Fitness trainer Gabby Male decided to debunk the diet and exercise myths out there after struggling for years on her own journey. Like most of us, she turned to the Internet to find all the information she could, but she soon got overwhelmed. Some sites said not to eat carbs, others said limit fats, and others said to eat all raw foods. How do you know which of the thousands of diets on the market to follow?!
Gabby says she wanted to stay active and healthy, so she researched to find the best path. However, all conflicting and overwhelming advice seemed to do more harm than good.
“I kind of unknowingly gave myself very disordered habits and disordered eating, and it even turned into a full blown eating disorder.”
Misinformation and peer pressure lead to eating disorders.
Unfortunately, many young women in our high-pressure world struggle with disordered eating patterns and eating disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, around 9% of Americans will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders have the highest death rate among mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose. The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating.
Below are the definitions of the two most commonly diagnosed eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.
People with anorexia maintain unhealthily low body weight. They hide their malnourished appearance under heavy layers of clothing and long sleeves. They see themselves as “fat,” despite being thin, and they also refuse to eat regular meals. Also, they maintain rigid exercise programs, even when it’s unsafe to do so, such as running on icy road conditions. This eating disorder is dangerous, and potassium and electrolytes can lead to a heart attack or death.
People with bulimia nervosa also express extreme concern over their body image. With bulimia, a person gorges themself on large amounts of food, then purges by vomiting or taking laxatives to rid themselves of the meal. They express feelings of shame or helplessness to stop these unhealthy behaviors. You may see a person developing a ritual of excusing themself to a bathroom right after eating–a sign of bulimia.
Over time, the dangerous cycle of binging and purging leads to periods of weight gain and loss, fatigue, and dehydration. As with anorexia nervosa, failure to address this health problem can lead to electrolyte imbalance or death by a heart attack.
Gabby recognized her problems and set out to debunk those diet and exercise myths.
Despite Gabby’s struggles with body image and eating habits, she learned a lot through that experience. She learned about food freedom, loving her body, and that life is about so much more than just your appearance. Now, Gabby creates content online to help others overturn exercise myths and find their own freedom.
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“I really, really struggled for a long time with food and fitness, and without that part of my journey, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today,” Gabby said. “As hard as it is, I am grateful for going through that, but my whole purpose and passion and mission now is to really make sure that, especially young women, are not having to go through that.”
She says her goal is to find ways to reach young women to share her hard-earned knowledge with them. Gabby wants women to know that they don’t have to hate their bodies or compare themselves constantly to people online. However, with social media’s pervasiveness in our society, many women find it hard to maintain their self-esteem. Especially for teens and young adults, not comparing themselves to others isn’t always easy.
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“I really encourage people to not look at weight when they are starting their health journey.” Instead, Gabby asks them to focus on what types of movement they enjoy and what makes them feel good. She wants to stress that there’s much more to health and fitness than just going to the gym. One of the biggest exercise myths she’d like to debunk is that it’s not just about weight loss.
You can even have other fitness goals besides just losing weight, such as fixing your posture or getting stronger. Most of all, your health journey should be about improving your life and feeling better. Weight loss may happen as a side effect of that, but Gabby wants people to remember that there’s much more to life than just appearances.
“My biggest advice is to actually not focus on weight. Really, really try and take a step away from that scale, and focus on just feeling your best.”
You should exercise when you feel like it, rest when you need to, and avoid perfectionism in the whole process. When you get too strict and have too many rules surrounding fitness, you can easily become obsessive. This opens the door more easily for disordered eating and overexercising. Gabby encourages people to go at their own pace and really listen to their bodies during their journey.