A radical idea

So many of us constantly berate ourselves for the shortcomings we perceive in ourselves.

I do it all the time.

Not every day though which is kind of annoying to be honest.

There are days when I think “I am doing life well”. Some days I feel like I’m fit, driven, capable and doing a good job. I get convinced that I’m doing this self-love thing really well but then all of a sudden, this familiar voice creeps in.

“Maybe you’re getting too big”

“You’ve gone backwards”

“You’re not good enough”

These kinds of thoughts tend to come to mind because I’ve forgotten that I’m more than my ability to shape my body and achieve things. I get stuck in a head space that picks out all the things I feel like I’m not good enough at.

I am the most at peace when I am kind to myself. We all are. I’m the happiest when I am gentle, breathe deeply and enjoy the present moment. I know this yet I still end up getting really caught up in my head and make myself feel like I suck.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve developed all these habits and methods of thought that hinder you. They stop you from feeling calm and positive. The thoughts are overwhelming and once they start it’s like a downward spiral. I end up thinking “oh no, it’s happening!” and off I go to negative-town.

Imagine, if every time you went to tell yourself you weren’t small enough, weren’t strong enough, weren’t skilled enough, that you needed to be more dedicated to your diet, a bit leaner, that you needed to become better at doing XYZ, that you needed to be XYZ to be more attractive or more acceptable or more worthy you stopped and told yourself you were enough.

Such a radical idea.

“I am already enough. In every way, I am enough”

“I already have all I need for happiness”

“I like myself just as I am”

Simply taking the thought that tells you that you’re not good enough – noting it – and responding with “actually, that’s wrong. There’s no truth in that. I am good enough, just as I am”. Identifying that negative thought patterns that come over you and I are just a habit we’ve adopted, the thoughts aren’t truths.

The negative thought patterns actually stand in the way of us reaching our full potential. There’s no pride in dragging around self-loathing. Nobody thinks bigger of you because you put yourself down.

Consider this, do you think on the day of your funeral your loved ones are going to stand up and announce to everyone the things that you worry about everyday? Do you think they’re going to stand up there and say “Bec stayed at her goal weight her entire life, she always ate healthy and stayed on track with her diet, she told herself she wasn’t good enough and always felt like she wasn’t achieving big enough things. She lived her life with restraint due to the incessant voice of her mind.” I bloody well hope not.

I don’t want to waste my energy on telling myself I’m not good enough. You have the power to do the same. Allowing yourself to be good enough lies in your hands – nobody else’s.

Achieving those big, scary, amazing life goals is a lot easier, a lot more rewarding, a lot more enjoyable when you can say “yeah you know what, I’m enough. Wholly and completely. I am all I need to be.”

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I get called names

Earlier in the week I had somebody tell me how unattractive they thought I was on one of my photos. I did them a favour and blocked the user.

Moments later, another Instagram user, tagging the first asked me where all the negative comments were and why had I deleted a truthful comment.

I blocked this user too.

Then another. Then another. The final comment said “You can remove the comments but it doesn’t change the fact you’re ugly”.

A day later, my Instagram was disabled because one of my photos had been reported so many times that the algorithm decided I had breached community guidelines. Coincidence?

This isn’t the first, or the hundredth time, somebody has felt the need to tell me how much they don’t like me, that they think I’m unattractive or called me any other colourful name on Instagram. It’s not the first time somebody has said the same kind of thing behind my back or in an “overheard” situation.

Funnily enough, I’ve never had anybody say anything to the same effect to my face.

For many years, the words of others fuelled a really unhealthy narrative in my mind. That I was innately strange looking, that I was deficient, that I wasn’t good enough.

Social media removes empathy. It removes the face. It removes the wince and the fall of facial features that proceeds a cruel comment.

Social media allows people to be anonymous and sling abuse at those they believe don’t have the right to be confident, share a message, be themselves.

Social media makes it really easy for those who feel consciously or unconsciously a deep internal unhappiness to exercise their anger and frustration by making others feel the same unhappiness they do.

I want you to know that your physical features have little to do with your value as a human, despite what we may have been led to believe.

I also want you to know that happy people don’t insult others on social media platforms.

I hope that you recognise that there are always going to be people who don’t like you. They’re entitled to that. You shouldn’t fight them on it.

What I’ve also found is that usually the loudest boos come from the cheap seats.

Be authentic, be kind, use compassion. Those who don’t like you never have to.

 

The most important part

Before you read this – there’s some pretty heavy subject matter that follows. If you have or have had an eating disorder, you may find this blog post triggering and I would suggest you skip this one! 

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My growth has not been a linear path.

I looked at this photo the other day and remembered exactly how I felt at the time. I felt like I still had an eating disorder, despite looking fine. I felt like all my friends from school didn’t like me any more and I had to be a different person to attract new friends. I felt like I had to constantly change my hair colour to keep up with the pressure I put on myself to be attractive. I felt like I had to suck in my stomach on the beach. I felt like I had to skip meals and feel hungry in order to be smaller.

Looking back it’s so sad to think that incidents and things that were going on around me perpetuated all these ideas I had about myself. I thought I was unattractive and this was supported by the fact that I’d never had a boyfriend. I thought I was bigger than all of the girls around me and this was supported by the fact that I wore a size eight while they were all in size sixes. I had seen 49kg on the scales not so long ago, so now that I saw 62kg, that confirmed it.

I remember some particularly nasty comments that I received between the ages of 17 and 18. I hadn’t been very well for quite some time and like many people who experience eating disorders, my face became quite puffy during recovery, it’s quite common actually. My face is pretty full at the best of times and I have really prominent cheekbones but the sudden weight gain to my face made me so very self-conscious.

I remember getting called chipmunk or squirrel a lot.

If I was as bold and assertive as I am now, I would have loved to respond with strength, “my face looks like this because I make myself purge every other day. I do it because I’m deeply sad and I don’t know how to cope”. Then stand there and see how that made them feel. Instead, I convinced myself that I was unlovable and accepted that I was never going to be the pretty girl. I took all of the insults and to be honest, I cared far too much about what other people thought of me, so it dragged me down.

I remember fearing that my metabolism was broken. After spending a good chunk of my time eating 400-600 calories a day, during the recovery process my body put on a lot of weight very quickly. It’s actually edema or water weight but I just saw it as fat gain. I associated it with a loss of control and started exercising addictively to make up for the feeling of helplessness.

I remember going out a lot, drinking a lot of alcohol and masking my unhappiness by partying until the wee hours of the morning.

The thing is, most of the thoughts that I thought were reality, weren’t.

I can remember all of these things but none of it defines me.

I know that girl but I don’t share her burden. I’ve overcome 95% of the things she struggled with.

The most important part of this entire story is that it has made me a stronger, fully-aware and feeling human. I’ve moved on, gained strength, learnt countless lessons. I am the evolved, super-saiyan version of the girl on the left in the photo.

The most important part of this entire story is that I look back, remember and acknowledge the things I used to think about myself. I have the strength now to see the struggle while knowing it doesn’t have the power to affect me ever again.

Look back at your own struggle. Acknowledge the pain then focus on the many lessons you’ve learnt, the many ways you’ve developed and credit yourself for what an amazing thing you’ve done to overcome it. Don’t let it define you though.

“What a liberation to realise ‘the voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that” – Eckhart Tolle

Exercise as a crappy bandaid

Exercise was once a bandaid for me. It did a pretty average job of covering a wound much too big for it. In many ways, it simply deepened the cut, magnifying my issues. Exercise wasn’t the answer to my problems but I used it in a way that gave me some short lived satisfaction.

Rather than tackling deeper seeded self worth and body image issues I thought that sitting on a spin bike or running would somehow alleviate my sadness. It certainly cleared my mind for a while but after a short time the same destructive thoughts reappeared and so I was left clutching to what soon became an obsession with destroying myself in the gym. I became addicted to the short bursts of relief it offered.

Unfortunately, exercise, weight loss, strict diets, excessive resistance training, back to back sessions and relentless regimes don’t offer a long term cure to feeling sad or worthless or lacking. Trust me, I’ve tried them all.

Hitting the gym can absolutely be a release but like any habit of consolation, it doesn’t actually address the issue.

Your worth doesn’t rely on your ability to burn calories, it doesn’t rely on your stamina to smash out extensive workouts, it doesn’t rely on your resolve to stick to a low calorie diet. Your worth is intrinsic. It’s always there. Your mere presence on earth is solid evidence of your worth.

You are an energised being with a unique set of skills. Your gift is that you are the only you. Ever. You will never be replicated. Your worth to the world is immeasurable.

I hope you can sit quietly with yourself one day and realise how powerful you are. It’s the recognition of this power and this strength that will forever fuel your sense of self.

Don’t be sucked into the idea, as I was, that your self worth is hiding just beyond your next workout.

Does this sound familiar?

There’s a common theme that I notice amongst most girls who train and diet. It’s certainly magnified by social media but I think most girls have experienced a variation of it.
We train hard, we feel good, we reach a place of relative balance, and then we diet or embark on a “cut”. Whether it’s for a comp or otherwise, what I tend to notice is during the leaning out process a certain, scathing critical psyche emerges. While dieting we become clouded in our judgment and fail to see just how much our bodies have changed. I don’t claim to know the science behind this, it’s as though we suddenly become body dysmorphic- our apparent slimming down is invisible to us. Most of us then end up dieting for way too long due to being unsatisfied with not yet achieving the striated, single-percent body fat idea we had in our mind, then realise we can’t continue like this and so we increase our energy intake.

That’s when all hell breaks loose.

As we begin to eat more, weight gain is inevitable. Dealing with this can be mentally exhausting. Negative internal chatter becomes much louder. Weight gain feels like a regression. We felt so successful when we were lean, we prided ourselves on our fit exterior and suddenly, increased body fat feels like a loss of control. We convince ourselves that we are less fit, less impressive. It’s a serious mind game. You look back at those old photos and suddenly you see just how lean you were, something that you didn’t appreciate at the time. Comparatively, you convince yourself that the way you look now isn’t as admirable.

At this point, many of us decide that the only way out of this feeling is to start dieting again. It becomes cyclical.

These feelings aren’t evidence of psychosis. You aren’t crazy. I see Instagram captions recounting the same story as above time and time again.

Wanting what you don’t have is human nature. Social Psychology studies confirm it. When something is taken away from us or we see somebody else with something we don’t have – we crave it. It consumes our thoughts. So when you’re eating more food and you see a girl on the ‘gram with an eight pack or lines through her legs, you forget all the positives of eating an adequate energy intake (bountiful hormones, god-like strength, emotional regulation, boosted recovery) and basically all you think about is dieting again.

We’re basically setting ourselves up for failure by embarking on short cutting periods or diets that aren’t sustainable long-term. Inevitably, at some point we need to eat more and face the mental struggle of weight gain. Whether this resonates with you entirely or not, there’s no denying that we have all been convinced by societal ideals that being leaner, smaller, more slender is better.

So, why do we do this?

The thing is, unless you’re a body builder, an aggressive cutting period where calories are dropped drastically isn’t actually necessary. If you want to step on the stage then, maybe this is what you need to do but for your average fitness loving, heavy lifting babe or dude, I can’t see how a drastic cutting cycle is all that beneficial.

I’ve fought negative thoughts about myself for years. Many years. By simply restricting my intake and focusing myself on aesthetic goals, I’m basically begging myself to feel inadequate. If you’re anything like me then no doubt the same is true for you.

So why don’t we all learn from the glaring mistakes of so many – me included – and strive not for a strong bulk followed by an emotionally draining, soul destroying (not sorry for the hyperbole) diet period but for sustainable, happy-every-day progress?

Unless you plan on stepping on the Olympia stage sometime in the future I don’t know why you would want to strive and struggle through a routine that trashes your mental wellness in the process.

I’m not saying the ambition for achieving a stronger, bigger, rounder, denser etc. etc. physique isn’t a worthy endeavour, because it is, it’s satisfying as anything. I just hope you’ll consider whether the methods you use to get there need to cause psychological or emotional distress. Because the more I learn and reflect, the more I think that discomfort and mental exhaustion just isn’t what this fitness thing is meant to be about at all.

Why I’m not #couplegoals

In the same way that social media paints an idealistic, watercolour version of what being fit and sub-15% BF looks like, I think it does the same thing with relationships. Being with somebody long-term and living with them isn’t all candle-lit dinners, kissing mirror selfies and unwavering devotion. I haven’t been blessed by a perfect, Disney-movie relationship where everything is understood and our souls are enchantingly intertwined.

My relationship is thick with misunderstanding. It involves pain and regret over things said in the heat of the moment. There’s anger and fire and just getting pissed off because the lid of the toothpaste was left off for the 17th time.

After three and a bit years it’s not always pure passion. Sometimes there’s no intimacy because you’re either tired, or distracted or you just can’t connect. Sometimes it’s wondering whether after all the ups and downs maybe you both need some space. It’s falling asleep without saying goodnight or simply irritating each other without even trying.

It’s being tired, it’s swallowing pride and meeting halfway, it’s trying to be understanding even when you don’t agree, it’s realising that non-negotiables are important but nit-picking is entirely unnecessary. It’s always wanting the best for him. It’s being amazed that you could care about somebody else’s happiness and wellbeing as much as you care about your own.

These relationships aren’t just comfort and support and ILYSM Insta-captions– there’s also feeling vulnerable as all hell and investing your most valuable possession, time, in something that could shatter and disappear in a single moment. It’s wondering if your devotion will be for nothing and contemplating, subconsciously, the horrible pain that will be inflicted if the two of you decide this just isn’t it.

It isn’t looking at each other and seeing perfection. It’s seeing every fault, every shortcoming, every idiosyncrasy, every dark part and accepting it. Loving it. Embracing every twisted bit of their being.

Despite #couplegoals, the reality involves slammed doors and raised voices. It’s feeling like I don’t like you very much right now. It’s needing to go for a walk.

It’s feeling at home in their arms. It’s feeling like you’ve fallen apart only to realise they know exactly how to put you back together. It’s having somebody who can fix it. It’s feeling scared and confused and working it out together because despite it all you’re both learning how to love.

Relationships aren’t what you see on black and white Tumblr quotes, they aren’t embodied by Instagram romance memoirs to significant others, they aren’t the same for everyone, there are no standards.

This commitment is beautiful and fractured and painful and scary and unpredictable. It has the power to obliterate everything and the power to consume you and teach you what happiness is.

It’s this tangled, intricate mess that makes it worth it. The beauty isn’t in the perfect idea, the beauty is that amongst all the imperfection there’s something hidden there, which words can’t explain that makes life worth living.

Why I don’t think I ever want to cut again

Last year I did a powerlifting competition. It was awesome. I felt fantastic. In the weeks leading up to it I felt like it was the opportune time to begin a cutting phase. Something I had never done and after over 18 months of a seriously productive surplus smashing something like 300g of carbs a day I was under the impression that dropping weight was going to be fine.

So off I went. Under the guidance of my very fantastic partner, I stuck to weight loss macros religiously. After about eight weeks I had dropped a reasonable amount of weight and physically, I looked quite different. The weight loss certainly wasn’t linear up until that point and what I would soon find is that over the next 10 weeks, despite dropping my macros further, my progress really stagnated.

At a certain point, I felt that my intake wasn’t sustainable. Between full time work and various other commitments the food I needed to stick to in order to continue seeing results wasn’t fun. So I increased my macros up to “maintenance” or thereabouts.

For the next few months I managed to maintain a fairly lean physique but I also experienced extreme exhaustion and hunger quite regularly.

Unfortunately, what I also began to experience were thoughts and fears that I thought I had left in my past. Feeling “heavy” for no reason, experiencing extremely poor body image days, having strong food cravings and feelings of inadequacy if for some reason I was holding water or not looking my best some days. On top of that, I really felt as though I was restricted, unable to enjoy things as I usually would due to reduced flexibility. “Eat more” seemed like the logical decision but I had convinced myself that eating more would mean undoing all my hard work and not looking as impressive, as fit, as strong, as desirable.

I’ve worked for years to not feel this way. Really, I mean years. So I felt really disappointed in myself that mentally and ultimately rather than feeling like the empowered babe I once had, I felt as though I had regressed in terms of my self-perception.

And that’s the thing about dieting. Try as you may to make it “balanced” and “sustainable” unfortunately, this mentality is centred on being less, on being better the smaller we are, on rewarding our ability to restrict ourselves in some way with praise. It’s a hard thing to deal with.

I’m not into fitness for self-deprecating reasons. I once was. I don’t want to be now.

I want to grow and improve and in years from now I want to feel like I can look back and see vast development in the way I perceive myself.

I don’t feel like a cut supports these goals, which is why I don’t think I will ever do one again.