When I started working out years ago, I’d like to think I was in my own little bubble of a healthy lifestyle. I had no idea of the effect and power social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, would have on the way I saw exercising and eating healthy. I mean, if you had told me that pictures of random girls in active-wear and smashed avocado on toast would twist the way I saw my own active lifestyle, I would’ve laughed in your face.

Like many of us, I got sucked into the ‘aesthetically pleasing’ fitness Instagram lifestyle years ago. I remember seeing thousands of young women with jaw-dropping bodies and I thinking ‘hey, I can be that too’, and you know what, if I had dropped everything else that was going on in my life and solely focused on my diet and training everyday, I probably could’ve.

However, one of the biggest things a lot of us fail to acknowledge are that ‘fitness Instagram models’ are paid to look like that, as it is most likely their job, or, they support themselves through endorsements and brand deals. Not that I have a problem with that, I’m all for women finding success, even in the most unconventional ways like Instagram. To me, the problem lies with young girls, such as yourself becoming enchanted with the idea that looking this way is what it takes to be acknowledged, valued and appreciated. Like I said, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I’ve fallen for it and it took a long time for me to realise the truth. We need to remember that feeling valued goes way beyond what we look like, it’s about our actions and the way we make other people feel.

who are you exercising for

Be like Pro Surfer Sally Fitzgibbons – find exercise you ENJOY (and don’t do it for the ‘gram)

In my own experience, being ‘fit’ became trendy around two years ago. This is where the problem automatically begins; fit =  trendy. Within this span of time, I forgot the purpose of working out. I began focusing on how I LOOKED after workouts, instead of acknowledging how I FELT. Every time I was done with a workout, I ran to the mirror to check if my stomach looked flatter, my bum looked bigger, or if my arms were slimmer. Making the decision to workout and eat healthier should come from a place of self-care, not vanity.

I remember standing in front of my mirror, tensing my abs and sucking in my stomach as tight as I could before taking the ‘perfect’ picture for Instagram. I’d triple check before posting, making sure there were no bulges or rolls that could be seen and slapped a filter on top for that extra bit of ‘perfection’. I pushed myself incredibly hard in the gym and while it made me, what I like to call, the ‘averagely fit person’ I am today, it still didn’t get me the ‘likes’ I thought I deserved. I also had my diet scraped to perfection, giving myself ‘no rest days’ or meals that involved pizza or chocolate.

If I could go back in time to my younger self, I’d shake my head and ask one simple question: what for? If you’ve now found yourself in the same situation, ask yourself this question. What and who exactly are you doing this for? If your answer involves looking like someone or to look more visually appealing, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll only end up feeling disappointed with that mindset. We’re always our worst critics and we always think our best is still not good enough and unfortunately, we never give ourselves enough credit for our achievements, especially when it comes to how we feel when we do something incredible. It’s time we stopped stressing over getting the perfect ‘abs shot’ and start thinking about and reflecting on how our hard work in the gym is making us feel. Looking great is the perk, but feeling great is the goal.