From Anorexia and Gender Dysphoria to Bodybuilding and Self-Acceptance by Nikias Tomasiello
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Nikias Tomasiello, Brighton personal trainer gives us an open and honest tour of his journey from anorexia and gender dysphoria to bodybuilding and self-acceptance.
Growing up, I couldn’t connect with either fitness or my gender identity.
I was an overweight teenager, who thought exercise was a means to lose weight and “eating healthy” meant “eating less”.
I would look in the mirror and all I could see was rolls of flesh in the wrong places. I would go to PE class and all I could hear were my peers’ jeers and jabs at my chubby shape.
I hated to look at myself and I hated physical activity. So I never actually got to know my
own body. And, when I did, it was in the most self-destructive, hateful way possible.
I have always been an ambitious person. When I set myself a goal, I pursue it to the end of the earth. At 15, I made myself a promise: I would lose my excess weight.
I stopped eating out, started eating less (and less and less), and took up running.
I found I was good at it: motivated, committed, consistent. In 10 months, I lost over 35
pounds. I also lost 40 dinners with my dad, who didn’t live with us, but treated me and my brothers to a meal out every weekend.
On the plus side (pun intended), I gained two daily opportunities to fight with my mother, who coaxed me, then begged me, then yelled at me to stop making a fuss and eat some fucking food. I also got an eating disorder, so there’s that.
For a long time, I didn’t want to recover and I didn’t know why. I read teenage eating
disorder blogs on a regular basis and failed to relate to every single one of them. I didn’t want to “look pretty” or “disappear”. I wasn’t interested in being attractive and, though my body might have shrunk, my strong personality did not.
I didn’t understand that reason until seven years later. When I write “seven years”, read
“roller coaster”: in that time, I dropped to my lowest weight ever, climbed my way out of the hole and up to a healthier physical condition, flirted with intuitive eating (with disappointing results), and got to a point where my eating habits made me feel ok, albeit not happy.
However, I didn’t quite fix my relationship with exercise. I had to run four days a week,
every week, whether I wanted to or not (and I almost never did). After seven years, I’d had enough of that. I wanted to find a way to move my body that I would enjoy.
So I delved into anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and exercise science, focusing on resistance training. I bought two pairs of adjustable dumbbells, designed my very first home-based training program, and gave it a go.
And I fell in love.
Fuelled by the increasing confidence that lifting weights was giving me, I asked myself for the first time, “If I could be anyone I wanted, regardless of what anybody else thinks, who would I be?” And the answer was, “I would be a guy.”
That realisation slotted into place like the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle.
That was the reason I developed an eating disorder.
The reason I wouldn’t eat, the reason I ran so much, the reason I powered through workouts and starvation without so much as a blink.
It wasn’t because I wanted to be skinny. It wasn’t because I wanted to be pretty.
It was because I wanted to be a guy.
I loved watching my weight go down because it meant my breasts got smaller, until my chest was nearly flat. It meant that my period stopped, and with it the reminder that my body was female went away.
Bodybuilding saved my life.
Lifting weights, I began to see changes of a different kind: my arms got bigger, my shoulders got wider, my hips and waist got smaller.
I realised I didn’t have to tear myself down to be the man I was meant to be. I could build myself up through training and achieve a much better, much healthier masculine figure.
Fast-forward to more than a year later, I have now become a personal trainer and nutrition coach to help others, trans or not, find their own fitness, confidence, and identity. I also have athletic ambitions, hoping to step on a bodybuilding stage eventually.
In the meantime, I practise bodybuilding as a lifestyle.
When they think “bodybuilder”, most people imagine either a tanned, sinewy figure under blinding spotlights, or a true meathead, huffing, puffing, and growling in the gym day in and day out.
I’m not going to lie, I am a proud meathead.
However, bodybuilding is much more than this.
It’s about striving for self-improvement and giving your all to your goals. It’s about being
ambitious and persistent. It’s about playing the long game, not cheating with a quick fix.
To sustain the bodybuilding lifestyle, you have to constantly push your limits in the weight room and be careful with your nutritional choices to achieve the results you want. You also have to take care of yourself and get adequate rest.
Bodybuilding has given me balance in life.
I eat food that I enjoy and that gives me energy, I exercise in a way that makes me feel
accomplished and joyful, and I watch my body change from a place of respect, not hate.
As a trainer, I endeavour to help my clients overcome their own insecurities and anxieties, and find their own place of acceptance and contentment.