For this edition of the Strong and Empowered Women series we caught up with Delta Life Fitness instructor Lindsay Duerson. She instructs at DLF – Santa Rosa and Pensacola.
She has struggled with an eating disorder and body images issues. She talks about the other side of weight struggles that women face. So often we talk about losing weight and the struggles with that. Today, we talk about how she brought herself back from anorexia and severe body dysmorphia to become healthy and fit. She explains how it took years for her to change her mindset from “skinny” to strong. She is currently training for her first figure competition.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Puerto Rico on a Naval base. After I was born we moved to Texas where I lived for my entire life. After high school, I went to Baylor University where I got my B.S. in Health and Human Performance. I graduated in 3 ½ years.
I worked all through college. I served and was a bartender to pay the bills. I worked pretty much from 16 on to help my mom. She was a single mom and lost her job and was unemployed pretty much from the end of my high school and beginning of college. I served my senior year of high school to help her pay the bills.
What brought you to Pensacola?
My dad and my stepmom live here and my brother moved here a year before I did. God is the reason I’m out here. I came last July for vacation and rededicated my life. When I went back to Waco, Texas I just knew it was not where I was supposed to be. I prayed about it. The next day when I came back from vacation I was doing my devotional, and it was about taking a leap of faith. After that there was sign after sign after sign. I felt like God was calling me back to Pensacola for some reason.
You are currently a coach at Santa Rosa and Pensacola, how did you come to the Delta Life community and hear about the job?
I found out about the job through Kaitlin [a coach at Delta Life Fitness – Pensacola. She had messaged me on Facebook because I knew her through a church friend who was a UWF instructor. Kaitlin knew I was into fitness and I used to be a personal trainer so she messaged me telling there was a position opening for an instructor. I had actually seen Charity [a member of DLF – Santa Rosa] at CrossFit when I was doing a protein tasting the day before Kaitlin messaged me.
It was the first time I had heard about Delta Life, and I had heard about it 2 days in a row, back to back. It was a sign. Then Christin emailed me, and we got the interview set up and it took off from there. I started coaching the beginning of March and shortly after I started working for Delta Life headquarters.
You had mentioned you were a personal trainer, what was your fitness background?
I was a personal trainer after I graduated from Baylor in December 2014. I got my certification and started training at Gold’s Gym from February to August. I was a personal trainer and also was a bartender.
You have been very open with all the ladies at Delta Life Fitness about your struggles with body image and an eating disorder. Tell about that time in your life.
I got diagnosed with eating disorder the first semester of my freshman year in college, but I had it through my senior year in high school. I just didn’t know what it was at the time or didn’t recognize it as much. When I got to college, I started getting very depressed. In October of 2011, I got diagnosed with depression and my eating disorder. It was a combination of anorexia and bulimia. It was exercise induced. I wouldn’t make myself get sick, but I would go to the gym for hours on end.
If I felt like I ate something bad, even if it wasn’t bad but in my mind it was, I would go exercise. So I struggled with that for a long time, 3 or 4 years. I struggled with it all through college. I struggled with body image, body dysmorphia and really not having self esteem. I suffered from body insecurities, and I really found my way out through weight lifting.
My junior year, I started weight lifting and getting into the fit lifestyle instead of just cardio and stuff like that. I started meal prepping and researching and learning about what a healthy lifestyle actually was.
Have you always struggled with your body image? Was it high school?
I was always super skinny, and I think that was it, I was skinny. People always commented on how skinny I was. I remember my freshman year of high school, one girl yelled out across campus to me, calling me anorexic. I wasn’t or at least I don’t think I was at the time. I was just always really thin.
My senior year, I wasn’t thinking about calories. I just went with how my body looked especially my stomach, how flat it was. I knew I had a problem because every time I would walk past a mirror I would look to see how flat my stomach was. If in my mind it wasn’t flat enough I wouldn’t eat or I’d skip a meal. It began like that and then I was realizing what I was doing.
When I got to college with all the changes that took place in those first few months, my eating disorder really took off. I didn’t have my mom there, it was just me, so I was the one that was in control.
You said weight lifting is where you started to change. How did you come into weight lifting?
I came into it just by Facebook and Instagram, by seeing it on social media. I started wondering about weight lifting and began researching it. After researching, I found someone that made a plan for me. This was the first time that I tried it. I wanted to just see what would happen.
I noticed I was starting to get more energy. My body started changing in a good way. I started getting muscles. That’s kind of how I started all of that. I did go to therapy for awhile just to help me to change my mindset. I wanted to change how I saw myself.
For me, it really helped because I didn’t want to eat bad things. I knew that would make me feel sick, gross and gain weight so I knew that eating healthy was good. Even though I was eating more, because of being in college and taking classes on nutrition, I knew what the healthy foods were doing for me and for my body. So it wasn’t necessarily as hard for me to eat more and it was small portions multiple times a day. The fact that I wasn’t sitting there eating a whole bunch of food, helped me recover from my eating disorder. It was all healthy, I didn’t eat anything bad for me. It really is just a mindset thing. I still struggle with it today. It is every day constant battle. It never goes away.
How long before you enjoyed going out to eat or could even enjoy a slice of pizza?How did it change your mindset?
I felt guilty for a long time. Every time I ate something bad, I felt guilty for years. The only time I felt really bad was when I would visit my mom and we would go out for dinner with my grandma and go for pizza or something like that. I would eat it but I would feel such guilt and self hate, I guess you can say, afterwards. Although, I did it, it tasted good. After the facts, I had to deal with the ramifications of how I felt after.
Eating a burger or something like that, I would always feel disgusted and thought I should have never eaten it. It’s kind of like people who struggle with obesity. They eat it and feel really bad after but it’s a cycle so then they eat it again because they feel bad about themselves.
It takes time to change. There was not a set time when my mindset changed. It happened over time, learning and realizing how I was thinking. When you do think like that, you need to consciously stop and change your thinking. No, it’s ok for me to have a slice of pizza. One slice is not going to kill me or make me fat. I had to learn how to recognize the negative thoughts from the old mindset and consciously switch to a positive mindset.
How did you start weight lifting?
First, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. When I got my first plan, I had to Google movements and videos every time I went to the gym. I started like everybody else with little weights and worked my way up to where I am now. I was scared to death. I started to lift at Baylor University and the gym was basically 3 tiers. The cardio was where all the girls were, the middle with the equipment and the bottom level was very intimidating with all the guys and the fraternity guys.
Most women at Delta Life want to lose weight. How do you feel like you play a role in that?
I feel like since I do come from basically the opposite side, I can give them a different perspective on what it’s like. It’s not about being super, super skinny. It about being healthy. Our perspectives together help us mold the perfect combination.
All of my family is overweight, my mom is, my grandma is, and my aunt is. They all have diabetes so that’s another reason I got into training. I wanted to help other women who are overweight because I know how much it affects them, their family and their self-esteem. So because of coming from my family, having an eating disorder and a different fitness journey, I can help other women see everything from a different point of view and perspective.
You are currently training for your first figure competition. How do you feel Delta Life Fitness has helped you prepare?
The women I work with and the women I coach are a huge support system for me. Because my mom is not here and she is my biggest support I need that support system. My other friends don’t really understand what I’m doing. Not that the ladies at Delta Life Fitness necessarily understand completely the competition, but they’re on their own fitness journeys and they know that’s what I’m doing as well.
So, they want to see me do the best I can. Their support, their encouragement are always lifting me up. It really helps because there are days I don’t want to go coach or days I don’t want to go workout. I see Delta Life women who have been coming into the gym, day in and day out, reaching their goals. That makes me want to be the best I can be. I know my Delta Life Fitness women look at me, follow me and my journey on Facebook so I know if I do my best every day it will motivate them to get in the gym as well.
How have you dealt with your past struggles now that you have to eat such a regimented diet for your figure competition?
It is something that I’ve been struggling with lately because it is not easy especially in this industry (figure competition). Your body has to look a certain way, and if you do not look that way you are not going to do well. It is hard not to fixate on having a perfect body. I have to remind myself this is my journey, and I can’t compare myself to anybody else. This is my body and it’s not like everybody else. I don’t want to revert back to where I was. I know that’s not an option.
My figure competition coach is very well aware of my past. She told me if I have any issues or if I start going down that path to let her know. It’s not easy but because I’m conscious of it, when I start having those thoughts I try to switch to more positive thinking. I talk myself out of them or call my mom or someone that knows about it. I like to talk it through with someone. That kind of help gets me back on track.
Even has a trainer, I know things take time. We all want it now, now, now but that’s not how it works. With our struggles and our issues, we’re going to have good days and we’re going to have bad days. We just be work on our bad days. When we do have them we just need to be conscious about it. That’s how we work on overcoming them. Just being conscious about what we’re doing.
You state you will always struggle with your eating disorder how does this affect you?
For me, food is an obsession. I’m always thinking about food, what I’m going to eat, what I’m not going to eat.
I’m always thinking about food.
When is my next meal? What will I eat tomorrow? It’s exhausting. Mentally exhausting. It really is. Not only physically with working out and working and all that and school during that time. It’s mentally exhausting thinking about food all the time. Worrying about it, having that inner struggle.
I suffer from really bad depression and always having that inner struggle. I don’t want to feel like this, but how do I get out of it. It’s a constant battle within yourself. The biggest thing that I can say I’ve learned is to be conscious of it. When you have those thoughts just be really conscious of them.
How do you feel you’re a part of the strong and empowered movement with Delta Life Fitness and in our society?
I love lifting weights and love having muscle. Not every woman thinks that. Not every woman thinks muscles look good on women. Some of them want to be more dainty. I think as long as you’re happy with whatever you’re doing in fitness whether you’re doing yoga, running, strength training that’s what matters.
For the strength side of it I wouldn’t want to be a part of anything else. I love the fact that the strength movement is not only about physical strength it’s empowering women inside, their inner strength. Women have always been on the bottom of the totem pole and men are supposed to be at the top. Men are always the one’s that have lifted weights and it’s just nice to see that it’s becoming more acceptable for women to do that. I think the fact that more people are accepting that strong is the new skinny and lifting weights it’s transferring to the other side as well.
I definitely feel a part of this movement.
I feel like since I’ve come to Delta Life Fitness I’ve been able to add even more strength training to the workouts and the women are loving it. They are really seeing that building muscle is a good thing.
You don’t have to be super big and bulky. You don’t have to look like that. If you lift really heavy weights for a long time, then yeah you’re going to get bulky. If you’re just lifting weights you’re just building strength which is building muscle which is going to burn body fat. I think we’re teaching the women this, they are learning this. I know a lot of women think if you lift a kettle bell you’re instantly going to gain muscle. It doesn’t work like that. It takes much longer to build bulky muscles. Women don’t have to worry that will happen.
For someone who has never been overweight, but struggled just the same what advice would you give to women about their body and their body image?
A lot of women look at me and say, “I want to look like her.” They only see what’s here [the outside], they don’t know my struggles.
That’s the thing women need to realize.
EVERYONE HAS A STORY.
Especially as women we like to judge right off the bat. That’s just how we are. We just judge right off the bat. Not in a mean way. We just really look at other women and automatically think what they have at face value is who they are.
Women need to realize everyone has their own story. Don’t judge someone by how they look. My body has taken a lot of time.
Do you think women often times make judgments that are not reflective of others, but more a reflection on themselves?
As women, we make judgments that put ourselves down. That’s what’s really frustrating for me. So many people think it’s easy for me to eat healthy.
No. It’s not.
I make the choice. Everyone has the choice. When people judge me, most of the time it isn’t mean, but sometimes it is. I make the choice. I want to eat healthy and be fit.
That’s why they call it a fit lifestyle.
It is your life.
It’s a lifestyle.
There is not just one day where you just get it. Every single day there is going to be something else. Something else is going to come up.
You just have to decide that you want to be healthy, you want to eat right, you want to be around and workout and make that decision. Whatever comes with that, the bad and the good. You’ve already made the decision to live this lifestyle.
For the women reading this, what do you think is the MOST important?
I think it all boils down to women really loving themselves.
As women, it’s really hard for us to accept ourselves and love ourselves because we are so judgmental and hard on ourselves. I struggle with it everyday. I’m still super insecure. I still have all the same issues I had three years ago.
People think I’m the most confident person ever. I’ve learned how to portray it. Sometimes, I’m more confident, but I still have insecurities. Everybody has insecurities. You just have to learn to live with them and not let them ruin you or control you.
That’s the difference, I used to let them control me. They [insecurities] used to be my whole life. So even though they’re still there in the back of my mind and baggage they don’t control me anymore.
I control them.
That’s the difference.
When you let your insecurities control you that’s when it becomes a really big issue and a problem. When you can control them and you say, “Nope, I’m not going to think like that.” You put them out of your mind.
Are you struggling? Are you sick of obsessing about what you eat? Are you ready for a change? If you’re tired of doing the same old thing when it comes to working out and nutrition we completely understand. It’s super tough, Lindsay’s story is a testament to that.
Delta Life Fitness is here to help. Click below for your free 5 day trial. It gives you a chance to check out your local Delta Life Fitness and see how it can change your life. Don’t wait for even one more second, click now!