I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen
It’s been a hard journey for me the past couple of years, but I think I’m finally headed in the right direction. But before I go any further, I want to give a HUGE shout-out to my amazing friend, Kari…who watched a few of my stories on Instagram back in the summer and sent me directly to a few podcasts and links…and that has been helped me out immensely…especially during this time of year.
Through Kari, I discovered Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, well-being coach, and a certified health and fitness specialist. And from Scritchfield…I have discovered the practice of Body Kindness.
Over the summer and through the fall, I have done my best to put the practices of spiraling up and self-compassion to work. And I’ve made leaps and bounds in this regard. I’m proud of myself. After two years of consistent injuries that, basically, kept me from really being active, I put on a good 15 to 20 pounds. And those pounds weren’t from eating a poor diet…not at all. My food choices go up on Instagram on a daily basis and I keep nothing from it. But the lack of exercise brought about a good amount of stress…which brought about bouts of binge eating/stress eating. Every. Day. To the point that certain foods in the apartment had to be hidden in my roommate’s room just to ensure that I wouldn’t devour them one morning when I was the only one awake and stressing out over something that I really coudn’t fix at that moment or at all. I felt uncomfortable in my skin, and while I was still at what would be considered a healthy weight for my size…I was SO mad at myself for letting myself get like this. I was angry every time I would get on the scale and see the number. I was so certain that, when I was cleared to run, the weight would slow me down.
Over those months, I did get back to running…and the weight stayed on. No big deal. I’m not someone who runs to burn calories. I’ve never been someone who tries to compensate food intake for exercise and burning off calories. I don’t do calculations in my head or add on miles or hit the gym a little harder. That’s not me. That’s never been me. So, in that respect, I already was grasping the overarching concept of Body Kindness.
But what really makes it challenging for someone like me…is seeing perfectly healthy people who are in the same boat as me…jump into a program like Weight Watchers to drop weight by a certain date. Hell, I was told to look into Weight Watchers…and I’m at a healthy weight…just not a happy weight (to me). And at the same time, I had a friend who went to the extreme side of the spectrum and wasn’t eating and was over-exercising and was down to just skin and bones…and it was scary. And it was perspective. And thankfully, she is getting help and will hopefully get stronger physically and mentally through her recovery program. But it was a lot of stress and anguish because…I love my friends deeply and when they go through shit…I go through shit with them. And I was thankful that I had been introduced to this concept of Body Kindness and Intuitive Eating…because that could have spiraled out of control quickly. And that’s not to say that the stress and those triggers didn’t get to me…but the way I dealt with it changed.
I work in an office packed with women. And the holidays are made for feasting and treats and parties and drinks and…the inevitable conversations happen at the water cooler…
“I ate one of those donuts today…I am so bad.”
“I’m being SO bad!” *said while balancing a plate with a cinnamon roll on it*
*At holiday pitch-in* “I had lost weight, but I’ve been so bad today and I know I put it all back on!”
“Look at all this bad food. Brownies, cookies, cakes…”
“Well, this has fruit in it, so that’s good, right?”
“All that food in there…I really need to go back to dieting tomorrow.”
“I feel so guilty…I had dessert after eating my holiday meal.”
I wish I could say I was joking. But, sadly, I’m not. With the advent of the holidays comes the inevitable around the New Year…the resolutions.
But it’s not just the, “I’m going to eat better and workout more,” mentality anymore. Nope. Now we have detoxes and juice cleanses and diet pills and fasting and keto and paleo and Whole 30…or meals that are just snacks and not providing you with the nutrition your body really needs to function. But let’s face it…diets don’t work. They don’t. If they did…there wouldn’t be multi-million dollar corporations built up around them. I mean, think about it…the reason they exist is because people have to keep going back to them. Mind…blown!
Diets and “quick fixes” are everywhere. But are they really that “good” for you? Diets, cleanses, detoxes…what they advocate is a huge calorie deficit. Most people don’t even hit the “standard” (and still low, especially if you’re active) 1200 a day. If you’re active…you HAVE to eat more. And I’ve had it out with people before regarding calories in vs. calories out…and I was told that I wasn’t losing weight because I was eating more than 1200 calories a day. Yeah…I also ran 10 miles and need to put nutrition back into my body! But the way it was done made it seem like I was in the wrong because I refused to be super restrictive. When I am training for an endurance race, I make sure my body is fed properly after any hard effort. It’s how it recovers faster and gets stronger. Diets, detoxes, and juice cleanses…yeah…you lose weight. You lose water weight. You lose fat. But you also start losing muscle mass. And I’m a runner. I don’t want to lose muscle. Muscle is what helps this body move faster, get stronger, and hopefully…not get injured as often. No matter what the person who created this meal plan and ran this group said to me…I wasn’t going to waiver on the type of nutrition that I needed to do the activities that I am doing. BUT…she did this in a public forum and made me feel like a failure or that I was doing everything wrong.
I’ve witnessed first hand the effects of starving the body of nutrition and recovery…watching someone I really care for waste away from over exercising and under fueling. If she did eat, she’d figure up how many hot yoga classes she’d need to do or how many extra miles she would need to run simply to negate the meager amount of food she did give her body. Not fueling enough does horrible things to your body. Especially when you’re active. But even those of us who aren’t runners or cyclists or gym rats…your body needs fuel regardless and when you’re operating on an empty tank…it turns to other means to get the energy it means to function. Fat…and then muscle. And, guess what…the heart is a muscle and eventually, that’s going to stop working properly too.
I am the first to admit that I do get triggered by certain aspects of the diet culture. Even today, as I’m comfortably settling into the idea of Body Kindness. I literally want to throw things when someone makes a reference to their paleo/keto dessert. Or the person who went vegan to lose weight and was disappointed when they didn’t. Or the diet pills someone is taking because it helps make them less hungry during the day. Or those “progress” pics that people put up that pretty much shame everyone who has put on even a pound because we’re not standing there in a sports bra with a smaller tummy or abs of steel. Or when people eat a handful of almonds and call it lunch. Or when someone says that they need to go to the gym because of what they ate the day before. The words “juice cleanse,” “cleanse,” “detox,” and “diet”…they all set off alarm bells in my head. Because, this “healthy” person is doing all this on Instagram…shouldn’t I too. And maybe if I did…I could be that skinny and strong and…whatever.
But…I’m not that person. And it took me the better part of the year to get to this point. And to say that none of this triggers me at any point would be a lie. I’m a perfectionist in my own right, and not feeling perfectly healthy or perfectly athletic has been challenging. But…here’s my takeaway…
Four years ago…and 20 pounds lighter, I ran a race on Thanksgiving that I run every year. I was at the peak of my running and the fittest I had ever felt. And I ran 5 miles in 36:52. I never cracked it since 2013…sometimes that race having me around 38 minutes. This year…with 2 years of hip injuries and 15-20 pounds more on me…I ran comfortably for the entire race, never feeling like I was pushing myself to go faster and I finished…in 36:36. I wasn’t dieting or fighting the scale. I was giving myself permission to eat better, more, and what my body needed as I was also in the midst of a marathon build-up too. So…lighter doesn’t necessarily mean faster. And faster doesn’t necessarily come because you follow a strict diet. Hard work is what gets you there.
And trust me…there is nothing easy about learning to love yourself the way you are. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself. But, just for a moment, take a breath and forget about your clothing size and that number on a scale. Forget about seeing yourself fitting in with the social norm. That’s the great thing about being a human being. We’re all different. Perfectly imperfect. And we don’t have to miss out on experiences and treats and foods because we’re told by society what is “good” and what is “bad.”
This journey hasn’t been easy and, yes…I still struggle. Even today I struggle, especially with the “perfect squares” of those “perfect people” in social media. I struggle when I hear someone say they are being bad when they are just taking part in a holiday part or pitch-in. I hate hearing people tell me how much cardio they’re going to have to do the following day because they enjoyed a bit of dessert after their holiday meal. Guess what…it’s okay to indulge…in life, in food, in activities. It’s not okay to paralyze yourself and to stop living a full and happy life because of what the scale might tell you in the morning. Your self worth is not built upon what you are eating and how much of it you are consuming.
And I promise…it’s impossible to gain 3 pounds in one day…and it’s water weight…and it too shall pass.
So…how about this holiday season we share a bit of kindness with others, but also take a moment to spare some of that kindness for ourselves. Don’t stress the small things. Don’t miss out on something due to social stigmas and labels. Enjoy every moment and every bite and every bit of movement you manage that day, that week, that month.
Magic happens when we are not just compassionate, but also self-compassionate. So take a deep breath, and enjoy the foods and activities and moments that come with the season. It will lower your stress…it will brighten your mood…and in the end…you’ll feel better.
Here’s what I have gained since turning my back on the diet culture…late night sushi runs with friends…wine tastings with friends…dinner parties with friends…game nights, brunches, dinners, new ethnic food outings, movie nights, fun runs, vacation planning with friends, so many more invites…so much more quality time with people…bonding…laughing…joy. My life gained so much joy and shed so much unhappiness and stress and feeling self-conscious and unworthy. What I was gaining was way more important than what I had been trying to lose.
I really started living and being and enjoying the little things as well as the big things. There are always bumps and setbacks. I’m not 100% yet. But I’m clearing a path and have gained so much mental health in the process that it’s really become physical heath as well. I’m not saying I don’t stress and cry and feel upset and out of control and lost…I do. But I have outlets and I have people who carry me through it and lift me up and don’t make me feel like I’m failing at everything. I’m a beautiful work in progress.
And that’s truly what makes the journey epic in the end.
Be happy. Life life. Do epic shit. Be full. And be well.