Your goals need to come first.
If it’s important, you’ll make the time for it. If you can’t, then you’re not making the time for it and you’re not meeting the goals you have been prioritizing.
These are a few of the toxic fitness culture phrases that I have heard over the last few months. You can hear this type of toxicity came from influencers, trainers and programs. It affected me to the point where my mental health reached an all time low, where I was experiencing anxiety and depression.
Now, how can fitness be toxic? After all, it’s supposed to make you healthy.
There are multiple ways. According to an article on Decolonizing Fitness entitled Some Examples of Toxic Fitness Culture, examples include: the belief of beating your body up is a good workout, the sole purpose of fitness is to lose weight, personal trainers that aren’t personal trainers giving advice, and believing that the working out is more important than listening to what your body needs. And, these are only a few of the many examples. And, when someone is exposed to that level of toxicity it can do damage to someone’s mental health, and lead them down the path of an eating disorder/body dysmorphia.
I am not a trainer nor am I a mental health professional. But, I wanted to take the time to write this post, because I feel like there is so much toxic fitness culture floating around the Internet and social media, and I want to raise the issue.
That said, as a human who has been on this journey for a while, I do believe that fitness is something that is not one size fits all. It is about getting healthy, and has benefits for physical and mental health. People start this journey as athletes. They start them as people who want to just get in shape and get healthy.
Going from the examples I mentioned earlier, the first thing I wanted to discuss is the belief that you need to beat up your body in order to get a good workout. Based on the changes I have made, that is not true. I do believe that you should challenge your body in a way that it gains strength. If you’re starting out, you are not going to be lifting large weights. That strength comes in time. Furthermore, there is a point where if you’re so sore, sick or injured, that I think you should either take a day off completely or do lighter workouts. It’s not because you’re weak or you lack motivation. It’s in order to prevent you from being hurt or feeling even worse. Admittedly, I myself had to learn this lesson the hard way.
I also want to touch upon having this mentality that you need to see results. No, you don’t. If you’re at the point where you’re lifting more weights or even having an easier time doing the workouts, then that is a non scale victory. And, that is only a few. In my experience, by saying that things are results driven based on the amount of pounds that you lose, than it becomes easy to fail because it feels like it’s not enough. Fitness is about losing fat and weight. However, there is more to a health journey than just a scale. It’s about being healthy and trying to be able to see other numbers lower — i.e. blood pressure and cholesterol.
Furthermore, as a perfectionist, I believe that this toxic fitness culture leads to one other thing — no messing up. No cheat days. I believe in the 80/20 rule, and that balance is pretty much everything. In my eyes, that is unachievable because of holidays, PMS, and even just wanting a side of fries with your food. I feel as though suggesting this to someone leads to only failure because habits — healthy or unhealthy — take a while to undo. By suggesting balance versus complete perfection, you have a higher chance of actually sustaining the lifestyle. And, at the end of the day, we are human and as humans, we are not perfect. To expect that, is completely and utterly wrong.
That said, I want to touch upon one final point. If you’re watching an influencer, or someone who isn’t saying that they are a registered dietician, then you are following the wrong person. The only people whose advice you should be following are your doctor or a certified person with the qualifications to give good quality advice, or advice worth following. If you are working with a trainer, than they are qualified to give you advice on what to eat or how to work out. They got this way through education and by taking the exams to get the certification to give you the advice you need.
Fitness at the end of the day is something that is all about bettering yourself and reaching a point where you be healthy. It shouldn’t be toxic. It should be about improving your mental and physical well-being.