The times in my life where I’ve made the biggest shifts in my body composition were during periods of emotional turmoil, often triggered by a break-up. These situations made me feel powerless, out of control, where my emotions ran rampant. I needed a way to channel all this pent up anger, resentment, and sadness.
In addition to leaning on my friends and social circle for support, my go-to crutch was fitness. However it wasn’t primarily about using fitness to process these negative emotions; it was more about exerting control by restricting my caloric intake and working out excessively.
Instead of sitting with my pain and sadness, I would look for an escape. I would look to reclaim control over what felt like the uncontrolled;able by constructing a strict eating regimen—meticulously tracking every calorie consumed. In doing so, I found myself reverting back to eating disorder behaviour that I worked so hard to overcome from over the past decade. By enforcing this austere discipline via my diet, I convinced myself that I had regained some semblance of control over my life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I truly believed that by altering my body, my problems would be solved—my pain magically dissipate.
We’ve been so indoctrinated by the fitness industry with the belief that getting fitter and leaner, or bigger and stronger is the be-all-end-all; the magic pill that will fix all our life problems. I’ve been there and done it, and can tell you first-hand that it won’t. Sure, we may feel a temporary ego boost, but the real confidence we gain from altering ourselves to fit Western beauty standards only runs skin deep.
What’s the most problematic of this mindset is that it perpetuates diet culture and as Chrissy King explains in her new book The Body Liberation Project, is that it also upholds white supremacy. She writes, “[The] times I feel most called to fat loss or dieting is when other things in my world feel out of control. When I’m feeling emotionally out of sorts or going through a particularly difficult time, especially when I’m in a situation I can’t control, diet culture rears its deceptive head, pretending that it can be the solution to all my problems.”†
Certainly, fitness can serve as a cathartic outlet, helping us process negative emotions, alleviate stress and anxiety, and get us out of our heads, which can provide a temporary reprieve from repetitive/obsessive patterns of thought. Working out or physical movement of all sorts can provide us with the energy and resilience to tackle our internal struggles and pain head-on. However, relying on fitness as the sole means to manufacture a leaner, fitter body in the hopes of regaining control over the uncontrollable, ultimately perpetuates our pain, and will leave us feeling hollow and empty inside
† Chrissy King, The Body Liberation Project pg. 254