30 – Nadia Johnston on how CrossFit helped her to overcome eating disorders and depression

- 9 Comments

Nadia Johnston just completed her first year studying psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, but several years ago her life looked very different. Since the age of 16 she has struggled with eating disorders and depression, at one point nearly taking her own life. With the support of her family and friends, she began the long road to recovery which in 2013 led her to CrossFit. She got started in her friend’s garage gym and today she just trains with the loving and supportive community at CrossFit Pro1 Montreal and this year she participated in her first Open. I was fascinated with Nadia’s story and I am so appreciative that she had the courage to open up and share her experience here on Pursuing Health.
In this episode, we discuss:
  • How her struggle with eating disorders began at age 16
  • How this started to impact her academic performance and led her to come forward to her parents
  • Her journey to seek help and start the process of recovery
  • Her struggle with depression and functioning in school and work after high school
  • What brought her to the point of wanting to end her life
  • How support from her family and friends helped her to ultimately progress down the road to recovery
  • Her introduction to CrossFit and how it helped to change her body image and relationship with food
  • Different methods of treatment she used
  • How measuring her food still acts as a trigger for her eating disordered thoughts
  • How her experience inspired her current study of psychology at McGill University and future plans to become a physician
  • Three things she does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on her health
  • One thing she struggles to implement that could have a big impact on her health
  • What a healthy life looks like to her
To connect with Nadia, email nadiaj.crossfit@gmail.com.
Other stories of overcoming eating disorders with CrossFit:
If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear all of your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #JFHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.
Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.
  • Morning Chalk Up

    Love, love, love this. We’re going to put it in tomorrow’s Morning Chalk Up.

    • Julie Foucher

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Siv

    Hey Julie
    My goal is to compete in the games
    How many trainers are you working with?
    What do you think about training with a specific trainer for each area (e.g: weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, etc.)
    Does it become expensive affording all the trainers, psychotherapist, etc.?

  • Mike

    awesome podcast! I just recently started watching these and this one is by far my fav. I’m just coming out of my own dark place and this is was just a huge reminder that i am on the right track.

    I can relate to almost everything Nadia shared. Right down to her first hospital visit after she phoned her friend for help. Thank you for posting this Julie!! :)

    • Julie Foucher

      So glad to hear it resonated with you, Mike! Best of luck to you.

  • racheyray

    Great episode, but I would caution those in recovery to talk to their team. It sounded like Nadia did the same thing I did in recovery and switched the number focus from one set of numbers (the scale and weight and calories) to another (weight on the bar, reps). Crossfit is results based, everything is tracked and measured in the workout. This can be very triggering since the most common way ED start is when exercise and food are tracked together. Working out can be helpful but it also can be a trigger to relapse to do HIIT training.

    • Julie Foucher

      This is a great point, I completely agree! Everyone is definitely different and we’re just sharing one person’s experience here.

  • Cathy

    Loved this episode. Congrats Nadia for all of your hard work, on yourself, in the gym, and in the classroom. Bravo!

  • http://emilyhaledesign.com Emily Hale

    I wanted to cry after listening to this episode. And during to be honest. I’ve had a similar journey into wanting to pursue medicine and in working through my eating disorders and disordered relationship with food and my body. Initially I pursued Muay Thai and I used exercise as a way to obsess and at times punish myself much like I used my eating disorder. I was kept to strict standards in terms of my weight and was put on a tight meal plan as well. CrossFit and Paleo encouraged me to think of food as fuel and instead of focusing on my body in fitness I foucused on my ABILITY. I went on to pursue a certification in Nutritional Therapy (like Liz Wolfe) and am now about to start a pre-med post-bac program. For me, my desire to help others comes from seeing just how drastically my life changed when I put my own health first. Well done Julie!