I grew up as a high performance athlete. I trained year-round through my teenagehood up until I went away for university and didn’t have the time or access to my standard of workout facilities. During these glory days I was fit, strong, lightweight, healthy, and happy with my routine. Looking back, it makes me sad to think that while I was in such good shape, I’d still look in the mirror and see a distorted reflection. I didn’t see muscle or health. I saw the practices I missed that month, the extra spoonful of Nutella I ate that morning, or the stronger or thinner people around me. I never truly appreciated the appearance of my body because I was constantly criticizing my flaws, which weren’t really flaws. I never saw myself as perfect.
When I went away to school I naturally gained some weight, though only 5 pounds. But what upset me the most was the rapid pace at which my muscle deteriorated. I could no longer call myself an athlete. My appetite shrunk as my metabolism slowed and by the end of the school year I was in the habit that most girls were of joking about never exercising and eating like nobodies business. All the while I’d fantasize about getting back to training and taking off the university student costume and step effortlessly back into the disciplined athlete costume.
Skip forward a couple years. I never found the time or motivation to take off the student costume and dig up the athlete costume. Any muscle or strength I once had was history and the number on the scale slowly but surely was reacting to all the alcohol and student meals that was required to get through school. My body shape and appearance did not change much, just the number and my confidence.
Skip forward again to the summer between third year and fourth. If you’ve taken a gander at some of my previous posts you’ll know that I suffer from self-diagnosed anxiety. It is completely indescribable and I have no clue what triggers it, but it’s always there. I developed it almost a year ago and the worst symptom of it is a severe lack of appetite and a constant feeling of fear or nerves and nausea. It was at its worst last summer, but as this summer creeps around the corner I am feeling 70-85% better, depending on the day. However, it’s peek had an intense impact on my weight, appearance and confidence. As I never had an appetite, and the constant nausea made me sick almost everyday, the weight fell off of me. I was never heavy before, which only made the effects of weight loss that much more noticeable. None of my clothes fit anymore, and people were constantly pointing out how skinny I was getting. I rarely took these comments as compliments because I was secretly very concerned about my health. I had gone to doctors and had tests done and nothing was resolved. My BMI was too low and the only suggestions I got from doctors was to try YouTubing meditation practices to calm my nerves. The fear for my health only heightened my anxiety which intensified my lack of appetite.
Skip forward again to September. It was time to switch gears from summer mode to school mode. I guess having a different lifestyle and important things to focus on like my education, living away from home, and working on my wonderful relationship with my boyfriend helped me to snap out of such a silly, yet not really so silly, mentality. I couldn’t afford to play around with my food. I needed to eat so I could focus at school. This was not a conscious decision. I cannot put my finger on what changed, but it was as if my anxiety was put on the back burner. I was eating again (not 100% back to my university student diet but better than literally nothing) and I was feeling much more healthy and happy with myself.
Today, my physical appearance and the number on the scale have not gone back to what I personally would consider normal. People still comment on my thinness compared to over a year ago, but I do feel perfectly healthy. I am happy with the way I look now because I know I am eating well and getting back to exercising. My weight and the number on the scale honestly mean nothing to me anymore. It is my physical and mental health that I value. As long as I feel healthy and know that I am doing everything I can to lead a healthy lifestyle, then I am happy with who I see in the mirror.