How working out has affected my mental health

Growing up, I was known as the “ugly fat girl” who none of the boys wanted to talk to. Well, boys still don’t talk to me, but I feel prettier than I was before! And I give all my thanks to exercise. However, a part of me wishes I was still that “ugly fat girl,” wishing I didn’t care as much about my physical appearance as I do now. 

My fixation with the idea of changing my body started in the sixth grade. I would go to BodyZone and run on the treadmill every day, hoping that I would wake up the next morning and become a Victoria’s Secret model. I felt as if that dream was unachievable. That I’ll never become what I so craved to look like. Trying to look like the girls all the guys desired was all I could think about up until junior year of high school. 

Every morning I would wake up and go straight to the mirror. As unhealthy as that is, it was almost like a habit. I know my body won’t change in a day, but it’s like I’m subconsciously thinking it will. Or thinking that I’ll look like a Brazilian bikini model in the morning. It’s just something that was engraved in me from the beginning of my exercise journey. 

By the time I got into high school, my obsession with losing weight started to increase, dampening my mental health by the day. I started to look at my body in reflections in windows, touch my stomach after I ate food, research everything I can about losing weight, etc. It was just getting too much. And not only just for me, but for my family as well. I would come home crying wishing I could look like the pretty cheerleaders at my school, or the girls that all the boys liked. I felt like I wasn’t enough for people to love me, or even to love myself. 

However, I kept working out. I kept trying to change my body to love who I was, damaging my mentality even more by fixating on every inch of my physique to be perfect. I kept trying different diets, wearing waist trainers in my sleep, or even eating nothing during the day to make myself feel better. It’s exhausting. It’s always been exhausting. But I never gave up. 

It’s now my senior year of high school, and I wish I could tell “younger Ella” what I know now. As cliche as this is going to sound, you are beautiful just the way you are and if you want to change your body, just give it time. If you dedicate yourself to working out every week and eating right, you’ll do it. By don’t forget to give yourself breaks and cheat days. Without those you won’t be able to accomplish your goal with a healthy mindset. Trust me, I learned the hard way.

Although, working out has contributed positively to my mental health by being a sense of therapy. Whenever I have been angry or sad, the first thing I do is go to the gym. It alleviates my mindset by being a distraction from the chaos around me. It also gives me a sense of athleticism. By joining the girls weightlifting team at my school, I found a new passion for being stronger by lifting more weight. The gym brings out a competitive drive in me that is frightening. 

Everyone has their own fitness journey, whether you want to take it or not, so I hope sharing my experience has influenced your outlook on changing your physical appearance. You don’t need to change to become happier, just do what makes you happy. 

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