How to go from an eating disorder to a good balance – with Jenn Patterson


In this blogpost I share an interview with Jenn Patterson. She’s one of my fellow FTF ambassadors and she used to have an eating disorder. Now she has become an online coach and she wants to help people find a good balance. Read on if you want to know more!

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How old you are, what you do…

I’m Jenn and I’ll be 22 in December! I graduated from University this past spring and I’m currently working as a personal trainer!

2. How did your fitness journey start?

I struggled with anorexia for a long time and in recovery fitness was always portrayed as something negative, something that was bad. Which makes sense, considering it can be detrimental to someone’s health when they’re struggling with an eating disorder but it kind of made me avoid it in all capacities in my recovery. Then in my second year of uni, my roommate took me to the gym with her and after a few times I realized I actually liked it! The more I learned about the gym, the more I was interested in it and the more I found myself enjoying it. I loved the way it made me feel and how I was able to actually see what my body was capable of doing.

3. I know you had an eating disorder, would you want to tell us something about that? How did you recover?

I first began engaging in eating disorder behaviours when I was 12 years old. From that point I was in and out of treatment up to the age of 17. This included hospitalization, residential treatment out of my home country and other programming. It was a lot, but I’m happily in recovery now. To this day I wouldn’t say I’m recovered and I don’t know if I’ll ever be one to say that. I think recovery is an up and down process and one that is ongoing. I continue to battle eating disorder thoughts right now and for the foreseeable future I think that will be the case. That doesn’t mean I’m actively engaging in behaviours or not doing well, it just means that I have to fight against those demons which is why I think recovery is a continuous process.

4. What made you start coaching?

I have such a passion for fitness and helping others and I really just want to help other people have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I want people to learn to love themselves at all stages of their life and I want to help them live a healthy and well balanced life.

5. What do you think about cutting and bulking?

I think it’s a rest tactic for some people especially if they’re working towards a bodybuilding competition. However, personally I’m more focused on maintaining a balance between my food and exercise in order to live a happy and well rounded life.

6. Do you think you can still make progress if you are just maintaining?

100%! You can increase strength and change body composition while “maintaining.” Your weight may not stay exactly the same but it’s not going to change as much as if you were in a strict bulk or cut. I think a maintenance phase in my mind is still one that involves growth and gains but to a lesser extent where the main goal is happiness and enjoying fitness rather than a significant bodily change.

7. What do you think about diet culture?

I honestly hate it. It’s hard because society is so easily influenced by it, and thus changing people’s mindsets and approaches to dieting can be difficult unless you really get to spend the time to work with them one on one and even then is still difficult. So, most of the time, unless I’m working with a client, I try to avoid diet talk. I just don’t think it’s productive and it is so harmful especially to young minds who grow up thinking that dieting is the only way to live their life.

8. What do you think about the existence of the many different diets like keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, iifym…?

I think it’s interesting that there are so many different concepts out there, but I also find it frightening. Mainly because I know how some of those diets can be so damaging to certain people and most people just jump on the bandwagon of a diet without really knowing what they’re getting into. I think it’s great that there are so many ways for people to be successful in living a healthy life, but I think the lack of valid information that’s made well known about each diet is an issue.

9. How do you feel about eating out? (Do you think you need to skip it, do you think you need to choose something healthy…?)

I think eating out is great! Personally, sometimes I pick something “healthier” like a salad because I actually enjoy salads and that’s what I feel like eating. Other times I have pizza or a sandwich! Most of the time I think it’s important to listen to your body and order what you want. And from that point just pay attention to your fullness cues. I also don’t think it’s something that should be done too often. It should be used as more of a special occasion or once a week type thing rather than something you do for every meal.

10. Do you think you need to go to the gym to be healthy?

There are so many different ways to get activity and exercise outside of the gym so no! I think it’s a great way to get that activity in, but as long as you’re getting in a sufficient amount of physical activity and eating a well balanced diet, you don’t NEED to be going to the gym.

11. Do you think you need to eat healthy when you are traveling?

I think it’s important to be in the moment when you’re traveling including whenever you’re eating. I think it’s important to enjoy the specialities or wherever you are and treat yourself, but it should be done so in a way that doesn’t make you feel guilt or regret. I think the mindset behind your eating while traveling is really important.

12. How do you stay motivated to work out and eat healthy?

I’m not always motivated that’s for sure. But it’s something I love to do and it always makes me feel better so I’ve made it part of my routine. If you treat going to the gym and meal prep as you would a class at school or a shift at work, then it becomes harder to just “skip” it.

13. What are your best tips for students to find a good balance between studying, free time and health?

Scheduling is key! Take a look at your week in advance and schedule in time for studying, classes, the gym, and social life. Having a guideline for how you’re going to use your time is super helpful! Even if changes happen as you go along, having that schedule to refer back to is a great reminder of what your priorities are and what needs to get done.
I want to thank Jenn again for answering these questions. I really feel like we’re on the same page in regards to having a good balance.
Do you want to see more of Jenn? You can find her Instagram if you click here. She also has her own blog, click here to check it out.
I am going to be doing more interviews in the future. Please let me know in the comments who you would like me to interview.

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