When it comes to fitness I suffer with a stereotypically male trait – I can’t commit. From hot yoga to HIIT training, I leave my first class on an adrenaline filled high, continue to fall head over heels for a few weeks and then promptly leave when a slimmer, shinier, more attractively dressed model comes along. However, despite the occasional eye roll and not so occasional ‘what’s it this week Jane?’ I’ve come to the conclusion that my serial dating attitude to exercise isn’t such a flaw after all.
Graduating from one of the UK’s most prestigious sporting universities, I was the underweight English student who had never set foot in the gym. Throughout school I wasn’t picked last in PE, but only because I had forged the sick note excusing me from being there. For most of my twenty-two years exercise was never a priority; being thin on the other hand, was an obsession. Recovering from the eating disorder that had broken me, at aged eighteen I vowed to be strong, not skinny, but as it turns out old habits do indeed die-hard.
Every girl will agree the self-image in her head is not what she shows the world. She builds walls, wears masks and fakes confidence. For years I hid behind the ‘fully recovered’ smile, whilst continuing to strive for something unhealthy – I wanted visible ribs, not abs. I wanted a thigh gap, not muscles that could run a mile. Change can’t happen over night, or at all if you don’t let it, but with the arrival of one of my life’s most positive influences I slowly did.
Food became fuel and exercise became a way of making this fuel less terrifying. Muscle weighs more than fat, so standing on the scales three times a day became a pointless task. Taking baby steps into the world of exercise I had days where I ran back screaming, but with supporting hands on my shoulders I would wake up the next morning more determined. The mental strength to recover became the physical strength to push my body to its limits, and the quest to find ‘my thing’ had begun.
Two years later I stand heavier than I have done in years. Sticking to the promises I made my eighteen-year-old self, I no longer own a pair of scales and continue to try anything and everything that comes my way. After depriving my body for so long, I will spin, sprint and salute to the sun as a way of being healthy, not burning calories. For most ‘strong not skinny’ is a cleverly thought up advertising campaign. For me, it’s three little words to live by.