Content warning: This will be one extremely personal and very angry post, so if you do not feel like that, please stop reading right now and switch to another post. I will be touching subjects like eating disorders, body weight, and body-image-related issues.
Have you ever thought why everyone is obsessed with fitness?
Is it only for the sake of health? I will leave this question open until the end of this post and will explain to you what brought me here, to the point where I am now.
I’ve never been a size-2-type of girl, and damn, I was always far from it. I survived getting a degree without gaining freshman fifteen and was so proud of myself.I was always able to maintain my weight around holidays (and trust me, if you only tried how my mom cooks, you would understand that this is almost heroic).
By the time I got my first real job, my weight was around 138-140 lb. which was okay with me.
And then everything started. Due to some health problems, I started gaining weight, slowly but steadily, and it seemed like there was nothing I could do about it. As a girl who was always about planning, I decided I should deal with it and created a plan.
Let me guide you through the story as I lived it.
Having read tons of articles, I decided to begin with my dietary plan.
Many fitness enthusiasts say it is a great beginning of your fitness journey, so I decided to give it a try. It felt so amazing to google all those recipes, save them, and create meal plans for almost a day. And that is when I stumbled upon my first wall.
Living in a small town, I could hardly lay my hand on at least one-fourth of the ingredients in those recipes.
Okay, this could not stop me, so I decided to order products that could survive shipment. Guess what, they lost my package.
So I decided to begin with some simple recipes, like steamed veggies and turkey. I guess I felt sick of turkey and veggies somewhere around Day 11, so I decided to add some exercise. What did I do? I opened Instagram.
This is one of the most common hashtags that is supposed to help you look for social media fitness inspiration.
So I spent hours on my account trying to find the inspiration that all talked about. I search thousands of posts, in most cases seeing girls who could successfully pose as personal stars and famous fitness trainers on one hand, or just heavily overweight people on the other.
There is nothing wrong with either one. However, there was hardly anyone I could relate to.
So I tried to look for the body types similar to mine.
Once I’ve found this hashtag, I knew that something had broken deep down in my heart. And looking back now, I believe that was the moment where the obsession began. I looked at all those beautiful women and imagined myself being one of them.
Here I have to stop and explain something. I have a big family and growing up we had lots of people in the house, including several cousins. As a kid and teenager, I was often teased by a cousin of mine who said I was fat and ugly, and nobody would love me. And as silly as it may be, I believed him.
So having that mindset and struggling with my body, I added exercise to my plan.
I bought the most expensive gym membership I could afford at the moment, and I hit the gym right away. I could not afford a personal trainer at that time, so I decided to search YouTube and Instagram for exercise ideas.
I still remember all those posts like “Be the person you were too lazy to be yesterday,” #GoHardOrGoHome, and other things that were supposed to motivate me.
For a month or so. When I realized I’m not getting where I imagined myself, I felt desperate. I looked at some gorgeous girl in my gym and felt depressed I can’t look the way they do.
I kept asking myself what was wrong with me. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. And then it just hit me.
When I looked at the vast majority of the images, I saw a thin girl, with abs and round buttox, wearing sexy outfits (btw, have you seen the price tags of those outfits?).
And I just wasn't feeling sexy. Damn, I didn’t feel beautiful at all. So I decided (don’t ask me about the reasoning behind that) to lose more weight in order to become sexy.
That was a horrific time of self-hatred and excessive training. I counted every calorie I ate adding repetitions to my gym routine and still following those same people who as I thought inspired my weight loss. Over the period of six months, I lost around 8 lb. and felt even somewhat proud of myself. I kept pushing myself, but that was the moment where my weight just froze for long 3 months.
So I decided to do something about the way I looked.
We all know those images where you can study the anatomy of the human body by looking at those muscles.
I found my weight lifting motivation in them, thinking if I cannot lose any more weight, that I should change the way my muscles look. And while lifting motivation was strong enough to keep me going for a good 6 month, my heart broke when I decided to step up the scales before the training.
The moment I saw I gained 6 lb., I burst into tears. I could not believe that! I maintained a healthy (sort of…) diet for almost a year, spent hours in the gym, and got the weight back???
It’s obvious the next step was denial. I cut down my calories, added some more exercise, and hoped this would help me.
Lack of calories and instant physical activities began to cause health issues. I felt weak, disoriented, and irritated most of the time.
Despite the fact my friends and random guys kept telling me I looked good, it felt not enough for me. I could not afford eating anything unhealthy (or even salty/ savory/etc.), so I stopped hanging out with my friends.
I didn't find any joy in food or in anything else for that matter.
The only thing that kept me going was as dark desire to see certain numbers on the scale. I was on the edge of refusing any food at all. I just kept looking for any other skim smoothie recipes.
I reached the numbers I wanted so much. I felt so proud of myself so much! For a day or two. And then I realized what cost I paid to get those number. I was feeble and disturbed on what I can eat and not having anyone by my side to celebrate my victory.
That was a dark period in my life as I understood all those efforts were for nothing. I almost had the body I wanted, but it didn’t bring me any pleasure. I was falling into the deep hole of despair and denial.
So I quit. I canceled my gym subscription.
I ate whatever was in the fridge, things I could get from the wall mart, and that didn’t need much time to be cooked. I broke.
It took me long two years to win my self-esteem back.
Thank God to the man in my life and some of the old friends who were there by my side.
My recovery was a long journey, full of ups and downs and hard moments of learning to look at myself in the mirror and not feel disgusted.
My weight went up. This is okay with me as long as it’s healthy.
I’m so grateful to people who started a body positivity movement and begun teaching that women of any size are beautiful.
The number of your weight does not define who you are!
It took me long to understand the real reason for what happened to me. While fitness culture is a growing trend in America, many people begin comparing themselves to other people.
I used to have a separate Pinterest board of body images I liked (apart from seven boards with training advice and #healthy eating recipes). And while I do understand why fitness has become so popular, I still believe this becomes unhealthy.
Why should we stop?
Social media and fitness industry are turning fitness culture in America into a trend, selling gear and outfits, dietary supplements and vitamins, rather than really taking care of the nation's health.
And while one person cannot really stop the craziness around fitness industry, you can at least stop ruining your own life.
Please, don’t go the way I went as there is nothing healthy about it.
I stopped checking social media for fitness inspiration.