When I was 15, I discovered the world of fitness. A magazine article had told me that I needed to have flat abs to look pretty. Since I didn’t have flat abs and I couldn’t join a gym, I went to the next big thing instead. YouTube. A quick search returned thousands of results and that’s how I found my fitness instructor.
My Story Of Disordered Eating
If you are trying to get fit at home like I was, you must have heard of Blogilates. With 5.59 million subscribers, it was the biggest fitness YouTube channel at one point.
The first workout that I did was called POP Pilates for Weight Loss. By the end of that 12-minute video, I was breathing hard and there was a sheen of sweat on my forehead. I took it to mean that I had successfully completed the workout and I was on my way to being healthy.
I ran to my mirror and lifted up my shirt to see if my chubby belly was any less chubby. To put things into perspective, I was a 5'3 tall teenager who weighed approximately 50 kilograms. I thought I was fat. My arms were too bulgy, my legs were too thick. My belly wasn’t flat and my waist wasn’t narrow enough. I was eating too much and by not being skinny, I was failing at life.
I needed to do something.
Blogilates became my savior. Cassey Ho, the fitness instructor understood me like no one ever had before. She taught me how to be healthy. She taught me that I didn’t need to lose weight just to be pretty but also to become a better version of myself. She was going to change my life.
She did change my life. But for the worse.
There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Food
Over the next five years, I worked out with Cassey for six days a week, an hour each time. Together Cassey and I did fun workouts for our legs, our butts, and our abs. Some of these videos are called Victoria Secret Model Ab Workout, The Official Prom Dress Workout, and BIKINI BLASTER 4: Awesomesauce Arms.
Now that I am no longer 15, I realize how clickbaity these titles are. While Cassey told me that I should work out to be healthy and not look pretty, her videos seem to suggest that I should work out to look like a Victoria’s Secret bikini model.
Cassey just didn’t teach me how to work out, she also taught me how to have a better diet. She sold diet plans in which she suggested the ‘clean eating’ diet. As part of this diet, you were not allowed to eat ‘bad foods’ such as grains, dairy, gluten, alcohol, processed foods, and added sugar. I could easily avoid some of these foods such as alcohol and added sugar. But by cutting down grains, I was cutting about 75% of my diet.
Of course, you had to forget about junk food altogether. And to maintain this diet, you were allowed one cheat meal per week where you could eat whatever you want. Don’t worry. Cassey was going to be there for you while you went on this strict diet. She followed a similar diet plan for her 90-day journey and on many days, she ate only 1200 calories.
In case it helps, Britain’s NHS suggests a 15-year-old girl requires 2,390kcal per day. “Teenagers need lots of energy and nutrients because they’re still growing,” they say.
I followed this diet for years and quickly became a nuisance to my mother. My mother didn’t like this diet at all. She said I should eat a balanced diet instead of cutting all these foods. But my mother wasn’t a certified pilates instructor so I didn’t listen to her.
Unsustainable Diets Will Ruin Your Life
Eating became a difficult ordeal for me. We used to eat white bread for breakfast which was a ‘bad food’. We used to eat chapati and rice for lunch and dinner which were grains. Another ‘bad food.’ Going out with friends involved a lot of planning because I needed to adjust my cheat meal according to the day we were planning to hang out.
The worst week for me always was the week preceding Diwali, the biggest festival in India. Our house would be full of sweets with friends and family members dropping in and bringing even more delicious food. How was I supposed to eat ‘clean’ when there were so many tempting foods around me?
‘Clean eating’ was supposedly healthy for me but somehow it was ruining my life. Any time I missed my workout, I spiraled into self-hatred because I was a loser for not finding the time to work out. When I turned to Cassey’s videos for advice, she always said ‘train insane or remain the same’ or ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it.’ So, I continued doing whatever Cassey was suggesting I should do.
Unsustainable Diets Do More Harm Than Good
I was miserable for years until I got sick. I wasn’t getting my periods anymore, I was feeling weak all the time and I developed many digestive issues. It became clear to me that my diet and workouts were doing more harm than good. I wasn’t becoming fit or healthy, I was becoming sick.
Cassey and I needed a break. I stopped following her for a while. One day I went back to her YouTube channel to see what she was up to. She had uploaded a video where she talked about her metabolic damage. She also lost her period and she was also miserable just like me!
But don’t worry. She was on a different diet now. She was doing different workouts now, workouts that she truly enjoyed. And I could become like her too if I paid for her cookbook and a new workout app. I decided to unfollow Cassey for good then. I still go on her profile sometimes to see what she’s up to. She’s still the same.
Cassey owes me an apology. She doesn’t even know that I exist but she has still managed to help me waste years of my life. At the same time, I feel pity for her. Cassey is a victim along with being a perpetrator of these modern fitness ideals.
And it’s not just Cassey, there are thousands of fitness instructors on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok who share similar advice that can be so harmful to young girls. Many of these young girls are trapped in the same vicious cycle that I was. I wish I could help them somehow, just like how I wish I had been helped when I was 15.
I am on the other side of disordered eating now. I don’t panic at the sight of sugar anymore. I have learned to finally trust my body and to look at food as what it is — nourishment. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am not perfect though. There are still days when I try to count the calories in my meal before deciding when to stop eating. But I don’t do it very often. I am slowly healing.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s important for us to exercise and eat proper nutrition. However, sometimes what we are told is healthy is not healthy at all. Our bodies are smarter than we realize. If we just all learned to listen to our bodies and work with them, rather than against them — eating when hungry and stopping when full, we would not need all these crazy diets.
If we all learned to trust ourselves, we’d finally be healthy while being happy.
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