Am I in good enough shape? Will I gain weight if I start lifting? Wait, I only burned 300 calories during that workout? These are questions that some athletes may constantly challenge themselves about on a daily basis. I am well aware that this topic is one that is triggering to an extensive number of people; however, it is also a topic that is seemingly pushed out of the way. It appears to be that the majority of people think if this topic isn’t brought up, it doesn’t exist. The less we talk about it, the lesser number of kids that will fall victim to it…right?
By the budding age of five, I was thrown into the chaotic world of youth sports, and that is something I can confidently say has impacted my life in both positive and negative ways. Playing sports my whole life has provided me with opportunities I could’ve never dreamed of; however, it has also created a mindset for me that can be detrimental at times. How was I supposed to know that my fear of not being good enough and the competitiveness in my sports would put me into a downward spiral of excessive working out along with a constant fight with my hunger and calories that have controlled my life numerous times?
Not long ago, I received an Apple watch as a gift. Don’t get me wrong, for someone like me, that is a fantastic item to receive. Running is one of my favorite hobbies; however, the distance wouldn’t be what I looked at on my new watch after a run; instead, my eyes went right to calories burned. This concerned me for a number of reasons; however, the most prominent one seemed to be why I cared so much. Shouldn’t I be proud of myself for going out and running five miles that day? In fact, for several months straight I wouldn’t allow myself to go a day without running four or more miles, and then proceeding to come home and workout more. Despite the snow that would fall, the rain and sleet that would burn my skin as it hit me, or the sub-thirty temperatures, I would simply not take a day off. The thought of not being able to exercise every day and burn off calories was overwhelming at times, and I would, consequently, end up planning my day around it. Nothing about what I was doing was healthy, even though I was convinced it was.
What I failed to realize was how taxing on my body it was to perform 3-4+ hours of exercise a day, and on top of that, I was under-nourishing my body. I was striving for that perfect image, and finding the ideal place for my body to be in order to compete at the top level. I was constantly looking up to people and pursuing them and their routines religiously to be just like them.
It is sad to think that the people we look up to most are also the same people we compare ourselves to the majority of the time. Take a glance at the many influencers on social media and you will find people with what is considered to be the “ideal fit body.” They seem to be flaunting their perceived flawlessness in their followers’ faces as if to say “be more like me.” The countless pictures and videos these people would post were the things I would look at the most. My constant obsession with looking at everything they did took hold of me. These people had become famous for how in shape they were, their health, and how successful they were, and I wanted to be just like them.
People preach about the energy expenditure of athletes, workout-gurus in respect to their workouts, and all the calories they should be consuming because of what a toll it takes on their bodies. However, from what I have experienced so far, the development of an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, or excessive working out is substantially worse among athletes than any other faction of individuals. They have that gut-wrenching feeling that they will never live up to the standards of those they look up to unless they push their bodies to the ultimate extremes.
I undoubtedly wish sometimes that I could travel back in time to when it all started and hit that rewind button so I could correct my toxic mindset; however, the information I have gathered over these past several years is extremely important as well, and I am eternally grateful for the lessons learned that I can use for the remaining entirety of my life. This isn’t an issue that should be taken lightly. These are real, everyday problems that people struggle with. Rather than being pushed out of the way, people should be informed about this so it can be stopped prior to it ever starting. To all the athletes who are struggling: block all of the worries you obtain about the minor flaws you see in yourself and begin to focus on the things your body is capable of and the small successes in your everyday life.