-ate, although not as often as before. I slowly lost the weight I had put on in college, but it wasn’t until I experienced a dramatic shift in the way I viewed food – and myself – that I truly began the path to healing.
There were many factors that contributed to overcoming my disordered relationship with food and body, but at the crux of all of it was the realization that I am worthy, exactly as I am. Once I understood that all human beings, including me, are worthy, just as we are (regardless of our imperfections or what we’ve eaten today), a profound shift occurred inside me. I stopped beating myself up for all of the ways I thought I wasn’t good enough, and learned to practice self-compassion. I began to experiment with mindful eating. Food became a source of nourishment and pleasure instead of a way to measure how virtuous (or pathetic) I was.
I now eat whatever I want, and I’m happier – and healthier – than ever. I’ve discovered that giving myself permission to eat and enjoy what I want means that I want healthy foods most of the time, because they make me feel great. And when I eat chocolate cake? I take genuine pleasure in every bite, without an ounce of guilt. I’ve found that when I eat to nourish my body, mind, and soul, my food fuels me to fully live this life that I love. And now, my mission is to help you discover this same confidence and ease with eating (and living!) – without the years of struggle.
My Professional Creds
Annette Sloan is a mind-body-nutrition coach, speaker, and award-winning educator who helps teen girls and women to take a wholehearted approach to health, self-acceptance and positive body image. She’s passionate about helping her clients to embrace their inner and outer beauty so that they’re confident and courageous. She has over 13 years’ experience in motivating youth and adults to create healthier lives. As a counselor and then director of a weight-loss camp for overweight kids, she discovered the joy of helping young people to view themselves in a positive light. Later, as a wellness teacher, she developed and taught a health curriculum to over 300 students and created an award-winning healthy school culture. She has consulted for many organizations committed to healthy living, including LiveWell Colorado and Action for Healthy Kids. Annette earned her B.A. from the University of Denver and is a Certified Mind-Body-Nutrition Coach through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (IPE). Her business is based in Colorado, and she works virtually with clients across the country. In her free time, Annette loves to read, practice yoga, and hang out with her husband and their sweet American Bulldog, Annie.