This is not an exaggeration: before a couple of months ago, not a day had gone by in the last nine years where I didn’t wish I looked better. I was my own worst enemy, I was the sole critic. I burdened myself and I burdened people close to me. The truth is there are probably very few women who are truly happy in their own skin, but over the course of the last couple of years I happened upon a few who seemed to and those women impacted me whether they know it or not… Donaldine, Caitlin, Mercy, Hillary (not sure if you’re reading this 🙂 )
I remember feeling many times like I couldn’t have as much fun as thin girls – I’d look around a room at a party and make myself miserable (as I sipped my 4th beer). Being thin looked more comfortable. I wanted to be comfortable.
There was a year and a half reprieve from this self-loathing during my time in Belize – I was considered skinny – people told me to gain weight, and when I did I was complemented and told I looked healthier.
My weight fluctuated from 125 – 150: I’m 5’5″. I’ve never been a big girl, I’m sure nobody would ever label me that way even at 150 but I labeled myself that way. My mother is my height and probably weighs 105, my sister has hovered around 120, they are thin. It’s a thing with the women in my family. My dad was used to thin. I was different.
My first memory of being aware of weight gain was my sophomore year in high school when I was a kick ass sprinter. I was barely over 100lbs and had never really thought about my weight, I just lived. After an invitational 1/2 way through the season I remember I had gotten 3rd place and wasn’t very happy with my performance. My dad, who I would describe as the best of men, said to me “Well, you’re carrying 10 extra pounds on you – 5 on each cheek”. Throughout the years, when I would wear a tank top and my shoulders and neckline were exposed he would tell me I was showing a lot of skin. I recall my mother wearing the same cut of tank top and not getting this reaction . I figured it must be because I’m big and I became ashamed. I wasn’t allowed to show much of my skin.
As I write this, I realize I sound like an angry depressed and damaged person – I really am not that at all!! People who know me, and who have known me for long probably barely know I have had this internal battle going on. I excelled in college and grad school, had the time of my life, dated some darn good-looking guys, exercised semi-regularly, traveled the world… you name it. But all this time I wished I was thinner – because then I would have more fun. Now I look back on this and realize I actually would have had more fun if I’d just been kinder to myself and if I’d spent some time trying to understand why I was so hard on myself. I also probably could have found out some better ways to eat, that didn’t mean dieting, as well as fun ways to exercise.
I know many woman suffer from body image issues and self-criticism and can identify with the way I spent the majority of my 20’s.
I’m turning 30 this year and I feel like so much has changed in the past year. Honestly, many things converged: solid job with healthy work environment, loving roommates, living in the city, discovering CROSSFIT!!, meeting my soul-mate, being part of a healthy community, and going to a therapist. Strengths which had been dormant were back in action, the community I lacked grew in front of my eyes and embraced me, and the man of my dreams entered my life – and despite discovering many of my flaws and imperfections continues to love me and challenge me to rise above my self- criticism – understand it, and be kinder to myself.
Diving into my body image with my therapist has been extremely helpful. She’s said some really key things to me that I want to share:
1. “You’re going to have a really hard time aging if you’re this hard on yourself” – making me realize that I spent much of my 20’s – my youth – as a beautiful woman and didn’t even believe it.
2. If you feel yourself being critical develop a 3rd person dialogue. “Be kind to my friend, I love her”
3. Number 2 is also key to a partner responding to self-criticism. When I’ve told John that I wish I looked a different way, or expressed unhappiness with how I look he now says “Don’t talk about my girlfriend that way, I love her”
4. Parents aren’t perfect, they make mistakes too – I’m sure my dad doesn’t remember what he said to me after the track meet, or realize the affect of the comments about my neckline or shoulders – and if he knew, he’d feel terrible. This doesn’t make him a jerk, he’s my beloved dad and if I’m a parent some day I’ll make mistakes as well – mistakes that damage my kids a bit (but hopefully not too badly!).
Several months ago I stopped wishing I was thinner, I stopped trying to ‘diet’, I stopped making excuses for not working out or being dissatisfied with myself.
What changed? I workout with some of my closest friends four days a week and I’m eating more than I’ve ever eaten in my life thanks to Paleo. I’m also much kinder to myself and much more patient. Fitness and health has become lifelong and not just a binge. My goals are about maintaining and sustaining the freedom I’ve come to feel in this (MY) skin. As with most things in life – I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come.
I guess the moral of my story is that there are things you grow into and don’t just grow out of naturally – it takes work and vulnerability to encounter ourselves – understand ourselves – and transform into our best selves.
Today’s WOD at Pacific Crest Crossfit:
Strength: 7 Minutes to work up to a max Power Snatch
WOD: AMRAP 15:
3x Power Snatch (155#/105#)
20x Double Unders
Today’s menu: Breakfast: Paleo dark chocolate chip scones & bacon (I always start my day with bacon 🙂 ), Lunch: Paleo sweet potato chili, Dinner: Spaghetti (zoodles) with meatballs (family recipe – not sharing!)