‘Everything in moderation.’ It seems that anything in this world can become addicting, whether it is sugar, drugs, caffeine or even something as beneficial as exercise. When workouts became an obsession and burned me out, I learned just how damaging overdoing it can be. After having struggled with overtraining side effects, I learned to give up the fitness craze and start having fun.
Breaking a sweat
Like most people, I entered the fitness world with a goal in mind. But I also had no understanding of what it meant to ‘work out.’ As a high schooler with a fairly discontented view of Physical Education, I loathed doing much more than speed walk and stretch. But I was being told by doctors about needing to clean up my diet and get more active. Otherwise, I’d be signing myself up for diabetes, which I didn’t want.
So I started breaking a sweat. The endorphins became something I depended on for fighting my depression. However, I did not really start to eat better so I would binge on not-so-healthy meal options then work out for hours on end with a hope of burning off my mistakes. I sweated, I felt good, but I did not get much healthier.
In 2008, I graduated high school fairly lighter than when I had entered it. Though my mind was always on my weight and how to lose more. Throughout my first couple of years in college, I did not encounter the infamous Freshman 15; but I was restricting. Drastically. I’d go hours without anything then scarf down a scone before taking a long commute back home. Then I’d hit the dumbbells after dinner until I felt like puking.
If you read one of my other articles about overcoming eating disorders, you know how quickly the prior scenario changed. What used to be binge eating and purging through exercise, soon became obsessively restricting my caloric intake and working out until I could barely think. My weight plummeted, as did my outlook on life.
But I kept working for those endorphins that adjusted my sadness. The drug lost potency eventually. I was forced to give up on my dreams abroad and return to my parents’ house for recovery. My eating disorder loomed over me. It whispered constant untruths like, “If you do not work your lunch off, it will convert to fat.”
As I studied for personal fitness trainer certifications, yoga instructor credentials and an Associates in Exercise Science, I also exercised hypocrisy as a fitness professional afflicted with ED, the female athletic triad, and burnout.
I kept changing for the worse. Though training for dance and fitness, I never built muscle. Blackouts, mood swings, heart palpitations and constant shivers became the everyday condition. At work, I’d hear my coworkers at the Maryland gym where I was temporarily employed discussing the appearances of the other trainers, like how one was too fat and lazy or how another was too nice or too thin (me) or too old.
With clients, I chanted, “But fitness is fun!” as if it was some magical chill pill. I stared at those silly Fitspiration pictures, asking myself, “Why don’t I look like that yet?” Unfortunately, my soul was screaming in response, but I refused to listen.
The wake-up call did not come down on me like a bolt of lightning. It was the subtle understanding that I was literally forcing myself to do something that no longer makes me happy.
How did I stop obsessing? Honestly, I don’t know. Looking back, I try to find the defining moment when I said, “This sucks. Forget fitness. I want to live.” Gradually, I started focusing less on aesthetics and more on feelings.
For that I thank my remarkable dance teachers and colleagues (not the ones from the aforementioned location) grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me awake.
Stop posing, start performing. Have fun! Live! With this, my compulsory workouts turned into improvised dances, exercises from physical therapy sessions, yoga, and functional movement training (martial arts, calisthenics). My body has, over time, restructured itself into something incredible.
Secondly, I started eating mindfully instead of seeing food as gasoline for my body. People are not machines. Detaching yourself from the mind, body and life equals misery. Although I live a vegetarian lifestyle, I do not diet anymore. I eat what I want and when I want.
Lastly, I focus on the journey, not the destination. There is only one surefire endpoint in this life. Between here and now are as many possibilities as there are stars throughout the universe.
Read also – I Grew Up Thinking the Lowest of Myself
Trust me, as a fitness professional, I will never tell people to not be active. However, I think having fun is more important than killing yourself in a workout. If walking around the block, holding private dance parties in the kitchen or going on the occasional hike is fulfilling, do it.
If powerlifting scratches your itch, do it. If you want to eat several slices of pizza because it tastes fantastic, do it. Just remember to not overdo it. Everything in moderation.