For Mental Health Month 2021 we want to celebrate the positive impact fitness can have on our mental health. How sticking your headphones in, turning the volume up loud and lifting something heavy can be that escape you need.
Mental health is not a taboo, and no one need suffer in silence. So we’re sharing stories from those who’ve experienced issues with mental health, and discovered healthy ways to improve their wellbeing.
Amelia Goldsmith knows the struggle. To overcome an eating disorder she experienced for almost a decade, Amelia embarked on a weight gain journey, sharing every step with her Instagram followers.
We spoke to Amelia to uncover what made her start this journey and the challenges she faced along the way as she empowered her body and mind through fitness and ideal nutrition.
Before the weight gain journey
Growing up, Amelia had always been active, having danced from the age of three. She’d also always had a slim build, and felt pressure from both dance culture and the world around her to stay that way.
“I think from the certain dance environment, the pressure I put on myself and the social standards I surrounded myself with, it made me spiral down, what seemed like, a never-ending dark hole of diet-related thoughts, body dysmorphia, and the constant need to be slim and ‘look sporty’.”
Over time, the pressure took its toll in some pretty scary ways, and it was only last year that Amelia realised the severity of the situation.
“After seven to eight years of having to constantly battle against food-related thoughts in my head and calorie counting/restriction, it reached 2020 when COVID hit, which was when I reached my lowest; mentally and physically.”
By this point, Amelia hadn’t had a period in 8 years and her friends were starting to express their worry about her too.
“My best friend reached out to me a couple of times asking if I was okay which worried me and made me panic. After a few comments on my weight, I started to realise what I was doing and where I would be going if I continued, which was not going to make me happy or healthy.”
It can be hard to see unhealthy thoughts and habits in yourself and it took Amelia seeing herself objectively to recognise that something had to change.
“I actually remember doing a live workout in partnership with Myprotein on my Instagram, and I remember looking back on it and questioning if I really was as skinny as I looked in the video. That was one of the rare moments I saw my real size and not the size I always thought I was when looking in the mirror.”
Making the change
After the incredibly difficult first step of accepting a change needed to be made, Amelia allowed the world to join her on the journey. The entire weight gain journey was documented on her Instagram account.
“I finally built the courage to accept I needed to put my health first, which meant gaining weight.”
While every journey has its ups and downs, Amelia’s weight gain journey has left her with so much more than she first imagined.
“There are SO many positives! I’ve gained my personality back which I didn’t know I had lost! I’ve also gained back my humour; I find myself laughing a lot more. Pure, pure happiness, energy, incredibly better skin, hair and nails. My relationship with food is so free and amazing.”
She’s also seen improvements in her relationships with others as well as herself and signs that her body is no longer just surviving, but thriving too.
“My relationships with my family and friends are so much healthier and less toxic. My anxiety is actually a lot less, and I think that is also down to the growth in confidence. My period returned (!!!!) which means my body is no longer trying to ‘survive’, and instead it is living happily. My libido has returned as well as my interest in romantic relationships.”
Hearing all these positives that Amelia has listed makes you realise just how much we put on the line to look a certain way and that when that pressure is removed, how much more of life there is to enjoy. This is definitely the case for Amelia.
“Dreams that I have had for years are finally starting to come true and I strongly believe that’s because my mentality towards my body, food, exercise, calories, etc. was holding me back in so many ways.”
Now Amelia is able to view fitness as something to build her body stronger, not something to make herself smaller.
Starting your own weight gain journey
Despite the positives, seeing your body grow after years of trying to shrink it can be daunting. But Amelia has offered some practical advice to combat challenges she’s faced along the way:
– TRUST THE PROCESS! It is so easy to doubt the process and yourself, but it all comes together in the end.
– Bloating is normal. Allow your body to digest the food you give it.
– If you’re uncomfortably full at the start, know that it will pass. Your body and your appetite will adjust, just give it time.
– Your body during weight restoration may be hard to accept, but remember that it’s temporary and the weight will distribute evenly.
– Keep your head focused on yourself, don’t worry about people around you. Their goals won’t help you reach yours.
Take home message
Gaining weight can feel like you’re going against everything society has ever told you about being “healthy”, but Amelia’s proof that “healthy” is so much more than how you look.
Looking after the body you’ve got and celebrating all the things that it can give you is far more worthwhile than comparing it to unrealistic ideals. Power your body, empower your mind.