Health vs. Aesthetics

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'Exercise because it feels good. Exercise because it makes you happy. Don't exercise because you're terrified that you ate too much for dinner. Don't exercise because you hate the way your body looks in the mirror. Loving yourself will get you so much further than hating yourself.'

I love everything about the gym. I love the social aspect, the therapy aspect, the feeling of pain when you're pushing yourself to your absolute limits but still manage to continue. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you complete a workout, the feeling of success when you hit a new PB. Most importantly I love feeling fit, healthy and strong. Yet something I have recently realised is that very few people go to the gym for the above reasons. People care so much more about what they look like than how healthy they are. People glorify looking a certain way but don't actually care about their health.

My boyfriend is a Personal Trainer and Gym Instructor; he encounters hundreds of people from a wide variety of ages, genders and lifestyles on a daily basis. I can almost guarantee that 90% of the inductions carried out over the past five years of his career have been centred around one goal: aesthetics. 'I want to lose *X* stone', 'I want abs', 'I want to tone up'... Never does anyone say 'I want to become fit and healthy and if I lose some excess weight as a result then I'll be happy'. And why? Because ultimately people don't care. Why don't they care? Because society teaches girls that having abs is far more important in life than being healthy.

One of the biggest problems with focusing so much attention on these aesthetic or numerical goals is that in time your happiness becomes dependent upon them. You lose three pounds in your first week and life is great, then your weight loss plateaus and you lose all motivation and actually start to feel incredibly down about yourself. Instead of judging progress by the scales or how your body looks, judge it by performance. Today I completed an ab workout, a boxercise class, a spinning class and swam 100 lengths. A year ago I would have struggled to even do half a spinning class. My deadlift PB is 87.5kg, when a year ago I struggled to lift the 4kg kettlebell. And that is something to be proud of. THAT is something to base your goals on.

The media has the power of dictating humanities perception of beauty, but the fact is women all too willingly jump on the bandwagon in tearing each other down. I firmly believe that women are strong and powerful and deserve to be treated equally and fairly not only by the opposite sex but by each other. Unfortunately, amongst other things, women are exceptionally good at tearing each other down. Yes, the magazines say 'she's too thin', 'she's too fat', 'she's too muscly', but who is it that continues to buy these magazines keeping them in business? Women. Women who know how hard it can be to be at peace with your body in this perfection obsessed world. When did it become acceptable to judge someone else on their appearance, because that is not a world that I am happy to exist in.

Over the past year I have worked incredibly hard to change my outlook on life, shift my priorities from worrying about trivial things to focusing on important things like family and health. It is all too easy to forget that what is going on inside your body is far more important than what it looks like on the outside, and it only takes a quick look at my medical history to know my inside needed some serious work. As a result? I've gained 11 whole kilograms. I GAINED weight, and a lot of it, yet I am HEALTHIER than I have ever been in my life.

The point I am really trying to make is that I wish women would stop glorifying a particular body shape or size and in the process diminish someone else's self confidence. What is important is your health, not the number sewn into the clothes you are wearing. You deserve to be respected, you deserve to be happy and most importantly you deserve to be healthy.

Train hard, eat clean and abs or not, be proud of how your body adapts as a result... Beauty doesn't have a weight limit.