When we spoke with Allison Quinn, she had just returned from her wedding and honeymoon in Mexico.
It was a big milestone for the 37-year-old bartender/server, and a testament to the fact that a label does not define you or dictate the course of your life.
Since her teens, Allison has struggled with borderline personality disorder (BPD). This is a condition characterized by challenges with self-image and difficulty managing behaviours, impulses and interpersonal relationships.
For most people with BPD, holding down a job, maintaining a long-term relationship and even functioning day-to-day on an even keel is only possible, if at all, through a regular program of psychotherapy and medication.
Not only has Allison beaten the odds in terms of her work and personal lives, she has been medication-free for a full year.
While she of course deserves most of the credit, Allison has relied on Free Form Fitness personal trainer Tyler Fawcett as her rock. In fact, she has trained with Tyler for four years. When Tyler joined the FFF team about a year ago, she was among the many clients who followed from his old gym.
“We’ve been through a lot together, a lot of changes,” Allison said.
Anyone on regular medication for any condition should not veer from their prescribed treatment without first consulting with their doctor. It was only because of a trusted relationship years in the making that Tyler came to believe Allison had reached a point in her life where she could go medication free.
“My doctor came to appreciate this was the right move to make,” Allison said. “It was a bit bumpy there for the first while, but then it stabilized.”
Regular exercise and healthy nutrition have been fundamental to Allison’s progress. She has learned new coping skills to manage stress and come to appreciate how much of a positive impact the right nutrition can have on mood, mental clarity and focus.
But she didn’t first come to Tyler for those reasons.
“I used to eat terribly,” she said. “It was after someone at work asked me if I was pregnant, that I said, ‘I am done with this, I can’t be fat anymore.’”
At the time, Allison weighed almost 200 lbs. She was able to lose more than 30 pounds on her own, before deciding she needed the help of an expert.
A family referral led her to Tyler. When her training began, she weighed 162 lbs, with 25 per cent body fat. Today, Allison is a much leaner and toned 145 lbs, with body fat around 15 per cent. She is working toward her first bikini physique competition this fall.
A big step in her progress came after she weaned herself off those BPD meds for depression and anxiety, which had always conspired to pack on the pounds.
“In the past year, Allison really took on the responsibility to get to know how her body works, the kind of nutrition she needed and to make the subtle changes in her lifestyle to feel better,” Tyler said. “The fact that we have such a deep client-trainer relationship made it possible for her to make the changes she has in her life. You walk a fine line as a personal trainer – you want to be a friend, but there are times where you can’t be a friend and have to show the tough love to get the job done.”
But Allison isn’t complaining.
“It’s made such a huge difference in how I feel,” she said.