My Toxic Relationship with Working Out and Dieting

Wake up.  Go to the gym.  Shower.  Go to Class.  Eat. Go to the gym again.  Do homework.  Sleep.

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This was my routine every day freshman year of college.  I can’t recall the exact date it started, but self-esteem and body image issues have walked with me every step of life for as long as I can remember, only getting worse as I got older.  I would stand in front of the mirror and nitpick at myself over the tiniest details, causing me to develop this unhealthy obsession with trying to attain the “perfect body.”


In my attempt to attain the ideal figure, I would always be on some new diet, restricting myself and cutting out certain foods, unsuccessfully trying to discipline myself into starving my body to be skinny.  As a result of these perverse “diet” plans, I was stuck in this constant cycle of losing weight and then gaining it back, losing weight and then gaining it back.  


Not only that but I tried to supplement my unproductive “dieting” with extensive workout routines and gym sessions. Working out is a good thing when approached with a healthy mindset,  but I would take it to the extreme, so much so that it took precedence over literally everything else in my life: academics, relationships, whatever. All the things college is supposed to be about was quickly disregarded as unimportant.  I went to the gym twice a day during the week and spent up to five hours at a time on weekends, forcing myself to get back on the treadmill, do another set of abs, lift more weights, squat, and whatever I thought I needed to work on solely to ensure I ended my day in a calorie deficit.


On the rare occasion that I didn’t go to the gym, I would feel so guilty and turn down food because I felt like I couldn’t have the calories.  I declined invitations from my friends to go out because I had to get that workout in. Or alternatively, I would go and naturally, they would want to get food, so I’d go and not eat making excuses like “I already ate” or  “I’m not hungry” when they would ask or call me lame for not getting anything. The worst part was that I would feel some kind of sick satisfaction while I sat there drinking water, applauding my self-control and ability to resist.

We’ve all heard the saying “everything is good in moderation.”  No matter how many times I heard it, the moderation part escaped me.  I could not comprehend it. The more I went to the gym, the more I wanted to go back.  The less I ate, the more accomplished I felt. Yet, I was never content with my body.  

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There is nothing more agonizing than standing in front of the mirror, pinching your fat, and hating what you see.  I just want to embody this perfect person, but accepting that I’m never going to achieve that is a pretty painful process. I’m a work in progress, but I haven’t given up.