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My Struggles with Unhealthy “Healthy” Habits

When you look at me today, you see a young woman who has a healthy relationship with food and the gym. I workout 4-5 times a week, I eat healthy most of the time while treating myself often, and I never weigh or measure my body. However, it took me a while to develop this balanced lifestyle, as high school Chloe had a lot of unhealthy “healthy” habits.

I’ve always been a muscular person, especially in my legs, and I was always so self-conscious of that growing up. I began noticing that my thighs were bigger than my friends’ in junior high, and by the time high school rolled around, I was so self-conscious of my legs that I was set on finding a way to shrink them.

I’m not even sure where this insecurity came from, as no one had ever made fun of me for my legs, nor did anyone point them out to me. But when I got my first serious boyfriend, I often found myself comparing my body to other girls’ in our school, and contemplating whether or not he would find them more attractive than me if they were skinnier than I was. To be honest, he never did anything to make me think that was the case, it was an idea that my own insecurities had created. And once the idea was in my head, I ran with it.

I played three sports in high school, so was naturally a pretty active person. I had practice every single day in the fall (volleyball), winter (wrestling cheerleading and indoor soccer), and spring (soccer), but my summer was pretty open given school was out. However, rather than simply enjoying my summer like a normal 15-year-old girl, I decided to center my summer around being a “healthier” person.

I was convinced that carbs were bad, lifting would make me look manly, and that cellulite was something to be ashamed of. I remember weighing myself the summer after my sophomore year and crying when I saw 125 pop up on the scale. In honor of becoming “healthier”, I decided that I needed to lose 5 pounds by the time August came back around. However, I was young, dumb, and easily influenced, so went about it in the worst way possible.

In terms of food, I would only allow myself to eat fruits and vegetables. If I ate anything else, I would instantly feel guilty and ashamed of myself. In terms of workouts, I wouldn’t let myself leave the house until I had run at least 3 miles. We had a treadmill in the garage, and I spent the majority of my summer running on that dreadful machine. I vividly remember my friends asking me to go to the pool one day, so I made sure to run 5 miles that morning to hopefully get rid of any cellulite I had that day.

This behavior continued on throughout the rest of high school, with me going in and out of phases of intense restriction. Undereating and overexercising became my go-to any time I was self-conscious, upset, or stressed. Which, as a normal high school girl, happened pretty frequently. I definitely thought that the smallest version of myself was the most worthy version of myself, which was the most toxic mindset I’ve ever had.

How did I pull myself out of this mindset? I decided to accurately educate myself on health and fitness.

When I left for college in 2014, I cut a lot of toxicity out of my life: I stopped all communication with my fake friends from high school and ended my unhealthy relationship, as well. I decided to focus on myself for once, and not the version of me that I thought people would want to see. I started researching and reading articles on nutrition and exercise, as I was now a Division I athlete and I wanted to make sure I was performing to the best of my abilities. And it didn’t take long for me to realize that my previous ‘healthy’ habits actually weren’t healthy at all.

I started eating breads, pastas, and rice every single day again, and stopped going on extra runs outside of soccer practice. I became proud of my muscular legs, as I was able to squat more weight than most of my teammates. I stopped trying to find a cure for my cellulite and realized that it’s an extremely common and natural thing to have. Most importantly, though, I began loving myself again.

I’d be lying if I said I never slipped into my unhealthy view of health and fitness again, as I think we all have days where we struggle with our self-love and body image. But for the most part, I had ditched my ‘healthy’ habits for good, and no longer equated my worth to my looks. I decided to celebrate my body for everything that it is, rather than tearing it down for what it isn’t. Which eventually led me to where I am today.

If you’re stuck in a toxic mindset when it comes to health and fitness, just know that you’re not alone. I’ve been there before, too, and trust me when I say that it does get better. It takes some time, but it is so dang possible to repair your relationship with food and the gym. If you feel like it’s a problem too big for just you, please ask someone for help. Whether it’s a sibling, a friend, or a professional, it’s worth it to become the happiest and healthiest version of you.

We all have insecurities and we all have moments of weakness, but we also all have a body that is keeping us alive and healthy. And that’s something that we need to celebrate a lot more.

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