fitness, body dysmorphia, and unhealthy habits
I’ve always been brutally honest, especially on this site. I write like I’m talking to my friends about these things, because that’s how I see all of you, and to be honest – reading something that is awkwardly, uncomfortably honest tends to unite people in a way that promoted posts can’t.
I want to talk about something that I’ve been struggling with, and something I think a lot of people have dealt with in the past. Some of you may not know that when this site started, I was a fitness and weight loss blogger. I lived and breathed the gym, it was the defining part of my personality and the first thing people brought up when they talked about me – ‘Oh Rhiana, she’s super fit and basically lives in the gym’. The persona was everything to me, I honestly loved being ‘a fit person’ because I never had been before. It was all new and I had finally found something I was passionate about and could easily stick to.
I joined a CrossFit gym because they had a boxing ring and offered many classes that weren’t actually CrossFit and I had no interest in killing myself with weird pull ups and shit. It didn’t take long for me to really commit because, to be frank, I’m an all or nothing person – balls to the wall always. Finding that gym was finding a eerily comforting situation – I found many people who had the same goals, had the same drive and determination that I had. Seeing people all the time and struggling in a situation like that really creates close bonds, and it made me really happy.
Then my long term relationship ended and my world went a bit wobbly. The gym was all I had left, in my head anyway, so I threw myself in to it. Living alone gave me no obligations to get home on time for dinner and there was no one waiting for me, so what was the harm in going to the gym every evening?
Little by little, so subtly that I didn’t even realise, working out literally took over my life. I was constantly planning out my classes for the week, bumping up the number of classes a week, then per day. It jumped from four 1 hour classes a week, to five, then six days a week and all of those were 2 hour sessions. So around 12 hours a week of extremely high impact/intensity work outs.
I got manic about what I was eating. Every day was the exact same lunch and that lunch was weighed before cooking to make sure I didn’t over eat – chicken with garlic salt, and broccoli and carrot or beans. Everyone used to laugh at work, ‘Here’s Rhi with OH WHAT THE EXACT SAME LUNCH, what a shocker!’ but I didn’t care because I had GOALS BITCH. My obsession with getting abs was a little bit insane, but that was the ultimate goal.
One week I got sick, I mean really sick with the flu and I was off work for 4 days at home. Obviously, you can’t work out when you can’t breathe through your nose and you can’t keep solids down right? Well missing a class just wasn’t an option for me okay? I went and pushed through two classes in a row and threw up on the floor. But I felt so good, because I was so committed you know? All the people at the gym were so proud of me, because they all came along when they were sick too. We were comrades in striving to be better, we were the committed ones and we wore that shit like a badge of honour.
I thought that getting fit would be the best thing for my body confidence, because I was really unhappy with the amount of chub I was carrying and it was time to start feeling powerful and happy with what I got. My weight dropped, my muscle mass went up, my shape changed a lot – I was in no way ‘skinny’ but I was this tiny little muscly thing. I remember the day I got a personal best 110kg deadlift and I went home and wrote down the next goal straight away, instead of relishing in my progress I was already focusing on the next one.
I was never satisfied, I had developed severe body dysmorphia and it was essentially taking over my entire life. I couldn’t relax whenever someone complimented me or touched me, I hated my stomach being looked at or touched. One day my boyfriend made a comment about my hip bones and I thought he was joking. He had to take my hands and place them on my hips to feel that I did actually, for the first time in my life have prominent hipbones. I had lost 20kgs over about 9 months and I thought I looked the exact same.
My narcissism was also at an all time high – I constantly took progress pictures of my body because I felt like I had something to prove – I had to show off my body because I needed people to validate that the work I was putting in was showing – I literally couldn’t see it alone. Looking back at those photos now, I see a very fit girl of a healthy weight and decent muscle tone, but at the time I saw love handles and belly pooch.
It all came to a head one day when I realised that this wasn’t right or in any way normal. I was in a severe depression and wasn’t eating and would spend nights with my boyfriend just crying because I felt like I wasn’t good enough, I felt like a ‘fit’ imposter. He told me that me being like this was bringing his life and his mindset into a bad place because he worried about me so much. I realised how many nights out with friends, catch ups with family, date nights, work events that I had given up because I had to go to the gym.
And that gave me some real clarity. I was in trouble and if I didn’t stop, I would keep going until I hurt myself.
It feels incredibly scary to admit that I have backslid into a slightly unhealthy weight range again. I haven’t been inside a gym for about five months now and I don’t eat a specific way anymore. It makes me feel like a failure because I worked so hard to take that weight off.
My body dysmorphia is still extremely rampant and to be honest, I don’t know if that part will ever go away. I don’t feel good being this weight and I know I have to change it but I’m still searching for a way that I can exercise again without turning it in to an obsession.
The culture of extreme fitness is so crazily marketed these days, I just want people to be aware of what can happen when you push yourself too hard, and just how dangerous fitness obsessions can be. I wrote this post to show you how easily it can happen especially when you have obsessive tendencies like I do.
I’m hoping to find a way back into fitness that doesn’t consume me and my entire life, and until then – I can handle being a bit pudgier than I used to be if it means I’m healthy and happy.