Based in Frome, somerset, #fitMess is a blog by Joanna Beale. Her posts draw on her work as a personal trainer, as well as her own personal past experience of significant obesity.  Her general focus is overall wellness and body positivity.

A New Day

As with so many of my posts, I began writing this a number of months ago, and, as with so many of my posts, I've spent a really long time trying to get this out the right way. I’m not sure I have, so bear with me, and take from it what’s useful to you.

We all have a truth that either builds us or breaks us; the extent to which either occurs is dependent on its emotional hold over you. You can own it, or it will own you. So many disordered behaviours are led by our secret truths, the things that linger over us from yesteryear, dictating our choices as we naively believe we successfully run to escape them... only to find they're waiting to trip us up around the next corner. 

Something I've really been struggling with recently is this exact issue of disordered behaviour, unconstructive habits, and cycles of self-sabotage. I'm haunted by a sense of failure, feelings of inferiority, and an overwhelming belief that I'm an impostor in my own life. Are any of these things ‘real’? Probably not. Do they feel crippling? Undoubtedly, and resoundingly, yes. All are symptoms of perfectionism, but without the payoff of being excellently disciplined in any area. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve been envious of friends with painful OCD for cleaning, or that I’ve secretly torn myself apart with jealousy towards friends with significantly damaging (lack of) eating habits. Towards these mental illnesses, my own mediocrity seems to pine, some days. To be so ‘good’ at any kind of extreme behaviour that your entire life is affected, even threatened, by it… well, that seems beyond the realms of even my most dementedly wild aspirations.

A projected persona of boldness, brashness and invincibility: that’s me. I lose track of the number of times that people have told me that they were ‘kind of scared’ of me to start with. Exuding confidence to the point of overbearingness. Forcing myself to the centre of attention at every opportunity. All of this for one single reason: to find some kind of validation, but only ever through the feedback or opinions of others. Masking all the insecurity, anxiety and fear becomes the routine. Coping, rather than resolving. Disguising, rather than moving forward. Spending my life at a costume party instead of facing what is in the mirror.

The fact is, most of us are pretty good at identifying our flaws. We might distract ourselves by fixating on things that are more like symptoms than causes, but eventually return to the place where we can’t run any further.

From the age of 19, I knew I had a problem with alcohol. I can tell you a ton of stories about all the times I kind-of-sort-of-half-attempted to address it; I can tell you even more about the times that it seemed like a better idea to ignore the issue; it’s only now that I might be honest and actually tell you how it has torn me apart. And, by that, I mean the number of times it's hurt others, put me at risk, or nearly killed me.

From the age of 15, I knew I had a problem with food. Not half as dramatic as an addiction to something high risk. Not as 'glamorous' as the non-stop chaos that goes along with blackouts and disaster. Eating yourself to death is a slow, painful way to die. Years of bleak, wallowing, caged sadness. A painful, guilt-ridden life that becomes physically slowed to the point of inescapable terror. Moments of brief self-loathing turn into months and years of creeping, growing horror, spent caught in a downward spiral, trapping you in the realisation that you might never make it back. The bigger you become, the further you fall into the acceptance that change might be even less possible by the day. At 21 stone (130kg/300lb), I honestly never thought I would, or could, exist in the world as a 'normal', 'acceptable' human being. One thing I can guarantee is if you haven't experienced any kind of disordered relationship with food, you're probably never going to understand it. Fat? Eat less, move more. Thin? Just eat more. It's so simple, right? Fucking massive eyeroll over here. Nobody ends up either extremely fat or extremely thin without needing to resolve something in their life that falls outside the perceived remit of 'diet and exercise'.

We all have our demons. We all have our secrets, our pain, our fears. I absolutely promise you that, without confronting these, you will never escape them. The freedom from all the things that hold us back is rooted in our ability to reflect, to learn and to change. Change is not only possible, it is unavoidable. It's just that if you aren't actively trying to change things in the direction you want them to go, then you're simply riding an unstoppable rollercoaster with your eyes closed.

Every day we aren't working for our goals, we're working against them. I'm talking about actual, pragmatic, constructive work. Whether that work requires a specific action (the anorexic trying to eat), or inaction (the addict trying to abstain), you need support, you need a plan or framework, and you need a goal. It’s good to start with an honest and truthful acknowledgement, but don’t just stop there, languishing for decades in a spiral of denial and flawed coping mechanisms. Face it, own it, change it. Little goals, big goals. You're either all in, or you're going nowhere.

If you need any specialist help:

Mind (charity): guides to support and services, including addiction and dependency, abuse support, bereavement, therapy and counselling, and much more.


The persistence of memory

The persistence of memory

Bottled up

Bottled up