Why quitting the gym made me feel better about my body than ever

I know I’m not the only one who has looked back on #TBT photos of myself and laughed at how insecure I was about my body back then – and how ridiculous it seems now. Do you remember being super self-conscious about your body back in the day, when in retrospect, you looked great?

It might just be that being super skinny was all the rage in the early 2000s, whereas having curves is hot right now. It could also be that you were in middle school or high school, and super unconfident in everything, including your body. But for me, it was about how often I worked out.

I’ve always stayed generally around the same size range, but there are definitely old photos that I look at with envy as well as old photos that make me cringe a little. The crazy thing is that no matter what my weight was, I was usually working out 5-7 days a week — and I was unhappy with my body at both extremes.

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I never had an eating disorder or any sort of serious body dysmorphia, but like most girls I spent time in the mirror mentally noting what I would change if I could. Those mental notes would turn into workout plans. Hoping for a bigger butt? I’d start doing leg days twice a week instead of one. Wanting to rid myself of my flabby triceps that made me revert to the skinny-arm in all my photos? Better go harder on the pull-downs.

I was raised in an exercise and diet-obsessed household, and what initially were forced workouts turned to a hobby I enjoyed. On summer mornings my dad, who’s a doctor, would walk into my room, wake me up, and give me the choice between taking a bike ride, rollerblading, or going on a run. My choice as a kid was always one of the first two (running was hard!), unless I decided to pretend I wasn’t feeling well. Thankfully, once I got a bit older, my dad would let my sister and me go out “running” on our own, and we’d hide in our building’s stairwell eating donuts from the deli downstairs.

Once I got older and realized working out could actually make me look better, I didn’t mind doing it. After all, running became sort of therapeutic. Starting sophomore year of high school, I worked out more or less every day, which continued until about senior year of college. Once I graduated and moved to New York, my schedule got crazier, I was too tired to work out in the mornings, and my gym membership became a waste of money. At most I was working out three days a week, but more often it was closer to once a week or not at all.

The crazy thing? Since quitting a constant workout schedule, I never look in the mirror and mentally note what I wish I could change anymore. I very rarely do the thing where I’m trying to find something to wear and I give up because I look “fat” in everything. I no longer dwell on badly angled photos of myself and tell myself I need to chill on the chocolate chip cookies.

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I was never overweight. But I was insecure. And somehow, working out less has alleviated so many of the body insecurities that I used to have.

I attribute part of it to accepting my body rather than trying to change it with a new exercise routine. When I was working out every day, I was hyper-focused on results. This would lead me to analyze my body, seeing if my butt looked rounder or if my arms jiggled less. If they didn’t look better, I’d get frustrated and feel bad about myself, even if nobody else saw the stubborn lower belly fat I was worried about.

Now that I don’t work out so intensely, I’m not expecting results. I’m simply expecting (and hoping) my body will stay the way it is. I’m not looking in the mirror to see if my daily ab routine is giving me a flat tummy, because I’m not doing a daily ab routine. Instead, I’m waking up, briefly looking in the mirror, and maybe even noticing how great I look considering I’d eaten out all weekend and hadn’t stepped foot in the gym in weeks. I may not look as fit as I did when I was working out for two hours a day, every day, but as corny as it sounds I actually feel #blessed in my body!

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Beeing healthy is still important to me. I love being active, walking everywhere, and originally out of broke-ness I’ve adopted a largely vegan diet during the week which has led to me eating more veggies than ever before. I also do yoga in my bedroom via YouTube a couple times a week for mental health, which is ironic because back in my intense workout days I avoided yoga, thinking it wasn’t a “real workout.”

If working out every day makes you feel good, that’s awesome, and I’m definitely not advocating that people cut back on exercise considering most of us could use more of it. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t turn to exercise as a way to “change” your body into something you’ll be happy with.

Just because your favorite fitness blogger works out every day doesn’t mean you have to. It also doesn’t mean you’ll ever look like her, even if you follow her workout and diet plan to the letter.

Focusing more on being healthy and doing the exercises I feel like doing, when I feel like doing them has made all the difference for me, and it just might work for you too.

Gimme More Health

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