Overcoming body demons

Overcoming body demons

One of the hardest things about undergoing a physical transformation is the mental adjustment that inevitably has to accompany it. For the majority of my life, growing up as a dancer, it was drilled into me that the skinnier you were the better.

I’m sure I’m not alone in having gone through an internal battle with my body as a teenager, but it is certainly amplified in the dancing world. Dancing is an extremely competitive hobby in terms of both technique and body shape, even if not explicitly so. I constantly compared myself to the super slender girls in my classes, and always felt as though I was double the size of everyone else – despite being the same height as I am now but 15 kilos lighter! Pre-concert rituals of getting my measurements taken in front of the rest of the class was something I dreaded every single year, and I hated that all the costumes seemed to flash so much skin.

I have always had very strong and muscular legs and what you might call baby-friendly hips. While I definitely didn’t appreciate those qualities as a 15 year old, I love them now! When I look back at old photos of myself I shake my head when I remember how convinced I was that I was overweight.

As a teenager I discretely counted all my calories in and underestimated the amount I was burning off, always ensuring I had an extremely hefty deficit. No matter what type of exercise you do, whether lifting heavy weights or dancing for eight hours a day, you need to make sure you adequately fuel yourself. I wish I could go back to my teenage self and educate her about proper nutrition!

Now, my attitude has completely changed. I am in fact trying to gain weight, and often look at my upper body and curse myself for being so skinny and scrawny! I’m not striving to gain weight for the sake of it; rather, I’m trying to build more muscle and strip away the fat. While being on a diet counting macros can be obsessive at times, I have to remind myself that muscle gain is the ultimate goal. The way I approach exercise is something fun that I do to relax and feel good about myself, not as a means to an end in terms of burning calories, and the only ‘cardio’ I do now is walking.

I’m not going to lie – it certainly has been difficult to have finally learnt to embrace my curves having lived with a twisted mindset for almost a decade. I still struggle with not freaking out when I see the numbers on the scale creep up.

Throughout my entire life I have always been fixated on the scale and constantly compared my weight to others. I still get worried when I see that people who I would certainly classify as overweight weigh the same amount as me! Over the past couple of years, it’s become abundantly clear to me that I’m never going to be at my goal weight. I lost about 5 kilos for my wedding and became quite thin – and I still wasn’t even at this so-called goal weight of mine.

Hello collarbone!

I have to remind myself that I’m taller than most, and I’m carrying a lot of muscle – which, of course, weighs more than fat. So my body will always weigh more than others’ and I will just have to live with it! I now measure my health and my happiness based on how my clothes fit and how good I feel inside. I want to be a strong, healthy woman and the numbers on the scale should not affect that!

Today I did chest and triceps, with lots of drop sets:
Flys – 1 x 30, 1 x 20, 1 x 15
Bench press – 1 x 20, 4 x 4-8
Flat dumbbell press – 4 x 4,8, drop set
Skull crushers – 3 x 4-8, drop set
Tricep pushdowns – 3 x 6-10, drop set
Overhead extensions – 3 x 6-10, drop set

I finally had a moment where I looked like a clueless girl in the gym today – I dropped the bar on myself as I was doing my chest press! Luckily it was on an incline so it didn’t fall straight across my neck, and it was also lucky (and embarrassing!) that a guy was walking by at that exact moment and quickly came to my rescue. Normally I would say this is why you need a spotter! But the embarrassing part was this happened during my warm-up set (but still 20kg so I’m not a complete wimp)!!! Because it was my warm up I wasn’t really paying attention, so when I thought I had hooked the bar back on to the rack I actually hadn’t… The funny thing is when I first started doing bench presses I was terrified of dropping the bar on myself but have managed to remain unscathed until now. Moral of the story: always pay attention to what you’re doing!!

Have you struggled with your body image? What are your current body goals?

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