When Going to The Gym Becomes Unhealthy.

The perverse thing is, going to the gym is such a healthy thing to do, but I did it in such an unhealthy way. I have an obsessive personality and I tend to take things too far.

I was a child, basically, living in Japan on my own at 21 years old. At 21, you feel like an adult, but you’re still figuring things out in a big way- stumbling along in the dark. Travel was always something I wanted to do and I was hoping living in another country would help me map out what I wanted; discover myself.

When you go to another country: young, alone, introverted, and not speaking the language, it can be either liberating or lonely. I was lonely.

At first, I went from work as an English teacher to the place I lived (a room on the second floor of the school owner’s house), stopping at the grocery store on the way. I barely knew how to shop. The money was weird, the vegetables were weird, and the packages had little to no English on them. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just grabbed pre-packaged dinners full of rice and sauces….and quickly gained a TON of weight. I watched a lot of TV in Japanese or did a lot of reading while shovelling down fast food and pastries with chopsticks. Not great.

I mentioned to my students, a couple of elderly gentlemen, that I’d love to do the hike they mentioned….to which they laughed and said I would never make it up the mountain because I was too fat. And I was. I took a look in the mirror that night….

And two months later, I joined a gym.

I weighed in at 189 lbs and had no energy, no clothing that fit (plus didn’t fit into Japanese sizes in stores so couldn’t buy new stuff), and was always sweating, even in the cold. I was sick of it; I wasn’t feeling healthy. Being homesick didn’t help. On the flip side, I was starting to make close friends and wanted to feel confident when I was out with them. Or, at the very least, be able to walk the beautiful streets without running behind, panting to catch up.

The gym was amazing. Top of the line equipment, great classes and they loved when foreigners would join. I went from hating walking to work, to spending hours on the treadmills watching the neat graphics on the machine’s video screen or doing the virtual courses. It felt good to move- to be in control.

It wasn’t long before I was interested in the classes. I stood in the back because I was always one step behind, having to translate what the instructor said before I could do the movement. The instructor noticed I was in his classes a lot (three a day sometimes) and started to say the English, as well, whenever he could. The staff there was incredible and made me feel so comfortable.

My work went down to part-time so I had a lot of days free- working evenings most of the time. That left more time for the gym! I ventured into the weight room and tried a few things. I didn’t know ANYTHING about weights, so would watch what others did and try to mimic them. One of the instructors noticed me doing something wrong and corrected me so I didn’t hurt myself. She was Japanese but had spent two years in Australia- her English had an interesting blend of Aussie-Japanese accent to it. She was so nice and welcoming that she became my fave person there. We hit it off and she offered to be my trainer for FREE.

From that point on, I was hooked.

Sightseeing was replaced with the gym, meal times were spent at the gym, my down time was an easy class at the gym…..If I wasn’t working or out with a friend, I was at the gym. I would go at least 5 days a week, for a minimum of an hour at a time. One day I went for 5 hours, taking two hour long classes, spending time on weights and the treadmill in between them.

I was happiest at the gym but I was eating less and doing more there. Waking up, I would head to the gym, come home, go back to the gym. I was averaging 4 hours a day of the hardest exercises I could find. Baptism by sweat.

I know now that I didn’t see the real me in the mirror, still seeing the 189 lbs me, and not the new 120 lbs me….thank you, body dysmorphia (sarcasm)….and I wasn’t aware that the lbs didn’t matter, that I was searching for something unnameable.

What success looks like! (I stole this off of a FB post so if it is yours let me know and I will credit you) 🙂

I don’t really know what I was trying to deal with, what issues I was trying to sweat away. Today, I feel that therapy, along with the gym, may have been a good fit.

Going to the gym that many hours isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. (Especially if you’re training for an action movie, haha). But I did it in such an obsessive way- perhaps because I was homesick?

I was thinking about this memory the other day and I haven’t worked through it. At the time, it was what I needed. At the time, it seemed like the only way to spend my time when friends were working. I did sort of find myself there- I discovered what I was capable of, how strong I could be, and that I wasn’t intimidated by new things. But, it also felt like a way to bury my head in the sand and avoiding….???…. Still working through it.

This is finally the year where I look at the cycle I’ve stuck myself in. I was looking at past posts and laughing…Here I sat, declaring huge changes, failing them, declaring them again- like a maniac I did the same kinds of things over and over but expecting a different result. I finally have a great support system of non-toxic friends and family and I’m ready to “face my demons”, as they say. Through professional support, eating healthier and trying on new healthy habits….she says, as she has in the past, hoping it will stick this time.

These days, I’m more about balance. I’m not interested in short-term solutions….but even though I realize that short-term solutions don’t work, I still fight their trap. I want to change, this time, for me….I think that will help. Gosh, I hope it works this time! Wish me luck.

What’s a good mantra about balance I should use? Thoughts? Any daily affirmations you recommend?




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