Is It Ever Enough?
Words by Kiana Duncan
If you’ve been anywhere near the internet or advertising, diet culture is strong and prominent, leading us often times to throw our hands up in frustration and say “Is it EVER ENOUGH?”
Is it enough to like my body?
Is it enough to work out five times a week?
Is it enough to eat 1,500 calories?
Is it enough that I look like the girls in my class?
When does the madness end?! Everytime we scroll through Facebook, we see articles introducing “The Military Diet That Helps You Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Days,” and Instagram pictures telling us to eat less cake and do more squats. There’s constant bombarding from every weight loss company telling you the time to get your summer body is NOW. Urban Outfitters sold shirts that said “Eat Less.” Sizes seem smaller than ever. So when we start to go a little crazy, it’s no wonder!
What does it mean to be enough? Well, a good place to start is understanding your goal.
This week, I’ve been beating myself up for not going to the gym “enough.” I’ve not been eating “enough” of the right things. I’ve not been working hard “enough.” The word “enough” implies that there’s a certain point we’ll reach when we’ll feel satisfied. But is that true?
When we start to use diet culture in our motivation and inspiration, we can feel frustrated with a lack of ambition and goal-setting. There is no ‘enough’ when we don’t know where we’re going. It’s like asking “Are we there yet?” when you don’t have a destination. Diet culture often times uses pressure and scare-tactics without realistic goals. Losing ten pounds in three days doesn’t encompass any goal, other than wanting to lose ten pounds, quickly. Ten more squats will mean you did ten more squats. What next? Will you be satisfied?
Probably not. When we goal-set, we often overlook our mental health. Why do I want to lose ten pounds? Why do I want to eat less? Why do I want to spend longer at the gym?
These are key issues and critical ideas are so necessary to our progress as a person. If you come out of that brainstorming with a reason that is healthy, you can sustainably support, and feel empowered by, then have at it! But you may find this argument goes a little deeper.
When I first started going to the gym consistently, the first week or so, I found myself asking similar questions. Why am I even here? I needed some time to work through it, but I found my answer. Going to the gym was a new way that I respected my body. I listened to my body, and it told me what it needed. I had spent the past few years completely ignoring my health, mentally and physically, so when I underwent this drastic change, it was important to reflect on my reasoning and intention.
The longer I’ve been involved in the fitness community, the better I’ve realized the best ways to get out of these funks and how to rework your thinking into something beneficial and not pressuring yourself into a goal you might not even want to pursue. Be direct and honest with yourself. Your progress doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s, and neither does your goal.
This is especially hard considering the vast amount of unsolicited advice we’re assaulted with on a daily basis.
“You really don’t need to rest more than 20 seconds between each set.”
“You shouldn’t eat past eight pm.”
“If you just pushed yourself harder, maybe you would’ve been a faster runner.”
“Why do you even time yourself during races? Doesn’t that only count for the top runners?”
“No wonder girls go to the gym and wonder why they aren’t losing weight, it’s all those fattening smoothies they’re drinking!”
“If you want to lose weight, you need to stop drinking entirely.”
Yep, these are all things that have been said to me. I never asked for them, but here they are. And I’ll remember them forever because these were the rules I felt guided by every time I walked through the Rec Center doors for two years. It felt like there were so many invisible rules that people just knew and I assumed that everyone knew more than me. It really couldn’t be as simple as just giving your workouts your all and listening to your body, could it? Turns out that’s really all it takes. You don’t need protein powder, you don’t need toned abs, you don’t need to be anyone but yourself. People can set rules for themselves, but brush them off, because they don’t pertain to you or your goal.
There were times during this two-year period where I would go to the gym and base my progress on how much smaller I was than the girl next to me, and feel horrible and ready to give up if she had a smaller waist or smaller legs. Today, my body and self-image have changed so much, and I found myself comparing my body to the girl next to me once again, but with a major difference. I was jealous because she had bigger muscles than me and amazing shoulders. In that moment, I was both proud and annoyed with myself. I was proud because I had grown to see other body types as beautiful and amazing, not just my own. However, I was annoyed because I was still comparing myself to the girl next to me. It was almost comical, first not being small enough, and then not being big or muscular enough. That’s when it hit me. I was choosing not to be satisfied. It was almost a relief because it had nothing to do with my physical body. It was entirely mental. I could choose to stop looking. I could choose to look at my own body with that kind of admiration. If I’m looking and judging no matter what, then it is completely irrelevant what the girl next to me looks like because it’s not about her anymore. It’s a reflection on how I feel about myself.
Think of fitness less like a race. When we see it in our mind, we picture the amazing girl running every 5k and lifting constantly at the finish line, and ourselves far away from that. When we start seeing fitness as a linear model, it’s easy to never feel like enough, because our idea of what is fit and healthy seems to get farther and farther away. It’s like chasing after a rainbow. You are following something unattainable and unfair to compare yourself to. When all we can focus on is the race, we deprive ourselves of the journey.
Root yourself in something concrete: your goal, your plan, your self-image. Be brave. Be honest.
You are enough.
Kiana Duncan is a blogger, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.