Victoria D'Ariano mental health

My name is Victoria D’Ariano and I am a social media influencer. I have been a fitness competitor for the past five years, and my life revolved around working out, eating a certain way and constantly looking to improve my physique. Over the last six months, my life has changed and my focus has shifted. I no longer compete, and instead focus on improving who I am as a person internally versus externally. Why the sudden shift, you might ask?

I have struggled with mental health issues since I was around 10 years old. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and have been on a roller coaster with this throughout my life. Fitness for me started as an outlet, therapeutic. It was a way to be present, get out of my head and allow myself to express what I had been holding in so tight. The more I got involved, the more the obsession took over and not in a healthy, positive way. I no longer valued the real importance of exercise. Instead it was all about looking a certain way; I was chasing “perfection.”

I have always had body image issues. I suppose that is how I ended up in the sport in the first place: I was able to tie in being athletic but also seeking to improve my physique. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your physique, but you must embrace and be proud of where you are at each step along the way. I didn’t do this, all I focused on was where I wanted to get to. The sad thing being each time I would achieve that, I wouldn’t be satisfied, as my mind would have already shifted to the next physique goal. The more I pushed, the more unhappy and insecure I became.

Happiness for me was dependent on how I looked. I always expected myself to look shredded and anytime I wasn’t, I was not happy and felt I was letting myself and others down. It became a vicious cycle. I was so consumed with my body I was missing out on life and the things that have real value. I neglected to be happy about the person I am on the inside and the positive impact I have on others due to this. All I thought was I need to look this way, and I am not good enough if I don’t.

The fluctuating body weight, along with the overtraining and stress I put on myself caused my depression and anxiety to get much worse, I was constantly unstable despite being on medication. I was also suffering with obsessive behaviors over food and extreme anxiety over what I was eating. Anytime I ate something “bad”, I felt instant guilt and anger towards myself anytime. I was lost, and instead of enjoying exercise for all its amazing benefits I was being controlled by it, consumed by it.

I decided to take a step back, and finally I could see the clear picture. I then realized how unhealthy this sport became for me and how much it was damaging me. I’ve always loved exercise and the way it made me feel, I miss that. It is what I am working on getting back to. The benefits exercise can provide are beyond incredible and it is so important to implement it into your life, but in the right and healthy way.

I strive to be an advocate for mental health and help others improve and grow as I do so myself. So many of us have the same struggles but we never talk about them. We only paint the picture we want to on social media, which only shows a small fraction of real life. I want others to know they are never alone and that you can overcome the darkest of days, despite feeling otherwise. I am grateful to be able to write for BPI Sports, as it shows how much this brand supports mental health, and health in general. I look forward to sharing more topics and insight into mental health with all of you!

-Victoria