When I was 21, I was in the best shape of my life.
I had dropped the “Freshman 15” (which in my case was more like the Freshman 20), was a regular gym-goer and had become a relatively decent eater.
When I was 21, I also went to war with my body.
In the midst of my quarter-life crisis, I had jumped into a relationship too quickly and with someone who shared far too much of the “visually-driven male psyche” with me. I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life… I wasn’t in a place where I could stand proudly and say “this is who I am and I am perfect as is.” I also didn’t know how to love myself or my body. So despite being in really great shape (and content as is to this point), I became obsessed with perfection.
I can stand to lose 5 – 10 more lbs, I weighed less in high school.
My thighs shouldn’t touch.
My butt should be tighter and higher… freaking Jessica Biel.
Is that a touch of cellulite? Oh my gawd, noooo.
Armpit fat isn’t sexy, it needs to go pronto.
I need to have sexy arms, but not be too buff.
I started working out even harder and following the Body for Life diet plan… which, honestly, wasn’t a terrible thing. I was getting stronger and I felt amazing from eating really, really clean. For awhile, this was actually very healthy for me.
What was terrible, was that when I looked in the mirror, I ONLY saw room for improvement. I didn’t see healthy or fit, even progress…
I obsessed over all the women in Hollywood, the skinny girls with great butts in little shorts at the gym, and frankly anyone around me who was in better shape than me. No matter where I was, there was some person or reason to feel like I wasn’t good enough… that I needed to work harder, eat cleaner and be sexier.
Unfortunately for me, working out hard and eating better didn’t equate to a hotter bod… it meant ungodly amounts of unnecessary stress (on top of the job-hopping, preparing for a court battle, moving, a new relationship, and the general “who am I and why am I here” daily confusion and frustration of my quarter-life crisis).
All that to say… I gained weight and developed my very own eating disorder.
It started slowly… a few pounds here, a couple there. The slightest increase on the scale sent me into a tailspin of self loathing, fear and stress. I would tell myself such horrible things and put so much pressure on myself to “turn it around” immediately.
Eating became so stressful for me. I would try so hard to eat “perfectly” and super clean in order to quickly drop the weight… I would endlessly count calories and if I slipped up even slightly, I would become seriously stressed about my body.
I would also berate myself.
Why can’t I just eat healthy… what is my problem?
What the f* is wrong with me, why did I eat so much _____!?
Oh my god, I’m never going to lose weight.
I’m so gross.
Somewhere on the journey, I’m not entirely sure where exactly, food become my sole source of pleasure. I was always an emotional eater, snacker and sweets lover, so it’s highly likely this behavior had always been there… but at some point, it became an impossible struggle for me.
All I wanted was to lose weight. Yet… All I wanted was to eat yummy things that made me feel a few moments of joy, relief and peace.
Several years into this journey, I had become so chronically stressed (for soooo many reasons) that it really didn’t matter what I ate… I gained or maintained my weight. I had developed severe issues with food and body image and felt like all I was doing was ballooning up (I had gained close to 30lbs over a few years).
I was depressed, stressed out, obsessed with food, calories and weight, and felt incredibly unworthy of love and acceptance because of it. I was so uncomfortable in my body, all the time, even with friends who loved me, family, my boyfriend and at the beach or gym.
I felt embarrassed.
Fast forward to a couple years ago… the winter I decided to give a crazy diet a try.
I found out about a highly controversial “diet” that includes taking hormones to reduce hunger and not really eating anything at all. I could eat two pieces of Melba toast, two apples, a couple protein shakes and only certain vegetables in certain quantities and pairings… AND, no more than 500 calories a day.
I was desperate.
I lasted about 33 of the 40 days. While I successfully dropped over 10lbs, I also further fueled my obsession with food and weight in a more unhealthy way.
I would literally sit and look through food photos on instagram and struggle not to cheat on this crazy diet plan. I received a lot of praise for dropping weight and that validated the sense of “worth” that came with skinny for me. I couldn’t work out, being that I wasn’t eating and all, so I began to lose any strength I had gained.
I also believed this was the only way I could lose weight… since it was the only time I had made any significant progress in the last several years. I immediately planned to do a second round as soon as it was okay to do so.
It would be several months before I would have another go… but during this time, I finally began to hear my intuition telling me, there’s a better way. As with all important truths, it started as a tiny whisper and slowly grew to a mighty roar.
The second time I tried this diet, I only lasted about a week. Feeling like a failure, I tried a third time and went about two weeks. I managed to lose the weight I had lost between my first round and these last two (because that’s what happens when you starve yourself or crash diet, you gain it back, always), but I just couldn’t ignore my intuition any longer.
There’s a better, healthier way.
I started reading books about health and eating disorders. Thrive and Women, Food and God were two of the most impactful books I read. I started listening to my body… eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full. Most importantly, when I wasn’t hungry, I started practicing pleasure and self care instead of filling myself with food.
I would go to the beach, spend time with a friend, write in my journal about what I was feeling or do anything that brought me pleasure and joy. I worked on loving myself. Telling myself only positive things when I looked in the mirror and believing others when they told me the same. I worked on accepting myself where I was.
And then last fall everything changed.
I found a different source of motivation for working out AND for why I wanted to get my body back in shape.
It started when I decided to prioritize my HEALTH, not my looks. Years of chronic stress had started showing up as digestive issues. I felt weak and was easily winded on hikes. I knew that if I wanted to do amazing work in the world and inspire others to live their best, healthiest and happiest lives, I needed to be MY healthiest self. I needed to be strong, vibrant and energized. I found a different source of motivation.
So I hired an amazing personal trainer who’s views on working out aligned with my new view. We focused on core, balance, agility, endurance and hand eye coordination. Instead of focusing on being thin, tightening up my “problem” areas or anything superficial, we focused on creating a SOLID foundation for having a strong, healthy body.
And you know what happened? I fell in love with working out. Instead of forcing myself to go to the gym because I needed to burn 500 calories in order to lose X lbs by a certain date, I went because I wanted to.
I began to LOVE how strong, in control and powerful it made me feel.
I stopped weighing myself (even closing my eyes when my trainer would!) and focused on how I FELT. I learned about food and worked with a great health coach. I experimented with eating, making note of what made me feel good and what made me feel like crap. I bought a juicer and became more active.
I’m still a work in progress.
Just a couple weeks ago I had an amazing coaching session where we worked to release some of my limiting beliefs. For my body (because close to seven years of war means there’s still a lot to heal and release!), we co-created the new belief, “I love how strong and capable my body is.” She asked me if I could really believe my way into that new belief and I was a strong YES.
I have learned to deeply love and appreciate my body since shifting my focus and working with a trainer. Our bodies are pretty amazing and in the last, almost nine months, I have accomplished so much with this body of mine, including running the 8.1mi Great Aloha Run in the spring, balancing on a medicine ball with one foot and doing some crazy hard workouts with my trainer. Things I never thought I could do.
I would say 95% of the time I’m in love with my body, just as it is, but I’m not immune to feeling unhappy from time to time. I no longer have issues with food and have learned to practice forgiveness and acceptance when I do decide to treat myself or I overeat from stress. Food and I are learning to be friends while my body and I are learning to be lovers. This isn’t an easy journey, but I’ve learned and grown so much.
Taking responsibility for your health, well-being and relationships with your self and body is hugely important.
I can’t stress this enough.
Self love isn’t easy and it’s certainly not something we’re taught. It can also be very hard to be a woman in this world. All I know is that life is way too short to obsess over your body the way I did. And when you look back, you’re going to wonder why you thought there was anything wrong with you at all. I know I do. 🙂
So tell me…
- Where can you shift your motivations around health and fitness? If you’re struggling to reach a superficial goal, what is something deeper that will motivate and drive you to take responsibility for your health? It could be your children, your purpose or mission in life, wanting to run a marathon or hike Kilimanjaro, or even just to feel vibrant, healthy and alive. Stop focusing on the superficial and connect with something much deeper and more meaningful for you.
- What do you LOVE about your body? What are your favorite features? If you want to be a rock star, tell me THREE THINGS you LOVE about your biggest “problem areas.” If you can find three things you truly love, you can begin to shine love and positivity where you need it most. It can be as simple as “I love the color of my thighs” or “my legs help me walk to and from the park every time I want to go.” Start small if you need to and try to find something new every day.