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The Confusing Art of Understanding Your Body 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

My journey navigating beauty standards and gym training

I look around trying to find an empty corner as I make my way around the back of a long hall. The noise of the background music mixes with the peoples’ steps hitting the treadmills.

I sit down and begin trying to touch my tip toes with my hands. I do it one, two and three times embracing the pain spreading all over my legs. I used to hate it; now, I love it. 

I stretch my leg muscles and aid myself with my arms to reach a perfect balance within my routine. And after a few exercises later, I stop.

This is just the beginning for me. 

I lift the weight. I do the reps. I take breaks.

The one hour and a half passes by and almost becomes blurry. And this time, the only memory standing is how I smiled to the mirror, and it did not smile back. Instead, it showed my lack of progress. 

“What am I doing wrong?” I ask myself every time. 

My effort turns into a spiral of questions and confusion, where I do not realize I am already doing more than enough.

And I am not the only one.

Exercising is a healthy must-have habit accompanied by many benefits like improving your brain health, managing your weight, and strengthening your muscles and bones, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website. However, the rise of the fitness culture has traded these benefits for often unrealistic standards for women.

And I know you have seen those videos promising the impossible: a perfect body in a limited time. 

Do this for 5 minutes, and you would have these results, they say.

But what they do not tell you is that bodies function differently. They come in different sizes and shapes. This content leaves a gateway for insecurities to arise; it is an entryway for body dysmorphic disorders. 

And though I have never been diagnosed with any type of body dysmorphia, I have always known I do not have the perfect body. In fact, I had always been reminded of it.

People would say that I am too skinny. They would say that my curves are subtle and that I lack in many departments.

“I liked her better when she was bigger,” one of my ex-boyfriends said once to his friends at 16 years old, “there was more to grab.”

However, my body cannot hold weight that easily. My metabolism is fast, no matter what I eat and how much. But nobody takes that into account when they have an opinion about my body.

No matter how I trained or what I did, I was still too skinny for what was considered Instagram worthy.

“Everybody has different beauty standards,” my friend Luciana Beltran said. 

She has been doing sports and training since she was 15 years old. She has the body of an athlete, a body that many wish to have. 

“People ask me every time ‘what do you do to have that body?’” she said. 

Still, she said she often wishes her body was different. 

“Sometimes I would take a picture and see that photo again and wish to look like that again,” she said, “I always want what I do not have.”

However, it is all about perspective for her and changing for yourself. But she said it is all about staying healthy, not being a pleasing visual.

“We must stop trying to adapt our bodies to what’s in these days and start doing things for you,” she said.

And that is what I did.

In 2021, I began training regularly, two and a half years after my last attempt.

And once I stepped into the gym, I knew every day was going to be a struggle. I had been fed by all these opinions and content promoting, unrealistic standards that motivation was gone.

But we always forget that nothing is immune to misinformation in social media. And it is easy to get lost within all the content available.

We are often pressured to feel like we have everything figured out when all of us are lost at some point. And when it comes to the gym, you just have to jump in.

Two years later, I still see my imperfections, like the fat on my back or how flat I look. 

However, nothing compares to the feeling after finishing my gym session. My muscles ache, reminding me of my effort. 

I often don’t remember how I look in the mirror. 

Now, I just want to be the stronger version of myself. I feel proud of myself. 

In the end, we all have different journeys.

This is mine and what happens to my body is nobody’s business but mine.

Mariana is a journalism student at the University of Florida. She's passionate about storytelling. In her free time, you can find her reading a book, working out or binge-watching Netflix.