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  • Writer's pictureThe Recovery Bean

The pressure to join the gym - Dealing with Diet Culture at University

Hey everyone,

With lots of people moving to University over the next week or so I wanted to talk about diet culture at University and the effect it can have on those who have struggled with their relationship with food or body image. I have a whole lot to say on this topic so I’m going to make this a mini series covering the likes of nights out, sharing a kitchen and in today's post - the pressure to join the gym.

There can be a lot of pressure to join the gym at University as it may seem all your friends are doing it and you don’t want to miss out. There are also a lot of disordered attitudes towards exercise, and comments such as “I need to go to the gym to burn off calories” or “I’ve got to work out so that I can go out tonight” may be flying around causing you to feel you must work out too. This can definitely make it difficult to resist the urge to follow your peers, however it is important to remember that you are all on different paths and have separate needs... What’s healthy for one person is not necessarily healthy for you, as whilst exercise can be a good outlet for stress and a fun hobby for some, this certainly depends on the motives behind it. If you intend to use exercise in order to permit eating or drinking or as a means to alter your appearance then it is not for you.

If you find yourself in possession of an unwanted invite to the gym it can be hard to know what to do and so I thought it would be useful to share some tips on how you can manage the situation and the potential discomfort of saying no

  1. If you are struggling with comparison to your peers who are engaging in exercise, be it for positive or negative reasons, you can always remember that how someone else exercises or eats does not affect your body. Your body only cares about keeping you safe, it’s not interested in what anyone else is doing.

  2. Remember that you are inherently worthy of food and do not need to earn it. Food is not a reward, it is a basic need and one that will increase following exercise. Diet culture has sold us this goal of being in a ‘calorie deficit’ and made it seem desirable when in fact it is incredibly harmful. It is literally the glamorisation of having no energy, and in order to maintain brain function, muscle activity and sustain metabolism you need it! Therefore surrounding exercise it is crucial you increase your intake, however it is also important to remember that in the absence of exercise you can also increase your intake as your body knows what it needs to thrive, and you know what you need to feel satisfied.

  3. Know that it is an act of self-care to honour your own needs. Often we are told that working out will boost our serotonin and instantly improve our mood, and whilst there is science behind this, that does not mean it is always going to be the best way to care for your mental health. You know yourself better than any health or fitness influencer on Instagram and so ignoring their suggestion of abs and bum workout can often be the best thing you do.

I hope this post can help some of you starting or returning to Uni this month! I will be talking about diet culture surrounding nights out in my next post so hopefully see you soon!

Mais// The Recovery Bean <3

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Emily Haire
Sep 19, 2020


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