Disclaimer: I wrote this article eating a chocolate mini roll that tasted like it was made in my dreams.
Here’s a depressing confession. The other day I worked out that I’ve been on a diet of some kind for over 10 years.
Yeah told you it was depressing.
These diets have taken different shapes and forms: clean eating, juicing, an extremely short-lived stint of veganism, not eating after 5pm (awful don’t do it, nearly ate my flatmate I was so angry and hungry), the 5:2, stapling my mouth shut, no carbs, no marbs, no fun, just dust BLEURGHHHHHH WHYYYY.
Basically, since the magical day that God or my genes or whatever decided that my 5ft 4 frame was simply not complete without a bottom that could be mistaken for a space hopper I’ve been desperately searching for ways to take up less space.
Whilst I always remember dieting being at the forefront of my consciousness (I distinctly remember my pal B doing the ‘chopstick diet’ at school. It’s exactly what it sounds like) it really came into its own when I first stumbled across Instagram and its weird competitive cult of healthiness.
Suddenly there was a whole world at my finger tips that gave me a whole new set of neurosis I didn’t even know I had. Whereas once my goal had been to fit into a pair of size 10 jeans I now had a whole list of thigh gapping, back muscling, hip dipping, rib cage bragging, a4 paper challenging, #instagoaling reasons to hate my body that I never had before.
I know it’s become cliché to blame social media for all the anxiety that centres around our perceptions of ourselves but I honestly do. Be honest is there anything worse than arriving at work stinking of booze and regret, clutching a Pret cheese croissant (food o’ the gods) and a coffee the size of your head only to open your Instagram to some smug teenager in a thong and sports bra with the caption “I really regret that workout…said no one EVER. What’s your #mondaymotivation?” The last time this happened to me I let out a sigh of disgust at my cheese-filled self and as I did so my tights, unable to restrain my stomach any longer, gave up the ghost and rolled slowly down over my stomach rolls to lurk around my hips. T’was a sad Monday morning.
I don’t know about you but there’s something about the twee commandments of Instagram that make me want to run into my nearest gym, smear myself with melted marshmallows whilst stuffing my face full of buttered bagels covered in chocolate sauce and shout “HOW THIS FOR GOALS?!?!?”
But for those who aren’t complete weirdos, it can have the opposite effect. Far from being motivating I argue that, not all of the time but certainly a lot of the time, it can make you feel like you’re just not good enough. You’re not exercising enough, your smoothie bowl isn’t aesthetically pleasing, your gym leggings are from Primark and go see through when you bend over, you’re a failure.
I’m not disparaging the fit and healthy community. There are some incredible humans out there encouraging and helping people get fit and that being healthy has become cool can only be a good thing. BUT there’s a competitive element that makes me want to reach for the bread basket quicker than you can say toasted crumpets with marmite and cheese.
With the rise of #instagoals and whatever body trend bollocks is de rigeur this week, the pressure to be perfect is well and truly on. Is it any wonder that many fitness instagrammers regularly post about having to take a break from social media to remember why they loved exercising in the first place?
I’m just as guilty. I’ve instagrammed my swanky gym class, snapped my smoothie and desperately tried to enjoy matcha even though it tastes and smells exactly like a duck pond. But the more I sought motivation from Instagram the more I started to chastise myself and replaced the things I loved like riding my bike and running with punishing and expensive gym classes that left me sore and poor.
Until one day I decided that I was quite literally done with giving a shit. I just actually got quite bored with it. I got bored of constantly worrying about what I was eating. I got bored of feeling guilty all the time. The whole thing was so intensely dull and I was exhausting myself by constantly thinking about what I was eating and how much I was eating.
So, I just stopped giving a shit.
And unsurprisingly the world didn’t end just because I started eating bread and not caring about it.
Neither did I balloon to the size of a whale. It was kind of revelatory.
I also remembered that I actually do really like going to the gym, if it’s just about me and making myself feel good. I go when I feel like it and I don’t when I don’t. Oddly without that nagging, scolding voice in my head I find that I want to go a hell of a lot more than before. Who knew!
So, take a little break from Instagram and all its promises of #squadgoals and #gains and go move your body because it makes you feel good. Even if that’s a big long walk around the park rather than a crushing weights circuit. Or stay in bed and eat a doughnut. YOU BLOODY DESERVE IT.