“Go hard or go home”, “No pain, no gain”, “No days off”, “Unless you puke, faint or die keep going”.
These were all things that I came across constantly when I first entered the fitness wordl. I still see it today, on Instagram pages, twitter accounts or even on peoples t-shirts at the gym. Do I agree with any of them? NO. In fact I’m so so against these types of “motivational” quotes, and I’ll tell you why.
So my story goes back quite a bit, to when I was about 9/10, but we won’t focus on that too much. I had been self-conscious of my body ever since I was a young girl, being pretty overweight all my childhood and I would compare myself to all the other girls I knew and celebrities, knowing I looked nothing like them. I would try and "lose weight and tone up" by trying to eat very little, then ending up binging because it wasn't enough and I just kept putting on the weight. When I was about 13-14 I decided enough was enough and I had to start being healthier as I felt horrible both physically and mentally. So I researched and found out about "clean eating" which got me to a healthier weight HOWEVER I didn't realise it at the time, but I was eating SUCH little calories ( <900 a day!), thinking one slice of toast was enough for a lunch, which It most certainly is not! I then got into exercise and after hearing things like "no days off", "no pain no gain" etc. and seeing people with ripped abs on the internet I thought I had to do extreme amounts of exercise (2+ hours a day, every day of the week) to look good. So I did, and soon I became addicted to the endorphins from exercise. That rush, that adrenaline, I felt so “accomplished” after I finished my workout, which lead me to feeling like I was lazy and unproductive if I didn’t do it one day. It ended up getting so bad that I would force myself to do a workout, even if I was sick and one time in PE class at school, my legs gave way and I fell when trying to run a super short distance. This lead to me lose A LOT of weight, and become very underweight for my height, which lead me to having to go to doctors for multiple blood tests etc. It was a horrible time, but little did I know it was only going to get worse...
After that, things took a turn for the worse with the exercise addiction. I started performing specific “rituals” everyday like I would run up and down the stairs 10 times before every meal, do squats every time I went into the bathroom, and constantly walk back and forth. I would NEVER let myself sit down, and if, god forbid, I had to, then I would start shaking my legs, my eyes would water and I would become EXTREMELY anxious. I felt completely ruled but this voice in my head, and didn’t believe I had the strength in me to say no. As you can imagine this made me miss out on so many social events, I’d turn down every invitation to go to the cinema and wouldn’t even travel somewhere longer than 20 mins. I remember I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day isolated from my family, performing these “rituals” and not even sitting to have Christmas dinner, which absolutely KILLS me to even think about now. The time that I was meant to be spending smiling and laughing with my loved ones, was filled with obsessive thoughts and me feeling like I didn’t want to even be here anymore. It was ruling my life and I hated it.
But that wasn’t all, my eating habits suffered along with this. I started becoming more and more preoccupied with food and got to the point where I'd examine every label to see how many ingredients it had in it, if it was more than 5 ingredients I'd put it back. Id track all my food on MyFitnessPal and if I went 20 calories over, I would freak out. Sugar and fat were defined as the “demons” and don’t even get me started on “unhealthy” food like doughnuts, ice cream etc., they petrified me!
There were many deep dark moments, where I wasn’t sure if I would ever get better. I cried my eyes out most days, but the hardest part was watching what it did to my family. They were exhausted, heart broken and had run out of ideas to help me. We argued a lot and I let the voice in my head win every time. It hit me that I had to do this for me. I had to decide that I was going to beat these demons, little by little, day by day.
So that’s what I did. Boy did it take a long time, almost 3 years now and I can say I’m in such a good place. I’ve followed Zanna, Tally and Victoria since they had only a couple thousand followers each, so I’ve seen them grow as young woman and start #girlgains. They were always my favourite instagrammers and I loved how real they were. They didn’t just post filtered photos of themselves and make out their lives were perfect. They are just normal girls like you and I who have a passion for health and fitness and like having a good time at the same time! Girl gains showed me that being healthy is being HAPPY. It’s about finding your own personal balance. Where you don’t have any restrictions, and you enjoy what you do, finding what works for YOU. That you don’t dread your workouts but instead look forward to them. That you listen to your body and treat it well instead of breaking it down. Every girl is different and we should all support each other! I can’t thank them enough for the message that they give out to young girls, and how they have helped so so many people out there, including me.
Now I’m not going to lie and say that every day is easy, because I STILL get those thoughts, but they are more like a little breeze in the air, rather than a hurricane, and I just brush them off. I have my moments, but looking back at all the things I accomplished, and how I’ve seriously changed so much, it makes me so freaking proud. After switching to powerlifting, my mentality to exercise has took a 180. I take between 2-3 rest days a week and don’t even think too much about them, I keep my workouts short and sweet and only do what I WANT to do. I eat ALL foods, including chocolate, doughnuts, ice cream ASWELL as lots of fruits, vegetables and proteins. I don’t restrict and I don’t deprive myself.
I want to spread the message to women and young girls that you do NOT have to have a restrictive diet or break your body down with over exercising to be healthy! In fact, that's so far from healthy! I preach balance, having a life and ENJOYING what you eat and your workouts! It such be fun, not something you dread and this is EXACTLY what #girlgains promotes.
I want to say a huge, huge, huge thank you to Zanna, Tally and Vic for being such amazing friends, and helping me see that life is so much more than what you eat or how often you workout. For making me laugh with their posts, and reminding me that I’m doing this for me. You guys are incredible and I’m extremely proud to share #girlgains with all the girls that I meet!