Why I Started Working Out vs Why I Work Out Now
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Why I Started Working Out vs Why I Work Out Now

What used to cripple my every move is also where I found my passion.

Why I Started Working Out vs Why I Work Out Now

The gym has been my saving grace in more ways than one and more times than I could ever count. It's my favorite part of my day, the best stress reliever, and has become an essential tool to aid with my physical transition. To people who don't regularly go to the gym, it may seem boring or like a chore, but to me it has always been so much more. The gym is the greatest therapist I've ever had. I can walk in with a loud, cloudy head which is quickly silenced by throwing on my headphones, cranking some good tunes, and pushing some heavy weight. The part of my day where I completely exhaust myself, is simultaneously the most invigorating and revitalizing.

When I first began working out I was training to have better times in my events for track, losing a couple extra pounds, and just trying to keep myself busy with a healthy outlet. It was all fine and dandy, until it wasn't. Somewhere along the way things took a dark and twisted path. It all too easily went from just an after school hobby to an unhealthy obsession that took over every aspect of my life. It didn't matter what I had to sacrifice or miss out on, any second I had free I was at the gym. This started to isolate me from all my friends and family. I didn't get to go out and enjoy myself like I had once before. I felt like I physically HAD to burn a certain amount of calories that day in order to give myself permission to eat and when I did eat it was barely enough to satisfy a toddler. Every calorie on anything that touched my lips was counted. I would even jog in place or do jumping jacks after brushing my teeth because I thought there were calories in toothpaste. I wish I was kidding. I'm so ashamed and embarrassed to be typing that now, but at least that shows me I've grown from the point where I thought this was normal or tried to justify it.

When working out became the crippling obsession for me that it did, it was very obviously no longer healthy. I was doing it for all the wrong reasons, I was in the gym every day not because I loved myself and wanted to better myself, but because I had actually hated myself and was punishing my body for looking the way it did. When I first got a gym membership and started introducing myself to lifting, I had a girlfriend who was experiencing her freshman year of college at a university 4 hours from our hometown. I should have known this was a recipe for disaster from the jump, she ended up cheating on me and we threw away our almost 2 year relationship. This was my first serious relationship and it seemed like it had ended in the blink of an eye. I convinced myself that her infidelity was my fault and that I wasn't good enough, which I believe, was the beginning of my downfall in the gym. I personally punished myself and my body for not "being good enough". In my head I saw it as I'd get the revenge body and make her realize the mistakes she made, but it went much farther than that way too quickly. Getting cheated on has a funny way of destroying your entire relationship with yourself. I felt unworthy and second best constantly, I isolated myself from all relationships in my life because if I couldn't trust the one person I thought I could, how could I trust any one else?

I'll admit, before I started going to the gym I could have lost a few pounds. I wasn't fat or out of shape, but I did have a little more to me than I was comfortable with. Long term relationships will do that to you. When the weight started coming off and people started to notice, I would get positive affirmations and attention, more than I'd ever thought I would. Being told I looked good and that people were proud of me only fueled my fire to push myself further. In my head, I twisted this into thinking if I ever gained the weight back, people wouldn't like me anymore and I'd go back to the sad and depressed "fat slob" I thought I was. My head told me that if I didn't burn as many calories as I did the day prior, if I ate more that day, or did anything "out of routine" I'd instantly gain weight, as if it could all come back overnight. I felt so low about myself and my self esteem to the point where I didn't even think I was worthy of eating without "earning it" first by spending hours a day chained like a slave to a treadmill. I understand now that this is a very dark and twisted way of thinking, but at the time this was seriously a crippling fear that was taking over my life more and more every day.

My mom had finally had enough and was too concerned for me to let me go on as I was. I threw a fit and temper tantrum insisting nothing was wrong, but now I realize I'll never be able to thank her enough. She took me to the doctors to get checked out and make sure everything was still okay with my body. I had to get an MRI scan of my brain, which at the time was absolutely terrifying. I remember lying in the machine with my head still entrapped in the cage like structure thinking, "oh God, what have I really done?" I was then sent to see an endocrinologist who diagnosed me with multiple hypothalamus issues including hypothalamic amenorrhea. I was extremely scared for my well being, but still could not accept that I was doing anything wrong. At one point, the endocrinologist asked me if I was doing this to subconsciously masculinize my body and asked me if I was transgender. I immediately took offense and got defensive, but something inside me clicked, a light bulb went off.

Now it was my turn to experience my freshman year of college, I was dumb and naïve enough to believe things could have been salvaged with my ex. I packed up my stuff and moved 4 hours away to Edinboro, PA certain that once I got there my life would go back to normal. I couldn't have been more wrong. Obviously things did not work out how I'd imagined, and looking back at that now as I type this, I am extremely grateful they didn't. Though it doesn't always make sense at the time, which is very frustrating, everything happens for a reason. My exercise addiction had not let up, if anything it only got worse now that I was on my own and could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without supervision. I was on a scholarship with the Army ROTC program, which meant waking up for morning PT and at least 2 grueling gym sessions throughout the day. There was never a time where I didn't feel completely burnt out and exhausted, my body was constantly running on fumes and I honestly do not know how I manage to live day to day the way I was.

As my freshman year went on, I found myself slipping deeper into a dark depression, one unlike I've ever experienced before. I didn't communicate with anyone unless it was via text, if I wasn't in class, asleep, or in the gym, I was locked away alone in my room avoiding any social contact whatsoever. I'm sure my roommates thought I was a strange bird, and I don't blame them. Looking back now, I wish I could relive that year with them and experience all the fun I missed out on. And for what? I didn't even know. Waking up and existing felt like such a chore and I prayed to God every single night to let that be the last time I wake up. I was so emotionless and dead inside and I didn't even have a reason why. I remember each time I would get out of the shower I would just stand in front of my mirror and criticize every single inch of my body. To anyone else, I would have looked like a skeleton. My spine poked out of my back, my calves were as big around as my wrists, I couldn't even sit in class comfortably because there was no meat on my butt and my tailbone would scream at me. In my head staring back at me though, was the complete opposite.

The questions raised by the endocrinologist were constantly tugging at and screaming in the back of my head. When she first asked, I was taken completely off guard and actually was quite offended, as was my mother. She spent my entire childhood having to defend my clothing preferences and behaviors because so often strangers would comment on how I dressed and "portrayed" myself as a boy. Something inside could not let go of this idea that there was a possibility I could be trans. Before that conversation, I had never known any trans individuals and honestly, didn't even know much about what it meant to be transgender. It was all very new and daunting. While ripping apart everything about my body, I'd imagine myself with a flat chest and some facial scruff. The idea didn't scare me like I thought it would, but I could hear my mom's voice ringing in my head, "SHE is my daughter!" I'd shake the idea away, bury it deep down, and press on with the next miserable day on auto pilot.

I came to terms with myself around Easter time of my freshman year. I was fed up living every day like I was already dead, I could not accept that this is all my life would have to offer me. One night staring at myself in the mirror, I said it aloud, "I'm transgender. I'm a man." When the worlds fell out of my mouth, the weight fell off of my shoulders. The constant chokehold my depression had on me loosened up a little and it was easier to breathe. When I made this discovery, the exercise addiction started to make more sense to me. I was subconsciously trying to masculinize my body by losing as much body fat as possible to appear "flatter" and less curvy. I was punishing my body for not being born as what it should have been.

Since I began my medical transition, my relationship with exercising has only steadily increased. Some days can get extremely hard, but I'm learning every day to love myself for all that I already am, rather than hating myself for what I am not. Today I can confidently say I have never loved myself more or had a better relationship with the gym and food. I've learned that the gym is such an essential tool in sculpting the body I've always dreamed of having, masculine and muscular, and should be used as such instead of literally forcing my body to eat away at itself. I finally realized that if I wanted to obtain the body I've always envisioned myself with, I needed to start taking care of it.

It took me years to acknowledge that what I was doing was anything but admirable. I didn't want to stop hearing how great I looked, how much others in the gym wish they had my "discipline" or "determination". Though I didn't know it at the time, when I used to work out so excessively, it was because I hated myself. When I work out now, it's because I love myself. The difference between now and then could not be more polar opposite. I'm proud of myself and the progress I've made since being a prisoner to my own body and having such an unhealthy relationship with exercising. It took what seemed like forever with multiple moments of weakness and relapse, but I was able to overcome my fear that any weight gained immediately meant it was bad weight. I am now able to see the number on the scale increase without immediately shutting down or starving myself.

Lifting is such an essential and important tool to aid me in my physical transition. I deserve to have a strong body, both mentally and physically. Lifting transforms my body on the outside to what I've always pictured it should be in my head. When I was younger, I remember standing in front of a mirror, puffing my chest up and broadening my shoulders to give myself a masculine build. I played tackle football up until high school and I felt invincible in those shoulder pads, I would have worn them every day had it been socially acceptable and not extremely strange. When I have a great pump at the gym, I'll strut my stuff and get such a euphoric high looking at what I've worked so hard to sculpt as it comes to life right before my very eyes. Going from feeling nauseous and violent when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror to flying high with confidence is something I never thought I would or could ever experience. There are no words to describe how grateful I am for holding on and triumphing over the demons in my head that I thought were undefeatable. I have never felt more free or powerful since the day I stopped punishing my body for not being "born the correct way". It's important we all look ourselves in the mirror every morning and say "I am invincible."

What used to cripple me everyday has turned into my passion. I love the feeling of setting a goal, working towards it, and absolutely crushing it. Each time I do, I amaze myself and gain the reassurance that I can do anything I set my mind to. When I worked out as punishment each day and each mile on the treadmill dragged me further and further away from my ultimate end goals. I was just too blind to see it and now I've got to make up for lost time. The gym is so much more than just a building with weights and machines inside. The gym is a community and through lifting I've gained some irreplacable friendships. We are all there for the same reason, to work on and build ourselves up. This industry is forcing me to constantly keep evolving and learning the more involved I become. I've even teamed up with an incredible friend of mine who is coaching and prepping me for my first upcoming all trans body building competition. Competing has always been a pipe dream to me and just thinking about it makes me feel like a little kid in a candy store. (Shout out to Bri Krsyzckowski, @b.krsyzckowski on Instagram for her guidance along the way. Check her out for all your training needs!)

My addiction to over exercising had such a tight hold on me and when I say it controlled every single aspect of my life, I'm not exaggerating in the slightest. Overcoming this dark eating disorder was my way of taking control and getting my power back. Taking control meant finally being in the driver seat of my own life. I broke the chains I was prisoner too and I've never felt more free. When I think back on how I used to be in the past, I get a little heartbroken thinking about much farther along in my fitness journey I could be now. However, as disappointed and ashamed of myself I was, there isn't anything I can change and therefore must learn from it and remember my mistakes as I continue to advance forward. If anything, it has been an extreme learning experience. I can recognize the signs if I feel myself start to slip up and creep down that dark path again, I can pinpoint what my triggers are at stop them at the source. I'm so proud of myself for overcoming what I thought I'd either battle all my life or cut it short.

The next time you step into a gym or look at yourself in the mirror take a moment to ask yourself "why?" Are you exercising for your own benefit or are you exercising to earn the unobtainable stamp of approval from society? Whatever you do, do it for you and only you. I hope you can learn from my mistakes instead of making your own. If you're feeling anything close to what I was, please reach out. You're never alone and there are so many resources available to help you overcome these demons as well. Don't ever give up on yourself. The road to recovery is a long one, but it's possible. You deserve a long life of happiness, don't ever give up on yourself. Exercise should only be used as a celebration of what you and your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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