Wednesday, 22 May 2013

There’s more to life than a 6-pack

And I’m not talking about the beer variety, I’m talking abs-of-steel variety – the much desirable flat tummy.

I want to preface this post by saying I don’t want this post to sound convoluted, nor arrogant. I understand that some things I say may sound like “first world problems”, but I would like to share my personal experiences here in the hope that if someone else out there is going through the same thing, or might be heading down the same path, then perhaps they can change their situation before it gets to the state that I let mine get to.

I have been debating over whether or not to blog about this for a long time. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I am a bit of a perfectionist and I have been scared to show others (and myself) that I in fact am human and have flaws. Maybe getting it down on paper will help put things into a bit of perspective. I think it is important for me to be completely transparent as a practitioner and as a regular gal. A little bit of honesty with the world (and myself) could go a long way. So here we go….

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As I mentioned, for as long as I can remember, I have been a perfectionist.  I have pushed myself to the limit in every aspect of my life – fitness, academia, work…you name it. I have set myself some absurdly high standards and have put such an immense amount of pressure on myself to maintain these high standards. And yeah, a high distinction average might be impressive to some, but in the whole scheme of things – who really gives a shit? And at what cost have I achieved these results?

Let’s get physical

Who knows when my body image issues started?! Until recently, I have never really considered them as “issues”.

I have always had a very athletic physique. I started competitive gymnastics at a very young age. In primary school I had shoulders wider than most boys my age. I could beat my teenage brother in a push up competition. And I had a six-pack.

Throughout high school and until now, I have always been more active than most. At times in my life I have taught up to 16 hours of group fitness each week. This is not normal. I have maintained my flat, six-pack abs throughout my life (aside from a brief 6 month beer-drinking stint in college). To some, I have the nick-name “abs”. It’s not uncommon for my friends to introduce me to others when we are out and say

“This is Kate – feel her abs”. And subsequently, I would have strangers rubbing my belly in the middle of a pub. Not weird at all….

I’m now 29. Abs still visible. Still getting compliments on my body.

Before you think I’m an absolute wanker and all “look at me with my chiseled abs and perfect grades”, let me get to my point. I have worked hard to get these results….at a significant cost…..

I have recently been diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Hypo whatty?

Hypothalamic amenorrhea, in lamens terms, basically means your brain stops communicating to your lady garden, female hormone production slows and menstruation ceases. Some of you may be thinking this sounds fantastic not to have a period each month. Trust me - it’s not. Especially when you get the age when you are considering baby-making.

So what causes it? The research has suggested a few factors:
  • Under-eating
  • Over-exercising (ergo body fat below what it should be, which I learnt today is 22% for female hormones to be working optimally)
  • Too much stress
  • Oral contraceptives (the pill)

Tick, tick, tick, tick. Yep, for the amount of exercise I do (which has been way above what anyone should do), I have not been eating enough food, despite eating quite sizeable, regular meals each day with plenty of fat and protein. I have always been an over-stressor (about insignificant issues). And prior to 2011, I had been on The Pill for 10 years.

Why is it so vital to fix this problem ASAP? Well there are 2 kind of big complications that can arise as a result of this condition:
  • Infertility
  • Osteoporosis

 Shitballs. Not something you want to be faced with before the age of 30!

But how does this all relate to having a six-pack? Well – the treatment for this is simple, or so it would seem.

Eat more. Exercise less. Stress less. Get off the pill.

In the past 2 years I have covered off most of these – I went off the pill in 2011. I now exercise less. I meditate every day to control my stress. The eating…now that’s something recent and is really the key to treatment. The research suggests, in most cases, this condition can be resolved by adding on a few kgs. Easy right?

Not so much. Having long been complimented on my physique, I struggled at first when I was told I had to put on weight. And then I gave it some thought. And then I realized – 

There IS more to life than a six-pack!

There are so many more important things in life than how you look. And if anyone tries to tell you any different, tell them to f#@k off. Sorry for half-swearing, but I want you to do it. The reality is that most of us will never look like Miranda Kerr, no matter how hard we try. Sorry. But does that mean we are unattractive, undesirable or unworthy of love? Absolutely not!! Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Don’t let your obsession with the perfect body get in the way of you expressing your true inner beauty. We’re all going to end up old and saggy one day anyway!

So here’s to getting a more womanly figure!

I will probably mention all this business in a future blog post but please, learn from my mistakes now. Treat yourself with kindness. Feed your body for health, not perfection. Stress less and play more. And get off the f@#king birth control pill! (Sorry again).