I cannot remember a single time in my life where I have not hated my body. I grew up chubby and was quickly dubbed the fat girl in school, which led to me resenting my flabby arms and protruding belly from a ridiculously young age. I’ve followed diet after diet, and had spells of motivation where I was determined I was finally, finally, going to get skinny. But none of it stuck. I went to the odd fitness class but it was always because I felt I had to, not because I genuinely enjoyed it.
But now, god knows how, I have become that annoying person literally everyone hates. You know the one who gets up to go to the gym at 8 in the morning all smiley and excited, only to later come home and talk about how good the burn is?
If you’d told me this was going to be me even just 6 months ago I’d have laughed in your face. My fitness journey has certainly had a few ups and downs but the one thing I’ve never had was motivation or interest in the gym. The one time I’ve been properly active before this year was during my 6 years of competitive handball, but as soon as I had to quit the sport due to a back injury, all my interest in fitness was lost. I was determined that I would be fat and ugly forever – not that those two words are ever, ever synonymous. I got a gym membership around a year later but that was seldom used more than once a week, and the only time I’d genuinely enjoy working out was through travels. I’ve always loved hiking around the world and twice I went on workout trips abroad with my mum but I’m not going to lie, the actual classes were my least favourite bit of the trips. All in all, I wasn’t the most sedentary person ever, but you’d never catch me in the actual gym, it was a class, or nothing.
When I first got to uni I did not move my body at all besides the occasional run to the bus stop – which, for the record, would leave me panting as if I’d just done a marathon. I tried to be somewhat healthy by eating decent non-processed foods, but then the unthinkable happened. Someone decided that my body was his for the taking, and sexually assaulted me. The mental breakdown that then occurred was followed by the complete and utter disruption of my own bodily autonomy. The body I had never liked I now despised more than any other thing in this world, and just the thought of seeing myself in the mirror brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to distance myself from it as much as I possibly could so I did absolutely nothing with it. I preformed the functions I had to in order to survive but I did not recognise my body as my own. What’s worse, and what I’m the most ashamed to admit, is that the comfort eating I was already doing as a response to my deteriorating emotional state manifested itself in a type of internalised fat-phobia. I ate and ate as terribly and as much as I possibly could so that I would get bigger, because I was convinced that if I had been bigger, nobody would have wanted to touch my disgusting body, and it wouldn’t have happened. And if I got bigger, I would be safe.
This mentality continued for quite a while but over summer, as my mental health got better, so did my physical health and relationship with my body. While I now realise that losing weight shouldn’t be (and isn’t) the reason I work out, I dropped a dress size over summer by barely eating and walking 20k a day as I was travelling around Europe on the tightest budget known to man. When I got back, I got myself a new membership to my local gym and started going consistently. Without any work to do and all my friends busy or in new cities I had time to hit the gym almost every day. I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to the scary weightlifting bit and immediately I fell in love.
Not only did the fact that I was moving my body give me more energy throughout the day but it was a reason to get out of bed at the bleakest of times. I cannot discredit the antidepressants currently keeping me alive, but going to the gym frequently is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done for my mental health. After a month or so, I stepped out of the shower, looked in the mirror and saw that I for the first time in my life I had a semblance of a butt. That might seem silly but oh my god was I proud. And while I may have started lifting and exercising for aesthetic reasons it has now become so much more. You can blab on for ages about the release of endorphins and all that other science stuff I don’t understand but going to the gym has given me the best thing I ever could have asked for – it has given my body back to me.
For the first time in over a year, I again feel like I am in control of my own physical self and it is the best feeling in the world. I now know that I am capable of changing myself to a point where I will have a body that man has never touched. I will have a body that is capable of taking someone down, a body equipped with muscles to defend myself. I can’t say that working out has made my love every inch of my body. I still have rolls, and I still hate them. But instead of my body being the thing that brought me to ruins, my body is now stronger than any insecurity I’ve ever had.