Author: Dr M’Lanie.
I often get asked what led me to want to practice Traditional Chinese Medicine. Well, it was body building actually. For the greater part of my 20’s I was a figure competitor.
I had never intended to compete, I initially went to the gym looking for some personal training to lose a bit of weight. This particular gym was well known for training competitors so just walking in there that first time was so daunting to me (I made my flat mate come with me for moral support). I met with the head coach who looked me up and down and asked me if I wanted to compete. I laughed at him and said no. Not a great first impression, but he asked me to come back the next day for a training session, and I obliged.
After my first session, I was so overwhelmed, and just thought, ‘this is not for me’, intending never to return. The coach told me to come back the next day, for my next session. I did. Then the next day. Then the next day. Eventually every day I went in to train, he told me I was going to compete, and every day I just laughed and said no. However as I got to know the girls I would train with, I realized these competitors were were just normal people like you and me, and quite frankly in the end my coach just wore me down until I agreed to compete.
Now, while it was not the ideal way to approach a body building competition, I was not mentally prepared for the assault on my mind or body, I cheated on my diet, and my reasons for competing were more about being skinny than being on stage or trying to win, I have no regrets about it. I did learn a lot about myself and what I was capable of. I only wish there had been more mental health support for the backlash my mind would unleash after that competition.
I didn’t have a post-comp plan, and only vague instructions to slowly increase my food portion sizes. So of course I, like most other girls resorted to a back and forth game of binging and comp dieting. We had always been warned not to discuss our comp diets with other competitors so no one talked about it, we all just suffered our eating disorders in silence. Eventually preparing for our next competition was more a relief from having to make our own decisions about food.
The last time I competed, (not knowing it would be my last), I was a lot more prepared. I had taken quite a bit of time off since the competition before, and I was competing because I wanted to, because I knew I could do better than I had before, and because no one was persuading me to. I did still struggle in the end, but not like I had before. I was more mentally prepared for my emotions and subsequent weight gain than I had ever been. But one thing I had not prepared for was my body to say, enough!
Every competition my menses had stopped. This last one didn’t return with my usual chocolate binge. I was constantly fatigued but I was suffering insomnia, and when I could fall asleep, I would wake up in sweats. All the signs of perimenopause at 28. So finally resorting to a visit to the GP, I was offered a choice of sleeping pills or anti-depressants, neither of which road I was keen to go down. I had recalled reading somewhere that acupuncture could help with sleep, and had always been curious to try it, so I made an appointment with someone locally.
In my first session, I had only mentioned my difficulty sleeping before the doctor took my pulse and looked at my tongue then proceeded to reel off all of my symptoms (including ones I never thought were related, like my constant lower back pain). Absolutely floored that she could tell so much from my tongue and pulse, I laid back while she stuck me with needles and I took my first Acu-nap. She sent me off with a bottle of herbs and I had the best night sleep I’d had in years. The next day, I woke refreshed and my energy stayed consistent throughout. I looked forward to my weekly acupuncture sessions as I saw and felt my body return to life, along with my menses. It was literally a life changing experience for me because that first acupuncture session, I knew I wanted to do for others what that doctor did for me. And perhaps another reason I don’t regret my struggles as a competitor is because it led me to something I love, and right where I’m supposed to be.