Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds.
A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.
We all know Elita as that happy, bubbly girl who brightens up the gym with her smile. But unfortunately it took Elita a long time to get to this positive point in her life. She was diagnosed with clinical depression and couldn’t see a way out, worrying that she would always feel this way.
So how did she do it? How did she find happiness? Elita tells us all about her journey.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your story before starting CrossFit?
A: As a young child I was lucky enough to live in Australia, where we spent a lot of time outdoors no matter what the temperature, so we generally lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.
When my family moved to Dubai in 2008, I chose to stay in Australia, and learnt to fend for myself. In doing so, I put myself through a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress, which lead me to put on a lot of weight and become an emotional eater. I wasn’t aware of my bodies needs and what was working and what wasn’t working…and therefore I spiraled out of control. I eventually made a decision to move to the Middle East to be with my family, who have always been there to support me in keeping fit and healthy. As my family have always been fit and healthy, when people said it could be genetics, I knew I had no excuses, as this is not necessarily correct, as we are all individuals. It is important to be in tune with our bodies, and to know and understand what does and doesn’t work for our bodies and implement and stick to those things which do work.
When I moved to the Middle East in 2013, I knew that I had to make changes, and I was very aware of how unhealthy I had become and the state of mind I was in, so I knew I had to start this journey. I started doing regular exercise every day, going for runs along the beach, followed a healthy eating program, and put in place little mini goals, which were achievable, so I could start losing the weight I had gained and try to keep it off.
Q: How did your journey first lead you to CrossFit?
A: I had been aware of InnerFight through social media, and the CrossFit program they had, but as I was living in Al Ain at the time, I was unable to do anything about joining. A close friend of mine had joined InnerFight and seeing their incredible transformation, I was keen to join and experience the CrossFit style myself. As my work involves fitness, health and wellness, I was aware of different fitness styles, but not so much the CrossFit system.
When I moved back to Dubai 14 months ago, I was encouraged to join the gym, which I did, and have not been at all disappointed, in fact I have been thrilled with my experience and results.
Q: How has InnerFight and the program helped you?
A: Not long after joining InnerFight, I was faced with a very difficult experience at work, and I was diagnosed with clinical depression due to the situation I was in. Unfortunately, I could not continue with the gym for some time. After a while, I started working for myself and was able to rejoin the gym, and this has been the best thing I have ever done. There were days when I felt I couldn’t keep going, but the thought of going to a class picked me up and I was able to force myself to attend, and by experiencing how great I felt after each class, helped me to keep going back and it became addictive, and once I started to get positive results, I haven’t looked back.
InnerFight as a whole gym, has an atmosphere that is a lot more family orientated, and they have been like a family to me. Everyone is there to support each other, from the front reception who always greet you with a big smile, to the coaches who are there to encourage you and make sure you have the right technique, to those behind the scenes, doing paperwork and taking photos.
The program has always been incredible and has helped me build my strength. My arms have always been my weak spot, and I have built strength in my arms to finally be able to do an unassisted pull ups (something that has always been on my bucket list), under the guidance of my coach Mia and by doing the normal crossfit and gymnastic classes.
This program, along with my healthy eating program has allowed me to lose 15 kg in weight so far, become fitter and healthier, and most of all helped me to pull myself out of my depression and move on to a happier, healthier and stronger me.
Q: What advice would you give to others who were in your position?
Trust and believe in yourself, no-one knows you better than your own self. People are there to encourage you to keep going, but it is you that has to have the willpower, the strength and the belief to be able to start on the journey and continue the journey.
Don’t ever doubt a healthy lifestyle change, it is always for the best.
You can do this, anything is achievable, you just have to believe in the process. If I can, you can.
Never give up, no matter what you are going through. We all have good days and bad days, but we always need to remember why we started, and the saying “start now, for in three months you will wish you had started now, or start now for in one week you will wish you had started now”, is the truest saying I have learnt during this journey.
As I always say “Be your own inspiration” and “always smile because you don’t know whose day you’re making with just that one smile”
Q: Can you tell us the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in the last year?
A: Believe in yourself, and don’t lie to yourself or others. Trust your heart.
When I first started at CrossFit, I didn’t, at that time, have my mind in the right mindset. It wasn’t until someone close to me, who knew a bit about my journey, asked if I had put on weight and I said I had lost weight, (even though I knew I had put on about 5 kg) and they replied, I think you have put on weight, that it rang a loud bell and made me realise I was in complete denial. When someone says this to us, we may not want to hear it, but it is good for us to hear the truth, as others see us, as we need to be true to ourselves.
Don’t cheat, whether in your eating or workouts, you are only fooling yourself…
Q: What do you still hope to achieve?
A: At this point I am still looking to lose a few more kilos to drop down my body fat percentage even further to a healthy percentage and maintain this level for my optimal health and wellness.
Also, in this coming year I would like to achieve at least my very first one half marathon, get back into cycling and yoga again to increase my flexibility and mobility.
With Coach Mia Akerlund