When I was growing up, there was a lot of pressure on girls to be skinny. The women on the covers of the magazines were very thin, sometimes emaciated.
So, not surprisingly, I knew a lot of girls who struggled with eating disorders. Anorexia was common in my junior high and high school.
When I was 15, I too had anorexic tendencies. I obsessed about calories, analyzed what was on my plate, skipped meals, and perused pro-ana sites (websites that actively encourage anorexia). When I looked in the mirror, I saw a body that was completely different from reality.
Thankfully, my parents were wise enough to put me into counseling to get me some help. It was their care that brought me healing.
Since I was in high school, society’s pressure on women has shifted. A lot of people speak out against anorexia and emaciation isn’t such a good thing anymore. Celebrities are criticized when they show too much hip bone.
Now, it’s about being healthy. It’s the proper replacement.
Being healthy is a good thing, right? Working out is important, isn’t it? Shouldn’t eating “right” be the goal? “Fitspiration” is a good thing.
Healthy eating and exercise is key. We all want healthy hearts and low blood pressure.
But “healthy” can become so much more than that.
The only way you will see results is if you stay consistent.
Let exercise be your stress reliever, not food.
Fall in love with taking care of your body.
It takes four weeks for you to notice a change. It takes eight weeks for your friends to notice a change. It takes twelve weeks for the rest of the world to notice a change. It takes one day to decide that you are enough.
Success starts with self-discipline.
I want to see what happens if I don’t give up.
The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do.
Imagine yourself six months from now. Don’t stop. It will be worth it.
What you eat in private is what you wear in public.
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Wake up bitch—you gotta go to the gym.
Google “fitspiration.” That’s what you’ll find. For a while, I read those inspirational quotes and looked at those memes over and over and over again. They became my mantra. Instead of visiting online pro-ana sites, I posted the quotes on the bathroom mirror. But somehow, reading those quotes again and again became eerily similar to reading those pro-ana message boards.
For years, I couldn’t go a day without working out.
“I just want to be healthy.” That’s what I told my roommate when she questioned my obsession.
I refused to eat white bread and white rice because, well, that would be wrong.
I refused to eat refined sugar because, well, that would be wrong.
Not going to the gym was a sin. At least, that’s the impression I got while at a Christian college.
I saw exercise and eating habits in black and white, right and wrong. Being healthy was a moral decision. That’s what Pinterest told me.
The models on the magazines are no longer emaciated. These thin women are flaunting six packs, sculpted shoulders, strong quads, dainty biceps. There are articles about their meals: whole grains and kale, quinoa and blueberries. Anorexia is replaced with…what? Being healthy? It doesn’t sound so bad because it doesn’t have to be.
The problem is that “healthy” can become just as obsessive about weight loss as anorexia is. It can pretend to be different. The obsessive mindset can be the same.
And if you notice, “healthy” bodies all look the same. They’re supposed to, anyway. You’re only “healthy” if you have a flat tummy. You’re only “healthy” if you have a perky butt. As my body continues to fill out as I get older—I definitely don’t look like I did when I was 15—there’s a voice in my head telling me I’m no longer “healthy.”
Please hear me: I’m not saying that being healthy is necessarily a bad thing. I’m not trying to demonize quinoa or lifting weights. I actually enjoy working out and I want to do more of it. And I think there is such a thing as a balanced mindset when it comes to the diet.
But I am saying that we need to be careful about what we mean by the word “healthy.”
I need to regularly check that my desire to be “healthy” isn’t shifting into an obsession about my weight. If I can’t go a day without exercising without feeling shame, something is wrong.
We need to re-evaluate what “healthy” really means. We need to stop using that word as a cover-up for an obsession.
If I’m going to become a vegan, is it because I care about animals or because I’m shamed for being overweight?
If I’m going to run a marathon, is it because I actually enjoy running or because I hate the way my body looks like right now? …Honestly?
If I’m going to eat a salad instead of a sandwich, is it because it’s a moral decision?
I am, by no means, perfect. I still struggle with body image. Right now, however, I’m trying to challenge my understanding of what it means to be “healthy.”