A young, strong, fit, active and healthy 24-year-old personal trainer, or so I thought. A career I chose to follow because of my passion for fitness & health, to help others feel good & look good. In seconds, I saw my visions crumble before me and an overwhelming sense of guilt, that I had been spreading a social media message that unknowingly was more damaging to health, than it was beneficial. I’ll never forget the look of shock in my dietitian’s eyes that day.
I was just doing what everyone was doing? “The grind… Train hard… Hustle… No excuses”. We live in a world where the fitness industry, and especially that portrayed on social media, takes everything to an extreme. I followed the path I thought personal trainers should take, the path I thought a fitness-crazy girl should follow to build and showcase my motivation, my story, and to inspire. In actually fact, I was taking away from the building block that allows me to do any of this. My foundations. My bones.
Our internal organ functioning, micro nutrient absorption, muscle strength and bone health are too often forgotten about in the race for a six pack. I have finally turned a corner and learned that true health starts within. I won’t be 24 forever. I want to be healthy when I am 40, 60, and elderly too.
I have documented my journey into this industry on Instagram (@nat_tilly) since I first became qualified. I’ve personally experienced how the fitness industry on social media, whilst it can be a positive source of inspiration too, can become consuming, pressuring, and cause many young ladies my age to take drastic measures. Restrict intake, cut our major food groups, over train, physique compete, achieve a lean physique, place your physical appearance and ability to “train insane” – before everything else.
I made all these mistakes. I over-trained and overworked. I forgot to ensure I included all food groups in my diet, I forgot dairy was important, I forgot to think about my calcium intake. If I had not visited a dietitian, I never would have known the damage I was doing to my bones, in just a few years, I could have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. What kind of fitness and health advocate was I?
My bone density fell to a lower than average point for my age, a scary realisation. It read 2.1g/cm3, the average for a female being 2.9g/cm3. It’s not all bad news! Luckily, we still have the capacity to build bone mass up until about 30 years of age so I still have time to build a stronger skeleton and nourish my bones with the nutrients it needs. Along with a balanced diet and sufficient energy intakes, there are certain nutrients which play specific roles in our musculoskeletal health like protein, calcium and phosphorus. Also, it’s never too late to support good bone health with a healthy lifestyle.
It’s important to realise that it’s not only the elderly population that need to look after their bone health, but it is just as important for younger generations too. Especially in an era where exercise, training and long endurance events are becoming quite popular, we need to ensure that we adequately fuel our bodies and protect our bone health while we train.
I hope that younger generations learn from my story and prevent or reverse any damage to their bones that can be avoided with greater attention being paid to their health, over physique.