Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Gym Guilt

There's something I have to admit: I've been neglecting things a little. Rather than going down to my gym three times a week, as I plan to, I've been heading home straight after work. I've been taking more time out; more time to cook my evening meal, catch up with friends and family over the phone, and read the latest blogs and paperback books. Even more time having a cheeky mojito or two with my colleagues after work.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nothing. We all need some 'me' time, and after the gym sometimes there's often not enough time to relax and get everything sorted at home. Sometimes after a long day there's nothing I want more than to have a hot shower and sink into bed to read, or watch something mind-numbing and entertaining on television.And some other times I just have so many things to clean and organise, I don't even have time to rest.

And yet... most evenings, I find myself staring at my gym kit, trying to justify skipping it just one more time. I make excuses to my colleagues (sorry!), my family (sorry!), my friends (....sorry!) and to anyone on twitter who might bother to read it (...really, really sorry). I pretend that I don't feel guilty - that I've earned the week off; that I'm just too tired / stressed / nauseous to go. 

Then I wait for a response; reassurance that it's ok to go home; that I don't need to exercise today or that they too are planning to go home and eat a packet or oreos in lieu of going for a run. But, aside from perhaps one short sarcastic response on twitter (if I'm lucky), or a reference to my last excuse, nobody responds.

Nobody cares.

So why the hell do I?!

It seems ridiculous really. Why do I feel I need other people's opinions to influence how I live my life?

It seems that I've been recently suffering from a bout of gym guilt.

It's been really bothering me, actually. And I think that it's because of this; it's another example of feeling validated and respected by others. Another example of needing to feel accepted. Another example of how my life online is changing my attitude towards life online (which is something I'd like to write more about). Somehow, I have managed to convince myself that other people really do care about how many squats I do each day (on average, none), how long I spend on the cross trainer (about 30 minutes, if I don't keel over first) or whether I'm going to classes regularly (no). 

You see, I follow a huge number of healthy eating / living accounts on Instagram. Every day I am bombarded by images of chia seed puddings, egg-white and spinach omelettes and coconut oil. I am confronted by photos of incredible abs, taught thigh muscles and tummy-baring tanned blondes in tiny bikinis. It is inspiring to a certain extent; I feel more aware of what I eat, how it makes my body feel, and making healthy choices, which does make me feel better. But it's also guilt inducing. With my life so 'out there' online, I feel like I'm being observed and, dare I say it, judged.  You'll notice, if you follow me, that my Instagram is full of burgers, chips, sugary puddings and brunches. Of course, I chuck in the occasional home-made soup or smoothie here and there, but it's mostly fairly indulgent. I choose to share the indulgent pleasures I let myself have a couple of times a week. But then, instantly, I feel guilty when I see others undertaking strict exercise routines and lifestyle changes, slowly seeing a change in their body shape.

This is what makes me feel as though I need to explain myself to the world. For me, everyone seems to be on a mission to lose weight, eat better and exercise more. Fine - except when it becomes the main focus of conversation. I've always worried about my body, no matter how ridiculous that is. I won't go into that, but the point is that everyone seems to be doing better and working harder than me and, as a perfectionist, I feel like I'm slacking; especially when I traipse home after work, avoiding the gym yet again.

To be fair to myself, I walk to and from work nearly every day. I walk everywhere; I rush around, I exude nervous energy, I pile my plate high with vegetables and am fairly controlled with junk food. But even that sometimes doesn't feel enough, and I can feel eyes judging me as I tuck my trainers back under my desk and reach for a creamy mocha.

It's exhausting. The gym guilt; the 'holier than thou' attitude which I am sure is all in my head, can chip away at my self confidence until, before I know it, I'm furiously online shopping for local personal trainers. It's yet another thing for me to worry about and I have enough on my mind as it is.

And yet again, I'm pretty sure that nobody cares.

So here's a resolution to myself. It's my body. Yes, more often than not exercise makes me feel better, even when it's the last thing I want to do; but sometimes it is good or my soul to head home and curl up with a good book and a slice of cake. Sometimes it's ok to go for drinks with your friends instead of hopping on the treadmill. Nobody's perfect, and even those seemingly controlled Insta-health fans probably have a momentary lapse.

It's exactly the same as the delusion that some blogger's lives are perfect. As Becky from Milkbubbletea posted a while ago, it may all seem like pure white surfaces, cute outfits and perfect days out, but behind the camera sits a blogger with no makeup, bad cramps and leggings tucked into her woolly socks. When it comes to blogging and Instagramming about fitness, it's not all 'proats', squats and detoxes. There's bound to be a burger or a lazy evening in there somewhere; they just choose not to share it. Another example of the desired online life.

It's great that other bloggers and twenty-something ladies are keen on exercise and healthy eating- I really admire it and often wish I had the same kind of motivation - I'm just not sure I can live up to that standard.

I'm tired of  feeling like I'm failing every time I collapse in a heap after work; if I want to go for a drink with colleagues instead of going to a spin class, or sit and read my favourite blogs instead of pounding the treadmill, that's fine. And if I do end up exercising, then that's good too.

I managed perfectly well for four years at university drinking, comfort eating and sitting at my desk studying for days without going to the gym; a couple of extra nights a week won't hurt!

And so, from now on, I'll try not to feel guilty if I do skip the gym for an evening. A healthy balance is what I need.

Now....where's my pudding?


  1. Wow. This is exactly how I feel. I was self concious before I started blogging, I am not really "fat" but more on the there's-some-flesh-on-her-bones side but I started bloggingin the first place to start being honest with myself: what am I really doing, eating, ... That waas a really great motivation at first, but I've had since (a year) so many relapses into my binge eating disorder (I only recently feel like I've really made a big step towards recovery) that I just stopped sharing because indeed: I can't live up to those other perfect instagram accounts. Nobody wants to see the real life version: that it's not always that easy. Motivation is one thing but I feel like the expectations of life, seeing all those beautiful blogs out there, is just not real anymore. We can see that, because we too are bloggers, but I am sometimes afraid that impressionable little girls read those blogs and think that that is reality. It's okay to dream and hope that one day your life will be so awesome you can share your stories of travel and healthy habits but it's not okay that there will be a lot of girl out there who will never find the "happpiness" they are looking for because real life will never be enough. As you said towards the end: it is our life, our body, and some accountability is a good thing because otherwise I myself would fall back into ignoring the signs of relapse for myself, but in the end it's for ourselves and our bodies we do these things, not to please others because it just won't work. Be who you are, and if that means going to the gym everyday, well good for you. But if it's not, don't feel guilty. Been there, done that, and yes I do feel guilty when I promise myself I really need to work out and then don't but just be reasonable with the expectations for yourself. :) I will not judge you for anything at all, I think that you are more honest than those others: you share the "bad" (or really good and yummie so you will!) food choices, they don't but that doesn't mean they aren't there! x

    1. Wow Margot thanks for such a lovely and in-depth comment. There are so many unrealistic expectations of the healthy lifestyles we must lead thanks to social media and it can either over-motivate you, or force you to give up thanks to the competition. It's scary to think how it can affect people. We can only do what we can, and if that means only going to the gym once a week on top of full time work and blogging and things, so be it. I hope you are dealing with everything alright and I have no doubt that you are a very strong young lady! I think it's better to be honest with ourselves, as you seem to be, than not. Just make sure you are kind to yourself, and put yourself first as well. I hope you are well! x

  2. I feel you entirely. I feel exactly like this. I always make up "excuses" not to go to the gym, and I honestly do wish I didn't. It's always about consistency and finding motivation to go to the gym.

    But it is equally important to have "me" time as you said so yourself. So I agree 100%

    Naturally Jes

    1. It's so hard to find motivation if you're not naturally sporty, like myself. It's all about finding a balance - it's nice to know I'm not alone! x

  3. In the end you have to do what makes you feel happy and thats a day to day basis. xox great post Jo

    1. Thank you Nichole! I completely agree - sometimes it's good to be a little selfish x

  4. I so relate to all of this. I don't have a gym membership any more, but I do have a treadmill (Which means I have even LESS excuse not to work out), but in the summer I always find myself wanting to do other things instead, and then feeling horribly guilty about it. Judging by Instagram etc, pretty much EVERYONE is a gym bunny, who works out for hours every day and never, ever misses a session, and it can leave you feeling like the laziest person ever by comparison. I think "me time" is every bit as important as gym time, though - without it, life would just be one giant "to do" list, which is pretty depressing thought!

    1. Instagram is a huge issue in my eyes because it's just one snapshot of a moment, but it seems like everyone's super healthy! You have to be mentally healthy as well as physically, so 'me-time' is so important. Thanks for such a great comment Amber :) x

  5. Gym guilt is definitely something I feel these days. And I think you're right, the fitness blogs and clean eating vegan instagram accounts don't help. It makes me feel terrible that I struggle to go to the gym three times a week when you see all these skinny, tanned people who seem to spend every waking moment there.

    But we all lead different lives and sitting at a desk all day can sometimes be genuinely exhausting. It's all about getting the balance right so we can have the odd creme brulee and still feel great. I'm far, far from that right now but I know I'll figure it out on my own - not by sobbing over other people's carefully curated instagrams!

    Sorcha x Bright Field Notes

    1. It's just so unrealistic - and you're completely right, full time work, as sedentary as it is, can be so tiring! I often forget I work all day. We just need to find what is best for us as individuals and try not to compare our gym routines to the super-fit. Thanks for such a great comment x