In gymnastics, there is a constant pressure to remain tiny, thin, and athletic. Coaches asking about my diet? Normal. Constant reminders about the calories we needed to burn to stay fit and small? A necessity. As I progressed through the levels, the questions turned into demands and the reminders morphed into pseudo-threats. Powdered food replacements, restricting calories, and scale weigh-ins before and after practice became my norm by the time I was twelve. I would feel guilty if I ate (and, even worse, if my stomach felt full).
I never realized how much I feared food until I left gymnastics.
Fast forward to 2019. I am 3 years removed from my time as a competitive gymnast, and, to the surprise of some, I am in the best shape that I have ever been in. I credit this switch to a change in my mindset--prioritizing health and happiness over achieving a specific number on the scale. I eat what I want in moderation with proper serving sizes; I try not to restrict my cravings, and I eat plenty of protein, veggies, and fruits. I workout to make my body and mind feel good--not to burn a certain amount of calories.
The workout component is arguably the most important part of my new mentality. I do spin-cycling at SoulCycle 2-3 times per week, and I alternate my cardio workouts with weight training. I find that pushing my body to lift more or to turn up my resistance one more notch is not fueled by a desire to shed fat; rather, I work harder because my body is capable of doing so. Additionally, I find myself going to the gym because it makes me feel stronger and happier due to the constant flow of endorphins and other brain chemicals that are conducive for a more positive mindset.
Working out while solely focusing on your weight can be a trap. Restricting your diet and overworking your body will sometimes lead you to binge eat and to feel cautious overall. Life is short--don't further limit yourself by imposing overly strict guidelines that deter you from living a full existence.
After all, pursuing a healthy lifestyle should be rooted in a deeper goal (rather than obtaining an idealized, superficial appearance): celebrating the capabilities of your body when it is properly nourished. With the help of my family, friends, and fitness coaches (shoutout to Maya, Claire, Dacoda, and the rest of my Soul Fam!), I learned how to let go of my "caloric-amount" based workouts and to pursue healthier options that fuel both my body, mind, and soul.