I’ve been thinking a lot about how social media is affecting the way we look at our own bodies and what we think we should be doing. This is a subject I’m really passionate about so I wanted to share my thoughts.
Most of us spend at least some time on social media each day, scrolling through images of single moments captured from someones life. Yet for some reason, we forget that these pictures do not show what goes on the rest of the day.
I personally love Instagram. I spend a lot of time on it (maybe more than I should sometimes…) and I have been using it as a medium to build my personal brand. But as I have become more involved and interested in learning the strategies behind it, I have also learned why it can be so dangerous for people’s self-love and body image.
Fitness is very “in” right now. In seconds you can find an account to follow with these super lean fitness models showing off their 6-pack or sticking out their booty in a tiny bikini. Which is awesome if you’re looking for some motivation, but you need to be careful who you follow and how you are letting these photos affect you.
Over the years, especially this last year, I have learned a LOT about how you can manipulate your diet to get a certain physique. I researched and worked with other professionals to really understand how these people get so lean.
Then, I tried it. Not to the extreme of bikini competitors (that’s just a level I am not, and may not ever be, ready to commit to), but I wanted to see how hard I could push myself and my self-discipline. I went to the gym twice a day most days (strength in the morning, cardio later), being strict with my meal plan, and putting sleep and my health at the top of my priority list.
This had its pros and cons, like everything. Some days, I felt absolutely amazing. I remember waking up one day and telling my boyfriend I felt like Superwoman. I wanted to eat a gigantic salad and go run a marathon. This lasted for a few days, and then I had a few days where I didn’t want to get out of bed. This was lesson #1 – our bodies are different every single day.
This is a strange concept and is harder to accept than you may think. Our hormones (especially for us females) literally change every day, even if its slightly. Depending on how sensitive you are, this can directly affect your energy levels, mood, hunger, soreness, and motivation. You have to learn to roll with the punches and push through those hard days. If you only commit on the days you feel good, you are only going to get a piece of the results.
Lesson #2 – As often as I have heard this, I never truly believed it until my latest “lean out” – You can not gain muscle and lose weight at the same time.
This was really hard for me mentally. The whole reason I enjoy working out is because it makes me feel powerful and strong. This is what got me into the fitness industry in the first place. Yet I soon realized if I really wanted to commit to getting the aesthetics I was working for, I had to lower my calories, increase cardio, and basically keep my body fueled with just enough energy to get through my workouts. My strength went down, and my workouts felt forced. But I was getting the aesthetic results I was looking for. So I had to really keep my mind focused on what my specific goal was and not worry about anything else in order to keep my motivation.
Coming back to the topic of social media brings me lesson #3 – You have to find your own happy place. You may find one picture and say “That’s the one. That’s what I want to look like.” And you may get there if you push hard enough, and I strongly encourage you to do it if it is truly something you want. But please, set a time period. You have to remember, most of these people have a “leaning phase” and a “bulking phase”. This basically means they get that lean, book a bunch of shoots and stock up on photos, and then spend a few months eating more and building up muscle.
This allows your body to recover from the kind of depletion it takes to achieve that physique. This is where a lot of competitors get into trouble, because you get so addicted to looking that ripped that you forget to let your body recover and come back to a healthy weight. You have to find the point where your body feels good and energized.
This is what I will be working on now. There have been moments where I have thought “well what if I just keep going for a few more weeks? I could REALLY see my abs then…” and I will. After a few months of allowing my body to recover, feeding it more, and building up some more muscle, I will lean out again. Because I truly have enjoyed it, but I need to keep it at a healthy pace. Reality is, this is a lifestyle. I am not going to wake up with a six-pack every day, and that’s okay.
It’s important to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t ruin your metabolism with fad diets and hours of cardio just to end up gaining the weight back once you run out of energy. Do your research or work with someone who knows their stuff. In a world filled with highlights of people’s lives, you need to put effort into finding out the real processes behind people’s success stories.