‘My Obsession With Bodybuilding Made My Hair Fall Out’

I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with fitness my entire adult life.

I joined my first gym with my mom at age 11 and always enjoyed moving my body, but at 17, I became obsessive. I wanted to be like the thin women I saw in magazines who looked so healthy, happy, and beautiful.

Around that time, my friends were starting to diet and focus on losing weight, too. I always found myself gravitating toward whatever they thought was best, seeking external validation to soothe my insecurities. So I tried their juice cleanses and started working out excessively. I did six to seven spin classes a week and would go running on top of that. I became completely consumed with eating as little as possible and exercising as much as possible.

My life went on like this for another six years or so. I was dedicated to “clean eating,” when in reality I was binge eating and then either purging or, more commonly, exercising excessively the next day—and then fasting for three days after.

But at 24, I started dating a guy (who would later become my husband) who was a competitive bodybuilder. His friends were all dating bikini competitors, and they were so beautiful, so disciplined, so driven.

So I gave up my cardio-bunny ways and started training like a bodybuilder, hoping that doing what they did would make me happier, healthier, and more admirable.

This is not the before and after picture you see all over the media. This is the before and after picture of someone that suffered in silence for 12 years. Going all the way up and down the spectrum and variety of eating disorders. . . . . I restricted, I binged, I purged, I over-exercised… I became vegan (but not for ethical reasons), I became raw vegan, I became paleo, I became ketogenic, I became a clean eater, I became a bodybuilder… . . . . My diets were my identity. My eating disorder was my secret identity rearing it’s ugly head whenever I was alone. On the outside, I was a healthy happy girl that was slender and fit. On the inside, I was tearing myself apart. My body only dropped below an “acceptable BMI” for about 6 months. The rest of the 12 years, everyone just thought I was a health nut. . . . . So, before you judge someone for weight gain, I encourage you to question yourself and maybe ask yourself if they, too, are suffering. . . . . I would be lying if I said that I love my after picture. But I am aware that “hating” the after-body is something that diet culture taught me. It is completely learned. Just like loving the before-body is completely learned. In a culture where thin and lean bodies are praised, it is hard to navigate the world in a body that settles at a different size. . . . . BUT I will try and radically love this after-body for all that it does for me. And I will be grateful for the fact that I have stopped my eating disorder behaviors and have a peaceful relationship to food. Have you ever suffered in silence?

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Being part of the bodybuilding world gave me a sense of belonging—we bonded over how restrictive our diets were, how much we craved sweets and burgers and pizza but couldn’t have them, and how we went overboard on our cheat meals.

But in reality, my eating disorder was still at full strength, just manifesting itself differently. I was lifting weights and doing HIIT or sprints six to seven days a week.

I eventually cut my rest days back to two to three per month. And while at first everyone was encouraging me to eat more, a few weeks in I started cutting out more and more foods—namely carbs—to see results more quickly.

I went from being obsessed with being skinny to being obsessed with being lean. I wanted my abs and veins to pop and I wanted muscular glutes and lean arms. Looking back at pictures, I’m still shocked at how small I really was. But at the time, I thought I wasn’t lean enough.

My mindset became more obsessive than before. I was calculating every calorie that went into my body, spent my weekends meal-prepping chicken breast and broccoli for the week, and had no social life. I never allowed myself to go over my calories or macros for the day, and if I did, it would end in a binge.

When I would binge, I would go so far as to call out of work sick the next day to go to the gym and work off the calories I had consumed, then cut back on food for the next three days.

Then there was the physical toll: My hair was falling out in chunks, my nails were brittle, my skin was dry and breaking out. I was always tired, I lost my period completely, and my hormones were completely out of whack. Mentally, I had no energy or space left in my brain to actually pursue things in life that would fulfill me. I had no career goals, and no real purpose outside the gym and my body.

My weight kept dropping and my body kept changing, but it never felt like enough to me. I never felt good enough to be a competitor, so I never ended up competing. But I kept training like I would.

Whenever friends or family would try and talk to me about it, I would lash out at and say, “You don’t understand, this is my passion. I am driven and if you don’t understand my lifestyle then it’s on you!” My mood swings were uncontrollable.

Staying with my parents is always an odd experience for me. Not because we don’t get along, but because their house – my former home – brings back a lot of memories and situations from the past. I can see the young 14/15/16 year old Rini everywhere I look. The room I sit in is where I would secretly binge eat while my parents were downstairs. My bed is where I used to hide during dinner time when I said I wasn’t hungry, even though I was starving. In the 2 weeks I’ve been here I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while. When they saw me, most of them felt compelled to tell me I gained weight. It’s mind boggling how our weight is always the first thing people talk about when they reunite. ? And to that I say yes, maybe I gained weight but I also gained LIFE. I gained more laughs and more joy and more self-love. I gained ME. The real me. . . . Did you ever experience a moment where you felt like you are finally yourself? I always love hearing about your lives ❤️ . . . . PS: My blog post about how I stopped binge eating is up for you to read. Link is in my bio and my stories ❤️ . . . #empoweredwomenempowerwomen #throwbackthursday

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Everything came to a head in October 2016 (when I was 26), a month after my wedding. I had been dieting harder than ever, and working out more intensely than ever to look fabulous in my dress. But I had been so calorie deprived for so long, I physically and mentally couldn’t keep up with my lifestyle anymore.

Then I had my rock-bottom moment: My new husband walked in on me in the middle of a binge episode. I knew then and there that I needed help, that I couldn’t live like this anymore. That I didn’t want to live like this anymore. What I really wanted was to feel strong, empowered—and free.

Growing up I never heard anyone say positive things about their body. All I heard people and magazines say is that being smaller is better than letting our bodies do their thing. I associated shrinking my body with being more successful, more lovable, more healthy… none of this was true. I spent well over a decade at war with my body, trying every single way of eating and exercising to shrink myself. My mental and physical health got worse the smaller I got. My digestion was a war zone. My sleep was bad. My period was gone. My social life was non existent. My self esteem was lower than ever. I spend a whole year working actively on breaking my thought patterns, breaking my disordered food habits and resting as much as I could. My body now has been the same for the past several months, no matter what I eat. I don’t actively control my weight at all, my body just found its happy place and my weight is stable without me thinking about it. My health is better than ever. I feel strong and energized in the morning and I can focus on my business, my clients and my passion. I don’t care how much I weigh or how much weight I had to put on to get to where I’m at. I share this because I know that most women in this world grow up thinking like I used to. Breaking those thought patterns is liberating AF and I want this for all of you! ❤️ . . . . _______________________________________ #screwthescale #healthylifestyle #happiness #balancednotclean #intuitiveeating #foodfreedom #edrecovery #prorecovery #recoveryispossible #selflove #bodygoals #selfacceptance #nonairbrushedme #bodyconfidence #bodyposi #buzzfeed #womenempowerment #fitnessjourney #healthynothungry

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I hired a coach, who I worked with for six months, to help me gain weight back. I took a complete break from working out for more than two months. Mentally, I felt as if all my hard work had gone down the drain. And when I got back to the gym, I felt like I was starting from scratch. I felt weak, discouraged.

But every single day, when I woke up, I decided to try and just accept myself as I was. No more criticizing, no more wanting to be something more. This didn’t always work, but on the days it did, I was able to train and just focus on getting stronger and doing something good for my body.

It was definitely a rocky start. Watching my body gain weight was really hard. I still had one leg in the bikini competition mindset and the other in recovery, balance, and true health. But a few months into eating more and exercising at a lesser intensity, I started feeling this sense of appreciation for my body, and how resilient it is.

The support from other women on social media helped immensely, and I started doing a lot of self care. I listened to a ton of podcasts about recovery and body positivity. During my break from training, I went on long walks, which helped me reflect and decide what steps I could take to lead a healthier life. I started following body-positive influencers on social media and unfollowed accounts (like bodybuilders or fitness models) that were triggering for me.

When I started exercising again, my workouts weren’t as intense as they used to be. But about a year into my recovery, I noticed I was actually stronger. I felt more energized when I woke up in the morning, ready to tackle the day. That was a totally new feeling for me.

One day I went to the gym, knocked out a great workout, and just thought, “WHOA, I feel so strong and amazing right now and it has nothing to do with how I look!” That was maybe the first time I’d ever felt that way.

Here's some TRX high intensity interval training (HIIT). I switched between those four exercises for 50 seconds each, 8 rounds. It was TOUGH but so good!! I took over a week off training, because I started feeling resentful towards exercise and dreading it. I was not in the right mental space and chose to listen to my body and take some rest. I took long walks with Bruce ? and decided to get some extra sleep in the mornings. I was so motivated to get back into it tonight! Moral of the story: it is OKAY to take a break from exercise ❤️ . . . #ownitbabeworkouts #trx . . . . . . . . #outdoorworkout #workoutvideo #hiit #hiitworkout #hiitcardio #trxworkout #trxcore #yyc #yycfitness #fitnessblogger #blogger #workout #fitness #fitnessmotivation #fitnessjourney #mindfulmovement #yycliving #summervibes #thursday

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I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for a little over a year. My focus is overall strength and conditioning, while having fun at the same time.

I’ve moved away from doing split workouts and instead focus on total-body strength, with a mix of cardio—such as box jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, and other “non-traditional” cardio variations.

I do a lot of squats and deadlifts because I love them, but I also love to do a mix of upper- and lower-body strength training with dumbbells, kettlebells, and TRX. I love lifting weights and doing HIIT, but I don’t get hung up on the aesthetics anymore, which is very liberating.

Thank you so much for your loving comments on yesterday’s post. I am forever grateful for this community. Breakfast looked a little different today, because i was out of oats or anything pancake related ? Buddha bowl it is ♥️ . . . I basically make my Buddha bowls by throwing everything in my fridge into a bowl, slapping an egg on top and covering it in tahini drizzle. . . . Some days I crave more protein, some days I crave plenty of carbs and other days I crave lots of fats. I can honestly say I was never as in tune with my body as I am these days, even though I still have a long way to go. But I’m feeling good ♥️ . . . I hope everyone has a peaceful and relaxing Sunday! Here is your reminder to rest and play ? . . . #whatsinmybowl Organic brown rice Baked white sweet potato Shredded carrots Homemade guacamole Roasted chickpeas Broccoli sprouts Fried egg Homemade tahini drizzle . . . #ownitbabe #buddhabowl #breakfastisserved #eattherainbow #intuitiveeating #healthfuldecember #edrecovery #foodisfuel #balancednotclean #balanceddiet #healthynothungry #prorecovery #foodblogger #yyc #yycfoodblogger #yycliving #intuitivessen #keinediät #keinediätistdiebestediät #feedfeed #buzzfeast

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Now, I eat intuitively. I try and include a protein source in every meal, such as eggs, chicken, beef, beans, legumes, and sometimes cheese or Greek yogurt. But my meals look totally different from day-to-day.

A typical day might look something like:

Breakfast: Eggs, toast, and avocado (in the past I would have never allowed myself to eat bread, but now I love it).
Lunch: Homemade burger patty with sweet potato and broccoli, a chicken wrap, or a chicken salad—depending on my hunger levels.
Dinner: Steak and pineapple skewers with brown rice, chicken and pasta, or sometimes breakfast for dinner (eggs and toast again, because it’s so yummy!).
Snacks between meals: KIND bar, mixed nuts, homemade trail mix, Greek yogurt with fruit, rice cakes with peanut butter.

Transformation-Tuesday. What you see is two completely different girls – on the left you see a girl that was obsessed with having abs and only eating clean foods. She was terrified of eating anything "unhealthy" and terrified of socializing and spending time with loved ones in fear of having to eat "cheat foods". On the right you see the same girl but with a completely different mindset. She took matters into her own hands and decided to live life and stop chasing perfection. She takes action on building her dream life and allows herself to feel feelings and to be loved by herself and others for who she is. You are NOT stuck. Recovery is hard but if I can take that road, so can you. . . . #ownitbabe #transformationtuesday . . . . . . . . #edrecovery #intuitiveeating #mindfuleating #recovery #healthynothungry #strength #resilience #transformation #fitness #fitnessjourney #lifestyleblogger #fitnessblogger #blogger #tyc #yycfitness #yycliving #foodblogger #foodfreedom #bodypositive #bodypositivity #bodyacceptance #positivevibes #livelaughlove

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It’s hard to know I’ll probably never train as hard as I once did, but now I can lift heavier, and I can do fun things in the gym—and actually enjoy myself—instead of trying to shape a specific part of my body.

I am now the biggest I have ever been, and I’ve never been happier with my body. I am finally at peace with my shape; a lean body never made me happy or healthy.

Getting healthy helped me gain a tremendous amount of confidence that I never had before.

“I’m just going to clean up my diet a little bit” is how my orthorexia started. Swapping out dessert for fruit, having a smoothie instead of a chocolate bar and things like that is what I did before everything spun out of control. I felt great for a few weeks, until I started getting more and more picky with what I ate and how much I exercised every day. The smoothies and fruit slowly became protein shakes (with water) and broccoli. At the time, I didn’t consciously notice how obsessed I became. Partly because EVERYBODY was praising my weight loss and toned body and was asking me for diet advice. I felt superior and strong for all the wrong reasons. A few months in, I was only eating the exact same meals every day. Lean protein with green veggies and the occasional sweet potato as a carb source ??‍♀️ As the number on the scale kept going down, I became more and more obsessed with “never cheating on my diet” and exercising for hours every day. My life revolved around the gym and around meal prep, but not the fun kind. Picture me baking 20 plain chicken breasts without any seasoning to have on hand for the week ? I just want to go back to my old self and give her a big hug. I want to tell her that she doesn’t need to sacrifice her happiness to look a certain way and get praise from the outside world. I want to tell her that she is worthy already and that she can enjoy food without being obsessed with eating “clean”. I want to tell her that she won’t be stuck forever, because one day she will realize that living life is more important than being shredded ❤️ . . . What is something you would like to tell your former self? . . _______________________________________ #bodyacceptance #selflove #nourishnotpunish #edrecovery #prorecovery #recoveryisworthit #everybodyisbeautiful #bodyposi #bopowarrior #effyourbeautystandards #nonairbrushedme #selfacceptance #healthylifestyle #balanced #ownyourbody #healthspo #yyc

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It most likely won’t, and it will take away your social life, your relationships, and your sanity.

Find an approach to food and exercise will make for a happy life with lots of trips and traveling (without obsessing over food), lots of girls night outs, lots of delicious meals with your significant other, and generally lots and lots of happy memories you otherwise would have missed if you obsessed about eating “clean” or having abs.

Memories over macros.

Follow Rini’s fitness journey @ownitbabe.

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