What’s Holding You Back? A Trainer’s Struggle with Chronic Illness.

Obstacles. Everybody has them. Yes, even that person you know who seems to have everything together and is constantly posting perfectly posed photos of their life online followed by some inspirational words and a quick “#blessed”. Knowing that this is true, why is it so hard for each of us to admit when we have challenges? I am certainly guilty of this myself so today I want to get a bit more vulnerable and talk about one of my biggest obstacles as a health and wellness professional: Hypothyroidism.

What is hypothyroidism? I could bore you with a lot of medical mumbo-jumbo, but suffice it to say that the thyroid is a gland that controls your metabolism. When it isn’t working properly, it can lead to all sorts of health complications such as a compromised immune system, fatigue, muscle aches, feeling cold all the time, trouble sleeping, stomach issues, depression, anxiety, inexplicable weight gain, brain fog…the list goes on and on. It may all seem like a random assortment of symptoms, but they can really be crippling in the life of someone with this disease.

To see where this all ties in to my story, let’s jump back about 3 years. I was studying to become a personal trainer and, as you can imagine, my health and physical fitness was a top priority for me. I worked hard in the gym and ate well, as I had for years, but suddenly I found myself having gained 30 pounds over just 3 months. I was constantly tired, cold, and foggy. I was also devastated. Where had the weight gain come from? How could this happen when I was doing everything right? Several blood tests and doctor visits later I had my answer–hypothyroidism. To be honest, all I had really heard about this disease in the past had been jokes. People calling it an excuse people use when they are too lazy to work out or eat well. I told my family and some close friends and, while most were supportive, I now found myself the butt of those same jokes. A personal trainer being told she’s just too lazy to be in shape–my heart was broken. How could I expect clients to trust me if I didn’t look the part? Who would ever want to hire me?

There was a period of wallowing, but finally I decided to take control back. Was it fair that I now had to work with this illness for the rest of my life? That my dream job involves a judgement of my value based on my appearance and it is now 10 times harder for me to look the part of a trainer than it is for someone without a chronic condition? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean that I just get to give up. I owed it to myself to push through and, despite a lot of tears and frustration, I was able to listen to my body, lose the weight I had gained, and better understand the struggle that so many of my clients are facing today. I still struggle with feeling like I don’t always look the part of a fitness professional, but overall I am proud of where I am, I know that I provide my clients with amazing results, and any judgement of my ability based on looks are baseless.

I don’t know what your specific obstacle is that is standing in the way of your goals (fitness related or not), but here are a few things I do know. I know that you deserve to reach your full potential. I know that having to fight for what you want makes it that much sweeter when you finally achieve it. I know that it can be discouraging, painful, and frustrating when things aren’t as easy as they seem for others, but that is no excuse to just give up. You might just find that what you are struggling with will be the thing that makes you special and puts you in a position to help someone else down the road. Keep pushing, keep fighting, and your effort will never betray you.