Annie-Lori Thompson sees cellulite when she looks at the backs of her thighs. And she feels happier, healthier, stronger and more beautiful than ever.
“We are constantly comparing ourselves to what we are supposed to look like,” Thompson says. “Every single one of us, at some point in our lives, has got to stop.”
Thompson speaks from experience. The wife, mother of three and H2W Apparel model from Council Bluffs, Iowa struggled for years to obtain a level of physical perfection she had desperately hoped was within reach.
On the outside, Thompson was supermom, and an elite long-distance runner who was widely-known and admired within her local running community.
But on the inside, she was slowly killing herself. Thompson for years had been secretly suffering from an eating disorder.
“People would tell me how good I looked,” Thompson, 37, says. “That fueled it.”
She used diet pills, excessive exercise and binging and purging to control her weight. At her lowest, Thompson was a tiny 114 pounds.
“You get really good at it,” she says. “I’m assuming it’s like shooting heroin, when you can throw up your food and empty your stomach. It’s an amazing feeling of control and a surge of happiness. I knew it was wrong. But I loved it.”
Thompson says she grew up around dieting – she learned early on that women will often go to any lengths to look good. Her mom, like many mothers in the 1980s and 90s, experimented with fads like the cabbage soup diet.
“At the age of 11, I was thinking, ‘I shouldn’t be gaining weight,’” Thompson says. “There were so many overweight people in my family and I thought I was going to be overweight. I was surrounded by it.”
Going to Extremes
Thompson was 20 when she became pregnant with her oldest daughter. After the baby was born, she began going to extreme measures to lose the 110 pounds she gained during the pregnancy.
“I thought I was going to go home from the hospital and wear the same clothes,” Thompson says. “Of course that didn’t happen. I was in a bad place. I was the only one out of my group of friends who had kids and I was feeling scared. I used diet shakes, exercise, binging and purging. And nobody had a clue.”
It only escalated once Thompson’s younger children were born. She went through a divorce and became a talented ultra-runner. She saw how running made her even leaner. So, she started restricting her calories even more.
“I was so hard on myself,” Thompson says. “I was burning the candle at both ends.”
The cycle went on. Thompson met her current husband, Jeff, in 2013 through a group of runners. Two years later, she had a mini-stroke during a 100-mile race but fully recovered.
Thompson decided to stop binging and purging as her kids grew older. One day, one of her daughters questioned why Thompson hated herself so much.
“She said, ‘if you say, I’m so gross, I’m so disgusting – what does that make me?’” Thompson recalls. “She said, ‘you are perfect. Why would you say that?’ She was 10 years old. I just looked at her and said, ‘I love you.’ That day, I decided no matter how hard it was, I wasn’t going to let her hear me say those things about myself again.”
She continues: “That’s what has happened to young girls, instead of feeling good about themselves. They are saying, ‘My friend has boobs and the boys like her because she has boobs.’ A girl at age 10 is already judging herself. I didn’t want to set that example. I really had to learn that I was not going to sabotage them by feeding them this whole media-driven image of what a woman or man should look like.”
Thompson got help. Today she weighs a healthy 144 pounds and counts macros – protein, carbs and fats – instead of calories. Thompson is now a competing powerlifter who is proud of both her muscle and curves. In August, she took on her first Strongman competition.
“I can lift double my body weight. I couldn’t do that when I was falling apart,” she says.
Jeff Thompson is his wife’s rock. They work out together, compete together and enjoy a healthy lifestyle together.
“He takes my baggage and he turns it around,” Thompson says. “I’m lucky. My husband is very supportive and understanding.”
Thompson owns her own business, which counsels people on fitness and nutrition. She reminds her clients that striving for perfection won’t make them happy. It won’t help them find their soul mates. It won’t even get rid of a little cellulite.
Thompson is an H2W woman: happy, healthy and whole. She wants the same for all of her clients.
“It doesn’t fully go away, but for me, I’ve learned a lot about self-love,” Thompson says. “We want control and we want to be perfect. But now, the only person I want to make happy every single day is me.”
Want to learn more about Annie-Lori Thompson’s vision for helping women and men meet their health and fitness goals? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.