Read this compelling life story of a fitness professional. Started with anorexia in her school ages, Joey now owns the Sunshine Coast biggest gym!
Setting the scene for the next 14 years of my life
I was always very active and good at sports from an early age. Like an every high schooler, I went through my fair share of problems. And unfortunately at age 16, I was facing a battle with Anorexia. As you may know, it is a disease and when it started it wasn’t because I thought I was overweight or I hated myself. I was just unhappy with certain things in my life. Looking back on it, I suppose it was my way of dealing with the anxiety and stress. Strangely, I never had a problem with my confidence or how I looked. So there really is no standout reason why this disease possessed me for the next 18 months.
Getting closer to anorexia with every step
First it was food. I started to be obsessed about it. Then, came the exercise – everything was structured and routine. Although I would eat, I avoided fat and would eat the same thing at the same time every day and go for a run around the same block every day.
This habit became worse – I started eating less, exercising more, hiding my dinner. I was even forcing myself to throw up after meals. It didn’t take long for my mum to realize what I was doing. Of course it was denied and my behaviour continued to become aggressive towards my family and friends. Everyone was very concerned except for me – I remember feeling happy.
I graduated from school stick thin, unhealthy and separated from my family and friends. I spent my schoolies with friends in Bali, only to eat plain rice with sweet chilli sauce. My obsession with fat became so bad, I wouldn’t want to touch any food in case it soaked through my fingers and this in turn would make me fat!
Digging myself out
When the situations and problems started to lift in my life and I began to deal with all the emotion behind the anorexia, I slowly brought myself out of the dark hole I was in. Up until this point, I had never spoken about what was wrong. I had just hoped it would go away. The only thing that went away was me as a person.
I was lost under all the frustration, anger, sadness and worry in my life. Things definitely started to get better slowly and the obsession slowly weakened – with food anyway not so much exercise! Years on I had a new boyfriend (now husband) but old ways die hard. It wasn’t easy and restaurants were still an issue. I remember how I used to bring my own dinner to his family’s home as I didn’t want to eat anything else. I clearly remember going out to dinner with our friends and how I just ordered the salad without the chicken and pesto.
Getting interested in fitness professionally
My partner and I moved to Sydney together. There were still issues with my food and ashamed as I was, I never told him anything from my past. He liked me for who I was even if I was a bit difficult to take out to dinner. We lived in Parramatta as my partner was on his first year with the Parramatta Eels. What a different experience that was from living on the Sunshine Coast! However, I was very excited to join Fernwood Parramatta City and everyone would remember me as the tiny little girl who used to spend hours in the gym.
It didn’t matter what I was doing, just being there made me happy. I never missed a bodystep class by an instructor named Rose. She made me feel awesome – I felt alive, like I could do anything. The best thing about my weekend was Rose’s step class on Saturday morning at 8.15am. I respected Rose and looked up to her so much that I wanted to become her. I wanted to make people happy, to make people feel good about themselves just like she had for me. So, I enquired what I had to do to become an instructor and studied whilst working full time. I didn’t imagine learning as much as I have and being so absorbed by that learning.
We left Sydney to head to Canberra. I was now a qualified fitness professional. Co-incidentally, at the time of arriving in Canberra, there was a receptionist job open at Les Mills Head Office. Being successful with my application for the position was like a dream come true. I was working amongst the people I was in awe of whilst watching a bodystep video in my living room.
After completing the initial training, I was ready to teach and was even offered my first class. However, I was certainly thrown in the deep end. I was asked to take the Sunday morning bodystep class but I didn’t know that it was the biggest class on the timetable. The room was full! I couldn’t have possibly had a worse experience than what I did. From track 1, I had completely forgotten the choreography and the music just sounded like a big blur. I didn’t even get through the class- ladies were walking out every second.
It was a disastrous start to my teaching career and it crumbled my confidence for quite some time. However working with such great people, I found my feet again and just kept aiming to learn from the best. After nearly 4 years with Les Mills, I was looking to move on and I landed myself the Gym Manager’s role at a Fernwood in Canberra.
A step higher
At 22, I was a young manager. I struggled with the position. I worked long hours and couldn’t seem to turn myself away from the job. As a result, I ended up with severe anxiety that brought me to one day literally running away. So I called the owner and said I couldn’t come back. I thought it was best. Walked away from the fitness industry and I took on an executive assistant’s role in a big firm in the city. Although I loved the people there, it wasn’t me. So I found myself again teaching classes in my lunch time and after work.
My partner had been accepted to play rugby league in France at the end of 2006 so I resigned from my position and departed for France. After spending nearly 4 years in Europe, we came home with 2 young children and I was more ambitious than ever to get my career back on track. Being overseas and not working in the country my qualifications and registration expired. So in order to get back to business, I needed to re-sit my quals.
This is where I am now
I was Personal Training again within no time. And now, other than taking a couple of indoor cycle classes, Personal Training is my focus. Health and Fitness is a number 1 priority in my life.
Contrary to where I started, being healthy and feeling great is based on how I feel on the inside rather than on the outside. One of the things I truly love to do is exercise. I love who I become after a workout. Feeling fearless, confident, happy and I can do anything.
Food is also a big priority for me- I enjoy it! No more diets or watching what I eat. If I want to eat something, I will eat it. No tricks, no lucky genes. As like most women, any extra weight goes straight to my hips and butt. However, after educating myself I know what works and what doesn’t.
Being strong, fast, super fit and powerful is what I am proud of most in my life. If I can make everyone enjoy exercise, then my job is done. Once they enjoy what they are doing, the results are easy!
Now I am lucky enough to own the Sunshine Coast biggest gym Ezyfit Health Club.