My past and present relationship with body image and social media.
Please be mindful that some may find this confronting, triggering or disturbing, as I sure know I do.
As you may know by now from having read my previous posts, this year has been quite a journey for me in terms of my lifestyle. Let me just start by saying: you have not even heard the most of it… I hope you have some celery sticks and hummus ready.
To recap for anyone who has not already read my Importance of Food series (click here to read part 1), 2017 has been a year of changes for me; changes that have enabled me to maintain a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. After my travels to the USA took a dramatic toll on my body back in 2016, I realized just how important it is to look after yourself, not just “for the now” but for the future. The F45 8 week challenge came at the perfect time for me, as I did not even realize that I almost took things too far.
In my first blog post, I remember feeling confident. Though I do not regret anything I wrote about in the post, I now realize that the mentality behind my actions at the time were partially clouded. Not only has this year been about lifestyle, but I have learnt SO much about my body and I am now consciously aware of how my body reacts to certain lifestyle choices. For those of you wondering, “what the hell is she on about?” here it goes…
Working as a makeup artist has allowed me to work with many different models at different photo-shoots. I soon became obsessed with so many influencers, models, fitness gurus, and the life they portray through Instagram. I must say that to this day all of the models I have worked with have been AMAZING, both inside and out, and always make the whole shoot team feel welcome and treated with respect. Rumours are easily spread about models being “snotty” and loving themselves sick, but I can honestly say that is so far from the truth, and if any of my model-friends are reading this – love yas!
Unfortunately, a lot of women envy people like models and influencers, and constantly put themselves down because they do not look like them. They often compare themselves to the women (and even men) they see on screen, which creates a vicious cycle of self-doubt and a lack of confidence. I literally used to follow every woman with a 6-pack on social media. Even when I wrote my first blog about the importance of food, what I missed and wished I mentioned, was the importance of exercise. I had the desire to be slim—very slim in fact, and probably too slim. Although I was constantly educating myself about maintaining my sustainable food and lifestyle choices, I was yet to discover the lack of education I had on the impact of exercise. It was then that I started running, and I set the goal of running the 14.6km Run for Kids (great fun and a great cause), which I achieved. I do not regret participating in this race, but I do now have doubts on the reasons why I participated and began long-distance running in the first place. To put it bluntly, although my fitness goal was to complete the race, my, let’s call it ‘body image goal’ was to burn through my muscle. Shock horror, what was I thinking? I wanted to be slim—muscle or no muscle, I just wanted to be thin. I dropped three boob-cup sizes and soon became a surfboard (still with big calves though, baller represent). It has taken me a while to get out of this headspace. As I said, I felt very confident, especially after my USA splurge. It was not until I reached a certain weight so rapidly, that things started to go a bit bonkers…
My initial transformation this year that you have already seen was slow, and as I emphasized, sustainability is key. This was until one week, I decided to drop my calories too low, and there are caloric recommendations for a reason! In just five days, I lost 1kg, however, I did not maintain that for very long, as it only took another 13 days to put on 2.6kg and it did not even stop there. I wish I could use the ‘it must be muscle’ excuse, but I was just eating like a horse. Another two weeks passed, and another 2 kilos piled on…
Reminder: Entering disturbingly obsessive territory.
My body then entered the beloved (not really) starvation mode, which I had been at once before. The last time I experienced my body in starvation mode was back in 2012. I was in my final year of schooling and although my memory from this time remains vague, a few things do stand out. I remember living on a peeled cucumber (as the skin had more calories) or apple a day. A tip for my 17-year-old self is that cucumber skin has nutrients you dumbass! I also threw out or gave away all the lunches and snacks my beautiful mum had so wonderfully prepared. Tip number two for my younger self, appreciate your family as you are so lucky to have them, and not to mention lunch as well! I also spent many lunch times studying and doing homework in the library so people would not notice that I was not even eating. I would do interval running on the treadmill for hours with study notes all over the walls to “multitask”. However, I was so fatigued and malnourished that none of the notes sunk in anyway!
I remember being on the treadmill until my skin would get so hot that it felt burnt, and I would stop sweating because I did not even have any fluid left in me. Sadly, I would not even replenish those fluids as I knew it would show on the scales… I would fall asleep constantly in class, always feeling tired, and well, hungry! I can still feel my stomach cramping and the sound of my tummy grumbles as it attempted to digest nothing. I was always sick as well, as my immune system was nonexistent. I remember memorizing ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ and it became my mantra. I had photos of sickly skinny (not even fit) girls printed on hard copy paper for me to look at (through my obsessive thigh gap phase). I find it hard to believe that I was ever in this state of mind, a state of mind I was in for about five months. All it took was some very harsh words regarding my weight from who are now very insignificant people, that led me to this state. However, most people forget how only a few words in passing can lead people to these extremes or worse, so always be kind! I would then binge on a weekend at 18th birthday parties, especially after a few Bacardi Breezers and stuff myself with every party food in sight. This then made me feel even worse, and put me back into starving myself during the week as I felt so guilty after having eaten so much on the weekend. I was so obsessed I believed I had to punish myself for my actions. My body eventually began to heal itself, as my mind told me I needed food. The beloved starvation mode is too smart, knows what the body wants and luckily our body is always on track to protect us. It was a struggle at first, but I recovered and went back to normal eating, where I did not worry or desire to be a twig. It is only now, that I returned to this “devil” low weight in 2017, with again, a different state of mind that I feel I can now talk about this past experience.
Now that you know where I have been, let me bring it back to this time around. Once again referring to my most recent posts (if you have not had a chance to read them yet, there is only 2 to catch up on so you should!). I have still been focusing on sustainability and maintenance, however I still got back to this unhealthy weight. Although none of those thoughts from 2012 entered my mind this year, I still knew that deliberately starving myself would get me nowhere. I have been eating regularly to establish a steady metabolism and drinking plenty of water, which I was happy to sweat out while exercising! I was not looking for a “quick fix” and knew that falling asleep working 6-7 days a week, or while doing a client’s winged liner, just was not an option! I knew I needed the energy, the nutrients, and the fuel to live my busy life and enjoy it as best as I can. I also knew that at this stage, starving myself would only lead to sugar-filled binges, experienced not only in 2012, but in the USA from deprivation and strict eating leading up to the trip.
At first I was proud of myself for getting so low, this time with more than just a peeled cucumber a day. I then realized it was not a sustainable weight for me and this time I am so thankful my body pulled me out of this state so quickly. It wasn’t just my body that saved me this time, but words from a very good friend. A friend who noticed. A quality friend that I lacked and needed back in 2012. I am now aware of the consequences that come with these changes to my weight as my hormones were spinning on some sort of sickening carnival ride. In other words, I felt like I was almost back in the USA, with the amount I started to eat again. Then, the F45 challenge started. This is why in Part 2 I discuss my personal struggles with the challenge, as I began to experience these symptoms due to overtraining, stress on my mind and body, and also not eating enough. I began seeing a naturopath who really confirmed how my hormones were the culprit of these binges, as a result of the extreme weight loss. I used to think it was my lack of motivation or dedication, when it really was my body trying to tell me another story—so listen to your body people!
I mentioned the stress that was playing on my mind, and this was 110% driven by my relationship with social media and body image. It wasn’t about people’s comments this time, (which were still made after USA) it was my own unhealthy obsession driven by unrealistic ‘role models’. I constantly wanted to look like everyone I saw during my social media scroll sesh’s, and all the actual models I worked with. Yet I soon realized that majority of the time, it is all about angles. Those ’30 second transformation’ photos you see, all thanks to lighting and angles, before and after. It is sad that we think we need a good photo to make us feel good. Do I feel healthy? Do I look healthy? Am I happy? Will I be able to sustain this? These are the questions I now ask myself. I sadly do still find myself sighing in admiration at others (mainly with small calves) but will continue to keep telling myself that “it’s all in my head!” Thanks to F45, I am back to my normal boob size, I have some booty, and most importantly I feel strong! I wish someone told me before I obtained the goal of running to burn through my muscles that MUSCLE BURNS FAT! Some of you are probably thinking no shit, but thanks to F45 and the 8-week challenge, I increased my muscle mass and calories burnt at rest! Now that is what I am talking about!!!
If anyone is feeling confused about my journey, this blog would have ideally been The Importance of Food Part 1.5, but as we know, not everything goes to plan or is perfect. I was not in the head space to write at the time with high cortisol (stress) and low serotonin (happy) levels which are now maintained. I struggle to believe how much I have learnt about myself in the past few months, and cannot wait to see how much I continue to learn, especially through my upcoming overseas adventure. This time I am visiting Scandinavia and Central Europe, and am not as worried about everything being sugar-coated and deep-fried (I still love ya USA).
This was extremely confronting for myself to write, however I have never been so eager to finally share this story as it is unknown even to most family and friends. I am not looking for attention, I just want to help those who can relate or may be experiencing the same symptoms or mindset. I have actually found writing this blog therapeutic, a weight off my shoulders now that this helps to tie my Importance of Food series together.
Congratulations! You made it through my longest blog yet. Thank you for reading and if anyone can relate to my experience and wants to have a chat, or discuss anything, even if it’s the colour of your walls, please feel free!
Lots of love,
Coming soon: 7 Days Bare #NoMakeup