Our pasts do not dictate our futures. For one woman, an eating disorder at a young age allowed her to become an advocate for females around the country. Learning from the struggles we endure in life, help to make us stronger and achieve even greater things in life. Finding your true identity may take time, but it is always possible and you will find happiness in the end.
For over half of my life I struggled with my body image. Tipping the scales at just over 100 pounds at 22-years-old, you’d think I would have seen what the world knew, and what I could not yet admit to myself: I had an eating disorder.
On many levels, I am the same person I was 20 years ago. On the other hand, I could not be farther from the life I used to live. Writing, for example, is something I have always cherished. I have kept a journal since I was 8-years-old. From love gone completely awry to details of what I had eaten, my collection of journals serve as reminders of milestones I have reached throughout my life. That of which is a journey, from a sick occupation with my body to an insatiable desire to prevent the disorder from affecting other young women in the community and being an overall champion for women and the unique issues that we face.
In high school, I wrote very little because I had reached a point where I had become so regimented in what I ate and the amount of exercise I would endure on any given day that there was no need to keep tally anymore. It would have been the same exact entry every day.
October 9, 1997. (I would be about 15-years-old at the time).
1 pear. 10 pretzels (save the other 10 for tomorrow). Coffee.
It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was desperate to seek treatment, heal and recover from years of a destructive relationship with food. I am most proud of the decision to ask for help for my anorexia and bulimia. My physical symptoms and urges were bi-products of my lack of confidence and an immense pressure I put on myself to be perfect. One of the most challenging things for me was letting go of the so called “super woman syndrome,” being everything, to everyone, at all times. I was so intent on making others happy that I never allowed myself the time to reflect on my own needs. Two years at a Center for Eating Disorders in Maryland gave me just that, time to find my own voice.
In 2009 I quit my full time job as an Associate at one of the top four public accounting firms in the world and pursued my passion for marketing and won my first pageant! The business savvy I gained while obtaining my MBA, coupled with the desire to help other young women find their own identities on the pageant stage and in life, led to the launch of my own company Pageant Professors. And as the newly crowned Miss Delaware International 2012, I plan on taking my platform “No Body’s Perfect,” which promotes eating disorder awareness, to the national stage.
I look back on my life and regret spending so much time counting calories and criticizing my body in front of mirrors. But it was as if I had to be pushed to the brink of the impossible, to know my true potential, to understand what I am meant to do in this world. And it has been a result of my battle with eating disorders that I’ve been able to contribute to a world greater than myself. Becoming Miss Delaware International will serve as my microphone for increasing awareness about the severity and prevalence of eating disorders in the United States. It will also provide me with the opportunity to speak on behalf of those who are not ready to tell their own story.
In keeping with Identity’s mission of ‘Accept. Appreciate. Achieve™’, Nicole answers the Identity Five:
1. What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
My weight is something that took time for me to accept. Once I realized that the number staring back at me was no indicator of my worth, it changed my life.
2. What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
I appreciate my positive frame of mind. Now that I am free from my eating disorders, I can think confidently about what the future has in store for me.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
Starting my own company is one of my most rewarding achievements. There has been no better satisfaction that providing young women with the tools I wish I had when I first started competing in pageants. I have my eyes set on becoming the Executive Director of a state pageant system and becoming a national expert on women’s entrepreneurship.
4. What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
I am a closet knitter! People think that because I appear in our Pageant Professors videos and are a natural networker that I am an extrovert. I actually have very introverted tendencies and prefer activities such as cooking, going for runs by myself and reading.
5. How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love myself and the people who have supported me on this amazing journey.