Going Gently, Going Lightly
Instagram is a funny place.
It’s a micro-world filled with people pursuing all sorts of passions and chasing a huge variety of goals. It’s a place to glean information, gain inspiration and curate a feed full of accounts you get either of these from.
I first started Blissfully Morgs, as a means to escape from an eating disorder that was intent on keeping me ashamed and unfulfilled. So I merrily set to following all those people deemed to be ‘it’ in the fitness industry. From bodybuilders to bikini models, if you knew what IIFYM stood for, I followed you (all in spite of the fact that I had no aspirations to be a bodybuilder or a bikini model).
*IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros and is a comprehensive dieting technique used by competitive fitness models*
I started to track my carbohydrate, fat and protein intake down to the gram using various apps and clocking all movement and exercise with a fitness tracking watch. I truly believed that I needed to smash a strength workout 5-6 times a week in order to ‘lean out’ (a favourite and loosely monitored phrase used in the fitspo world).
In one fell swoop I had traded an eating disorder for an exercise addiction, believing that I needed to follow these rigid rules to be successful. Somewhere along the way I forgot that I had originally intended to honour my body, to move it in a way that made me happy and my mind quiet. I forgot that I had no aspirations to be a qualified fitness competitor or female hulk. I became obsessed with the idea of ‘the grind’ and pushing through a workout when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I became indoctrinated into the world of ‘no pain, no gain’ (a hugely damaging mind-set).
As Gerard Kite outlines in his brief but awesome book Everything You Need You Have,
'Some will have put together a health regimen that is more like a military operation than an act of love and respect.'
I couldn’t agree more. I was telling my body what it needed and growing increasingly frustrated and resentful when it didn’t respond the way I so desperately wanted it to. The ‘no pain no gain’ mentality meant that instead of listening, I pushed through. I believed that the struggle was necessary in order to achieve success.
Spoiler: The struggle is never necessary.
The same way owning up to my eating disorder was a layered and difficult job, owning up to an exercise addiction was hugely difficult as well. For me, a healthy life is be one filled with movement and vitality and I truly believed that if I owned and accepted that it had become an obsession, I would have to immediately stop all forms of exercise.
This frightened me exponentially until a friend described it terms of a toddler: if a toddler is running around manically the answer is not to sit them in a corner and forbid them from moving. The answer is to keep them occupied with something slower and more purposeful. This analogy allowed me to slow down, re-tune and listen to what my body was trying to tell me; that it wanted to move but in different ways.
I spent this summer moving intuitively, which meant booking classes as and when I felt like it, taking myself off on long walks instead of incline treadmill runs and getting down to my mat every. damn. day. Imbuing exercise with respect and joy meant that instead of draining me to my core, it filled me with energy, mental clarity and happiness. Rather than feeling isolated during solo strength sessions, I felt included and part of a team during class-based sessions.
The emphasis moved from the external to being focused on the inside first, and the outside as a happy byproduct. The funniest part to me is that I still moved the same amount as when I perceived it as a struggle, as ‘the necessary grind’ in order to live a happy and healthy life. I had achieved the same result by going gently and lightly where before I had charged furiously.
This season of my life forced me to fully respect that my intuition will always triumph over my bullish determination. (That Taurus life, man). Once I made room for creativity and joy, I was able to move in ways that I never thought possible. I was able to fully dedicate myself back to yoga and gain far more enjoyment from circuit training. I rode faster in spin classes for the sheer love and adrenalin. Walks suddenly became little pockets of time to reset and recharge.
When I listened to my body, believed in the magic and trusted my body's intuitive knowledge, I was rewarded with a sense of purposeful calm beyond my wildest vision. Now the goal is to keep that going. Watch this space.