Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Welcome to Rose-Minded, the mental health blog and self-care shop for anyone and everyone. Find support on our site by becoming a member and chatting with others, write for us, and have your story published online, or find information and encouragement from our many mental health and lifestyle articles! Continue reading for how fitness changed guest writer Anthony Gonzalez's life and mental health.
I want to tell you a story that starts when I was 5 years old. Believe it or not, I started worrying at this age. I was diagnosed with GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) at 5 years old which is very rare to be diagnosed with this condition at this age. This has a lot to do with why I worried so much on the first day of school. Every year my condition would not fail to get me worrying on the first day of school. As I started to grow up it got worse and soon, I was having morning sickness every day.
In high school, I remember going to the doctor on one of the worst years that it upset me. I remember that day very clearly because I had to document everything that was happening to me. I would wake up and immediately feel like I needed to throw up. It did not matter if I had anything to eat the night before; I would still throw up the acid I had in my stomach. The doctor told my mom that this would lead to cancer if I was not able to control or maintain the throwing up. I remember that my mom began to cry. I started to take acid reducers so that I can control the reflux. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. The severity of my condition interfered with my social life because I did not know when I was going to have a reflux episode.
I soon began to realize that it was not normal to have a condition like this even though a lot of older adults claimed to have acid reflux. They did not have it like me; the condition was so severe at the time that it was hard to carry on conversations with people because I felt like I needed to throw up in the middle of them. This contributed a lot to the social anxiety I had at the time. My appetite suffered because of my condition. I tried to avoid eating in the morning because I would immediately throw the food up if I did. When I started my fitness journey, I realized that I was not eating correctly and not providing my body with the right foods to support my digestion. Vegetables have saved my life. I did not realize how important they were until I started seeing major changes to my digestion when I started eating them throughout the day and not just at dinner.
My first year of college was a challenge for me mentally. I was finally going out into the world and becoming an adult. I was going in blind because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. First, I took some radiology prereq classes, and then I decided I wanted to become a doctor. Before the decision of wanting to become a doctor, I worked at a car wash. I was miserable there and I became comfortable as I took a semester of college off in 2015. My mind became so stagnant and so bored that I began to see things. I researched symptoms of schizophrenia because I wondered if that is what I had.
I remember my dad saying that he had a psychotic episode in college, so I dug deeper and found out in an article that psychotic episodes are likely in the offspring of people that have had one. I became so obsessed with other things as well. I was so depressed at that time. I never wanted to go out or meet people. I started having suicidal thoughts, but I did not tell anybody. I did not want to live in this world anymore. I would not be able to tell you why, but I will tell you how I got out of that dark mindset. The key for me was to talk to people but it was not that easy. I was subconsciously waiting for something to happen and I did not know it until I went to a party.
I was quiet at this party. At that party, one of my aunts tried to talk to me but I was always quiet, so they thought it was normal for me to be quiet. Although this is true, when she asked me what I liked to do for fun I could not answer her. I was choked up and she proceeded to ask me if I wanted to step outside and talk. I agreed and we talked. My aunt told me that I would hurt a lot of people if I were to continue with my thoughts and end my life. I did not have a plan, but I attempted my healing process right away by calling some people out to tell them what I was thinking.
"Fitness has helped me tremendously because it reduces my stress on a day to day basis, it keeps me plugged into a community and I feel more confident in myself than I ever have." - Anthony Gonzalez
I felt ashamed about what I was thinking but was relieved that I finally was able to get it off my chest. I danced with my cousin that night because it is a Filipino tradition for all the men to dance with a woman when she turns 18. This meant the world to me and I felt like the healing process was beginning because I would not have wanted to miss that dance.
I proceeded to try to get professional help. I talked to counselors at my college which was Bakersfield College at the time. At first, it was relieving to get the stuff I was thinking off of my chest but that feeling did not last long. They did not give me anything practical to focus on. The only thing they did was listen to me. They did tell me to go to an actual clinic and I went but when I saw what I was going to have to pay for each session I said, “F This!”. I literally dropped all my plans for the day and proceeded to go grocery shopping. That day was the day I started my fitness journey.
Fitness has helped me tremendously because it reduces my stress on a day to day basis, it keeps me plugged into a community and I feel more confident in myself than I ever have. At first, I did not know what I was doing when I started in 2015. There was so much trial and error. I decided to get a personal trainer, his name is Carlos Pat. His name is @carlospat_ on Instagram. He taught me so many foundational skills to succeed in the gym. This was just the beginning because I was not seeing the results I wanted. I was still trying to figure out what those results were.
Not getting results was my fault because I was not eating enough. I asked around for tips and people said to eat more protein and eat more carbs. I finally realized that I was not happy doing bodybuilding. I signed up for a transformation challenge from my nutrition shop “prime sports nutrition” and I was immediately disqualified because I did not check in to do a body scan. They gave me something much more valuable though. They gave me a community to share my progress with. I realized that I loved to lift heavy and it is an outlet for me. When I am thinking too much or have anxiety, I know that the gym will always be there for me. Thanks to Fernando Arias, CEO of Prime Sports Nutrition, and his team I continue to come back because of their passion to help others with their fitness goals.
If you think that fitness will help you with your mental illness or just want to start as a hobby, here are some tips and important health acknowledgments to get started.
Tips on Getting Started
1. Consult a doctor first before starting any resistance training: It is important to know how healthy you are to start exercising and if there are any limitations barring you from heavy lifting
2. Visit a local nutrition shop and ask for a body scan: This will tell you important things about your body like lean body mass and body fat percentage
3. Discuss with a nutrition shop what your goals are: They will provide you with supplement knowledge and often times will sell meal plan guides
4. Get a gym membership and ask for a tour so that you know what the machines do
5. Optional: A personal trainer could help you build foundational skills, but it is not required to succeed in the gym
6. Optional: Join a class and meet people on the same journey as you
7. Download myfitnesspal to track your progress: This app will tell you how many macronutrients you need to eat based on your body scan and you can adjust them based on your goals (There will be trial and error).
8. Go to the gym with a friend and push each other to do better
9. Bring a notebook with you and track your progress on reps and amount of weight you are lifting
10. And most importantly have fun! The goal is to create something sustainable and it is not to torture yourself
About the Author
Anthony Gonzalez is a nutrition/fitness activist. He is currently working on his Bachelor's degree in Psychology and hopes to become a behavior analyst for children with autism in the future. Later on, he plans on going back to school to get certified as a personal trainer so he can start helping people as an online coach.
You can follow Anthony on Instagram at @agzal_