From Binging to Balance

For years, I’ve struggled to find a balance in fitness. I’ve tried long distance running, biking, yoga, and dance classes, to mention just a few. For the past few years, my gym routine had been one firmly grounded to an elliptical —with my eyes glued to the calorie counter. I grew up wanting to be skinny, not strong.  I counted calories, tried crash diets, and struggled with restrictive eating periods followed by days of binging. As a result of a few years of these bad habits, my health is less than ideal. I remember how much my friends and I idolized Victoria’s Secret models in our childhoods, women who were beautiful, and yet who were horrifically underweight. I remember how desperately I wanted to be like them, and how much I hated looking in the mirror. I remember comparing myself to my thinner sisters, and despising my hips and curves. And yet, I cannot remember ever wanting to be strong.

There is never a one-stop solution to body dysmorphia and a healthy, balanced life. But, something did drastically change in my lifestyle this past August, and already this change is incredibly profound.

The free weights area of the gym was perhaps one of the most intimidating in the world to me. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I was terrified that I would do something wrong, that I would embarrass myself or injure myself. I found myself intimidated by the swarms of athletes, bodybuilders, and giants that tend to flock in the weight section.

When I finally began to lift, it was a hesitant effort. I stuck to the basics (lunges, squats, curls). After his asking dozens of times, I went to the gym with my significant other for the first time, following all of his advice every step along the way. At his encouragement, I began pairing cardio with weightlifting on my own. I began watching as many body building videos as I could. I started eating clean proteins and as many vegetables as I could in a day. I started going around  to all of the machines. I had to read the instructions on the side so I could see how to properly use it. More than a few times I had to ask the gym staff to show me how to use certain pieces of equipment. My social anxiety caused me to fear to ask for help or guidance, but more times than naught that I’ve asked for help I’m met with a friendly smile and sage advice rather than embarrassment.

Slowly but surely, I found more than strength. I found balance. I stopped wanting to be scarily thin, I started wanting to be strong. For so long I had been obsessed with a number on the scale, that I forgot to check in on other parts of my health. I never thought about how much muscle or fat I had, how many whole foods I was eating, and how I was doing mentally can drastically impact your physical health. I stopped punishing myself for the occasional treat, stopped thinking of calories as bad, but rather as fuel. Every night, when I finish up at the gym, I walk to my dorm room so happy that I can hardly stop myself from dancing, when before the walk home  or to my car was sluggish and exhausting. At night, I found myself glued to Youtube, eagerly watching fitness gurus, rather than rewatching the same episode of The Office on Netflix.

I feel so much stronger already. I can’t wait to see how strong I will be come.

I’m still fairly new to the world of weight lifting. I have a long ways to go, but for the first time, I can’t wait to go to the gym. My health is no longer a chore, it’s a joy. I can’t wait to see how much stronger I become. I’m not glued to the same machine for hours at a time. I always feel challenged and its easy to change things up. Society embeds into the brains of all that women are supposed to be thin and weak, never muscular and strong. Once I broke free from that bais, a new level of empowerment became possible. Not only that, but I’m beginning to love who I see in the mirror. I don’t see someone who hates themselves, I see someone who is strong, and who is willing to put in the work to properly take care of themselves. I feel powerful, and I’m starting to look the part too. Of course, all of this is a daily struggle. I still find myself struggling with confidence from now and then, but this is completely normal. I’m not perfect. I still eat junk food and ‘cheat meals’, but I eat these things in balance. I’m by no means a bodybuilder, if anything I’m a severe amateur, but I’ve never been happier to have so much to learn.  

Image Credits: Feature, 1, 2