During this time, I wasn't exercising for myself – I was exercising as punishment. I felt that if I ate something ‘bad’ the day before, I had to work it off. It was almost like an equation: I had to burn these calories to look a certain way. It was a really, really negative mindset.
I hadn’t grown up like that. My family is very active, and I loved playing team sports all through high school. I started cross-country running in years 11 and 12; I was actually really bad at it when I started! But I learned that if I practised and I trained, I got better. I felt accomplished by the end of year 12.
But then I lost my connection with sport. Going from high school to university, you lose a lot of structure. You can do whatever you want with your time, and now I realise I spent a lot of time trying to look a certain way. I didn’t actually prioritise my fitness for the right reasons – I was focused on physical outcomes.
In my head, exercise was linked with negativity, with having eaten something bad, instead of it being for myself. Everything was about measurements and calories, instead of just enjoying it and getting what I needed out of it.
When you're focusing on physical things, it's like, "What exercise should I do to lose five kilos?" It's not about what you enjoy, or something you can keep doing – and those things are important. If you're depriving yourself of food and exercising two hours a day, your social life will be affected, too.