When I started University, I was not a huge gym-goer. In high school, whenever I wasn’t in treatment, I was a cheerleader, so that was my form of exercise. When high school ended and I stopped cheer, my metabolism was such that I didn’t really need to work out to stay in shape. I was eating healthily and living somewhat carefree going into my new University experience. Even in first year, I think I went to the gym a total of 3 or 4 times – it just wasn’t a part of my routine, or something I prioritized. I also wasn’t a huge fan of running, and never really knew what I was doing in terms of anything else, so I just opted not to go. Then, when second year came around I went on birth control and gained a bit a weight (ladies I know you feel me). It wasn’t anything significant but I still noticed it. However, I still stuck to my lackadaisical lifestyle which consisted of going to class, going out any night that I could, and did not involve the gym. A part of me was scared to make going to the gym a regular part of my routine, to be honest. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to moderate myself and that I would go overboard, falling back into my eating disorder. However, when third year came around, I decided to take a risk.
I began to get inspired by my friends to actually go to the gym. It wasn’t that I was overweight, or wanted to lose weight, it was more that I wanted to increase my fitness and overall wellbeing. It started slowly, with just going to the gym every so often, maybe a couple times a month. But then, by the end of the year I was going 5 to 7 days a week and I had fallen in love with the gym.
Whenever I was done a session at the gym, I felt a million times better both physically and mentally. It was a great way to relieve stress, increase the dopamine in my system and admire the things that my body can do. When I first started to see improvements, I was thrilled. For a girl who never used to run and hated it with a passion, seeing myself run 20 minutes a day was incredible. Soon afterwards, I noticed the things about my body that I disliked start to fade: the ‘”flab” on my arms began to disappear, and my “thunder thighs” began to tighten up. (I put these in quotation marks because it was mainly in my head, but still). Going to the gym became a priority for me and something I thoroughly enjoyed.
Now I just had to figure out how to balance my eating with my new routine. This is something I am still struggling with, since my natural tendency as someone in recovery from anorexia, is to eat a caloric deficit. Basically my brain tells me “as long as you’re eating under what you should be, then everything will be okay.” However, I’m trying to fight this mentality for many reasons. For one, the calorie allotment my fitbit gives me is in no way 100% accurate, especially since it does not calculate my metabolism or external factors beyond my age, height and weight. Secondly, some days people over eat but the body is able to regulate itself. As long as you don’t make a constant habit of eating immense amounts of foods, your body will stay in its healthy range. Thirdly, when you restrict your body, it is more likely to hold on to any nutrients you give it and thus your metabolism is not as fast as it could be, and your body doesn’t trust that you will take good care of it nutritionally.
In my brain, I know all of these things, but actually acting and increasing my food intake is still difficult for me. It is a daily struggle and something I’m really trying to work on.
I just want to let you know that even if right now, the gym seems like the last thing in the world you want to do, it’s possible that your outlook could change and that maybe you’ll even learn to love the gym. This isn’t the case for everyone of course, and the gym may always feel like something you have to do, and not something you want to do, but if you try to maintain a positive attitude then hopefully you can find some enjoyment in it. I never thought I would become the type of girl to go to the gym daily, and love working out, but somehow now I am. I still have days where it’s more difficult to go to the gym than others, but afterwards I’m reminded of why I enjoy it so much.
I think the most important thing, is to keep a positive attitude and remind yourself that even if you’re scared that someone will judge you, that you’ll do something wrong, or, like me, that you won’t be able to maintain a balanced lifestyle, it’s worth a shot. Maybe you’ll find that it’s the thing you needed to distress, to increase your self-esteem, or to feel better as a whole. Do your best to know yourself and listen to your body. Don’t overdo it, but don’t neglect your physical fitness either. The key word I try to apply to every aspect of my life is balance. Find your balance.