Lifter Profile: Christine Castellano

Hi Chrissy, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week, which is an important time for many of us, and an excellent opportunity to break the silence and shame surrounding ED. First, how old are you, what is your training age, and what are your current lifts?

Thank you for choosing me to interview, I am truly honored.

I’m 28, I’ve been lifting for 6 years, and powerlifting specifically for just over 2. My meet PRs are a 250lb squat, 175lb bench and a 365lb deadlift. I’ve since hit a 255lb squat and a 195lb bench in the gym.

Well, I’m honored to talk to you. You are a survivor, you are incredibly strong. You’re an inspiration. I reached out to you because of a recent quote I read. You recently said: “I used to be nearly dead from years of anorexia and bulimia. Now I’m full of life and happiness.” What role has lifting played in your recovery, and how did you discover the sport?

Lifting has saved my life. I’m not exaggerating at all. It gave me something to focus on that is in no way tied to how I look. I always say that powerlifting is a quantifiable achievement, it is X pounds moved on a bar for X many reps. I feel empowered to be strong. I work in technology at an investment bank, both of which are typically male-dominated fields. I stand out. I’m truly the size of the average man (average outside of the PL world, that is). I’ve gained almost 70lbs from my lowest weight of 105lbs, to my current 174lbs, at 5’9″.

My size, attitude, and gender have only helped me in my career, not held me back. My confidence is through the roof and no one intimidates me. I regularly move hundreds of pounds of weight. I survived an eating disorder that almost killed me a few times. I continue to improve myself every day. No one scares me.

That is amazing.

I discovered that PL was a good fit when was a part of a women’s strength training group back in 2012. I watched those women do amazing and strong things all the time, so I decided that I wanted to as well! I hired a trainer at a commercial gym, and he showed me how to squat, bench, and deadlift. He gave me my first program. I started seeing a lot of progress and my best friend urged me to sign up for my first powerlifting meet and to find a coach. So, I did both of those things in 2015 and never looked back. Most people, including my family, were surprised to see me doing anything remotely athletic, I used to hide in the locker room or feign a grievous injury to avoid gym class in my younger years. How far I have come!

I can totally relate. Someone recently called me a “well-rounded athlete” and I almost did a full spit take. Like you, I’m in recovery for an ED. Choosing to get strong has made a huge positive impact on my life. I really want more women to see that they have choices in the world, that they do not have to live secret lives, or lives in which they are trying to be something they feel society demands of them. How can we help each other heal, and how can we work together as a community to promote awareness?

We need to stop hating and putting each other down. I find that women are often the most critical of other women, whether out of jealousy or because of our own insecurities. I catch myself judging others from time to time, and have to take a step back and understand where this negativity is coming from. Usually, I’m envious of something she is doing or her confidence strikes me when I’m having a bad body image or mental health day. When I start thinking like that, I usually stop and take a moment to assess why I’m feeling this way, and then I try to fix my own thoughts. I was once told that our first reaction to something is what we are conditioned to think, and the second is what we really feel.

I have never heard that before, I really like it. It reminds me of the “sacred pause,” where you teach yourself to pause before reacting.

I’m always working on fixing that initial thought.

Social media is a blessing and a curse for us. It’s great in that it helps us unite. I’m a member of several women-only fitness and strength training forums and we celebrate all bodies and all achievements. It helps me, and probably most of the members, see what real bodies look like, what they can do, and also what struggle and hard work look like. Social media can be toxic because it is usually a highlight reel – photos from clever angles that are airbrushed and in good lighting, all the PRs (but none of the dozens of failures, tears and sweat droplets that it took to get there,) and nonsensical, inspirational quotes plastered on the latest diet pill, magical shake or laxative tea.

I think it’s important for everyone to have a tribe of women you can talk to. I have one soul sister, ride or die, best friend, who lives thousands of miles from me, a few close friends nearby, and several thousand online girlfriends who I share my triumphs, tragedies and general daily nonsense with. They are all important to me!

I truly believe that women can do anything we put ourselves up to. It really just depends how bad you want something and how much you are willing to fight to get it.

If you could say one thing to a struggling woman, out there right now, what would you tell her?

Talk about it, ask for help, and be honest with yourself. I didn’t truly commit to recovery until I admitted that I was really sick and also really ready to get better. I am an unconventional story in that therapy and nutritionists never worked for me, I did all of this myself. I went from the anorexic in the picture, whose hair was falling out, with the bone density of a frail 80 year old to a bulimic who was throwing up 25 times a day, spending thousands of dollars on food (just to throw it up again), having heart palpitations and blacking out daily to the woman you see on the right. I’m healthy, my metabolism and body are healed, but most importantly so are my heart and mind.

The first time I tried to get better, I decided that if I could get myself that sick, I could get myself un-sick. I am stubborn and prefer to do most things on my own. I went for a year without a relapse that time and felt really solid in my recovery. Then I started dating someone who competes in bodybuilding. I had just gotten into powerlifting, and he urged me to do a bikini show with him. We broke up shortly thereafter, but the thoughts of getting on a stage to be judged purely on what I look like set me off into a series of small relapses that lasted until June 10th of last year. That was the last time I purged, recommitted to recovery, and realized how much stronger I got (quickly). I promised myself not to look back. My boyfriend now is one of the most supportive people in my life, and has taught me to strive to be better in some way, every single day. That’s how I live my life now.

I also have two recovery tattoos – the word “Stronger” with the symbol for NEDA as the O, and my best friend’s blog logo, Strong Snatch, it’s the female symbol with a barbell. To me, this represents female strength, empowerment and badassery, and it is also a tribute to our unbreakable bond. She has been pivotal to my recovery.

My approach to recovery is certainly unorthodox so I am not saying that medical care does not work or that anyone should forgo professional care. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. I like to do things my way, and figure it out.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your past self if you could?

I would not change anything about my past. I would not tell myself to not go on that first diet, or stop wasting time on hating myself, as crazy as that sounds. My past got me where I am today, and made me who I am. I’m proud of who I am. I would tell myself that the future is beautiful, and to start eating red meat again sooner…because few things are as delicious as a really rare steak.

What’s a major personal goal you’ve recently accomplished, or are working towards accomplishing?

Powerlifting-wise, I hit a 185 bench around New Year’s. That was a life-goal, and I have since surpassed it. I’m worked toward 200 now! I’m also hoping to hit a 300 squat by the end of the year.

Personally, I’m very focused on my career currently as my job recently changed and I have the opportunity to focus on what I truly enjoy doing and am good at. I’m finally on the road to my dream job.

Thank you so much, Chrissy, for speaking up and breaking the silence. Is there anything else you’d like to add, anything you want to share with the readers?

I want to tell anyone that’s reading this and struggling that there is hope. There is a life outside of the obsession and mental anguish that goes along with EDs. There is also help out there, you just have to ask for it, and be willing to accept it. There is no shame in an ED, my own recovery really took off once I started talking about it. So use your voice. Own your struggle and your recovery.

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