EAST LANSING, Mich. — Shelby King, a senior at Michigan State University and a former bodybuilder struggled with extreme dieting, binging, excessive exercise and food obsessing since her sophomore year of high school.
Body peace is something that most young women struggle and strive to find in their life. Women can find it early on in life, others take years and for some….well, they never find it.
King grew up in an unhealthy home. Southern style cooking and freezer meals was what her diet was mostly composed of. At 5’6, King was almost 200 pounds.
“I always tell people you get to this point where you get really fed up because people always ask how did you find the motivation to turn your life around and I always say it’s really just a switch,” said King.
In her junior year of high school, she experienced that switch. She decided to start the program Insanity with a friend twice a week, and after so many failed attempts at getting fit, this one stuck. King lost 20 pounds, and the following summer she started a similar program by the same instructor of Insanity, Shaun T, called hip-hop abs. From there, King lost another 20 pounds.
King said, “At that point, I was kind of just skinny I guess you could say, which I don’t like that terminology anyways but that’s how I could describe myself.”
She started working at a gym the following summer where she found a love for weightlifting and from there on out, she continued to educate herself on the sport and surrounded herself with like-minded individuals.
King says that being mentally prepared prior to engaging in this career or hobby is extremely important because you have to be able to dodge what could happen.
“I think that it’s a really slippery slope going with it just because you have to think you are taking yourself and your body to this extreme point. It’s unrealistic,” said King. “On Instagram, you see these girls that are ripped in a photoshoot with sweat on their body, that’s not realistic….let me tell you how long they had to cut for that photo shoot, how long they had to dehydrate themselves for that photo shoot, it’s bullcrap.”
King says she was very fortunate in the process. “I feel like when I prepped for my competition with bodybuilding, I went in knowing that I was mentally stable enough to do it which really set me up for a positive cut and a positive post show but not a lot of people have that.”
But, for what came next, she wasn’t prepared for. What started as a hobby, turned into an obsession. King began to isolate herself.
“My whole junior year of college, I didn’t go to a tailgate, I wouldn’t go out to eat with my friends, I wouldn’t have a sip of alcohol and I’m 21 years old…I would go to the gym to escape a social situation and just come up with an excuse,” said King.
Members of her family were officially concerned when she brought a food scale to Thanksgiving that year.
“I was literally weighing out my food on a food scale and I wasn’t in prep, I was post show and my mom looked at me and told me that she wanted to throw my food scale out of the window,” King said. All of these behaviors served as a wake up call for her.
The transition for King wasn’t easy. She started by letting herself do the things that she had previously made excuses for, stopped counting calories and using her food scale. King was still going to the gym but now her social life was at the forefront. She says she had managed to make more memories in three to four months than she had in her entire junior year of college.
“Junior year, I was prepping for a show, I was obsessed…even if I wasn’t prepping, I was still obsessed, and I let it keep me away from things, and then in these three months where I had gained weight, I could look back at these times where I was at Rick’s with friends and not even just Rick’s, I ate Krispy Kreme donuts for the first time in Las Vegas and these memories that my old self would have never allowed me to have and I think that was a big turning point for me,” said King.
After a few months, King fell back into her old tendencies and wanted to start prep again. She sought out a new coach but after a couple of weeks and a few failed attempts, King realized that she wanted it for the wrong reasons. Although this attempt didn’t work out as originally planned, her new coach, Chad Demchik, was a contributing factor to her journey to finding body peace.
“We talked and adjusted my diet to what it needed to be and through that process with him, I think that’s when I started finding myself,” said King.
Founder of Fit Bachelor and lifestyle coach Arash Thompson said, “When I first met Shelby she was struggling to find her identity…she believed that doing fitness competitions was for her…as time passed it became clear that her calling was something else. Dieting led to bad choices, binges and body image issues.”
During this time, she obtained a book that would change the way she saw herself. Body Kindness by registered dietician nutritionist Rebecca Scritchfield gave King what she needed. With Scritchfield being a personal trainer as well, King felt like she understood the body dysmorphia side of what she was experiencing. Every chapter of the book has exercises for readers to practice to promote body positivity.
“One exercise I still do every single night is at the end of every night, she says to write the things that you are grateful for and every single day I add to that list,” said King. “On days that are really tough, like when I have bad body image days, I look back at this list and one of my things is being grateful for having a body that moves…that’s able to do these activities, and so many people can’t even do that.”
Scritchfield’s theme for the book, she calls spiraling upward and the exercises are to build that upward spiral, love yourself and explore what it actually means to dig deeper within yourself.
After months of trial and error, King found the right tools and support that she needed to maintain a healthy balance with herself and her body. Now, she shares her advice and experiences with her followers on her Instagram to help anyone who may be experiencing the same thing.
“I’ve never met many people who had the same issues as me, and it often made me feel like I couldn’t talk about my issues with my friends, not for fear of judgment, but moreso fear of a lack of understanding but Shelby was very understanding and accepting and she really related to me well,” says junior at Michigan State University, Alyssa Upchurch.
Upchurch says the best advice she got from King was, “to push myself to make lifestyle choices that made me feel good, rather than adapting a regular ‘college’ lifestyle, she encouraged me to make choices that would help me and my body in the long run, which is some of the most valuable advice I have ever received.”
Longtime friend and gym buddy of King, Cares Kahn, struggled with weight loss herself. After noticing King’s progress, she went to her for advice on what to do to help her further her goals.
“She’s always been the type of person to say and do what’s right for you. She’s very inspirational and never fails to keep a smile on her face,” said Kahn.
Kahn said some of King’s advice to her was, “Don’t let anyone else’s feelings tear you down because at the end of the day the only one who matters is you…no one is perfect and everyone has flaws but the more we embrace them the more we show our happiness.”
Courtney Darrow works out at the same gym as King and says that King approached her noticing something was off about her. Darrow says she has always been very insecure and struggled with self-image problems.
“Shelby can relate to that on a very deep level and she put perspective in my head,” said Darrow. “She told me that people look at me and think one thing, they only look at me for a second…but I look at myself in the mirror every day and I am infinitely the only one who’s thought matters.”
King is now working to become a lifestyle coach for Thompson’s company, Fit Bachelor as she completes her degree in nursing with a minor in nutritional science and health promotion.