Unlike many eating disorders, Sophie Vershbow’s didn’t start with dieting to lose weight. Instead, she went on a senior trip to Ecuador and had so much fun that she didn’t realize she’d lost 10 pounds in a month’s time. When she got home, she received lots of compliments from well-meaning friends and family members who noticed her weight loss. This confidence boost fueled a strong desire to maintain her new, lower weight, and an obsession was born. In no time, her weight had dropped to just 98 pounds.
Sophie’s eating disorder took on the hauntingly common characteristic that many men and women experience: she felt that eating was one of the few things she had control over, while in reality, the disorder was rapidly taking control of her. As she ate less and less, she had less energy, and she quit working out altogether, further fueling her need to desperately cut calories to keep her weight constant.
At this point, Sophie finally realized she needed help. Antidepressants boosted her mood, but combined with plenty of the alcohol and junk food so common in college settings, the pounds began to return. Gaining 40 pounds was just what her body needed, but her eating disorder wouldn’t let her accept it. To counteract this weight gain, she turned to bulimia. Once she graduated, her unhealthy cycle continued. Although she appeared healthy to outsiders – eating an apparently nutritious diet and going to the gym regularly – she was trapped in a cycle of bingeing and purging when no one was looking.
A life-saving new perspective on working out
Around this time, Sophie says that her workouts consisted of “sweating joylessly” on the elliptical trainer until she reached her calorie-burning goal. However, one fateful New Year’s Eve, she resolved to try a new workout class each week. This goal turned out to be the incredible catalyst she needed to change her dangerous habits.
As she tried new exercise routines, she rediscovered how fun working out could be. She particularly enjoyed strength training and how its aim involved getting stronger, not just burning calories or punishing herself for eating. Zumba was another favorite, and she began to create healthy friendships while participating in these exciting classes.
As her fitness increased, Sophie signed up for a race. As anyone who’s ever done any serious running knows, you can’t starve yourself and train hard as a runner. She was determined to reach her goals, and she began viewing food as fuel for her body, not reward or punishment for anything she had or hadn’t done. She even survived a devastating breakup without regressing, channeling her emotions into running instead of food.
In 2015, Sophie completed the New York City Marathon. It gave her such a sense of accomplishment that she began to feel like she had control over her body again. She had begun to appreciate her body, including how strong and healthy it was and all the things it was capable of – and she found herself wanting to protect and nourish it rather than hurting it. Her new, healthy way of thinking has given way to more races and a passion for exercise and its ability to encourage and empower women and men with body positivity and greater overall happiness.
Experimenting with different types of exercise helped Sophie build a positive self-image and transform an unhealthy and self-defeating lifestyle. Which goals will it help you reach?