Abbey Griffith has an amazing story to tell, and we are overwhelmingly happy that she took the time to write this testimonial for us. We love the fact that Abbey could learn how to overcome her eating disorder and teach others the power of body positivity.
Let's get to her uplifting story below!
growing up with an eating disorder
Health and fitness is an incredible thing, but unfortunately, it can be wholly misused and misunderstood. This was the case for me as I battled with weight gain, weight loss, restrictive eating, compulsive exercise, and ultimately bulimia and anorexia.The journey started at age 5, when I was sent to a youth weight loss program - the first time I was told that there was something "wrong" with my body.
As puberty transformed what I saw in the mirror, friends and family repeatedly voiced their hatred for their bodies, and social media heightened my self-criticism. I fought to "fix" a body that never needed fixing because no one's ever does.
Working out, however, was usually a safe and fun space for me. I was fortunate enough to have many trainers who loved and supported me, knew a lot about wellness, safety, and how to help me reach my goals, and made sure I felt a sense of accomplishment after every seemingly small victory.
I loved learning about nutrition, movement, and wellness, but it was always tainted by an obsessive need to look different. I was on a hamster wheel quest to achieve a body that I liked by changing the outside, instead of looking within.
College - a Turning point
In my junior year of college at the University of Miami, I finally listened to the concerns of friends and family and entered therapy for my eating disorder. I was only a few short weeks from being hospitalized. I was killing myself, but my brain was still convinced that my extreme choices around fitness and food emerged from "will power" and "dedication" that others lacked. I had been brainwashed by the dark - and completely science-free - side of the fitness industry.
Everything I learned from "no pain, no gain," to my never-ending list of forbidden foods had to be erased. It was a long and sometimes entirely unpleasant process of re-evaluating, learning, and stepping away from people who struggled with the same brainwashing that I had depended on for tips and tricks for so long.
I was told to work out less, in part because I was severely overtraining and under-eating, and in part because my therapists knew how triggering gyms and fitness professionals without eating disorder experience could be.
The mental health industry is working to protect its clients from the fitness industry - and they have a point. After a year of therapy, my perspectives on food and fitness were transformed. I realized that movement and fueling my body were for the purpose of honoring, respecting, and taking care of it.
It had nothing to do with "fixing," "changing," or "shrinking" anything! It had to do with finding a sustainable, flexible, fun, and truly fulfilling way of taking care of myself from the inside out. But there was a problem: no one else got it.
How Abbey became an NASm-CPT
I sought to continue to educate myself, which brought me to NASM. Obtaining and maintaining my Personal Training Certification was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, both for my mental, emotional, and physical health, and for my career.
I was nervous when I first opened the NASM Textbook. Would I learn that the disordered behaviors that I had just started to release had been correct? Would my therapists' perspectives and those of the scientists studying exercise and nutrition be vastly different? Would I be exposed to new or more intense rules, extremes, and expectations of myself in the gym and the kitchen? Would I slip back into my eating disorder?
But as I dove deeper into the book, cyphered through the chapters, and memorized the content, I realized that the actual raw science behind frequency, intensity, duration, quantity, and modality of workouts was the balance I was looking for.
an important momenty of clarity
I realized the nutrition guidelines were focused on what your body needs to function well, fuel your lifestyle, and make your workouts feel fantastic - not to fix, change, or shrink you. It was the giant science-backed permission slip I needed to realize that what I was doing with my fitness before was not healthy or okay, and most certainly not what any fitness or nutrition professional should tell me to do.
As I drove home with my Certification, I knew it was time to start spreading awareness of this big and completely freeing find.
In the second half of my senior year at UM, I started work as a personal trainer at the campus gym. What I noticed with my male and female clients of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, and personalities blew my mind.
They all hated what they saw in the mirror and believed that the love for themselves they were missing was tied up in a bow with weight loss secrets, muscle building hacks, and external changes. I realized that what I had just grown through was needed and required in the fitness industry.
her important work at Clarity Fitness
At age 24, I have now opened up Clarity Fitness, a Body Positive fitness center complete with gym memberships, personal training, group exercise, educational and empowerment workshops, and a close network of mental health professionals near Atlanta, Georgia.
Clarity is a NASM Preferred Facility, and we will remain committed to maintaining an educated, passionate staff who also have a clear understanding of what empowered wellness looks like.
I serve as the face of the fitness industry on the Eating Disorder Information Network board of directors. I believe that my Certification, belief in my skill set, and knowledge and passion for helping men and women avoid the same speed bumps I hit in my journey allow me to serve the worldwide eating disorder community.
Concluding Thoughts from Abbey
As fitness professionals, it’s time to become more aware of the impact of eating disorders in our communities and catch red flags of disordered behaviors in our clients. With educational resources like my NASM Certification,
I was able to make the differentiation between what was diet-industry talk, and what was in place to guide myself and my clients toward a long, happy, and healthy life. It's time the rest of the world learns now, too!