Okay, its time for some #realtalk. It wasn’t too long ago that my definition of health revolved around physical appearances. I thought to be healthy, you had to have a popping 6-pack all day everyday.
This came about because I got sucked into social media #fitspo and became a victim of social media envy. All these fit girls on my Instagram feed made it look achievable and healthy to have abs 24/7. But you know what? I worked my arse off and got myself those washboard abs, but did that make me healthy? Not even in the slightest. But what it did make me was very very sick for quite some time.
I was so motivated by the daily #fitspo posts I scrolled through on Instagram and I wanted to do everything in my power to achieve that all so sort after ‘healthy’ physic. At my worst, I was working out every day, twice a day for at least an hour at a time. I always had my Polar Heart Rate monitor close by to ensure I burned enough calories every session. I started to religiously track my calories and macros; every last crumb that pasted my lips had to be logged and then later burned off.
I stopped eating out and attending social gatherings because one; they interfered with my workout schedule, and two; I couldn’t accurately track the calories I’d be consuming. But I didn’t care because I had a goal in mind and I had developed tunnel vision; nothing was going to get in my way of achieving those abs. Around this time I was consuming roughly 1000-1200 calories a day max, and burning off at least 500-600 calories minimum through exercise. Restriction and deprivation are the only two words to describe my diet at that point – nothing healthy about it. Not treats, not even healthy treats – and for a sweet tooth like myself, it made me feel so down but I thought it had to be this way.. It’s what I saw everyone on social media doing, so I had to do it too.
And surely enough, after about 4-5 months, people started noticing a change in my body and so did I. Their complements only spurred me on more. I was feeling great! Light, happy and so accomplished, so I kept going. After about 18 months of this severe dieting, over exercising and restriction, I lost about 12kg and was down to mere 50kg – bare in mind I’m 5’ 8” (173cm) tall – making me extremely underweight. But I had abs so I thought I was the picture of health!
The complements of people around me now turned to genuine concern for my health and wellbeing – constantly being asked if I had an eating disorder by worried loved ones and friends. But I brushed them off time after time – “no no, I just workout and eat really healthy. Nothing bad about that,” I would tell them.
But deep down, I think I knew there was a problem. I was constantly fatigued, lethargic, experiencing extreme digestive issues, I wasn’t sleeping, hadn’t had a period in over 2 years, having regular anxiety attacks and constantly obsessing over food – it consumed my every thought from the second I woke up til the second I fell asleep! However, it wasn’t until I went to see my GP about severe chest pains (which turned out to be anxiety) and I mentioned I hadn’t had a period for over 2 years, she took one look at me and said “well that doesn’t surprise me, your severely underweight”. She basically told me to eat more, exercise less and I’d be cured. Yeah sure, like it’s that easy…
I didn’t want to believe it at the time, so I went and go a second opinion, then a third and then a fourth from a dietician. And they all concluded the same thing – I was extremely underweight and had developed disordered eating behaviours – not an eating disorder as such because I didn’t fall into any of those categories, but I definitely had all the signs and behaviours of an eating disorder. But how could this be! I didn’t want to believe it! I looked so healthy on the outside with my abs and thigh gap, how could I be so unhealthy?!
Ultimately, my body was shutting down because I was neglecting it with extreme exercise regimes and so little food. It was stuck in a state of stress; in what’s called ‘Fight or Flight’ mode where it constantly perceived there to be a threat in the environment – hence no period because it doesn’t want to bring a baby into that environment. On top of that, it was in a state of extreme starvation, so my digestive system started shutting down to enter ‘survival mode’ so it could continue to survive the constant starvation and preserve the small amount of nutrients I was feeding it.
Things had to change. And they did, not overnight, not easily and not without a lot of help from professionals and my amazing loved ones. But all that matters now is that they did.
Yes there are days where I look in the mirror and I wish I still looked like the tiny, toned, 50kg Elise with barely an ounce of fat on her body. But I now no just how unhealthy that was. Abs on the outside don’t equal healthy on the inside. And at this point in my life, I’m no longer willing to make the sacrifices that it took to have abs – restriction, deprivation, no eating out and socialising with friends, no treats or dessert, hours on the treadmill etc. And in the long run, going to these extremes to attain abs does more harm than good.
I now gauge my health, not by physical appearance or abs or weight, but by how I FEEL! My ultimate goal is to feel happy, healthy and confident in my body. I don’t have a clue what I weigh because I’ve thrown out the scales for good, but I’ve definitely gained back a fair bit of the weight I lost. But what I also gained back was my period!! Who would have thought I’d be so happy to have a period again!? I honestly cried with happiness the day I got it back – because I felt healthy again!!
I may not be the prime example of #fitspo on Instagram anymore with my lack of bludging abs but I’m healthy and I’m happy! I no longer strive to have abs. I strive for balance, sustainability and happiness in my life now. Fitness is part of my life now – its no longer my WHOLE life as it once was.
Honestly, take it from someone who has been there, made the sacrifices and achieved those all so desired abs – its not worth it! For a short moment you might feel happy and fulfilled, but then what? Nothing. There’s only so much happiness and fulfilment a couple extra likes on Instagram will bring you. But living your happiest, healthiest life – that’s where you will find fulfilment.
So don’t strive for abs please! Strive to feel your best and confident in your skin and live your happiest and healthiest life!
P.S. if you’re someone struggling with the issues I’ve discussed in this post, please please know you are not alone in this battle! I’m here for you. The whole reason I started this blog was to share my journey and experiences and hopefully help others in the same situation to prevent them going through what I had to go through. If you ever need someone to talk to, know that I’m here for you. Feel free to reach out to me on my blog contact page or DM me on my Instagram ❤
Be sure to join me over on Instagram (@eb.fiitness) for daily motivation, recipes and fitness tips! xxx