Why I found having perfect health was sending me to an early grave

For those that know me I have been a health and exercise freak for most of my life. I’ve always eaten extremely healthy and done some form of exercise, whether it be running and eating a low-fat diet when I was a teenager, to more recently competing in bodybuilding comps and eating a high fat, high protein diet.

Its only been in the last four years or so that I became interested in proper weight lifting. I did the odd Body Pump class growing up, but was always terrified of the weights section, overrun by men and feeling so self-conscious because I didn’t know what I was doing. My boyfriend took me to the gym a few times and helped show me how to use a squat rack, the pin drop machines and the proper technique for a range of exercises. Once I had figured out the machines and found a gym that I was comfortable in, the rest was history, I was addicted.

I became obsessed with the diet and exercises of bodybuilders. I started following every health blog, bodybuilding site and fitspiration page that I could get my hands on. I learnt and researched every major female fitness model and knew them all off by heart. With all my training my body was changing every week and I started posting progress pictures to try and imitate the fitness models I so desperately wanted to be. bron_bodybuilding

My diet was very restricted, I only ate protein, some fats, and lots of fruit and vegetables and I cut out all alcohol and sugar. I was training 5 days a week but I kept getting sick all the time. Every single cold and flu that was going around I caught. My stomach started playing up and I kept getting reactions to what I thought was healthy food. I got some allergy tests done and did elimination diets to try and figure out what it was. I later was diagnosed with a mild lactose intolerance and IBS, so I started on the FODMAP diet and eliminated many fruits, vegetables, legumes, dairy, soy and while I was at it I avoided gluten as well. I would obsessively write out every meal, the exact ingredients and what time I was going to eat – and if I fell off the wagon I would chastise myself over and over again. One New Years, I had my co-workers joke about how I would be the only person in the world who should have a new years resolution to exercise LESS, drink more and eat more bad food….  *nervous laugh*

On top of this, over the years I hadn’t realised it, but my anxiety shot through the roof and I had no ability to deal with any form of stress, especially with work. My anxiety would come and go but whenever it did come back, each wave was stronger. I would have panic attacks, feel anti-social, get anxious over social events that involved eating out or drinking, so much so that it got to the point where my partner would go out alone to see our friends and I would stay at home by myself, content in my bubble, where I had full control over my environment.

While eating healthy and exercising is vital for health, there was obviously something wrong with me and how I was applying myself. Everything I was doing was so obsessive compulsive it was actually a detriment to my mental health, my social life and my body.

One thing I am truely grateful for is that moving to London has to some extent forced me to take a good hard look at myself and how I’ve been living my life. I’ve realised that while I may have looked fit and healthy on the outside, I was very unhealthy on the inside and it was a major contributor to my stress and anxiety.

How you think and feel about yourself manifests inside the body.

Recently I was reading this article from the Guardian that goes into detail on Orthorexia, which is defined as an unhealthy obsession with healthy food and eating clean, and I was astonished because the article was talking about me to a T! The article mentions Jordan Younger whose blog I followed a few years ago when she was still “the Blonde Vegan” and had just moved to New York. I followed her journey of being obsessively vegan, and to be honest I hung on her every word at the time, totally inspired by how dedicated she was to her lifestyle. Then she came out to the world that she had Orthorexia and was moving towards a more balanced lifestyle, turning away from veganism and the pursuit of ‘perfect’ health.

Along with food and exercise, your health is also a state of mind. How you think and feel about yourself manifests inside the body. If you have a perfectionist attitude towards health, this can fester as long-term negative stress within the body and can cause so many other health problems mentally, physically, emotionally and socially. What actually blew my mind was how many negative stress symptoms I could identify with from my own experience, such as catching colds and flus all the time, a never ending list of stomach troubles, my heart racing even at night when I was relaxing. I would get heart palpitations and panic attacks. My neck and back muscles were always tight and I would constantly get mouth ulcers and random skin conditions.

Now, for the record I’m not saying my obsession with health was the sole cause of my stress. My overall perfectionist attitude towards my life – whether it’s food, career, relationship, whatever it is – is sending me into an early grave, and causing me to also live a miserable life in the process. The last few months since moving to London have been hard, but it has enabled me to reflect, realise and provide me with the drive to want to change my mentality and attitude towards my health, my life and most importantly towards, myself.

For the first time this weekend, I want to truely let go and enjoy time with my friends and live life without feeling guilty or psychologically punishing myself. This Saturday we have a group of us going to enjoy wine and cured meat at an event in London. My goal for this weekend is to savour each bite, taste it, smell it, sip wine, laugh, live every moment… and then let it all go. Until then!