Thank you SO much for all of your comments, touching thoughts and prayers on my last wellness post. Your support is like a breath of fresh air as my heart longs for compassion and understanding. Often these posts are much easier to write then they are to say, because saying them makes it true and real, and all the things bubble up to the surface that you never knew hurt so much.
So here we are: Part Two of my Wellness Story. Part two of me just laying it all out there. Writing nonsensically because it makes sense to me.
For so long I was afraid of writing about what came to mind. Mostly afraid of not being perfect. What I didn’t realize is that being authentic isn’t about perfectionism. Being authentic means letting go of what’s trending on the internet and Instagram and just being who you are. For me, it’s about being okay spending time alone with myself on any given day. Sometimes just to peel back the layers that are often uncomfortable and come with a deep history of trauma. Rather so though, it’s about examining who I am on the inside rather than about what you see on the outside.
I mentioned in the first part of my story that I wanted to make 2017 the most incredible year of my life. Truth be told, over the past year or so I got distracted, especially as I became well-versed in the blogging world. It’s consuming in a weird and joyful way, but it also took me away from the things I love to do and why I created this blog in the first place.
And that’s who I want to be. I want to get back blogging recipes that I WANT to create because they make my heart happy (and hopefully yours too). I want to forget about what everyone else is doing because I enjoy my work more when I LOVE what I’m doing. That means writing weird stories that sometimes mention my loathe for Tom Cruise, talking about life in Chicago and getting to that bubbly stuff that feels like it must come out. Whatever it is. From health and wellness to personal stories — this blog is often a foundation for a connection.
Isn’t it a little strange how much we can grow and change in such little time? Sometimes without realizing that we’re not who we were a year ago, or even yesterday. What we wanted yesterday, may not be what we desire today. However, there are moments in life where you stop and feel your entire self being pushed down a tunnel at 100 miles per hour; these moments are life changing, for the better or worse. The hazy time where your brain is fogged and overloaded and you either continue down the path you’re running down or stop and take a different direction; it is a choice.
Changing your life is never an easy decision to make. It’s not easy, because it requires turning around and walking slowly into the unknown, often acknowledging that whatever it is, will get worse before it gets better.
Today in particular, I’m here to tell you about my wellness story, a journey of discovering balance without being preachy or self-righteous. This is just me bringing you a story of my life, having it come through your imagination and bringing a connection between us. I guess I’ve sort of discovered that throughout this whole blogging thing, you and I have made a beautiful connection; in between recipes, where I tell little stories and talk about my 80 year Grandma doing Zumba, that I somehow mattered to you. That Ambitious Kitchen became a guest in your home. And for that I thank you, because without this blog and your readership, I wouldn’t be who I am today. So before we begin, please know that from the bottom of my heart, you matter to me more than you know.
2007: It was like it happened yesterday (OMG nearly ten years ago)
In 2011, my father died. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and pained me with deep anxiety. At that time, I had no idea what anxiety actually consisted of, but can now recognize it’s plagued me for years. I had a deep fear I would lose my Mother too, and so it was very difficult for me to sleep alone in our home. Not only was the anxiety terrible, but often it translated into my dreams. I dreamt of my Father telling me that he was still here and alive with me. I dreamt that he was also too far to reach. And I dreamt that I was him living through his death.
After my father passed away, I took just a week off before I went to college for the first time. It was probably for the best, but still, I had little time to grieve or feel comforted. Often times, I’d cry in the bathroom where no one could see the pain in my heart and tears in my eyes. All of these memories are still as bold in my mind like they happened yesterday.
After his death, I realized that there are no guarantees in our lives. We are never given more time even if we ask for it. We can’t go back and give that person a hug and a kiss goodbye because it’s simply a moment in time that has passed. As overwhelming and terrifying as this experience was (and still is), I can acknowledge that it’s made me brave like a warrior and given me the ability to recognize how it is to feelings and appreciate loved ones.
You can read more about my Father’s death here.
2008-2009: Traveling the world + lack of confidence
A year passed by after my Father died. I gained some weight, but attributed it to the freshman 15. I did notice myself eating more than what felt comfortable for my body on a consistent basis. I had always loved food and had a fondness for sweets, however I was never overly conscious about what I ate.
Then one day, I went to the gym and joined with a friend. I was intimidated because I had no idea what I was doing, so most of the time I just jumped on the elliptical. Shortly after I got into group fitness and made friends with others doing the classes too. They were of all shapes and sizes and I knew that we were just all there getting on with life, trying to do something good for ourselves. The feeling after working out was new to me, but gave me an incredible high. I felt like I could achieve anything (the feeling would later become an addiction). I gained confidence both inside and out, and later applied to study abroad in Australia.
Australia was like an entire new world to me. I went not knowing anyone but quickly made friends and discovered that being alone and independent was good for the soul. It pushed me to be resourceful, to discover my passions, to do the things I dreamed about. To this day, it remains one of my favorite places in this world. It also taught me to never be afraid to be alone, because like it or not, you’ll learn incredible things about yourself. Things that will push you to be better.
The downside of Australia is that I felt very uncomfortable with my body at the time. Even though I was probably only 10 pounds over what I should be, I was embarrassed and felt ashamed about this beautiful body God had given me. I wanted my body to be perfect in every way (you know, what you’re so used to seeing in magazines), and so I became extremely self conscious.
I started working out heavily in Australia, which I think started my obsession with exercising. After a tough workout, I remember eating hardly anything during the day, then binging at night after we’d go out. It wasn’t productive to my health or happiness and often I let what I eat completely control my feelings and day. It became a cycle and without any proper education on fitness or nutrition, I didn’t know HOW to exercise and eat normally. All of this, coupled with internalizing grief, led to an out of control eating disorder.
2010-2012: How did I get here?
As soon as I came back to the USA, I took a week off and went to the gym. I remember it well because I put it in my mind that I was going to change my life for the better. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite the opposite of that. In about 6 months I had dropped 20 pounds.
5 more by that winter.
and 5 more gone by that spring.
All of this time though, I actually didn’t realize just how thin I was. I thought my body was strong because I could run 6 miles like a cheetah. I spent at least an hour at the gym every day. Didn’t that make me healthy? I packed all of my meals and ate them out of my sad lunch desk containers. Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do?
Clearly my mental health wasn’t right, and slowly, after much pressure from my mom, I recognized that I needed help. I went to a doctor who specialized in eating disorders and immediately diagnosed me with anorexia. Two days later I was in the hospital with a low heart rate.
I didn’t know what to do. I felt completely lost and devastated. Why did I do this to myself? To have a 6 pack? None of that mattered if I was no longer on this earth.
Even though I had so much support from family and friends, I needed support for myself. Bottom line I needed to give myself permission and grace to grieve. I also needed to better understand myself.
2012-2013: Following my passion + weight gain
After my experience and diagnosis, I had to start gaining weight, which is fairly easy. However when I ate the things I didn’t have before (or wouldn’t give myself permission to have), I ate them excessively. I’m talking like half a pie, a jar of nutella, 15 oreos kind of thing. Clearly, I was back to bingeing again.
But 2012 was also the year that I started blogging. And it was SO much fun. I cooked and baked whenever I could. It gave me tremendous joy and even when I was struggling internally, blogging always gave me the freedom to just be who I was.
I devoted myself to following my passion and acknowledged that it made me so much happier, even if I was overweight or still bingeing. I had a little blog that was SO much fun to work on. It was never about money or making it a career. It was about navigating this world and investing my time in something that comforted me. So, now you know how much this blog truly means to me. It brought me out of a depression and encouraged me to follow my passions in life.
me and my beautiful mama!
2013-2015: Seeking help + meeting the love of my life
In 2013, I found myself still bingeing and overeating to the point of discomfort. It was as though I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions, and I still hadn’t really come to grips with my father’s death. I chose to seek a therapist out, who is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. It was a judgement free zone, and I was able to just lay all my cards on the table, both good and bad. She helped me grieve like I never had before. Basically it felt like I unpacked a bag full of bricks I had been carrying around with me for years.
My therapist helped me become who I wanted to be. To be open and honest and real with all of you. In fact, that was when I first started my Wellness Wednesday posts! 🙂 To this day, they’re still my favorite posts to write.
If you are struggling with eating disorders, anxiety or grief, seeking professional help is often one of the best things you can do for yourself. Many women who have eating disorders just want to fix the eating disorder by just eating or finding a balance, but most of the time, the eating disorder is caused by other things in life and the need to control what you cannot.
Oh and we can’t forget about Tony, can we?! I met Tony in 2013 and my entire life changed for the better. He has been my rock, my partner, my encourager and the love of my life. Having someone love me like he loves me gives me such confidence no matter what the scale says on any given day. His heart is gold and I’ve learned to love myself so much more because of him. Thanks bae.
In 2016, I can say that I found balance in food more than ever before. Basically I gave myself permission to just live my life without the crazy rules and restrictions with food and exercise. I also co-founded the Healthy Glow.Co based on these foundations and principals. Balance is a choice, but it also took time to really become a habit in my everyday life without spending too much time thinking about it. One step at a time is essential to feeling less overwhelmed and critical of one’s self.
It’s all about the choices we make in our everyday life.
These are some of mine:
Packing a lunch that’s filling and nutritious on most days.
Learning how to meal prep so I have something to eat.
Enjoying frozen yogurt because it’s my favorite thing ever.
Eating a few too many dark chocolate squares at night.
Saying no to the tortilla chips (sometimes).
Healthy fats are key.
Stopping my habit of digging in the peanut butter jar.
Saying yes to ordering pizza or going out for burgers 1x per week.
Not always having salad for lunch.
Stop being afraid of bread, because bread is freakin’ delicious.
Learning how to make healthier treats at home with new flours/sweeteners.
Eat when I’m actually hungry.
Stop eating just the egg whites (hello 2006).
Walk everywhere I can.
Challenge myself to different fitness classes
Stop working out incredibly hard 6x per week
Take more yoga classes
Be mindful of ingredients
Try out new foods and global flavors
Enjoy more wine (good for the heart, right?)
Making healthy choices MOST of the time, but indulging when it feels good
Not judging others food choices
Always have snacks available (mostly RXbars & energy bites)
So now you see that I’ve had quite the journey, and it isn’t over with yet! I’m changing (and so is AK), but also have this innate feeling that this year is an incredible opportunity for personal growth. This year I want to get stronger, stay true to who I am, and always inspire you to be better than you were yesterday. I’m giving myself permission to be BOLD. To live life to the fullest, to take more time to travel and to take risks.
So that’s me in a nutshell. I’m excited for what’s to come in my life, and proud of where I’ve been because it’s led me to who I am today. P.S. Clearly I love donuts.
xoxo thank you so much for reading!
Monique, you are an INCREDIBLE woman. I’m so happy that you found the balance in your life that you were craving. Therapy was wonderful, I agree! 🙂 Much love to you. <3
Thank you so much for sharing your story and for fighting the stigma – busting the shame. It’s so hard to find food blogs nowadays that encourage balance and moderation and not just veggies, veggies, veggies. Keep up the great work!
What a powerful story! Cheers to you and 2017 – I look forward to more great recipes and life stories. You are a great example for balancing life with wellness which is so challenging so that you for that!
You are such an inspiration and an exceptional role model. This world needs more Moniques!! Thank you for letting us follow along for all these years. What you may or may not know, is AK is one tool we (certainly, I) use to help us cope with our weaknesses. AK is my happy place. It calms me. It excites me. It inspires me. And good grief, it comforts me knowing I am not alone. You are a gem. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done, and continue to do, for all your readers. You are a positive girl only sending us those (tasty) positive vibes! PS: Please deliver the authentic blog posts and recipes that are true to the Monique Volz that we follow and adore. Keep at it, girl! You’re doing all the right things!! Much love, xx
This is so amazing and YOU are amazing. Unfortunately so many women (myself included) have found themselves in a struggle with disordered healthy habits. It is hard to find that balance. And you’re right, you have to CHOOSE balance first before it becomes a habit.
Thank you for sharing your story Monique! You have been one of my absolute favorite bloggers ever since I started reading blogs <3
I love the raw honesty and “realness” of this post. Your story is something I feel that I can relate to and is full of encouragement. I’m a new subscriber, but I’m loving the flow and tone of your recent posts. 🙂
Thank you so much for posting this – I’m so happy I found your blog! Your story and perspective are inspiring me on my own journey with an eating disorder – thank you again for your authenticity and sharing your story. 🙂
I’m so thankful for your journey and the positivity for future growth! Your blog has inspired me so much in my health journey and given me a better perspective on health and sweets (helloo healthy cookies). You blog is my #1 for recipes any day of the week. Keep doing you!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You’re an inspiration, Monique! I hope to meet you one day and give you a BIG hug! <3
Honest and relatable again. I really love that you’ve included those little tips at the end too, no two eating disorders are the same, but it sounds like you’re starting to balance between binging and restricting. Well done you, keep going strong!
Monique, I just want to say how amazing and incredible you are. I am so happy that I found your blog and that I am part of the AK & Healthy Glow Co. Community. You have completely inspired & encouraged me to live my best life and to be my best self. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, it really means a lot.
Your blog (along with the HGG) are very much a part of my life and I cook from it all the time. It has become an essential and integral part of my life. I always enjoy reading your posts and cooking one of your older or new creations. They are always so delicious!
I love the little tips you added to your post, they are really helpful! Thanks again for being authentic and true to yourself, and sharing your story! <3 <3
I loved reading this, especially your list of choices! Thank your for sharing!
Thank you so much for sharing. I hope I can learn through your journey how to find balance in my own life. I too suffer from disordered eating and struggle with not being afraid of food and arriving at a healthy relationship with food and exercise. You are inspiring and most importantly “Real”. Good luck on your journey.
Beautiful post, friend! So loved hearing your story. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing!! xoxoxo
I really enjoyed both of these posts. I’m also looking forward into 2017 as the year to be my best self and your willingness to share your journey is inspiring. Best of luck to you and me both! May this be the year we are our healthiest selfs ever on our journey called life!
I could not love this post more. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You inspire me!
I love this so much, especially the part about how travelling and living abroad taught you to never be afraid to be alone! I can totally relate to this, and each time I’ve traveled alone or lived abroad I’ve proven to myself how strong and independent I am, which has helped immensely with my self-esteem and confidence! Thank you for all that you do, I love reading your blog and your recipes are to die for!
thank you for sharing your story! i recently have been updating my blog also and am working on sharing my own story as well – thank you for being so authentic and true to you!
Honesty, hope, and self acceptance at every level. I love reading your posts. You are using your struggles for good, to help someone else, which is my goal someday too! Keep it up, Monique! You’re so inspiring 🙂
Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing. Clearly, it is easy to tell you are beautiful inside and out. All the best to you as you continue on your Wellness journeys. My recipe box is LOADED with your recipes and I’m constantly scoping our your site for a new one to try and prin…you have fabulous ideas!
Monique– thank you for this post, and really all the posts you write. I have followed you for years now and I’m always excited to check out the latest on your blog. As someone who has struggled with eating disorder and over exercising , I have felt such deep connection and meaning from your posts. Love your recipes along with the wellness posts and all the variety. Really a top notch blog. Your honesty is inspiring. Thank you for being authentic and YOU, because you are beautiful truly inside and out. Keep doing you girl. Xoxo
Wow. Thank you for sharing. I loved this- and was amazed at how connected to you I felt. I first started encountering major incomfortabolity with my body ALSO when I studied abroad in Australia. That was almost 3 years ago now.. 2 years ago I realized that something was wrong with my brain and that I didn’t perceive food correctly (seriously- like bread and ice cream are not of the devil or “evil”)… I think last year was definitely a huge year of growth for me- alot of that due to the summer sweat series! Which taught me more about intuitive eating!
and now I too have proclaimed 2017 the year of love. For myself, others, God. It encourages me to read this post and see your goals for 2017 because they inspire me to press into my (eerily similar) hopes and dreams as well.
I dont know you but if I ever see you on the street (with Lee? OMG) we are getting pizza.
Cheers, babe! You are a rockstar.
Thank you for sharing your story, Monique. You are truly an inspiration! Love reading your blog and following your journey. (And, your recipes rock!)
Thank you for being you authentic & BOLD self. Keep up the good work. Many blessings on your future endeavors.
I love your healthy choices! I also have battled anorexia for 6 years. I finally chose to recover on my own, and truly embrace all aspects of recovery this past August. I agree with you, in order to beat this disease, you have to go beyond the eating and exercising- you have to get to those core issues. Thank you for sharing your story Monique!
Gah you are so relatable and incredibly strong! Thank you for sharing your story and for being an inspiration/ using your platform to put GOOD out into the world. Have a lovely weekend xo
Thank you for bring so open and honest! It gives others the courage to do so, and as someone who- at the age of 40!- finally feels like I’m getting a healthy perspective on finding balance with food and exercise, I really appreciate it. Thank you!
Thanks for part 2 and it’s so nice to see it has a happy ending/ new beginning! I’ve recently lost my father and know it leaves a huge hole in your life. Big hugs. Xx
Beautiful and inspirational story!!
After a long weekend of indulging with friends, overeating to discomfort and then totally beating myself up for it mentally, this is exactly what I needed to re-center and be kind to myself. Thank you thank you xoxo
Self-love – it’s so important! So glad this helped you re-center, xo
Thank you for sharing your story. I just came across it today although I’ve been reading your blog for a bit now. 🙂 I struggle with anorexia myself and still have yet to form a healthy relationship with food and my body. Reading your story tonight helped me feel a little better. You are a strong woman! Be proud of that.
Hi Kara – I’m so glad my story helped you feel a bit better! I always aim to inspire – thinking of you during your health journey <3
I realize this is an older post but I actually JUST came across it. I have been making delicious recipes off your blog for the past couple of months and I have always wondered what your “story” was. You are so brave and so inspirational. I have struggled with an eating disorder for over 12 years and reading this is so incredibly motivating. So… THANK YOU!!
Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for the note – I’m glad you’re enjoyed the recipes and have found some inspiration in my story, too! Thinking of you on your wellness journey <3
Thanks for sharing your story. I just came across your blog and your story and as much as I want to not admit, I can relate to your eating disorder struggles. Not something that a guy wants to talk about. I look forward to trying out some of your recipes, Thanks!
Reading part one and part two of your story brought tears to my eyes. I have loved your recipes and blog for years and my entire family loves you and your recipes. So proud of how far you have come and thank you for sharing your journey.
Thanks so much for your note, Audrey! I’m so glad you’ve been finding delicious recipes here (plus a dose of inspiration). Thank you again!
Thank you so very much for sharing your story. Although personal to you, it is relatable to many of us who suffer from a broken relationship with food (often due to unhealed trauma in our lives). I think it is SO VERY important and inspiring to see a food blogger be SO REAL, because often when I scroll through recipes – I see a person who has never struggled with the same feelings or emotions as me (such as binging and restricting). So some recipes I tell myself are just a no-no for me (because I can’t trust myself around certain foods – or so I thought). But as I’m working on myself, I’ve opened myself up to new and interesting recipes I wouldn’t have tried before, that are SO DANG good!! I love your mix of healthy, and indulgent – because that’s real life!! No more making only “healthy meals”, then driving my kids to a local fast food joint after a few days because we are all craving the good stuff, and I don’t cook the good stuff. I just love your recipes, and knowing more about the person behind the recipes makes it so much better, because there’s more of a connection than simply food. And I’m sure you have a lot going on in life – but I would buy your cookbook in a heartbeat!! You’re recipes are a breath of fresh air – so keep doing what you are doing, and thank you!!!
This comment made my day, Cathi! Thanks so much for all the love ❤️ Thrilled to hear you’re a fan of my recipes and that these words resonated with you, too. I’ll keep you updated on the cookbook — stay tuned!