Real talk happening in 3…2…1…
I want to get real honest with you today. There’s been something I’ve neglected talking about for about 4 years because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had a problem. But today, I think I need to tell you about something that I was extremely ashamed of. I want to talk to you about my experience with extreme dieting and…
…my eating disorder.
Remember how I was in a bikini competition 4 years ago?
The first time I walked on stage in my leopard bikini.
The butt shot.
It took about 8 weeks for me to drop 16 pounds. That’s about 2 lbs a week, which they say is very healthy and safe, so I was proud of myself. But what I was not proud of was how I did it and how I felt for the next 2 years.
4 years ago, I was a younger Cassey who had just moved back to CA from Boston after quitting my job. I was eager to reinvent myself and start a new. I was reading a bunch of blogs about weight lifting and discovered this community of girls who did Bikini Competitions. Not the Miss USA kind, but one that was based solely on muscularity and body composition.
I was slightly intrigued by the sparkly bikinis and the toned abs and round bootys. I thought they were so pretty, so fit, so confident. I was like, I wonder if I could get myself to that level? Could I do it? It’d be my own personal challenge.
Those 8 weeks for some of the most wonderful and terrible times of my life.
It was late February and I hired a retired bodybuilder who owned a gym in the area and asked if he could get me bikini competition ready by April. He said yes he could. So the personal training sessions began.
He had me working out for 4 hours a day on top of me teaching my fitness classes because “those didn’t count.” I did weights and cardio with him in the morning for 3 hours and then did my own cardio at home in the evening for 1 hour.
He also planned out my meal plan. This was what I was allowed to eat:
- chicken breast
- egg whites
- protein powder
If I wanted any flavor, a squeeze of lemon was ok.
I was also allowed to ration out 10 raw, unsalted almonds a day. 1 gallon of water a day. 2 gallons of water on Wednesdays.
Also, he had me take a papaya enzyme pill once a day to help my digestives. Let me tell you, that sweet little pill was the best part of my day. It was so sweet. Sometimes I would sneak 2 pills and hope that the extra calories wouldn’t show on the scale.
We weighed in every morning. Weight loss was applauded, while weight gain meant I had to stay longer at the gym.
I worked out about 6-7 days a week. I think rest days meant 1 hr on the elliptical.
During this whole process, I could see my body changing and it was the coolest thing ever to see those Victoria’s Secret ab lines come in! I was like WOAHHH it’s working! I also liked that my thigh gap was getting bigger.
I was lifting super crazy heavy and squatting with two 45 lb plates on the bar until my knees almost felt like they were going to split apart. But butt however, didn’t really get much bigger no matter how much squat jumps, stairs, stairmaster routines, or heavy squats I did.
Overall, I was very pleased with my body. Maybe too pleased. I was so vanity-driven. But…how was I feeling?
When I started posting my progress pics on my blog, people were congratulating me for how I looked. AND I LOVED IT. It kept me going longer and harder at the gym. But no one ever asked me how I felt. In fact, I would often disregard how I was actually feeling just so I could get to my goal. All I wanted to do well at the Bikini show. Place top 5, maybe.
But looking back, I have to tell you…I felt so empty.
Empty described how my stomach felt. Empty described how my brain felt. Empty described how my friendships and relationships felt. I also a very angry person who would snap easily. This is not a Cassey characteristic.
Because all I was doing was working out and eating literally nothing, I couldn’t think. I was at 1000 calories a day. It was tough for me to get creative. I wasn’t designing. I wasn’t drawing. It was tough for me to even blog. I just felt like I never had time. I couldn’t ever go eat out with friends.
As the weeks went by and the days drew nearer and nearer to the competition date, my coach would get stricter and stricter on me. I remember walking in one morning and telling him that my stomach didn’t feel good. I was super constipated. Maybe it was all the protein I was having.
He put me on the scale and saw that I had not dropped weight. (Well obviously, I hadn’t pooped in a few days!) He got mad and asked what I was eating. I said tilapia and iceburg lettuce with a squeeze of lemon. Right then and there we said THAT’S IT!
“That’s what?” I said.
“Lettuce has way too many carbs. Why are you eating that? That’s why you can’t lose weight.”
As cloudy as my head was about 7 weeks into this, even then I knew he was crazy…Lettuce has too many carbs?!!!
But I only needed him for a few more days so I thought, whatever, I’m just going to keep taking his advice til the end. I’ve already gone this far. Almost there.
2 days before the competition, he was really concerned with the little bit of fat I still had on my lower belly. He wanted to dehydrate the life out of me. This is exactly what he prescribed:
- the day before the competition I needed to do 1 hr of cardio
- sit in the sauna for 45 min
- drink only 8 oz of water
- take diuretic pills to make me pee out all of the water in my body
He wanted me to basically turn into a living prune. Because, the less water you have in your body, the less space there is between your skin and your muscle. This creates the effect of looking more toned.
I actually bought the dehydration pills, believe it or not. I also did the cardio, the sauna, and the 8 oz of water. But last minute, I was too scared to take the pills. I was scared I might die. Thank goodness I listened to the shred of light that was still within me.
So the day of the competition came. My family and my friends came to support me in my oddly tanned body and leopard bikini. I was the obvious newbie. All the other girls knew exactly what was up. They looked at me with their huge eyelashes, big hair, bright nails, and huge boobs and asked, “Who’s your trainer!!?? How much weight did you have to lose to be here?” I’m not saying all bikini comps are catty, but most pageants I’ve competed in, they’ve all kind of been like this. I mean, we’re all here for the same reason – to win the crown. Or, the trophy in this case.
When I got on stage and lined myself up against all the other girls, I suddenly felt like a piece of meat. Wait, why was I putting myself in this position to be physically judged against other girls based solely on the size of my waist, the roundness of my butt, the perkiness of my boobs? I’m thinking…wait they’re not going to get to know me first? But I’m a good person!
The line up.
The line up butt shot.
I didn’t walk away with a trophy that night. It was ok though, because all I wanted was to have a slice of cheesecake sooooo badly. You guys know I love cheesecake. Plus I hadn’t YOLO’d in 8 weeks. My family and friends took me out for cheesecake. The moment the cheesecake touched my lips, it was like heaven x 800 billion.
But the moments after were pure agony. I cramped so hard and had to curl into fetal position in the car for a couple hours before I could walk again. My stomach wasn’t ready. I cried. It had been starved for so long that it didn’t know how to react to cheesecake.
This is actually a real symptom of starvation. Some people even throw up after starving for so long that once they eat something, their stomachs completely reject it.
Now, you would probably think that I was able to nourish myself back to a healthy state of mind and body and get on with life post-bikini competition right?
Well this is the part that I’ve been avoiding telling you for the past 4 years because I am so ashamed of the sick mentality I had afterwards.
Guys, for a year and a half after my bikini competition I had a form of an eating disorder, some form of extreme orthorexia – the eating disorder of being obsessed with eating healthy food.
I kid you not, I was afraid of apples. I didn’t want to have anything to do with any type of fruit because I thought they had too many carbs and sugars. I thought they would make me fat. And I couldn’t even fathom having grains. Grains meant fatness guaranteed.
I kept restricting my food the way I had when I was on the bikini competition diet except now I had a little hot sauce again. I was eating full eggs with yolk instead of egg whites. I had sweet potatoes once in a while. I also decided to work out for about 1 – 1.5 hrs a day like a normal human. These were all healthy things.
But, I KEPT GAINING WEIGHT.
This process was so terrible because I was gaining weight before your eyes on YouTube, on the blog, on Instagram. People kept commenting “Is Cassey getting fatter?” “Why is Cassey gaining weight?”
Because of the pressure from social media and the pressure on myself, I tried to restrict even more. I mean, it used to work before, so why doesn’t it work now?
But no matter what I did, I KEPT GAINING.
A year later, I decided the heck with it, I’m just going to eat whatever I want. So I had pizza, Chinese food, lots of rice, boba, cake – whatever I wanted. I ate that on the daily. I also got so unmotivated that I stopped working out too. And guess what. I didn’t gain weight or lose weight. I was like what!?? My metabolism is broken! I was so confused and lost.
But eventually, that way of life started affecting my YouTube videos. It got harder and harder to film a video. I was huffing and puffing and felt so weak.
Now, I was super ashamed and embarrassed…not only was my physical appearance diminishing, so was my actual strength – the thing that REALLY MATTERED.
I had always taken my strength for granted. I thought it would always be there for me and that all I would need to focus on were my looks so that the public wouldn’t judge me so much any more. But it was that moment when I was filming “Flat Stomach Fat Melter” that I knew I had to get back to working out. But not for vanity…for me, my health, and my joy.
That’s also when I realized that I needed to eat for my energy, for nourishment, for happiness, and not for my looks. And that CARBS AREN’T BAD!
It was that switch in my mindset that changed everything.
I am so happy to say that 4 years after my Bikini competition, I’ve healed myself by loving myself and respecting myself again.
As a fitness instructor in the public eye, I know why I felt so pressured to look like every other fitness model out there. It’s almost impossible to not think…If only I had abs, people would like me more. If only my butt were bigger, more people would do my butt workouts.
You know, I understand that there is truth in that. But I also know that vanity and the physical shell only lasts for so long. I can’t base my career and my life off of how I look. Because looks will deteriorate with time. And I don’t want to deteriorate with time. Because with time, your mind gets wiser.
It’s been PROVEN that people who diet by restricting foods usually gain all their weight back and even more. It’s just not sustainable. As you can see, my body acted like a sponge after my 8 week bikini competition. PLEASE use me as an example and DO NOT put yourself and your body through that torture.
And I am so happy I have my healthy and happy brain back. It was literally THE WORST not being able to think and hating life for the sake of 6 pack abs, that well, never even came. And you know how tough my core workouts are! I just never had 6 pack abs. And who knows if I ever will…but I can bet you that my ab strength can out-crunch a lot of people who have 6 packs. And that’s something I am proud of and that no one can take away from me.
At my best, I had pretty lines on stomach, but even at my lowest weight, I still thought I was fat. The body image disorder was the spring board for the ED.
I want you guys to also take a step back and ask yourself, why am I working out? Why am I “dieting”? Is it for looks purely? Because if so, you need to refocus that energy on something else if you want your new body to last. Like strength. Or skill. Or joy.
I recently watched this video called #WeighThis by Lean Cuisine and it was so beautiful. The video showed a bunch of women who were asked if they wanted to be weighed by their body weight or weighed by something else. I loved it so much when the women were lead to the scale, they decided to put their textbooks, diplomas, and their backpacks on the scale. A huge thank you to Lean Cuisine for inspiring me to share my own personal story.
I was like YESSS!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!
Can people stop judging each other by how much they weigh or how they look and start respecting people for who they are and what they do?
Like seriously, does having more 6 packs in the world make it a better place or does having more environmental scientists help us save our world for future generations? I think we can all agree that it’s the latter.
So I am making the pledge to NEVER EVER go on a restrictive diet again. And I want you to make this pledge too. Promise that you will eat for your health and eat for you energy, not for your looks. Treat your body with respect and feed it good, whole food, please.
I hope you guys enjoyed this video and learn from the mistakes that I made. Comment below and tell me what you would rather be weighed by other than your weight.
Love you so much!