Farheen's Story

Transitioning from working out to “earn” food to working out to feel good


In my childhood, I never was serious about organized sports and was never part of a club or school team. During high school, I picked up working out on my own and became obsessed with spin classes. I loved the feeling of working out and feeling lighter walking out of the studio. Pretty soon my Tuesday, Thursday classes became the center of my weekly schedule and I found myself bringing my friends along. You would never see me skipping a workout class and soon I became obsessive about my workout routine and getting cardio in every day. The spin class soon turned into runs. Monday- Sunday I was working out, and on the extremely rare occasion I wasn’t doing cardio, I would attend a hot yoga class.
As SATs and college applications rolled around my junior year of high school my schedule became very busy, and I found myself missing workouts. On these days I began restricting certain “unhealthy” foods, and eventually food entirely. I began living in a cycle where I had to work out to “earn” food. There is no denying that working out felt good and helped me relieve my anxiety, however, my obsession and restriction became very unhealthy, and my health began to decline. The less time I had to work out, the less food I ate, the less energy I had, and the more anxious I became. My grades began dropping, regardless of the time I spent studying due to the lack of energy and focus I had. I entirely stopped working out and began restricting my diet every single day.
After recovering and changing the mindset of needing to “earn” food, I was hesitant to begin working out. Fear of spiraling into the toxic obsession with how many calories I burned or how many hours I spent on the treadmill stopped me from going to the gym. With the encouragement and support of my friends, I began shorter work outs a few times a week. I saw a drastic increase in energy and strength in myself and felt like I was finally reaping the benefits of a healthy relationship with exercise without compromising my health through food restriction. I can now say that I can work out whenever I feel like it, and never feel pressured to meet certain calorie or time goals.
I can now proudly say that I can maintain a healthy relationship by working out without changing my diet or avoiding certain foods. Transitioning from working out to “earn” food to working out to feel good has changed my relationship with exercise entirely and allows me the freedom to listen to my body and do what’s best for me each day. Someday it feels good to rest and for others, I feel like getting a good run-in to release pent-up anxiety. Obsession with anything can become insanely dangerous and toxic, and breaking my obsession with working out has allowed me to change my relationship with exercise for what is best for me.