Let me begin with a quick disclaimer — I am in no way denouncing all the hot new fitness communities/tribes/etc. If they work for you and make you feel good, great! They didn’t do that for me. And I felt like I was the only one in the world that felt like shit about myself while trying to be a Tone It Up Girl. And I don’t want anyone else to feel that alone, so I wrote this blog.
I made a new rule for myself recently. If I’m beating myself about not going to the gym because I’m worried how I’m going to look in a bikini, I tell myself to STFU.
It was recently pointed out to me that going to the gym is a privilege. I’m able-bodied and healthy enough to do it. I can afford to belong to a gym thanks to a job that encourages me to be healthy.
Good reasons to go to the gym? Because I genuinely enjoy being active and doing things that are physically demanding. Because I want to be stronger so I can do fun things like trail runs and ski and ride my horse.Because I want to be healthy, but not because I hate myself.
Despite the positive and self-loving messaging of Tone It Up, I couldn’t help but get sucked into a much more negative thought cycle. And hating myself for not working out everyday or for eating cheese was no way to live.
I first found Tone It Up through a girlfriend’s social media. I actually started Tone It Up while I was still in a boot for tendonitis. Since I couldn’t hike (or really walk around anywhere outdoors thanks to snow and open toed boots not mixing well) I thought I could at least workout in my apartment.
At first, their ready-made workout schedules and positive attitudes gave me the structure and support that I needed to start being a bit healthier. At first.
But I got out of the boot, and my ankle wasn’t holding up to the high-impact workouts that are a hallmark of Tone It Up. Each new fitness challenge that came around was my chance to do it right, to finally follow through, to not be a quitter, and to keep up. And look good in a bikini.
I started a special TIU Instagram account to hold myself accountable. I got back on board with the daily workouts. I started eating chia seed pudding and other TIU-approved meals. And really quickly, I actually started feeling worse about myself.
It’s actually really difficult to work out every single day when you work fulltime and have other hobbies. So when I started falling behind on workouts, even just missing one out of seven for the week, I felt like a personal failure.
Because look at all these other women that were doing it! Women with harder work hours, kids, and way more complicated life situations than me. The community that was supposed to be offering me support and building me up was instead making me feel like a failure for not being able to keep up with them.
Instead of feeling good that I was eating healthier and getting more physical activity, I just stared in the mirror and hated everything I saw. I had scrawny legs. My arms were equally lanky. I had a stupid bum ankle. I was skinny fat.
Almost every meal became a vicious cycle of deprivation, then eating Oreos until my stomach hurt, and then feeling like an utter failure for binging. Pretty soon, I wasn’t actually eating better because I was so obsessed with what I “shouldn’t” be eating that I just binged on those foods anyway.
And I was exercising because I needed to stick to the schedule or I was a double failure. I needed to look different. I needed to look amazing in that theoretical bikini and I was going to be a fatass AND a failure if I didn’t workout today!
I don’t want my life to be driven by an article of clothing or ideas of what my body should look like. I want to workout because it gives me joy, because I like getting stronger, because doing even just one thing that’s physically difficult gives me an incredible feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Working out as an act of self-love is actually one of the biggest messages I got from Tone It Up, but for some reason, it became twisted into something very different for me.
Fortunately, I ultimately realized enough was enough. Instead of continuing to blame myself and feel like a failure for falling off the wagon, I realized that working out every day is not realistic for me. Three times a week was a more realistic goal. And that was okay. I realized that food was not the enemy, but something that gave my body fuel to do cool stuff. That my measure of success as a human was not a before and after photo series in an effing bikini.
TIU has helped thousands of women feel like a better, more empowered version of themselves. And I’m genuinely so happy for all of them. But if it’s not working that way for you, that’s okay too. You’re not alone and you’re not a failure. You may not want to quit cheese, and you can“quit” Tone It Up.