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The Importance of Working Out for the Right Reasons

*Trigger warning: Eating disorders and symptoms of depression will be discussed in this article.

Growing up, I was a fairly active kid. I loved playing on the playground with my friends and later on, played kickball with a huge group of children in my grade. I participated in cross country and track and field, even making sure I took a P.E. course every year of high school. 

In college, however, I stopped making those efforts. I wanted to work out, but I felt very little motivation to do so. All my life, friends and family would comment on my weight, pointing out how skinny I was and how I needed to eat more. I thought I would never have to worry about gaining weight.

My sophomore year of college was when things actually started becoming really bad in my personal life. I was still dealing with the outcomes of an abusive relationship I had gotten out of the middle of the spring semester of my freshman year. 

I started developing an eating disorder because I was constantly dissatisfied with my weight. I thought it was bad to wake up and not have my stomach completely flat like I was used to before. I began to fixate on my physical appearance, and in some ways, it did factor into my food consumption. I would eat one meal every one or two days, some days on purpose and others because I just simply forgot to eat. Even so, I did purposefully eat less than I should, which led to binge eating once or twice a week to make up for the food amount I should have been eating. Those unhealthy habits kept following me until I did end up eating more than I felt I should, to the point where I was really unhappy with my weight. 

Beginning of my junior year, I decided I wanted to start working out to feel healthier. The problem, though, was my mental health was at an all-time low. 

I was dealing with a lot of overly depressive episodes to the point where getting out of bed was an immense struggle. I had fears of hurting myself, and I was struggling to complete class assignments or just showing up to my Zoom classes. 

I did have a really good workout program (unfortunately, it does not exist anymore) but I only lasted three weeks because I became depressed at seeing no results. Despite feeling super great after each workout, my body was not ready. I tried again in the middle of the spring semester, but again, I only lasted 2 weeks because I was not mentally ready to be working out.

I decided I would focus on school and getting my mental health in a much better place, and it worked! I took the rest of last year to focus on myself. Over the summer I had an internship, and two other jobs, and then my fall classes last semester. I feel like being able to take that time to really figure myself out and allowing myself to come to terms with past things I felt were holding me back made the biggest impact on where I am now. While those things will always follow me, I have found better ways of coping with them.

In January of this year, I finally started developing a really great workout routine. I found some videos on YouTube I use for at-home workouts that I’ve noticed have been making some small improvements in the couple of months I’ve been using them. I noticed that I no longer fixate on my appearance in a negative connotation anymore, and the rush of serotonin I get after each workout makes me feel amazing! I feel more confident in myself, and I always give myself positive affirmations after each workout that help me feel way better about myself. 

I never thought that working out and mental health goes hand-in-hand, but I’ve found out the hard way that they definitely do. It’s important to understand that not seeing results right away is perfectly normal and okay; it takes a lot of time and patience and the want to keep up the commitment. 

I also noticed that wanting to workout to practice healthy habits versus losing weight makes a huge difference as well. Understanding what you want and making sure that you’re in an okay place to start is very important. It took a lot of time, but the biggest lesson I learned is that no one’s opinion on my body matters more than my own. If you’re wanting to start working out and you’re in a similar position when I first started; just remember that it will take a lot of time and patience, but if you’re serious and committed to the process it will make you feel a lot better!

Becky Daubert is a student at Winona State University with a double-major in English Literature/Language and Applied and Professional Writing, and a minor in Music. She has a passion for writing and her hobbies, on top of reading, also include writing articles on music, and hiking.