August 10, 2017

According to society's norms, a sixpack and slim, lean legs are necessary to be happy in life. If you don't work out at least five days a week, then who even are you? Can you be healthy without seeing muscle definition or if you haven't smashed that last 5K run? When I was reading up on this topic and watching videos about exercise and how we feel pressured to be the fittest version of ourselves, something clicked. And no, it was not the sixtieth ad about those silly fitteas that will never work for anyone or the twentieth free workout plan (for a month!) that would make me stronger and leaner than a bikini model. 

Why do we care so much about looking a certain way and how healthy is it really, to spend six hours in the gym every week, scanning our own bodies for imperfections we have yet to change? I probably won't be the first to admit that I was afraid of losing my abs when I quit exercising like a mad woman, lifting weights until my back started aching or running until my body broke down. I have been there and yet until I realized how unhealthy these habits were, I never really cared enough to actually do something about them. 

For years I knew exactly what my body was telling me and it was so easy to ignore the signs, to continue to push myself until the bitter end. About two and a half years ago, I took up running and I was very serious about it. Every other day I'd shove on my running shoes, no matter what the weather was like, and I'd run until my lungs were aching and my legs were feeling like lead. It only took my body six months to break down. Running 10K every other day raised my cortisol levels, disturbed my hormonal balance and I haven't had my period ever since. Believe it or not, but even after that, I continued to search for new exercise methods. Yes, I did yoga every morning for five months, but it just wasn't enough. Whenever I was on holiday, I'd frantically search for ways to move my body. A swimming pool would mean I'd do a hundred laps every day, city trips were great for walking and thus, moving my legs and keeping them strong.

I did workouts in my bedroom and dorm room daily after school or uni and when that got too boring I started running again. I never thought about giving my body a break, because I might've just lost my strength and leanness. And, as the story repeats itself, I broke down again. I felt physically drained and I was constantly tired. I'd get out of bed, make myself look presentable and feel ready to get back to sleep. Now, this is what people call an 'exercise addiction' and funnily enough, society supports it. 

I look lean, you can clearly see my abs, I don't have any fat on my body (or barely any) and, according to people on Instagram, Facebook, any social network whatsoever, and even newspapers and magazines, this is healthy. I'm driven, I care about my body and my BMI is on the lower end of the scale. Now you've read my story, heard about my rather dramatic fitness journey and possibly reflected on your own exercise routine, do you still think society's norms on fitness are healthy? 

I wanted to voice my opinion on this little blog of mine and raise awareness about this topic. No matter how benign that ad for fittea might be and the portraying of fit people all over social media, it's not always without consequence. You should only be doing exercise because you love the way it makes you feel, not how great you look or how you'll feel once you've shed some weight. Listen to your body, it's much smarter than your ego.

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