• Jayne Duignan

Building a Healthy and Sustainable Relationship with Working Out

No matter how hard I can work out, how clean I can eat, I will never look like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner. That just isn’t my body type.


My fitness and health journey started in January of 2018. I had one mission in mind: lose weight for senior prom. Growing up, I played a couple sports for fun, but never took working out seriously. Once those seasons would end, so would my motivation. With prom in mind, and the goal to transform my body, I found myself in unchartered territory.


Starting out, I thought the process would be simple. Workout. Eat a little healthier. See results soon. Right? I failed to understand the time, commitment, and persistence it takes to improve your overall health. Naive to basically everything, there were issues I experienced that I never anticipated would occur, which I call my downfalls.


First Downfall: Toxic Competition


The obsession began when I started working out with my (ex) best friend. She taught me about counting calories and foods to avoid. Everything became a subliminal competition. We always tried to one up each other: who worked out the hardest that day, or who ate the healthiest, etc. I constantly felt the need to compare myself to her. My original goal to get in shape for prom soon consumed my life. I spiraled into unhealthy tendencies and an endless cycle of self-hatred. Why didn’t I start sooner? Why was I so content with my body? Why did no one tell me I need to workout? Harmful thoughts swirled my mind as my confidence level plummeted. All of the sudden, I cared so much about what I looked like and how others perceived me.


Second Downfall: Social Media


Next, I discovered the Youtube and Instagram “fitspo” world. I turned to social media for beginner workouts and tips. While on Instagram, I stumbled upon so many gorgeous girls with outrageously fit bodies. On Youtube, I watched countless hours of “What I Eat in a Day” videos made by fitness models, or basically anyone who was skinny. When I finally put my phone down, all I felt was self-hatred. Again. Anytime I passed by my mirror, I stopped to dissect every flaw I could find. My butt is too small and my waist isn’t small enough, or my arms were just a tad too pudgy. In my eyes, nothing about me was good enough.


Third Downfall: My Mindset


At home videos weren’t going to cut it if I were to make significant changes. Not yet knowing how to utilize gym equipment, I signed up for kicking boxing classes–with my mom. There was a mini gym inside of the kickboxing studio that members could use. Doing the classes was a great way to begin working out. Once I felt comfortable working out by myself, I would stay after the class to do the elliptical for an extra hour. I continued to work out vigorously for two hours almost every day of the week. Feeling the need to compete with my best friend, and the desire to attain an Instagram worthy body, my innocent goal turned into an unhealthy obsession.


In order to speed up the weight loss, I ate less than 1,000 calories a day. On the days when I wasn’t able to workout, I told myself I was ruining my progress. I felt insignificant. If I missed a workout, I didn’t eat. Can’t gain weight if you don’t eat, right? If I wanted a bite of chocolate, but didn’t want to worry about the calories, I’d bite the chocolate and spit it out into a napkin. My mindset for getting fit was toxic. I worked out because I hated myself.


So, what happened?


These patterns continued for three to four months. Eventually, I reached my goal. For the first time in my life, I was toned and skinny. People started complimenting my appearance, which I interpreted to mean that my value had “increased” as soon as I lost weight. Society finally recognized me as pretty, but little did anyone know the trouble it took me to get there. And yet, I was still unhappy. There were still flaws.

More things to work on.


My workout regime and diet came to a crashing burn. Even though I reached my goal, the girl I saw in the mirror wasn’t good enough. One day, I stopped. I stopped working out two hours a day, started eating normal again, because regardless of what I looked like, I was never satisfied with myself. I never felt good enough. Reflecting on what I put my body and mind through, I decided it wasn’t worth all of the sacrifices, if I was still miserable with my appearance.


Improving.


Once I got to college, I started working out again, but with a different mindset. Surrounding myself with good friends resulted in a positive change. My freshman year roommate went to the gym with me and helped adjust my mindset toward fitness. She taught me to get rid of the guilt I used to feel for eating and missing workouts. In fact, I learned break days are necessary for your body to recover. This time, I worked out because I loved my body and wanted to treat it right.


I grew tired of trying to conform in order to fit what society’s standards are. Being thin is not the only body type worthy of praise, even though that’s what the media pushes.


No matter how hard I can work out, how clean I can eat, I will never look like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner. That just isn’t my body type.

I stopped envying the fitness girls I see on Instagram and Youtube. Instead of thinking, “why can’t I be her?” I began to think, “She got to where she is because she worked hard and was consistent, and I need to put in the work and dedication to be my best self, too.” There are no shortcuts for creating a sustainable diet and work out regime. A Youtube video that promises “results in just two weeks” is lying to you. Stop with the fad-diets (i.e. juice cleanses). Stop with the “fit tea.”


Patience and persistence will bring you to your goal, and will help you continue with that lifestyle. Start working out to be the best version of yourself, not to look like the girls you see in Victoria’s Secret.


It’s so easy to compare our bodies to those of celebrities. But guess what! They have personal trainers, chefs, nutritionists, and the money to achieve the fittest bodies. Yet, even with all of that, they continue to use photoshop and create an impossible image of “beauty”.


The biggest lesson I’ve learned, from personal experience, is that people are the prettiest with confidence and self-love.

This story appeared on the tenth issue of Mud, "Growing Pains." You can buy a print or digital copy and support young creators here.


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