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What the Girl Who Said I Wasn't 'Serious' About Fitness Didn't Know

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I have been at school for about a week now. It’s been lovely seeing people again and reconnecting with friends. What I didn’t expect is that so many people would talk to me about my health blog. People have told me they’ve been following it all summer and love the content. It amazes me that my words are actually reaching others and people are taking the time to read what I have to say. I feel flattered and humbled and want to create more to share with you all.

And then yesterday, I heard something I didn’t know quite what to do with.

“The pictures of your body make me feel better about my sorry abs. It’s nice that you’re not as serious about fitness as some people.”

Wait, what? First, I am totally disenchanted by our culture’s obsession with six packs. They often aren’t an indication of actual strength and are largely dependent on your genetic make-up and build. Some people, no matter how hard they work for it, physically cannot have a six pack. And that’s OK. That’s more than OK. I am sad that the perpetuated obsession with abs seems to have affected this girl. Second, I felt a little stung by the comment. My head immediately began creating a spider web of doubtful thoughts and self-criticisms.

So does that mean my body is less than ideal? Does that mean she feels good because her body is better than mine? I was relatively proud of my stomach — should I not be now? Should I not post any more photos of my body until it’s more toned and cut? I should probably go take that photo down now. What does she mean I’m not “serious”? Do I need to buckle down more? Do I need to start being accountable to my Instagram and blog with my workouts?

I smiled and laughed off the comment — and then proceeded to lay every single ounce of myself into my workout. I upped every weight, added more reps, and my medicine ball slam-downs were so aggressive the guy next to me looked a little worried. I felt myself recoil from food, eating a bit less, deciding I wasn’t that hungry to warrant a snack. I stood in front of the mirror and cringed at the generous bulk of my thighs, the innocent roundness of my cheeks, the fullness of my breasts. All day I felt on edge, off-kilter, distracted. I talked to my best friend about the comment. As I described it, my voice got harder and harder, and I felt my throat clenching around the words. I lost it, people. I sobbed and blubbered through my thoughts. I heaved as confessions of self-doubt and dissatisfaction with my body poured out.

“She has no idea. She has no idea how hard I’ve worked to get here.” I kept saying this sentence over and over, and at the time I didn’t really think through why it was so important. I couldn’t communicate why I was so hurt by a comment that was surely not meant to offend me.

As I sit here with my coffee having slept on my thoughts, I realize why I was so injured by her words. My account portrays the messages it does for a reason. I am not going to tell you to eat this and not that. I am not going to tell you how to cut weight or to chisel and carve your body into an unrealistic ideal. I am not going to glorify being enslaved to fitness and “health.” I’m not going to post every rep I do, every body scan, or every less-than-appetizing, “healthified” meal. The thing is, I know how to do all of that. The reason I am not going to do any of it is because I have lived that before, and it brought me to a place of incredible unhappiness. I have denied food and people and relaxation in the name of “getting fit,” and it was the most miserable time of my life. I worked myself into an inescapable cycle of soul-crushing workouts and food so healthy it should probably be illegal. I carved an impressive physique out of my natural body, and it took everything from me. I felt it destroyed my relationships with others and with myself, but I was so oblivious because that body was everything to me.

Eventually, I hit rock bottom. I realized that yes, I had the body, but I had nothing else. My mind was not my own, I had zero social life, and I lived in a sludge of self-hate and loathing. I wasn’t healthy — in fact, my body was riddled with health complications, despite being wiped of every ounce of body fat. I realized no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out of this world I had created.

And that, people, is where the real work kicked in. And this work was a thousand times more difficult than the work of achieving that physique. It took years for me to undo what I had done to my mind and soul, not to mention my body. I cannot quantify the amount of tears I shed as I reworked my mental condition. I cannot describe the paralyzing fear of reintroducing my body to food. I was utterly convinced of a negative correlation between worth and food, so much that every bite made me feel like I was becoming “lesser” as a human being. It took years to repair my relationships, and some of them were irretrievable. All the damage I had done to myself and those around me was so mountainous that day after day I had to give everything I had to the recovery process. There was no half-a**ing it, no negotiating or cutting myself some slack. I had to be so completely engaged, otherwise there seemed to be no chance of reclaiming the life I had lost. It has taken years, and I am still picking up the pieces from the storm I created.

So, yes, I am really f*cking serious about health and fitness. I know how to be one of those people with zero body fat, but that is not where I need to be. And that’s why that comment hurt so much — because I have done immense amounts of work to get to where I am. Although I may not adore my body, it has taken so much mental and physical effort to realize this is where my body needs to be. This is its natural state, and I have to be OK with that. People may look at my body and see an average, undefined figure. People may think I am not really serious about health because I don’t have the body of a bikini competitor. But that does not mean I haven’t done a whole lot of real, gritty work to be here. I have worked to have a body that is softer and rounder. I have worked to have a stomach that is smooth, rather than chiseled with muscle.

I know the girl meant no harm with her comment. I know she meant to flatter me rather than hurt me. I hold her to no fault. But that being said, we have no idea the history of someone else’s body. I don’t believe any of us has the grounds on which to judge someone for the definition of their muscle, or their percentage of body fat. We have no right to judge someone on their food choices; you may have no idea what their body needs. And that is why I will never be one of those accounts that glorifies an extreme level of fitness. I have fought to be where I’m at with my body, and I am only going to put forth things that encourage that process. I am not going to buy into the lie that I need to look a certain way in order to be a health and fitness advocate. So if you are just looking for ways to achieve a certain body type, please look elsewhere. You will only find self-love and the eating of impressive amounts of ice cream here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Follow this journey on Fitkenzien.

Originally published: September 19, 2016
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