I have spent my life in the world of dance, which is a world full of self-doubt and drama. From a young age, I was very aware of my body, and by aware I mean self-conscious. In high school, when I began dancing less and eating more I quickly realized that my metabolism was changing. I realize now, looking back, that I was not large or fat, but my hips were wider and my stomach wasn’t as flat and those things bothered me.
When I reached college, the pressure of social media and perfect sorority girls was starting to weigh down on me. I found myself as an exercise science major and delved into this world wholeheartedly, going to the gym everyday and maintaining a strict diet, concepts that were very new to me. I became much more obsessed with cutting out calories, sugar, and sodium, eating the same thing everyday. Egg whites. Apple. Salad. Chicken. Veggies. That’s just about what I ate everyday. Sounds boring, right? And if I steered off track? I wanted to throw up. I wanted to take laxatives. Anything to get the “crap” out of my system. What did I do instead, because I assumed it was healthier? I would tell myself that I needed to be punished by going to the gym a second time or doing an extra hour of cardio. What I didn’t know was that performing hours of cardio everyday wouldn’t necessarily give me the body I needed. And let me tell you, when I steered off track, it was extreme and drastic, resulting in a binge that would leave me miserable, tired, and guilty. This continued through undergrad and into physical therapy school. At that point, I had thrown up a few times, telling myself I felt sick and therefore it was okay.
Today, I still struggle with my self-esteem and there are days I hate my body… but I can handle it in a much healthier way. I no longer completely restrict myself. I very much believe in moderation, because, you see, I’m the type of person that if I restrict myself, I will binge eat, which is what my problem was for so many years. Now, I eat carbs, I use salt, and I’ll eat a cookie. But I don’t have it all the time. I no longer spend hours doing cardio, I primarily perform strength training and cardio intervals. Now, I find myself with a lower body fat percentage, higher lean body mass (muscle), and I feel better.
My current lifestyle is much more adaptable to a normal, daily life. You don’t need to “cut” and “count” like the models you see on instagram and youtube. I no longer use exercise as a punishment. You need to find what works for you and your body, so that you are both physically AND mentally healthy. Exercise should NOT be a punishment, it should be a means of healthy living and stress relief. When I don’t work out, I find myself fatigued and cranky. So, once again, find what works for you and go for it!