I own an activewear boutique and I haven’t worked out in a year. Crazy... right??
When I tell people that, I get a range of responses—
- How is that possible?
- You sell activewear so you HAVE to workout.
- You better get back to the gym.
- That must be an exaggeration.
As exaggerated as it seems, I truthfully haven’t been to the gym or worked out in about a year. I went from consistently working out 2-3 times a week for about an hour to not working out at all. Now, this wasn’t planned. It started due to recovery from a foot surgery and then just grew from there.
My history with fitness is a complicated one. As I’ve shared before, I’ve always struggled with my weight, and was bullied for it when I was younger. Throughout my life, I’ve probably tried or thought about trying every diet out there. It started in Middle School when I first tried to lose weight.
The Atkins and South Beach Diet were really popular at that time. My parents were trying to lose weight using some of those concepts, so that’s really the first time I can remember the concept of dieting. I thought to myself, “I want to lose weight.” So the summer before 9th grade I started running at the high school track next to our house and trying to loose weight.
Disclaimer before everyone blames my parents: I would like to say that my parents are actually amazing and have never commented on my weight (as a child or an adult). They’ve never told me I need to lose weight, suggested I lose weight, or made subtle comments. I’ve always joked that I wish they had told me I was a fat kid and put me on a diet. Obviously, that would’ve done more harm to my self-esteem. They always say I was a cute kid, and it was just “baby weight”. To each their own.
I had actually started to slim out. I’m sure puberty had something to do with this as well. But I still didn’t consider myself skinny.
But as you can see, I wasn’t fat. The only thing wrong is those curls that weren’t brushed out. LORD!
Throughout high school, I still worked out incessantly. When I would go to the Y, I wouldn’t get off the treadmill until I did at least 2-3 miles. Or reached a certain number of calories. It was always “I’m at 2.5 miles, let me do another .5 mile”. Or let me burn another 100 calories. If I wasn’t at the gym for two hours, it wasn’t worth it to me.
I had made it through most of my life thus far with relatively small situations that impacted my self-esteem and some disordered thoughts about working out. But nothing too life-changing. This was all about to change.
After high school, I was in a toxic relationship that really shattered my self-esteem. This relationship changed a lot of things for me. He would call me “fat”, unattractive, and basically tell me I was worthless. This went on for a few years, until I finally had enough.
I transferred to WVU, and was living life as a happy college student. But, here is where some disordered eating patterns started to creep in. I was rarely eating, and dropped 25 pounds in a semester.
At my “skinniest”, I was 133 pounds and I started to think, “Wow, this is great. ”I had always wanted to weigh 120 pounds and I didn’t have to do anything to get down to 133.” I was so close to this weight that I had always wanted to be. So now when I actually would eat, it would be smaller amounts. The guy I was dating at the time ate so much less than me, so I would try to match that even if it left me hungry. I didn’t want to be the girl that ate sooo much. (This is probably because all of the damage my ex had done to me.)
This lasted for two semesters and then it went the opposite direction. Growing up, I had never had a problem with food. In fact, I had always been an emotional eater and during my last semester of school I had been under a lot of stress. When I finally started turning to food and eating more because of emotional situations, my nutrition was out of control. This sudden shift caused me to gain almost 40 pounds. By graduation, I was close to 170 pounds.
After graduation, I became a professional dieter. I couldn’t believe that I had put on so much weight. The person I was dating at the time was also not very supportive about that. I mean we were still dating, but he would make comments about my weight gain. I already felt self-conscious about it due to my history with weight.
I started with Weight Watchers, which I initially had a lot of success with, and then I got bored with it. So I downloaded MyFitnessPal and started counting calories and working out. Then I was like let me try Insanity because I want RESULTS which led to Body Beast, and 21 Day Fix and me trying to cram alllll the food in color coded containers. I did all of this in conjunction with trying all these random workouts. I had a good run with my stint of professional dieting, but it wasn’t something I could maintain.
I would “cheat” and feel guilty. Or restrict and binge.
I needed something to change. Everyone preaches how health and fitness are lifestyle changes, but those programs aren’t lifestyles. I didn’t want to use containers for the rest of my life or use some tracking app.
I was in a slump, and still felt like I had to lose the weight. I had also just got out of a 5-year relationship, so that “revenge body” motivated me. At this time, I happened to be collaborating with a gym in Wexford on an event for my business.
I joined, and got started on a fitness + nutrition plan. Now the nutrition plan still had me counting something… macros. But I could pretty much eat what I wanted. Each food is composed of macros; it’s just a matter of composition. Instead of looking at calories, you’re essentially looking at its nutritional value. I didn’t feel as guilty about eating certain foods or feel the needs to cut certain things out.
The only issue—Since I was looking for that “revenge body”, was I really working out for myself? Where was my self-esteem in all of this? I always felt I had recovered from my super toxic relationship, but it seemed that I still had some underlying issues when it came to my body and my worth. After the gym, I would go to First Watch and have an awesome meal because I had “earned it”.
I was also getting ready to open the store at this time, so my stress levels were through the roof. My schedule was also insane. I started to revert back to the disordered eating I had in college when I lost a ton of weight. I was drinking a ton of coffee, and barely eating. This time I was also working out 2-3 times a week. By the time I opened my store, I was close to the lowest weight I was in college.
A lot of people that came to the opening of the store and said, “Wow, you look so great.” or “How did you lose the weight?” I would joke and say “Caffeine and stress.” But it really wasn’t a joke. This is where commenting on someone’s weight (loss or gain) can be problematic. Some people focused more on my appearance than my accomplishment. But no matter how much I lost or what I accomplished, some people (you might be able to guess who) didn’t think it was good enough. This is why it is important to be secure in who you are, and only do things for yourself.
Fast forward to this past year without working out— When I initially heard I wouldn’t be able to workout for 6-8 weeks, I was so upset. But this has honestly been the most freeing year I’ve had on my fitness journey. I have been able to look at my relationship with my body, fitness, and food.
I realized that I wasn’t always going to the gym for myself or because I wanted to. I was going because I was trying to make someone else happy, or because I thought it would make me love myself more.
Before my hiatus, I wouldn’t be happy unless I reached some dumb goal I had set for the gym that day and would beat myself up over a “bad” workout. Or I would workout and then tell myself I earned a slice of pizza. Or better yet I would workout even harder because I ate something “bad.”
I would shame myself. I would feel guilty. I would have to justify eating certain things. I would restrict.
But this past year, I realized I didn’t have to do this. I started following accounts on Instagram that approached health and fitness in such a different way. If you don’t feel like working out, don’t. Go to the gym because YOU want to. Go because it makes YOU happy. Not because it’s a chore or you feel you need to or because you want to burn off that cookie.
Who would’ve thought that giving up something I love, helped me feel a little more free. I’ve learned to respect my body, love myself, and stop punishing myself.