Over the last few years, I’ve chased goals (and achieved them) due to the constant voice within me striving to approve.
At my smallest I weighed 8 stone 3lbs, a few lbs shy of the anorexic bracket for my height. Society told me this weight was an achievement, I had finally reached the ‘thin ideal’ despite the fact that the relationship I had with myself and food was far from ideal. The desperate need to be skinny had completely taken over my life, and it suddenly became a numbers game, weighing a certain weight, fitting into a certain jeans size, the amount of inches baggier my favourite shirt was…
Since when did we become so obsessed with numbers? The idea that a certain number dictates level of achievement, level of commitment, level of passion. The number of hours spent in the gym, or the number of minutes spent with loved ones is ignored. We forget the sacrifices made to chase that superficial dream.
Three years on and I am still fighting a constant struggle with confidence, though now I am chasing happiness instead of a disappearing waistline. I have finally sound a job and partner that I completely adore and suddenly health and fitness, which once completely dominated my life, has faded in the background.
Don’t get me wrong, I still train hard 5-6 times a week, eat well 95% of the time, and occasionally feel guilty for having that slice of cake, but I am trying every day not to pick my self apart. I’m focusing on rewarding myself in my career and my relationship by being truly happy.
For over a year I convinced myself I wanted to step on stage, spent 6 months ‘bulking’ and then 10 grueling weeks of dieting. I have also come to the conclusion that when I was at my smallest, I was also my most unhealthy, doing endless amounts of cardio and eating nowhere enough to fulfill a grueling work schedule. I have pushed my body to limits that most wouldn’t even dream of, and I am still nowhere near the svelte lean fitness models I convinced myself I wanted to be.
Last month I had to make a decision. I picked an amazing job opportunity over ten minutes on stage. To some, health and fitness is everything, and for a large proportion of my life it was too. It is only now I realise this was because other aspects of my life were lacking in true purpose. In order to put everything I could into a my dream career, I had to let go of a grueling 3 hour a day cardio binge and focus on fuelling myself enough to be the best employee I could be.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make, and most probably won’t understand the torment I faced. Lack of understanding doesn’t concern me so much, and neither does the possibility that people will assume I’d ‘given up.’ I don’t expect people to understand my thought process, nor do I feel the need to justify myself, I’m more sending out a message to others that it’s okay to pick other things over
I may have been lean but what does that even mean if you aren’t happy? I was moody, argumentative, emotional and a shadow (both physically and mentally) of my former self. I couldn’t concentrate on the simplest of tasks and found myself daydreaming about my next cold, tupperware-housed meal.
Dedication is one thing, but sacrificing your mental state for anything is completely unnecessary. I know that now. I know that with a good job, a loving partner and a future that’s focused on health and happiness, that my body will respond positively in the end.
I have chosen to continue my journey in South Africa, in the media industry I always dreamed of being part of. This doesn’t mean a downward spiral to obesity, it just means I must find a happy medium, where I enjoy my life inside and outside of the gym. Yes I may not be lean, my abs are hidden behind a layer of fluff and I’m definitely not ‘bikini ready’ but I’m measuring success from happy clients, friends and family, and not on trophies and tan.