It’s hard for me to think back to my first conversation with Olivia, but I’ll never forget it. We sat across from each other for her initial consultation, and at first I thought she wanted to work with a trainer to gain muscle, to look and feel better about herself, to get better for volleyball season. I was excited to work with an athlete and started to envision different conditioning drills I could show her. Half way through our conversation, Olivia started to become more comfortable with me, and I started to realize that her relationship with food and exercise were ¬†extremely unhealthy.

She spoke about the precise measurements of her food- very methodical and restricted. She explained her detailed workout routine, down to the minute of exactly how it needed to be executed in order for her to feel good. I realized this wouldn’t be as simple as me constructing workouts for volleyball conditioning…I needed to save this girl’s life.

I knew that my relationship with Olivia was going to be the most crucial part of her recovery. I needed to gain her trust, and I needed her to believe everything that I said- that doing less cardio and eating more food would be beneficial for not only her appearance, but her actual health. My hesitation was that we would begin weight training together, her eating habits would not change, and we would end up back at square one with severely low body fat percentage that would negatively impact the rest of her life.

Slowly but surely, we made progress. Olivia switched her focus from endless amounts of cardio to a healthy amount weight lifting. We started with basic weight training that involved simple movements such as bicep curls and bodyweight squats. She progressed so quickly and her body adapted so well to all of the new exercises, that we were able to build upon her exercise routine, making things more difficult. The other half of the battle was getting her to believe me when I said that eating more food would not make her gain fat, but instead, it would help her progress in the weight room, help her build muscle, and help her achieve a healthy, sculpted physique that she had tried to get to a few months prior on her own. We introduced more food slowly, allowing her body to adapt to the extra fiber and extra calories. Instead of doing static exercises, we moved onto tire flips, rope slams, and most recently, squatting and dead lifting more than her bodyweight!

Looking back now, it’s hard to remember how sullen Olivia looked, how unhappy she was, how much help she needed. I remember telling myself that if I could just be this young girl’s confidant, if I could just get her to trust me and befriend me, we could get somewhere. Her weekends were once filled with obsessive calorie counting and what I can only imagine as loneliness, and now Olivia’s face lights up when she tells me about her latest weekend shenanigans. Similar to myself, Olivia comes from a wonderful, supportive family that- without a doubt- played a huge role in her recovery. I cannot take credit for Olivia’s newfound love for life (and food! and weightlifting!) but am incredibly grateful that I’m able to be a part of her story. Next year, she’ll be away at college and although it breaks my heart that I won’t see her on a regular basis, I’m excited to hear about her newest adventures and am so excited for what life has in store for her. Watch out world, here she comes!

You can read Olivia’s side of the story here.