You don’t need to be the “fit chick.” You need to be you.

The first time I ever put on a sports bra and “worked out” was during my senior year of high school. I know what you’re thinking: a little late. But I honestly had just never thought to do it before.

What motivated me to go was the age old high school demon: self-esteem. I was a little surprised at how much my body had changed in such a short amount of time. This change was probably due to eating french fries every day for lunch and sitting behind a desk for the rest of the day. I was pretty inactive. I wasn’t overweight, but that didn’t change the fact that I didn’t like the way my body was feeling or looking.

My next step was to figure out what to do to change this. I didn’t want to feel that way anymore, so I scoured the internet for resources on how to get fit quickly. And yes I did google “How to lose XX pounds in XX days.” You can imagine that I didn’t come up with the most reputable (or consistent) sources. The main consensus I found during my “research”? Running was a great way to lose weight. So I ran.

I was excited to get started. I’d tried running before, and had been a part of a running club before high school. So I mapped out a mile or so route in my neighborhood, brought my water bottle along, and went for it.

It felt great. I loved being sweaty and the feeling I got from being able to run farther than I had the day before. I loved the way I felt when I was out of breath, because it meant I was working hard. I was proud. I was living off of my runners high.

This high, of course, is one of the reasons I took things to the extreme.

Fitness was clearly working for me, so I kept on pushing and stuck with it. I also stuck with fitness for a few other reasons:

  1. I was jealous of the athletes at my school because I was never very good at sports.
  2. I was depressed and stressed about going to college.
  3. And here’s the main trigger: my parents’ divorce.

I needed control, and when I ran, I had it. It made sense to me, when so many other things didn’t. I took my feelings of anger, stress, and hatred out on my body, because I thought maybe if I was skinny enough, I would be enough for everyone else.

By the time prom rolled around, I had shrunk from a size 6 to a size 2. I was dangerously close to being labeled “underweight”. My mom, worried for my health,  took me to the doctor. Here, she confirmed that I was developing an eating disorder to cope with my depression.

These were scary words for me at the time. Eating disorder? How did this happen?

So what did I do? I stopped running and did Pilates instead. All the while, I was eating under 1200 calories a day. (Except, of course, for the days when I would binge.)

Then it came time to leave home for college. I was so unprepared for the social and emotional changes that would come with that transition. I became depressed again, and (sticking with what I knew would work) I turned to the gym for help. This time, it was kickboxing. I even got certified to teach. But that wasn’t enough. By this point, I was at an average weight but still had to deal with bingeing.

I got bored of sticking to Pilates and I decided to start lifting weights. I asked my cousin to come to the gym to show me how to use the machines, and I was on my own from there.

I began to lift inconsistently, then consistently. I would take a month off during breaks back home, where I would binge and fall right back to square one. I felt stuck. Once I started lifting consistently (while still under-eating), I saw a little more of the results I always craved. It was then that I discovered the fitness community online.

My Tumblr feed turned from funny memes to “fit chicks” decked out in Nike gear. I wanted to be her, so badly. So I pushed myself. And I did become her: I became the “fit chick.”

If I wasn’t in class, at work, or in my dorm, you could bet I was at the gym. I really enjoyed the time I spent working out. Then, I felt focused, strong, and confident. I was in a gym filled with buff athletes and I was able to keep up. In my eyes, I was the “fit chick” in the weight room.

And I really liked that. It gave me an identity, which I’d been otherwise searching for. Again and again, I told myself I wasn’t “enough”. I didn’t lift enough, I didn’t run fast enough, and I didn’t eat “clean” enough. My standards for myself got stricter and stricter. I felt subpar and I wanted to be the best.

If I wasn’t the best then why did it matter? It didn’t matter that I enjoyed myself, it didn’t matter that I was at a healthy weight, it didn’t matter that my bingeing had almost disappeared and it didn’t matter that I had a hobby I could get behind.

I was told by my friends that I spent too much time at the gym and that I should “do something with it” — compete in a bikini competition, get certified, or become an Instagram sensation. To me, these were more expectations I was failing to meet. I felt that the only way I could continue to enjoy the gym would be to up my “fit chick” game. I didn’t think I looked the part yet.

I was so busy comparing myself to others that I prioritized weight over form. In October of 2015, I was squatting way too much with disastrous form, and I hurt my lower back. Instead of taking time off, I modified my workout. Big mistake. In May of this year, I was deadlifting again with too much weight using improper form, and hurt my lower back.

I finally took time off from the gym completely. The next month when I went back to the gym, I had to start again from the bottom. This really hurt my ego. I mean, I was the “fit chick”! I wasn’t the newbie who got hurt. I wasn’t the girl decked out in Shredz gear and eating whatever the “fitstagram” promoters were pushing that week.

What I didn’t know was that it’s ok to not be the “fit chick”. It’s ok to continue to learn. It’s ok to start over.

I can be fit and not track my macros.

I can be fit and not represent an athleisure apparel company.

I can be fit and not compete in amateur or professional sports.

Now, I’ve given up this idealization of what it means to be a “fit chick”, and instead have started to focus on being the fit me.

I’ve heard the saying “my only competition is myself”. And while this idea is great, in order to be better than the old me I have to know that the old me wasn’t so bad to begin with. She just needed a little guidance. Sometimes the best thing you can do is treat yourself well – whether that means taking a rest day, investing in a personal trainer, or eating a cookie when you crave one.

You don’t need to be the “fit chick” — you need to be the fit you.

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