I first met Lacy Davis several months ago, when we began messaging each other about our grand plans to put on a feminist fitness conference. Those plans never panned out – although I still hold out hope that it will happen some day! – but I’ve continued to get to know Lacy, both on Facebook and through her excellent blog, Super Strength Health, where she writes about veganism, weight lifting, and recovery from disordered eating and self-destructive thinking. If you aren’t reading her blog already, you should definitely fix that now.
Lacy also works as a health coach, which I think is a job that’s perfectly suited for her, as she’s an inspiring lady who works hard to help others embrace wellness and strength in their own lives. I love that she brings an inclusive, body-positive, feminist, queer-friendly philosophy to her work, which is something I think is sorely needed in the world of health and fitness. She recently posted about her work with her friend Brian, and how a year ago he smoked, drank heavily and ate whatever. Now, Brian eats tons of vegetables, works out most days – and this is where I had a pang of jealousy – can run a six-minute mile. LOVE IT.
Lacy was kind enough to answer some questions for my blog about how weight lifting helped her recover from an eating disorder, her decision to embrace a plant-based diet and why she decided to get into health coaching.
1. How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am a health and wellness coach and run Super Strength Health. Basically, people come to me when they are struggling to independently meet their health and nutrition goals, and I assist. I help clients to break up goals into achievable steps, offer insight and advice, and act as a cheer leader and an event coordinator (meaning if someone’s goal is to be happy with their body no matter the weight, I break down what that might look like in the end, and together the client and I might figure out mini-steps to work toward that goal.)
I work with a lot of kinds of people but my passions are working with people who have struggled with body image, eating disorders and self esteem, working with athletes, working with people who want help going vegan, working with people who are afflicted with endometriosis (which is severely helped by a diet that eliminates gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol) and working with people who identify as queer. I work on food issues and the emotions that relate in tandem. One client described me as a cross between a nutritionist and a therapist, which is not totally accurate (I am certified as a health coach only!) but makes sense.
2. You are recovering from an eating disorder. Would you be okay with talking a little about that? When did your eating disorder start? When did you realize that you had one?
I am totally okay with talking about eating disorder stuff, always. I think one of the things that kept me sick for so long was trying to hide the fact from myself and others.
My eating disorder started when I was 24, after a particularly difficult break up. After my partner left I was having difficulty eating (and sleeping!) and people around me really validated the resulting weight loss-including my doctor. Because I felt so incredibly rotten about myself, I sort of took the compliments and ran with them. Weight loss and food restriction became the only things that really made me feel good about myself.
I realized I had an eating disorder when the weight loss went too far and people started to confront me. My boss at the time and the dean of students at the school I was attending both confronted me within a week, and I realized that I had no grasp on my life (I had thought I was just being “really healthy” up until this point). I was pretty severely depressed and I had grown incredibly fearful of most foods.
I went into recovery by the time I was 25, but it took three years to actually start to feel good. Eating disorders are very shifty, they can pop up in different ways and morph into different aspects of the same thing. (IE for me, my anorexia turned into bulimia, then compulsive over exercise, then chronic negative self talk and body hate before I actually felt like I had a healthy relationship with food and my body.) We live in a culture that validates thinly veiled eating disorder behavior, and I really had to completely retrain myself to recover. It was an amazing and incredible experience! Like beyond not restricting or throwing up or ellipticizing myself into oblivion, I realized I needed to learn how to not hate myself. It was all up hill from there.
3. You credit weight training with starting you on the path to recovery. What was it about weight lifting that changed your perspective on your body and the way you were treating it?
I started weight training at the same time I started teaching high school, and both were instrumental to my recovery. With teaching, I knew I needed to be a positive influence to my students. With weight training, I learned to think about my body in an entirely different way. Instantly, fitness became not about being thin, but about being strong. I am naturally pretty good at weight lifting, and the accomplishment of lifting more and more and more made me feel incredible. My progress was tangible and measurable and I loved seeing that. I had been struggling with a bulimia relapse when I started lifting and literally from the day I lifted my first weight, I never threw up again. I know I wouldn’t be able to complete my work out without fuel, and that genuinely mattered to me.
4. You embrace a plant-based/vegan way of eating. How long have you been eating that way? What inspired you to go plant-based?
I went vegan when I was 14 years old (much before my eating disorder.) I think a lot of people equate a plant based diet with restriction, but it is important for me to note that I have been vegan for ethical reasons since the beginning. About two years ago, I added eggs into my diet (like eggs from chickens that I knew, so I knew they weren’t treated cruelly) because I wanted more protein and grains and beans weren’t digesting very well for me. I was (and still am) happy that I chose to add something to my diet instead of taking things away, and I think that flexibility was great for my mindset.
Ultimately, I decided that veganism really was for me, though, and I have been back to that way of eating for about a year and a half. (I figured out that soaking and sprouting beans and grains do wonders, plus I added Vega vegan protein powders to my diet to accommodate my lifting.)
Some of my clients are vegan, some eat Paleo, and some eat somewhere in between. I feel happiest when I am fueled by 100% plants, but I am not one of those preachy vegans that assumes others will feel the same.