Marisa Hope


From A Former Bikini Competitor Turned Food Freedom Coach

I’ve been deep in the fitness industry for almost a decade now – which is crazy to say, because I started my fitness journey at the very young age of 17 when I joined my local YMCA gym – so I without a doubt have MANY things I can look back on and wish I knew better at the time. But nonetheless, now I have knowledge and insight so I can share these super valuable mindset shifts and lessons I’ve learned over the years with you.

I thought long and hard about which areas I wanted to share, and these 3 really stuck out to me. I talk to countless women on a daily basis, and over the years have spoken to thousands of women, these are without a doubt the most common areas I hear women struggling with, so I hope these help guide you in the right direction within your own journey. Whether you are just starting out, or you’ve been doing things for years, I think you will benefit from these! Let’s get right into them!

  1. Restricting causes MORE problems (bingeing, cravings, insane hunger, food guilt, food thoughts, never-ending cycle)

Since the age of 17 years old, all I knew was restrictions. I was led to believe that the less food you ate, the better. I was taught essentially, that the less you eat the quicker you’ll see results, and the less you eat the more disciplined you are. My whole fitness journey started in the world of bodybuilding, so all I knew was depriving myself, eating as little as possible, eating a minimal variety of foods, it was all about how little I could eat. Little did I know I was not only causing severe inner health issues, but I also was setting myself up for the binge eating cycle.

When you put things off limits and tell yourself you ‘can’t’ have something, of course, you’re going to want that thing even more. The more you restrict, the worse these things get – so I dealt with bingeing, insane food cravings, and constantly overeating or under eating, for YEARS. There was no in-between.

The best advice I can give to anyone is to stop restricting, stop putting things off limits or labelling foods as good or bad.

Over time, the thing I learned was: that as soon as you stop restricting, which can sometimes feel hard to do, all those insane cravings and binge tendencies eventually do dissipate. I started to eat more consistently every day, I started to eat more of the foods I had put off limits; I stopped putting foods off limits altogether and did my best to just adopt a more balanced approach, not so all or nothing – obviously, this took time and it definitely did feel hard and foreign at first to eat enough, which now looking back is honestly so sad to say, the fact that most of us feel afraid or guilty for eating ENOUGH. The reality is we all deserve to eat enough, eat what we love and enjoy our nourishment, without guilt or fear. Nourishing our body is a gift, and eating should not be something you dread or something that consumes your life.

The best advice I can give to anyone is to stop restricting, stop putting things off limits or labelling foods as good or bad. Often we think if we give ourselves the permission to actually enjoy what we love or what we want, that we’ll only be eating burgers and pizza and chips for the rest of our lives all day every day, but when you incorporate what you want in the presence of an otherwise nutrient-dense diet and stop putting things off limits, you’ll actually notice you have LESS of these cravings, you won’t need to eat as much of one thing anymore and you’ll feel way more empowered by your nourishment choices, and not like food has all the power over you.

  1. Stop OVERdoing it on the cardio

You guys, I used to do HOURS of cardio every day, and I don’t mean fun outdoor activities you enjoy, I mean 2 dreadful hours on the stairmaster or treadmill. Oh my god looking back on that, I don’t know how I did it, but I know there are so many women still killing themselves with heaps of cardio, and it’s just so unnecessary, not to mention probably causing more inner stress and harm than anything. Especially if you’re already on a starvation diet! Tons and tons of cardio are just super taxing on the body, especially without enough food we’re forcing our body to ramp up cortisol and create more stress within, you’re likely eating away at your own muscle tissue, and you’re not going to be creating a shape or building muscle by doing this.

My best advice is to start weight training consistently, maybe 3-4 times per week, nothing crazy as all you need is 30-45 mins honestly, and go do things that you have fun doing that get you OUTSIDE. Walking, for example, is the most underrated form of exercise. Go play a sport with your friends, play with your kids at the park, walk along the beach or go for a hike, go swimming, ride your bike, or even clean up your yard – anything that gets you moving is AWESOME, and it is how you are going to create a lifestyle you love and can sustain. Remember, we should always be looking to ADD to our lives, not take away or punish ourselves, focus on an ABUNDANCE MINDSET and you will go FAR.

Know that your happiness is not determined by your body or what you look like – your body is the least interesting thing about you. Focus instead on gratitude and appreciation around all that your body allows you to do and experience.

  1. It was never about your body – your happiness and worth have nothing to do with what you look like

It’s never been about your body. Look, I know that we are bombarded all day every day, it sometimes feels like, with the ‘ideal body type’ and what ‘healthy should look like. BUT, let me tell you, shrinking your body or losing weight or looking a certain way is never going to be what truly makes you happy, it is never going to bring you the fulfillment and joy you so deeply desire. However, it is conditioned into us, to think a smaller body is the answer, it’s so deeply rooted into us from the time we’re basically babies, to (if we’re a woman or young girl) be small, quiet, petite, kind, soft, weak, etc etc and look a certain way if we are to be seen, worthy, successful or happy. I call BULL, a smaller body is not the answer to happiness or being our best selves. But, we see it everywhere right – in movies, in magazines, billboards, in malls, on our phones, it’s EVERYWHERE. The diet industry wants to keep us so distracted on our bodies – imagine all the time you’ve spent in your life obsessing over or hating on your body and imagine all that same time that could’ve been used to PROPEL you in your life and in the world, all that time and energy and money that could’ve been spent doing things you love and that make you happy. Instead, we are here, hating what we see in the mirror, obsessing over how clothes don’t fit us or wishing we looked like that Instagram model. I’ve been there too, heck, I still have really tough days where I feel consumed by my body and my body image, but I’ve also gotten to the point where I’m so sick of wasting my life trying to shrink myself or look a certain way, and for who?!  

The only person I want to live for is for ME, not to look like that model, not to fit into those old jeans that fit me 2 years ago. Let’s get back to doing things that make us feel good and happy and bring joy to the deepest parts of our souls. Imagine being able to shift the narratives for your daughter, your sister, your mother, or your friends. Imagine being able to uplift ALL women and not have any woman feel ashamed of her body, or feel guilty for just existing exactly as she is. When we choose to love ourselves and take up space exactly as we are, at this moment, we pave the path for other women to do so too.

Please know that your happiness is not determined by your body or what you look like – your body is the least interesting thing about you. Focus instead on gratitude and appreciation around all that your body allows you to do and experience. When we shift our perspective to one of gratitude, everything changes for the better.

I hope these lessons I learned over the years have helped open your eyes to your own health and fitness journey. Overall, please do what makes you happy and feel good, because otherwise what’s the point? Make it a lifestyle and I promise you will go so much farther, and be able to thrive in your routines and habits. Keep going!

Have you been stuck in diet culture for some time, wanting to finally free yourself but you’re not really sure how or where to start? Let me tell you the story of how I finally got off the dieting train and what things helped me get off for GOOD.

I spent a good chunk of my late teens/early 20s dieting. From the age of 18 up until about 23 years old, I was constantly under-eating, afraid to eat more, ridden with food guilt and thought about food 24/7. I was also stuck in the binge/restrict cycle, was consumed by food rules and put a lot of foods I loved off limits, which led to even more binge tendencies.

I felt so ashamed, alone and defeated in this cycle. I realized I had developed a lot of these mindsets from my years as a bikini competitor. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the restrictive and extreme nature of competing had led to a lot of negative consequences, both mentally and physically. I suffered from poor body image, body dysmorphia and extremely obsessive thoughts about food.

It wasn’t until I started to reach out to other women in the bodybuilding world, and also be more open about what I was struggling with on my Instagram, that I started to realize SO many women were also suffering from these things. Yet no one was talking about it. It almost felt like a taboo topic at the time, we were all hiding these struggles.

And so, I began to speak on it more. I started to be open about my struggles and vowed to myself that I would embark on a journey to not only heal my internal health from the years of restrictive dieting but also heal my relationship with food and my body. This pursuit also led me towards the desire of wanting to advocate for other women going through these toxic diet culture patterns and help them break free as well.

It was a rollercoaster, to say the least, but there were a few things that I did and focused on that got me closer to healing, and over time I realized the more effort I put into showing up for myself daily and finally deciding to never diet or under eat again, things began to shift and change in amazing ways for me.

I want to share 4 simple things that I help my online clients focus on and that you can begin to focus on as well as you transition away from the diet culture mindsets and habits, and towards nourishment for life.

  • Focusing on how you FEEL over just what you look like. Your inner health matters way more at the end of the day. When you focus on nourishing yourself from the inside out, you’re supporting your metabolism, hormone health, quality of life, longevity, performance, energy levels and so much more.
  • Ditch the scale and focus instead on progress markers that ADD value to your life. Especially, if you’re finding that weighing yourself or wanting to know how much you weigh is becoming consuming and a negative habit in your life, it’s no longer serving you, and that’s okay. Things to ask yourself and check in with would be how your consistency looks with your workouts, how are you enjoying your workouts and movement, what are your energy levels like throughout the day, how’s your quality of sleep, can you manage stress in your life, do you enjoy your meals, are you focusing on whole foods, are you enjoying what you’re doing, what does your self-care look like. Check-in with these questions every few days or once a week to better determine your progress and overall happiness.
  • Unfollow negative accounts on Instagram, and by negative, I mean any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. The content you consume matters just as much as the food you consume, you need to be surrounding yourself with positive and uplifting energy. Find accounts on Instagram and Tik Tok that promote body autonomy/inclusivity, body image healing, a healthy balance in life, advocate for bodies that look like real bodies and make you feel good when you see them on your feed. Curate your environment online AND offline to a positive and supportive one, one that propels you forwards in your journey.
  • Focus on CONSISTENCY. Stop hopping from one diet to the next, or one extreme to the next. Extremes never work, and diets never work. Find a way of eating, moving your body and existing that makes sense for you for the long term. The more you enjoy something the more likely you’ll be to stick with it. Nothing good happens overnight, so be patient in your journey and focus on long-term health, not just the next quick fix.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that it’s a PROCESS to free yourself from those old diet culture mindsets. Be patient with yourself, remind yourself you deserve to feel nourished and that it’s okay to hit bumps along the way. No one is perfect, learn as you go and do your best to enjoy the journey, otherwise what’s the point!

For more information, support and guidance around how to ditch the starvation diets, heal your body image and create a nourishing lifestyle you can thrive in – follow me on Instagram OR check out my website to see how I help women discover their most abundant and strongest selves. KEEP NOURISHING!