Hi Pegah! Please tell us a bit about you and your story. Can you share a bit about your struggles with orthorexia and how you overcame it?
I developed my passion for fitness + health my senior year of high school. I grew up playing sports, but let that go freshman year. Looking back on my life, I grew up with body image issues, but I think it is normal for most girls to. It was my senior year and I had just gone through a silly high school break-up (nothing serious, but obviously my dramatic 17-year-old self viewed it very seriously, haha.) I began to blame the break-up on my looks, so I made it a mission to get myself into shape, thinking I wasn’t good looking.
What started out as an innocent health journey to get toned up turned into a quick addiction. I was reading EVERY fitness magazine, article, etc. I was comparing my petite frame to these beautiful, tall Victoria’s Secret models, and wanting what I saw. As I began to work hard in the gym, I saw how quickly the pounds were coming off. I became more and more obsessed with the number on the scale and how much further I could push myself. I was spending hours on hours strictly on cardio (no weight training) and followed a self-made, very restrictive diet. I lacked education on healthy eating and continued this way for years, thinking that I was healthy.
Orthorexia is a medical condition in which one purposely avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful. I had my mental list of foods that were good and foods that were not. My family obviously expressed concern, but I always ignored it. It truly was not until my brother in law confronted me, sat me down and openly brought it up to me that I realized I was in this mess.
Thankfully, with a combination of my family’s support and my faith, I was able to overcome it. I completely cut out cardio for about a year, focused on strength training and no longer restricted myself from food. I brought back EVERYTHING into my diet that my malnourished body was lacking.
It was not an easy process. It is never easy to watch yourself purposely gain weight, but when you come to a point where you realize how much harm you could have done to your body, you know it is for the best. I am now stronger than I have ever been in my life. I am the most fit that I have ever been in my life..and most importantly, I AM HEALTHY AND HAPPY. Even at my lowest weight, I was lacking SO much joy.
I have been free of Orthorexia for almost four years now, and I give all the glory to God. Also, so thankful for my family and special close friends that stuck with me through it all. So blessed to be where I am now.
How did you start loving your body and yourself? What was your journey like and what is it like today?
Honestly, every recovery journey is very different. Since I am a Christian, I began to pick up on new faith-based practices. My journaling, my devotions, my 1 on 1 time with God completely changed... on a whole new, amazing LEVEL. The entire chapter from Psalm 139 became a daily reading for me, too... ”For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.”
You know, when you realize how SPECIAL and LOVED you are by Christ, you truly start to love your body and yourself. I am not perfect... at all. However, I am loved by a savior that is PERFECT. I had to learn to accept that. I had to learn that my eating disorder was no longer my identity. I was set free from that the day I prayed against that in my life.
Flash forward to today, my goal is to help women in this area, too. Now, do I love my body every day? Nope. I was on my period last week and felt extremely gross and ugly (sorry, TMI? LOL!). I think it is normal to have bad days. It is normal to have thoughts that go back to that, but what is so awesome is that I now am equipped with the tools to shift my focus on the truth. I can now shift my mindset when those negative thoughts come to my mind.
What is your favorite part of being a personal trainer?
I love, love, love seeing my clients achieve their physical results, but I LOVE the one on one time where we talk more about what’s going on inside. I love to get deep and talk about more than just fitness.
How do you think we can help other women start loving themselves more?
I love Wholehearted Women because it provides refreshing, honest and beautiful stories. These posts are so encouraging and inspiring. I know for a fact that women will love reading these raw stories about body positivity.
The online world can be a noisy place sometimes. How do you stay authentic and true to who you are?
It really can! Since starting PEGACTIVE: FITNESS + FAITH, I have seen how noisy social media and the fitness industry as a whole can be. Every post, whether it be a blog post or IG photo has to have a purpose. Does it relate to my life, my values, my faith, etc? I want my posts to be intentional and my hope is that each one reflects my character.
What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received from someone else?
My two biggest role models (other than Jesus, lol!): My dad and my sister. They are both by far the most humble people I know. It’s funny how they both give me similar advice that is just straight fire.
The best advice from both of them: do nothing out of selfish ambition. Do everything with love.
Can you share your own nugget of wisdom with our readers?
My go to slogan: YOU DO YOU. People may not always agree with you and they will always have something to say. Your values, faith, and beliefs are important. They matter. Stay true to you and do not worry about the judgment of others.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Pegah. One last question before we leave, what does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman is not about being perfect. To me, being a woman is one who serves God with her whole heart, mind, and soul. Being a woman is one who cares for her body, her health and her mental well-being. She gently and lovingly serves her family, friends, and neighbors.
Rapid fire Q’s:
- A woman who inspires me: PARASTOU BARTLEY
- Favorite place to hang out online: PINTEREST
- Best book I ever read: Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are by Alyssa Joy Bethke and Robin Jones Gunn
- My core values: FAITH + FAMILY ABOVE ALL.