When I was growing up, the 'ideal body image' sold by the media was very much a Skinny Minnie ideal, with the Kate Moss's and Kendall Jenners dominating the industry. Long, limber legs and teeny tiny tummies, which meant constantly watching what you ate. I was actually happy with my body until around the second year of University, when I suddenly noticed that all those nights of boozing and midnight pizza and chips runs were affecting my small-frame and I was getting a bit of a belly.
By this point, the internet started blowing up with 'Fitspo', the new fight against 'thinspo.' It was seen as revolutionary. Instead of skinny, doe-eyed girls with legs up to their eyes, we were faced with a new role-model. Strong, toned girls with thick, defined thighs and tight abs. The best bit? They ate! Protein, protein, protein. They were healthy and fabulous and suddenly this was the new body-ideal to strive towards.
I had a holiday to Miami coming up, and embraced everything 'fitspo', with Tumblr fuelling my fire. Of course, with all these pictures of healthy, strong women they never tell you just how much of a lifestyle is behind it. I was going to the gym 5/6 days a week for two hours at a time. One day a week I would set aside for cardio - 45 mins to an hour of the cross trainer. Every other day was mostly weights, and I watched what I ate obsessively. I didn't touch alcohol for 8 months, and my body became more like what I wanted it to be. Smaller, tighter, and definitely stronger. But what is the difference between obsessing about not eating very much, and calorie counting, and watching how much you eat on the other spectrum obsessively? Makings sure you get enough protein, and throwing your social life away to exercise? "Sorry, I can't come hang, I have to go to the gym" was a phrase I was throwing about with ease.
I had just as unhealthy a mindset then, as fit as I was, as people who are constantly trying to lose weight. The 'Fitspo' trend has created a newer role model for girls, one which is arguably even more difficult to achieve and which makes you feel even more inferior when you can't. The truth is, to look like those women, those athletes, you need to be willing to sacrifice a HELL of a lot of time, effort, and parts of your social life. I obsessed over people like Kayla Itsines, comparing my body to hers. How ridiculous! She is a full-time personal trainer, who literally MAKES HER LIVING from exercising however many hours a day and teaching classes and bootcamps. And I, a full-time student, expected to look like her?!
This last year I have put on weight. I leave my house at 7am for work, and get back in at 7.30pm when I have to cook dinner. I commute nearly 4 hours a day to work in a London office for 8 hours, with a homemade packed lunch to keep me going. I get home and sometimes push myself through the exhaustion to do a 30 minute HIIT circuit, to keep my endorphins up. But realistically, I don't have the time to put into those 2 hour gym sessions I was doing all that time ago, and I have got to stop beating myself up about it. Stop looking in the mirror and hating what I see every day because I'm comparing my body with one I had when I did nothing all day long as a student except exercise and spend hours preparing protein-boxes for my (several) meals a day.
Yes, I've gained weight. No, it's not the end of the world. And no matter how self conscious I feel, if I didn't spend all my time looking at women who live completely different lifestyles and their rock-hard bodies and comparing myself with them, I would probably be a whole lot happier. All I can do is make the healthiest choices possible and fit in exercise as and when I can, rather than obsessing over missed workouts and immediately calculating how many less calories I'll have to eat to make up for the fact I couldn't go to the gym, or didn't physically have the energy to go. I'm not making up excuses, I'm being realistic. I praise the people who have the ability to workout that hard alongside a full-time job and still have a great social life, but for me there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day.
I unfollowed all the fitspo Instagrams that I religiously followed the other day. They weren't motivating me, they were pressuring me. Pressuring me to look like them, to work out like them, to live like them. I was happier before I followed them, and before I became obsessed with trying to sculpt my body into something that requires months and months of graft and clean eating, which realistically, I can't do right now.
Instead, I followed Girls With Gluten. An account which shares beautiful women, eating. Enjoying. Indulging. And I don't feel guilty anymore, I don't feel 'fat' anymore, and I sure as hell don't feel pressured anymore. Forgive yourself, and love yourself. Life is too short to spend stressing over missed sessions at the gym. As long as I'm healthy, I should be happy. And if that means enjoying a pizza every now and again, then fuck it, make mine a large.
Full-time writer and blogger. I write about fashion and occasionally scathing accounts retelling instances where people have wronged me. I am a strong believer, proud advocator and solemn enforcer of the Wine Wednesday movement.