Today is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. I was just going to post a photo promoting and celebrating it, but instead I also wanted to share a bit about what health and fitness really means to me. I feel as though, when it comes to this, there is such a focus on the way we look on the outside. We want to physically see results when we work out. We want to slim down, tone up, bulk up, get that bigger bouncy booty. But why? So, we can look like everyone else? So, we can “fit in” or gain our confidence? Even the concept of changing our bodies to gain confidence baffles me. By doing so we end up gaining confidence by changing ourselves to feel as though we fit in to a standard of beauty that society has set and that makes us happy, therefore boosting our confidence. It’s a difficult one because I work out and I enjoy working out and do hope that I physically see those results. But it’s my attitudes towards working and where my priorities are that has changed over the years.
I’m not perfect, even in my thoughts and opinions. I’m not going to be someone who write a blog about fitness and health, pretending that I’m all about health and don’t care about what my body looks like. I do! But it’s finding that balance that I feel as I get older I achieve. I, like so many others, work out because I want to feel better about my body in terms of the way it looks. But it’s not my primary goal.
Since the age of 18, I have suffered from a chronic autoimmune disease. The word chronic means it’s always there. Currently there is no cure, only treatments available, but even these have side effects. For the past nearly 16 years, I have had many stints in hospital, I have been too weak to get out of bed, let alone enter a gym. My body has blown up thanks to steroids to the point I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror whilst getting changed. I have had many days where I have had to stay in bed or where I couldn’t get through the day without a nap. So, imagine what the prospect of a workout sometimes felt?
A few years ago, I discovered a new workout regime, mixed with a new way of eating. For the first time in a long time, I got results. And it wasn’t the physical results I was initially so happy about. For the first time in a long time, I had energy and I felt good from the inside out. I wasn’t bloated by the end of the day and I could get through the day without having a nap. It was these internal feelings of good health that made me the happiest I had been in a long time as well as the changes I was seeing in my body from the outside. Not only did I have energy but I felt strong and those feelings did outweigh everything else.
However, after a while my body did give in. Due to some complications, partly because of the design of my body and working out, partly because of the illness I have, I ended up with a hip injury and had to stop working out completely. Fear set in. What happens if I put on weight, what happens if my body changes and what will happen to the fitness I’ve just tried so hard to build up?
Then the weirdest thing happened. I lost weight. And not only just lost weight, lost a lot of it. At first people told me it was because I had stopped working out and that my appetite had decreased, which could have at first made sense. Then it was maybe I was losing muscle mass. But then as my weight continued to decrease and my appetite continued to feel suppressed, I knew it was nothing to do with not working out and my autoimmune disease popping it’s head up to say hello. I went back to naps, to spending entire days in bed with not only a body that wouldn’t work, but a mind that was faulting me also. Having an autoimmune disease does not just impact your body. Even though I was the thinnest I had ever been, I told myself I was trade weight gain if it meant functioning like a healthy normal human again. After changes in medication both western and alternative, I’m back up to my healthy self. But it took time and it also took time for me to start working out properly again. I had to do more rehab than my bank account could handle and make baby steps to getting back to a proper work out regime. It’s only been the past few months that I have felt my body get back to that strong fit level I was once at.
I am now happy when I go to the gym because I can go. And I’m happy when I can work out without pain, without having to stop or without having to tell someone or admit to myself this was a time I should have stayed in bed.
I also learnt what I enjoyed along the way. I don’t want to punish my body and stress it out with workouts that I loathed. I wanted to have fun whilst working at my fitness. That way I found I wanted to do it more. And it’s not just the type of workouts but everything to do within that. I go to places with good energy and people who not only make things fun but support my frame of mind and increase positivity whilst I’m pushing myself in the name of health.
It’s ironic that when we pass away we discard of our bodies, and everyone around us maintains that it’s our soul that lives on. But when we are on this earth, so much emphasis is placed on that one day discarded body instead of how the soul feels inside.
Yes, work out to get that booty, to change your body in a way you see fit. But challenge yourself as to where those ideals of what your body should look like come from and if the short-lived gains from that will outweigh the positive feelings that good health and fitness will bring.
And that’s what I want to celebrate and promote on this day.
Instead of just posting a fun photo celebrating this day (which I did as well) it’s also important to have a real conversation about what being healthy and fit really means.