I used to be a big gym junkie because I believed that if I didn’t go to the gym, I would get fat. In turn, I associated being fat with being unhealthy, and being unhealthy is bad — as if losing my abs or gaining weight was the worst thing that could ever happen to me.
But that isn’t the point. The point is that staying fit and being healthy is more than simply going to gym. More so, somebody can look fit and be unhealthy while somebody else may be healthy but not necessarily appear fit.
People tend to assume that those who go to the gym regularly are healthy people who have their lives together, while people who don’t are lazy and unhealthy. This isn’t always the case.
People can believe that they are not physically fit enough or are lacking in certain aspects when it comes to their physical appearance. This can be expressed through muscle dysmorphia — a belief that your body is too small, skinny, or insufficiently muscular when you are actually in what could be considered an “average” weight rang or have already attained what your goal should be.
In this sense, working out and going to the gym becomes an obsession and starts to affect your mental health; in turn, impacting your relationships, school, work, etc.
The same can be said for having an eating disorder that makes you believe you are much larger than you actually are. Some people will express this by not eating at all, purging, or spending excessive amounts of time in the gym to slim down while not getting enough nutrients to support their body.
On the other hand, there are people who don’t look like the ‘typical’ healthy person because they don’t have that ideal body that society conditions us to strive for. But sometimes these people have healthier diets — they consume healthier foods and watch what they eat — and their body thanks them for it in other ways such as having more energy and feeling happier.
Ultimately, if somebody wants to be fit and healthy, their goal shouldn’t simply be to go to the gym all the time.
I often hear people say “I need to go to the gym,” and “I’m gaining weight because I haven’t been to the gym,” but that’s not an excuse and going to the gym shouldn’t be the only activity that’s associated with being fit and living a healthy life.
As a fitness and healthy eating peer mentor, I’ve realized that being fit and healthy comes down to regular exercise and wholesome eating habits. Note that regular exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym. While a person may choose that route, exercise can also mean going for a walk or run outside, going for a swim, playing a game of squash, or even working out or doing some yoga at home.
More so, what people don’t often realize is that being fit and healthy means more than working out. It’s also about the way you eat. And no — you don’t have to eat kale salad without dressing and breaded zucchini sticks every day. It’s all about portion control.
Portion control is as simple as eating from a smaller plate, slowing down when you eat, not going back for seconds, putting leftovers away in small containers, and drinking more water and tea. I personally recommend drinking green tea with lemon.
Fun fact: weight is impacted 20 per cent by exercise and 80 per cent by diet (calorie intake).
In 2010, a professor from Kansas State University lost 27 pounds in two months from eating only Twinkies, powdered donuts, sugary cereals and other “unhealthy” snacks. How? He ate one of his sugary snacks every three hours instead of a meal. His goal was to show that portion control and calorie counting matters more than the nutritional value of food.
That’s not to say that it’s healthy to eat poorly, but that what you eat isn’t always going to help you stay fit and healthy if you’re not eating properly.
So, remember, staying fit and healthy is more than simply going to the gym. Make sure to exercise regularly, even if it’s just an hour walk a day, and to have portion control over what you eat daily.