We all have something we dislike about our body, right? I know I do. The funny thing is, I didn’t always.
I grew up participating in all sorts of activities – girl scouts, ice skating (I was going to be the next Tara Lipinski), swimming, piano lessons, etc. My family put a lot of emphasis on physical activity. My brother probably participated in every sports team possible. I did marching band and swim team in high school; my typical day when I was doing both was full of pushing my body to the limit. I started my morning very early at swim practice, then went to school to marching practice, then after school went back to swim practice. It was fun. I got to eat whatever I wanted. I never hesitated buying a pop-tart out of the vending machine at school or packing a couple homemade cookies in my brown sack for lunch. I was at the height of my athletic ability and my body showed it.
Fast forward a few years to the semester after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. I stopped working out consistently when I went to college and picked up a few habits that led to me putting on a lot of weight. I remember having many lunches that consisted of those Totino’s pizza roll things. (Note: I look back on that and and want to gag now. So gross.) I learned I really like baking. I would bake cupcakes and cookies and brownies and end up eating most of them. I would go to a yoga class or swim a few laps at the rec-center and never quite figure out why I wasn’t looking like I used to. It’s interesting to me, because when I was at my heaviest I never thought I looked bad. I just knew I didn’t look as fit as I did when I was in high school. I gained stretch marks and my hips expanded. I attributed this to “becoming a woman” and gaining curves – which I’m sure some of it was, but definitely not all of it. I never had a scale in college; I never had a need to weigh myself consistently in high school because I always got a really good workout in because of swim team.
When I graduated, my mom and I talked about doing Weight Watchers together. She wanted to lose some weight and she politely pointed out that I could probably afford to lose a few pounds myself. I estimated in my head that I needed to lose about 20 pounds and we decided we would do it together. I bought a scale and finally weighed myself. 20 pounds!? It was more like 30 – 35 pounds I needed to lose to get back to a healthy weight. I know this may not seem like a lot to some, but to me this was a catastrophe. How did I let myself go so much? What was I doing wrong? I was just doing what I always did (or so I thought).
I did Weight Watchers for a little over a year and got back to a healthy weight. I was still baking a lot and buying those frozen prepackaged meals that Weight Watchers makes. I was just making sure I stayed within my “points limit”. I thought I was doing really well. I eventually quit doing WW when grad school started picking up and gained pretty much all that weight back. But I was doing all I was supposed to! I was “working out!” I was “eating well”! I held this belief all through grad school and my weight really fluctuated. It isn’t super obvious in pictures, but oh, I can tell at what point I was doing well and what point I wasn’t. It was at this point, after I started putting a lot of emphasis on the scale, that I began to nitpick my body. I would spend hours staring in the mirror, pulling my belly fat (my pooch) up tight and thinking “If I just had a flat stomach I would be happy with my body”. Or I would pull my arm fat back to make my arm look skinnier and think “If I just had leaner arms I would be happy with how I look”. I started to notice numerous things, like how I would have a double chin if I positioned my head a certain way, or how I had cellulite on the backs of my thighs so I never wanted to wear shorts. Just things I never thought about in my life before. I had never put so much importance on my physical appearance before.
I signed up for Weight Watchers again after my husband proposed. I wanted to finally get to my goal weight so I could be the hottest bride ever. I wish I could sit here and tell you that it worked, that I hit my goal weight and that I lost that stubborn belly fat. But, I can’t. (Although I do think I was a pretty gorgeous bride!) My weight continued to fluctuate. I continued to have bad eating habits. Slowly, though, I was starting to learn the best way to feed my body. I started having green smoothies for breakfast. I stopped baking unless it was for someone’s birthday, or a holiday, or an event of some sort. I started eating salads for lunch and snacking on fruit and veggies. But I also had weeks where I would binge eat candy corn (my weakness) or eat a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting. My job is very emotionally tiring, and I’m just now figuring out that I’m an emotional eater. I’ve been on my “weight loss” journey for 4 years now and I’m just now figuring this out. Weight Watchers is great and was an excellent choice for me when I was still in “college mode” – meeting friends for “a few” drinks after work, having house parties still, etc. But in my adult life? It wasn’t cutting it. I was constantly stressed with planning a wedding, being a counselor, and just general responsibilities that come with growing up. Those “extra points” were going straight to my head. I wasn’t seeing what I was doing to my body because I was still within my good point range. Despite the fact that I was eating the right number of points, I couldn’t see that the things I were putting in my body weren’t good for me. Having ice cream for dinner is all good and well if I stay in my point range, but it’s still sugar and carbs and unhealthy.
So, after my wedding, I quit Weight Watchers for good. I’ve been doing My Fitness Pal but mostly to see how much protein, fat, and carbs I’m consuming every day. I’m noticing how the foods I eat are making me feel. When I have a week where I’m having green smoothies, quinoa salads, and lean chicken breasts with veggies for dinner? I feel amazing. My energy is through the roof on those weeks! I actually want to go for a run or do yoga. When I have a week where I eat pizza and hamburgers and sweet tea? I feel lethargic and can barely get out of bed in the mornings. It’s funny. It became clear to me how food impacts us.
It wasn’t until a month ago, A MONTH AGO, PEOPLE, that I stopped weighing myself every day. A scale is important to help us keep in check where we are so we don’t “let ourselves go”. But why did I feel the need to weigh myself every day, and then beat myself up all day when I didn’t see what I wanted to see? I would get so frustrated when I saw no budge in the numbers after a day of eating vegetables all day. “BUT I DID WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO”, I would think. I had a lazy month this past month, I’ll admit. I was eating like crap. I wasn’t exercising. I also wasn’t weighing myself consistently (if at all) for the first time in years. YEARS. And you know what happened? I felt a burden leave me. Seriously. The number on the scale became one less thing to stress about. And I felt free. I just felt this release. It finally clicked for me. It’s not about the number, it’s about how we feel about ourselves. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in my skin again. It’s an interesting feeling.
I can’t say that I don’t dream about having a “perfect body” anymore. And that’s ok. I think now I am more capable of recognizing these thoughts and stopping myself and spinning it to a positive one. What do I love about my body? Oh, and there are so many things to love about our bodies. Why can’t we obsess over what we like about our bodies like we do our flaws? We have to stop being so hard on ourselves. I think yoga has helped me realize this. I used to be so fixated on losing my cellulite or having skinny arms. But when I started doing yoga I saw what my body could do. Accomplishing a hard asana is such a high. I never knew I could do some of these things! It’s spectacular! I remember the first time I managed a variation of king pigeon pose. I had the biggest smile on my face and a rush of adrenaline just hit my body. I still remember that feeling when I do that pose (which is often because I love it). How cool is that?! How awesome are our bodies?!
Yoga has helped me feel comfortable in my own skin again. Of course I still have my days where I really dislike my body, but they are fewer than before. I don’t find myself staring at my faults in the mirror like I used to. In fact, I find myself admiring my body in the mirror these days. And you know what? I’ll admit that. My body is awesome and can do a lot of cool things. I shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit that I am actually coming to like myself. I should celebrate that instead. I hope you do, too.
Next week, I’ll start focusing on yoga, counseling, and body image issues. This is a very important topic to me, as you can see I personally have struggled with body image for years. If you have any ideas or topics for body image issues you would like me to discuss, please send them my way. I’m really excited to dive a little further in to this topic, because it really is just so important.
Until then, love yourself and happy OM’ing.