How I learned being healthy doesn’t have to mean being strict

People put a lot of energy into looking good. Whether your goal is to take flawless Instagram pics or seduce your crush, chances are, you want to reach your full potential. For some girls, this means investing in new makeup or getting a haircut; for me, it meant a completely new body.

Throughout high school, I was that friend who secretly counted her calories, limited her meals, and stayed up at night for hours doing workout routines she found online.

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I couldn’t care less about if I was healthy or not, I just wanted to look good in jeans. It seemed like everyone around me had a great body with minimal effort, and I wanted to be as beautiful as my friends were.

As a kid, I was picked on for my appearance, and it carried on into high school. I figured since I couldn’t really help my face, I could at least make sure the rest of me looked good. My fifteen-year-old self also associated my beauty with thinness, and I was convinced that being as thin and “in-shape” looking as possible would get me all the positive attention and validation I needed.

I told myself it wasn’t serious and didn’t see it as a problem at all, even though I would rip out all the exercise pages from my mom’s Cosmopolitans and my older cousin’s Seventeen magazines and purposely starve myself all day. I’d decide in the morning which meal I would eat that day, and have yogurt or bananas as replacements for whichever ones I’d skipped.

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I signed up for a weight training class at school, and would repeat the day’s exercises once I got home before starting whichever routine or video I’d bookmarked for that week. Exercise became something I dreaded, but I’d force myself to do the absolute most because I was convinced it would give me the body I’d always wanted. I didn’t care about realistic deadlines, nor did I set attainable goals – I wanted to lose ten pounds in a week and a half and have a toned stomach after a month of crunches.

Skipping meals, much to my disappointment, didn’t thin me out. Instead, I felt like everything I ate stuck to me, and my eating habits became increasingly sporadic and unhealthy. I would have lunch with my friends after school, then freak out and eat only apples for the next two days. I began to use workouts as forms of punishment for myself, making them purposely more grueling if I’d eaten a lot that day or hadn’t finished a workout the day before.

My horrible and unbalanced eating habits made me irritable, moody, and so tired that simple 20-minute workouts physically drained me. I forced myself to suffer through it until the middle of my senior year, when my mom got rid of the scale in the house after a meltdown I’d had about not losing any weight.

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The summer before I went off to college, I barely went out and tried to cover up as much as possible.

I didn’t want anyone to look at my failure of a body, especially since my weight fluctuated so much. Once school began, I had free access to a gym, which I was fearful of stepping foot in. I had mostly given up on my habits, pissed off because the results I saw weren’t the ones I wanted. I resigned myself to a disappointing life of being ugly with low self-esteem until I met my (now super close) friends at school, who watched what they ate but didn’t beat themselves up over eating fries for dinner. They worked out sometimes, but were sometimes too lazy for the gym, and that was okay with them – a concept I found a little impossible to grasp.

I found a gym partner in my new friend and, with her encouragement and help, was able to figure out a much more realistic workout plan that focused more on my health than my appearance.

Did it feel disappointing to go to the gym three times a week and eat salads for lunch every day and not instantly be twenty pounds lighter after a month? Of course, but I felt better than ever and actually had enough energy to power through classes, socializing, and hitting the gym.

Today, I try and work out three times a week, and I don’t follow too strict of a diet. I just try to make sure I’m not putting too much junk in my body. The same body I used to despise, I’ve now grown to love and I feel more sexy and comfortable every day.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that while I might not always look how I want or achieve my “dream body,” as long as I’m healthy and can get everything I need done, I’m still slaying.

Gimme More Health

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