Many of you know that I use to compete in body building.  I had a pretty amazing body.  I had the 6 pack, great arms and got compliments all the time.  I distinctly remember a few times women saying to me, I wish I had arms/abs etc you.  I would say in my head… you don’t want put yourself through what I am doing just for this.  In fact I would say most people are not prepared to do mentally do this to themselves.  I lived off egg whites, chicken and broccoli (not much else at all!).  I would exercise up to 4 hours a day.  I looked pretty amazing (especially with my 7 layers of fake tan)… BUT the truth was I was miserable.


I was constantly consumed with thoughts of food.  Literally obsessed with it and dreamed about everything that I would eat after the competition.  I have had a full grocery bag in my wardrobe of treats I would eat after the competition.


I was grumpy, crabby & not very friendly.  I would skip social situations because I couldn’t handle being tempted by ‘cheat foods’.  Many workouts that I did, I was just going through the motions and didn’t want to be at the gym.  This was really foreign to me because I have always loved being an active person.


I would analyse every tiny part of my body and was never good enough, despite others who would ‘kill to look like that’.  The worst part was that this was a subjective competition about someone telling you if your body looked better than the person next to you.


I know this is not the same experience for all body builders.  They may have different coaches, mindsets, nutrition & training plans but it sure did a number on my own body image issues and relationship with food.


The point is, when you focus on exercise purely as a form as to how you look or weigh, it completely messes with your head and you will NEVER be satisfied.  There is no such thing as perfect.  Your intial motivation to start exercise may be weight loss, but this has been proven not to motivate people to stay active.


I know now, even in the third trimester of my third pregnacy, face getting puffy, belly button poking out, clothes too tight, that I am a millions times happier now than I was when I had the ‘perfect’ body.  I’ll even be happier the days after birth when I have a marshmallow tummy and no defined muscle lines. 


I exercise because I love that endorphin high.  I MOVE because I feel good and I enjoy exploring my body.  I exercise because it makes my heart stronger.  I exercise so I can keep up with my children.  I move more because it makes me feel like ‘me’ (self care).  I go to fitness classes to connect with people.


Perhaps you too have a disordered relationship with exercise.  Mine was a pretty extreme example, but if you exercise as punishment for the food you ate, because you hate your body (I hear ‘I hate my Mummy Tummy’ all the time), because you just want to lose weight, or always weighing yourself or checking your body in the mirror you may need to look at your approach and relationship with exercise! 


Now when people comment on my body I barely give much of a reply – I don’t tend to thank them.  Yes, I am in the fitness industry but there is so much more to me than the way my body looks & genetics are out of my control.  You will also very rarely here me comment on other peoples bodies too.  Even if a client has lost 20kg, I resist the urge to tell them how ‘good they look’ because there is so much more to them than the way the look and what they may have gained.


Check out this video interview I had with Natalie Thompson APD Dietitian about disordered exercise.  CLICK HERE to from more great content from Natalie


Philippa Bowman
Pre/Postnatal Fitness Expert