Most people only ever associate fitness with positive connotations and results; however, this has become far from the truth for many individuals, especially women. In a society obsessed with outward images, the healthy approach to fitness has shifted to an unhealthy obsession and addiction.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapcrap (chat) and Instagam is saturated with superficial images of the ideal body. I find it unbelievably sad how much time some people can waste in an unhealthy relationship with their own body. It is in this silent competition for perfection where the downfall of our own self worth starts. We lose our sense of contentment with what we have by constantly striving for what we don't. Our fixation with appearance is not just limited to Modern Western culture or our generation either. Every period of history established its own standards of what beautiful means, and every contemporary society has its own distinctive idea of the ideal body. But with the addition of mass social media we are surrounded by it everywhere we turn. Through this repetitive act of admiring perfection we have become accustomed to extremely rigid and uniform standards of beauty.
On some levels I can strongly relate. As a teenager I struggled with putting unnecessary energy and time into how I looked. At that time in my life I was lacking the tools needed to deal with low self esteem, young relationships, a need to fit in and an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty about what my future held. Navigating through these emotions as a young teenage girl was extremely confusing so I resorted to an area in my life I could control. My physical appearance. I knew nothing about proper nutrition so as long as I wasn't eating fat I thought I was healthy. Cereal, diet pop, bread and fruit was my idea of "healthy." Possibly the farthest diet from Atkins and gluten-free, but I also loved training at the gym so I assumed I was on the right track. When other girls were eating salads or running every day I was eating Mini Wheats and lifting weights. However it was only a matter of time before I was using the gym as an escape and constantly criticizing my body. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was avoiding a larger problem. I needed to love myself for who I was before I could ever love myself for what I looked like. I realized this as a young girl, so as a grown woman I could never imagine still being stuck in this shallow infatuation with how I look.
It's common now for women to open up and talk about eating disorders and food obsessions, but yet we have failed to address this obsessive behavior when it comes fitness? An addiction is an addiction regardless of the drug.
Don't get me wrong, I eat healthy and aim to be physically active 4-5 days a week. I like to feel good about myself too, but my physical body does not define whether I feel good or not. I completely support making healthy food choices and exercising, but the moment your life begins to center around your fitness, you've already gone too far. This apparent "dedication" to fitness has crossed over into an obsessive lifestyle for so many.
If you are constantly thinking about fitting in your next workout or and how every bite of food might affect the shape of your body, then you've lost that balance. A healthy balance is not about finding perfect harmony between food and exercise, it's about finding perfect harmony between taking care of your body and taking care of your mind. Reevaluating the important things in your life, and focusing on being a better person, not a more suitable number on the scale. Staying active and proper nutrition is meant to compliment you life, not become your life. You have control over your own lifestyle, it shouldn't control you. Because living a life controlled by something as insignificant as eating is not a life worth living.
I can guarantee you that 50 years from now, looking back, it'll never matter whether or not you ate that one piece of cheesecake at your 30th birthday. You won't regret or care whether or not you scheduled in that late night exercise routine before a Christmas party. But you will look back and regret not accepting yourself for exactly who you were and missing the opportunity to indulge in the pleasures of life without guilt, anxiety and disappointment in yourself.
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.