When I started working in the fitness industry 4 years ago I didn’t know anything about fitness. Growing up I lived the majority of my life in the countryside of Germany where I spent most of my time riding horses and being in nature.

Working out never even crossed my mind. I took a Zumba class every once in a while when I still lived back home but that was about it. I was never concerned about my weight or the foods I ate.

Until I moved to the United States. Los Angeles – Santa Monica, right down the street from the famed Muscle Beach and Gold’s Gym Venice, aka “The Mecca of Fitness” where Arnold Schwarzenegger still trains today.

Wherever I looked I saw people walking around in their workout clothes,  yoga mats over their shoulders, sipping on an iced almond-milk latte. I told myself this must be a thing. Working out and being super fit seemed to be THE thing here in Los Angeles.

The more I observed, the more I noticed how obsessed people were with working out and with all sorts of diets I have never even heard of before. In Germany, nobody seemed to be concerned with this at all.

All this was very overwhelming to me.

Connecting with people and finding true friends was incredibly super-hard for me.  All I wanted to do was fit in. And to do that, to “fit in”, I thought losing weight must be my ticket. I did my research on nutrition and it became clear that if I left out all sorts of carbohydrates I would lose weight. Bingo… I was on it.

On top of that, it sounded like cardio was the answer to losing weight even faster. And it was extremely convenient that my work had a gym in the building and offered free gym memberships to their employees.

I bought myself some workout pants and joined the gym. My heart was beating out of my chest the first day I walked in. I felt so inadequate — like I didn’t belong. But I kept telling myself that if I wanted to fit in then that’s what I had to do, go to the gym, workout and oh of course — eat less.

So I did. Absolutely clueless of how much damage I was about to cause — physically, mentally and emotionally.

A couple weeks and millions of hours on the elliptical later, my work seemed to have paid off. People started noticing that I had lost weight. I even found people looking at me on the sidewalk. Wow. I must have done a great job.

Little did I know that people were staring at me because I looked like a skeleton. I was 5’8’’ and 95 lbs.

I slowly started realizing that something had gone wrong. Very, very wrong.

What the heck happened to me? What was I doing? Why did I think that I wasn’t worthy enough to fit in without joining this superficial crowd of people (sorry for the judgment ;))? Where and when did I lose myself? And how did I even get here in the first place?

As I questioned myself,  I knew that only I was the one that has the answers — the key to how I stepped into this deep, dark rabbit hole.  I knew it was time to face the parts of myself that I didn’t want to face so far. I knew it was time to find out where this feeling of unworthiness comes from.

Why did I think that I had to change my body in order to feel better about myself? Why did I feel unworthy of myself in the first place? And why did I think if I changed the outside I would feel better on the inside?

Because that’s what we are told. All day long. Those are the messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

So how could I not think that it was true? The thoughts go like this — “By changing my OUTER body I will become a better person, a whole person” — when the exact opposite is true. We’re whole and perfect from the start. We aren’t broken and while there’s nothing wrong with molding the outside, it doesn’t fix the the things that are broken on the inside.

After I realized how off course I had gone I wanted to learn everything about the weightlifting and fitness industry that I could, so I hired a personal trainer.

My personal trainer made me fall in love with lifting weights. I looked up to her in so many ways. I loved her cute little butt, her toned arms and legs, not to speak of her six-pack. I wanted to be like her.

I did everything the way she did it. I changed my nutrition, put myself on a strict meal plan and started working out 5 times a week. I overwrote my bodies inner voice again and kept telling myself: “no pain = no gain.”

Until I received another wake-up call. A broken hip at 25 years old.

It was at that moment everything changed.  I took a few steps back and observed the industry from the outside.

I think this is where a lot of us go wrong. Our motives and reasons for working out are often incredibly shallow.  Most of us work out because we don’t like the way our body looks.

We hate what we see in the mirror and constantly compare ourselves to others. We hate ourselves.

And instead of going inside and asking ourselves why we have such a hard time with self-acceptance, we choose to fix the outside. It’s easier to spend time there, in fact, society endorses it, even cheers us on.

We think that if we change our bodies all other problems will magically go away.

But here’s the kicker — outer reality is merely a reflection of inner reality.

Think about that for a second.

And if that’s the case, what do you think your body is trying to tell you when you look at it in the mirror?

If you look in the mirror and find yourself overweight, ask yourself, “Are the eating habits you have adapted truly suited for you?”

If you look in the mirror and find yourself in pain, ask yourself, “Have you neglected your body and taken care of others before you have taken care of yourself?”

If you look in the mirror and find yourself comparing yourself, ask yourself, “Does that stem from a feeling of overall unworthiness? Of not being ‘___’ enough?”

See one question that keeps coming up for me is, “Why do we care so much about what others think about us?”

There is only one answer. Because at some point along the road we forgot who we truly are and why we are here.

Which brings me back to my story and my experience. It wasn’t the outside that was the reason for my unhappiness. It was the inside and the wounds I’ve carried around since I was a kid.

So many of us feel unworthy and nobody talks about it. Nobody really talks about the reasons why we “go to the gym.” Instead, we hear the same answers. “I want to lose weight” or  “I want to get lean.” Sure that might be true, but WHY do you want that? And how did you get there in the first place?

Now I am not saying that there aren’t people who truly work out to FEEL better — but in my experience, it’s a mere handful.

I think that a lot of people take an approach to fitness that won’t serve them long-term. We take our bodies to extremes by starving them short-term while putting ourselves through workouts that most of the time we don’t ever really enjoy. We compare our own physiques to others and obsess about food.

Why do we always have to take everything to extremes? Why can’t we find a way of exercising our bodies that integrates body, mind, and soul? Even in the gym…

I don’t think that there is one workout plan that fits all. I think that it’s awesome to get inspiration from fitness experts for workout ideas but I believe that it is crucial to get to know your own body. You need to know your own needs and have the opportunity to reconnect with your intuition and the voice inside that will tell you exactly what your body needs.

It might be a long hike one day, a spin class the next day and a workout in the gym the day after that. It may be a week of rest or it might be two workouts a day.

We have to stop competing with each other. It’s time for us to make peace with our bodies and ourselves. To love ourselves the way we are. To take inventory and go within.

If you find yourself wanting to change your body I encourage you to write down what it is that you don’t like about it. Ask yourself how got there in the first place. Are these YOUR beliefs or beliefs put on you as a child? Are these YOUR beliefs or beliefs imposed by society?  Be honest with yourself.

Then find someone who can guide you. Someone who doesn’t just sell you another workout plan or fad diet.

You see, YOU gorgeous, have all the answers inside yourself. Sometimes we just need a little kickstart.

Having the ability to take care of our bodies is one of the biggest gifts we get as a human being. Our bodies are the homes of our souls, and we’re all souls having a human experience.

So let’s make the most of it. Let’s bring our bodies, minds and soul back into alignment with each other. Let’s exercise our bodies in a way that sets us up for long-term success.

Let’s go out there and learn from each other. Experiment and play with one another. Let’s put community over competition.

Fitness for me means more than just “working out.”  Fitness to me means exercising and taking care of my physical body, according to my inner guidance, while having fun.

Fitness is not about a goal.

It’s about the way it makes you FEEL. Everyone has their own definition and mindset about fitness and today I felt called to share mine 🙂

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