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6 months challenge recap -or how i got called out anorexic in front of a table full of employees

“Steph, I am going to have a dad moment and ask you: Are you okay? You look so skinny, are you starving yourself?”

What. the fuck. I barely had the time to sit on my chair, in the middle of the bar full of employees from our studio, before being greet by that accusatory inquisition. I don’t know if I was more shocked by the fact this man was judging my weight when he clearly shouldn’t or by the fact he was doing it publicly -in front of a dozen of my coworkers that were now staring at me, a mixture of curiosity and disbelief in their eyes.

“What? I stopped drinking, eating sugar and I have been working out everyday since the past 6 months. It's hard.” 

How did we end up with me having to justify myself is a mystery, but I was so in shock that I didn’t knew what else to do. I had never even thought once that I looked sick or anorexic, so my brain was spinning trying to figure out if I had missed some obvious clues that could make people see me that way.

One girl jumped-in to say I looked great, visibly also shocked by the fact this guy had give himself permission to shine a light on someone else's weight, in front of the whole crew -A professional faux pas.

“No, you look great. But I mean, just stop, don’t lose anymore weight. I am just concerned you are starving yourself.”

The more he spoke, the more I felt attacked. I was sitting in front of him, in total disbelief, my brain now cycling from self-doubt (i didn’t want to look sick) to anger at how unprofessional he was.

5 months earlier, I decided to challenge myself for six months- on many different levels. I set up several goals and objectives and kept a journal of it, adding more challenges as I got better and better with my new improved routine. I was doing this to become a better version of myself -but deep down, it was probably also so I could stay busy and mute the negative feelings that everyone had told me would start to creep in. Prior to my Round the world, I had read lots of blogs and books about the subject, too- I knew that the post long-travel blues was a thing that I would need to be pro-active about, as soon as I got back to my normal life. 6 months in, since I was back, and with the winter in full-blown mode, I was starting to miss my travel life -a lot.  One night, as I sat with myself in the middle of an apartment I didn’t even like, I realized that not enjoying my daily life and just waiting for the next trips to come would be a massive lost of my time -and a recipe for disaster. You probably know by now that I am not a martyr. If I can find a solution to be happy, that is always the path I will choose. Sitting through the days and surviving just until my next holidays was not an option.

So, on December 31, I set up several challenges to make my day-to-day more fun -or at least more meaningful. I broke down those challenges in 6 sections: Fitness, Finance, Self-Improvement, Relationship, Career and Adventure. For each areas, I set up goals and monthly, weekly and daily habits to reach them. 

Lots of these goals intertwined or influenced each-others, and almost all of them were driven by my most important one: Adventure. My financial goals were obviously aimed at upcoming travels and my ultimate objective of a second round the world in 2026. Because of that, they started to drive my career goals - getting a raise would obviously be helpful to reach my financial targets even faster. I wanted to get a substantial raise- and to get it I had to do substantially more for the company. So, I decided to add AI classes to my list of Self-improvement goals -slowly drawing the path of how to step up at work, with that new expertise in bank. I was going to aim at becoming an AI Strategist for the company -which would in return help me justify asking for more money, which would help me achieve my financial goals faster, which would allow me to travel more -everything was fitting into place.

Physically, passing from moving every single day on my trip to being in front of a screen 8-5 weekly, had take a toll on me.

I know my body, and I know that my weight has always been around 125 lbs. I know I am thin. I was always thin and I never thought or said that I wasn’t, at any point in my life. But- After 6 months of being back from holiday, i was now at 140. I felt less energetic, my hip (that we remember has a metal plate and screws in it, due to an accident) was often hurting and I wasn’t even able to do one single push-up. I was not well in my body -not because of how i looked -but because of how i felt. My physical goals were to go back to my usual 125lbs and to build muscles -like have abs or be able to pull myself up, for once in my life. I wanted to be strong, to be toned, to be able to add years to all the adventures I had in mind.

So, I setup several challenges to help me attained those goals:

First, I would stop drinking for 6 months. Not a single glass. This goal was going to be helpful for the weight loss, but also for my mental health. We all know alcohol is a depressant- and god knows it depresses me when I come back alone after a party, while all my friends go back to their long-term partners. Like I said above- I am not a martyr, so cutting that was going to be beneficial to get the energy and positivism to achieve all my goals.

Second, I would clean my house of all sugars and processed foods. I would start eating well (whole-grains, veggies, fruits, nuts and proteins) and only allow myself a few cheat days to indulge in my real addiction: chocolate. If you don’t believe that chocolate can be an addiction, here are a few examples: I used to eat melted chipits with a spoon, daily. At some point, it got so bad that I was eating one bag a day. During September of last year- I was also eating about 6 lindt balls per day (even if my goal was to eat one, i couldn’t fight the urge to have one more.) At some point, i even thought about buying a safe to put my sweet love in. But after lots of readings: the only way to succesfully manage chocolate for me was to only get it when it was my cheat day- and have it OUTSIDE of my house.

Third, I started to workout every day but Sundays. Losing fat was going to be easy- gaining muscle was the part that I always struggled with. I had to find a way to train consistently, which I managed to do by following several tricks from books like 4hour body, Make your bed and Can’t hurt me.

Finally, I would walk 10K a day -rain or shine. No excuses.

For everyone that ever tried any of the above: you know how hard it is to stick to a new routine. It takes will-power to do something you don’t feel like doing, for a reward you will have only months later. It takes dedication, efforts and lots of pain and patience. This is also why I got extremely mad when that guy told me I looked sick, after months of efforts to be the healthiest version of myself.

I mean I shouldn’t care what a dude thinks of my body- specially because I know I am doing it right. I went to my doctor and got a DEXA scan that gave me my exact body composition, about 4 months into my training. It did highlight that i was 30% body fat, which is above the median for a woman my age. Read that again. I am not saying that i was fat. I am saying that my body composition was 30% body fat. It just mean that i barely had any muscles. Which by the way, is also a comment that the doctor told me when I broke my hip. “If you had had muscles around your hips, this would had prevent the injury. You basically felt directly on your bone.” So, my goal with the Dexa Scan was to have some data and be able to track the recomposition of my body, on a 6 month period. Another insight it gave me was my RMR (resting metabolic rate -or how many calories my body was burning when resting -which I used to achieve my weight loss) and the fact i wasn’t eating enough proteins to build muscles. What it meant was that for the first few months of my training - I was building muscle during the day and my body was eating them at night. I was training for nothing. The Dexa scan allowed me to understand that I had to almost triple my intake of protein (almost 1.2 X g per Kg i weight -which means 125lbs = 56kg, so 67.2 g of protein a day.) I think I only ate about 25g daily, before knowing that. 

Another clue flagging I was doing something good was that all my IBS symptoms vanished. Since I had cut alcohol, sugar and processed food -i haven’t had one single symptoms. I had more energy, I slept better and didn’t even catch the flu or cold, all winter. Yet, even though I knew that I was doing everything the right way, that man remark made me doubt about what I was projecting to others.

I left the party early that day. I went back home trying to bypass the comment- I thought the person giving it was not an emblem of health anyway, so who the fuck was he to speak about it -but the truth is that it made a bigger impact on me than what I wanted to admit. The next morning, I woke-up still upset about it. I phoned a friend and my mom -both of them were shocked and reassured me that it never had crossed their mind, either. The conversation with my mom made me cry- as she spoke for the first time about what she lived through when she was younger-and why she hates going to the doctor now.

She explained to me that when she was a bit younger than me, she was as thin and always got called out for not eating -even though she was. She said that when she got sick, her weight ballooned and that now she hates going to the doctor because they often makes comment in front of her about the fact she is above the weight she should. "They are doctors”, she said, “And they don’t even bother to read my file and understand that this is not my fault and that I cannot change it, before making comments like that.” She said that often they end up apologizing when they realize that her medications are the culprits, but the damage is already done. I guess the only thing I can thank the man for is to have give a topic for my mom to finally open up and be vulnerable about.

She then talked about my sister, who also has a condition. Unfortunately, the only way for her to maintain her disease stable are medications that also make her balloon. She knows she is bigger than she was prior to taking it -but she is also healthier. Before taking these medications, she had several cyst that would appear on her organs and would trigger atrocious pain -to the point of her passing out. At some point, she even had to stop her car on the side of an highway because she had a crisis and was about to pass out driving. It was dangerous and she absolutely is better now -even though she look bigger and, to certain uneducated people, less healthy from an outside perspective. As my friend from the phone calls stated perfectly: being healthy has a different body for everyone.

People that are judging without knowing the person’s story, the journey they are on or the process they are going through is astonishing to me. Even more so when they should shine a light on themselves, first.

I ended up writing to the guy, after the calls with my family. I told him that although I was sure it was coming from a good place, his delivery was unprofessional and hurtful. He apologized but told me again that he just wanted to make sure I wasn’t starving myself (wtf) and even offered to take me to a nice place for lunch/dinner. What was this guy problem with trying to feed me so bad? Just let it go, man.

I guess he was really concerned -but I honestly felt like this was an half-assed apology and decided to just not answer back. The more I was thinking about it, the more mad I was. If he was really concerned about someone’s health, that was definitely not the right way to raise it. I started making scenarios and thinking about him telling that to a girl that is ACTUALLY anorexic. How bad would it have been? Imagine a girl with a body-image issue being told by someone, IN FRONT OF COWORKERS, that she looks sick. What a fucking catastrophe. 

In a sense, I am happy it felt on me. Because at least, I can take it and be vocal enough to put his nose in his own pee. Bad behaviour. Do not ever do this again, to anyone.

And hopefully, this can be a lesson for any of you that might want to make a comment on someone’s appearance -Just don’t. You never know what the person is going through, or how the comment will impact them. In a world full of shit and negativity, chose to be someone that bring people up, instead. Like your friends pictures and story, tell people around you they look good today. Tell that stranger your cross path with that you love their outfits. Put back some good into the world. And if you are ever really concerned for someone around you -just reach out to them on the side. Do not ever say it out loud in front of a table full of their coworkers.

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