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There was a time I obsessed over what I would eat and when. Everything revolved around my workout schedule. I’d turn down dinner invitations and other activities if they interfered with my trip to the gym or wouldn’t easily fit whatever diet I was following at the time.

Put bluntly: My diet and workout schedule dictated what I would, and would not, do in my life.

My incessant need to put my fitness habits above all else eventually caught up to me and led to disordered eating, uncontrollable binging, exhaustion from long and grueling workouts, obsessing over my weight, and constant dissatisfaction with my body.

At that point, I was my health and fitness regimen. And nothing more.

But, thankfully, many years ago I experienced a huge transition. I decided that my health and fitness routine would no longer define me, and it wouldn’t control my life. I would no longer be this diet or that workout routine. It was time for health and fitness to be a tool that would allow me live a more awesome, fulfilling life.

You Are Not Your Diet

Nia Shanks Have you seen the movie Fight Club? In it, Brad Pitt’s character delivers a famous speech about identity: “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f***ing khakis.” Pitt’s character understands there’s danger in hanging your whole identity on external stuff.

Well, I am not my health and fitness habits, and neither are you.

To put this in a Fight Club sort-of-way:

You’re not your diet.
You’re not your workout routine.
You’re not the size of your jeans.
You’re not how much body fat you have or the number on the scale.

Eating Well and Exercising Are Tools

Health and fitness should be a means for you to pursue the best version of yourself while living a more awesome life.

How we eat and work out should not consume our lives and dictate our every move.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look better. I’ve built my career off helping people lose fat and gain muscle. And I want to feel confident and enjoy my looks too. So I will always eat well and stay physically active in part to feel good in my skin.

But how we eat and work out should not consume our lives and dictate our every move.

What “Healthy” Should and Shouldn’t Be

Nia Shanks Diet Being healthy shouldn’t stress you out, overwhelm you, or make you feel bad about yourself.

It shouldn't be about constantly chasing lower body fat, better glutes, tougher workouts, or some state of “perfection.”

It shouldn't mean your happiness is on hold until you reach certain goals.

Being healthy should make your life better and, eventually, easier.

It should build you up, reduce your stress, and enhance the rest of your life.

It should make you appreciate your body for the amazing things it’s capable of doing, not just the way it looks.

It should make you and your life more awesome.

Demand More From Your Fitness Routine

This won’t resonate with everyone, and I don’t expect it to. For some working out and eating well is only about looking good. That’s fine and completely understandable. But some of us want, and expect, more for our efforts. We want to squeeze every possible benefit from our actions. We demand a greater carryover from our fitness routine so it can positively impact everything else we choose to do—and not leach away from the rest of our life. And surprisingly it starts with using fitness as a tool, not a title.

So be bold! Stop identifying with your health and fitness routine and start looking at it as part of a lifestyle. Don’t let it consume or define you. You will be amazed at how awesome your life as a whole becomes.

This post, You Are Not Your Diet, was written by Nia Shanks and originally appeared on To learn more about her, read her blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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