The other day I saw this quote in my Twitter feed.
Ironically, I saw it on a day when I’ve for once been at peace with myself and more specifically, my body. To understand why this is a pretty big deal for me, I need to give you a bit of a background story.
Growing up, I always used to be a big girl. I was never skinny. Not in kindergarten, not in elementary school or high school. Not during college and never during my adult life. It wasn’t for my lack of dieting attempts. I’m confident I’ve tried them all. But I just did not enjoy playing sports. Not necessarily because I was lazy (I had hobbies that required me to leave the house), but simply because I thought I was never going to be good at it and I just hadn’t found anything that I thought was fun. Other kids were athletic. I just wasn’t. And to me, that was OK because I was creative. I sang, I played several instruments, I was in the drama club, I even conducted my own children’s choir. Not all of us need to be the next big Olympic hope (or Rich Froning). I also loved to eat & drink (I still do), especially the famous “only in moderation” kind of foods.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2010 and I’ve finally had enough. I was at a very difficult period in my career that came with a bunch of late nights. (I still make this joke about “taking a half day off” when I leave the office at regular hours at 6 pm. Back then, this was my reality and at 6 pm, more often than not, I still had a couple of hours ahead of me.) 2010 also brought stress, depression, an awful diet and a good amount of extra weight. I’d been unhappy with my body for a while because I felt gross, I didn’t have any energy, nothing fit me anymore, I was so ridiculously unfit. I think a tipping point was a trip to New York City in September 2010 when I had issues fitting into size XL at the Gap. The Gap. With its ridiculous vanity sizing.
After seeing these pictures, I started working out in the limited range I could. I started with a bit of yoga and Pilates, I started walking. My body barely changed because I mostly still ate crap. I hit rock bottom toward the end of that year at my job, when the stress of too much to do and an upcoming relocation to New York made me really sick. I made a pact with myself for 2011: to take better care of myself and my health. I had already started working out (as much as I could at the time). I was already halfway there to a healthier lifestyle. I knew I could also fix my diet and actually see some of the results of that sweat. I might as well, right?
In January 2011, I joined Weight Watchers and was pretty shocked when I weighed in at 88.8 kg (196 lbs) during my first meeting. I’m 1.59m (5′ 3”). I knew I had carried a bit too much. But I was nearly in tears when I found out that I almost weighed 90 kilos. Over the weeks and months I steadily lost kilo after kilo, always within the range of what’s considered a safe and healthy weight loss. I completely overhauled my diet and after I gained better fitness, I intensified my workouts. In April 2012, a little over a year after I’d started Weight Watchers, I had dropped about 26 kilos (~ 57 lbs).
That’s when the problems came. I struggle a lot with perfectionism (loooooooong story), but even though I was at a healthy weight and I looked great, it just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t my goal weight of 130 lbs. I plateaued around 137 – 142 lbs for a long time. It was a very frustrating period of gaining a bit, losing it again, gaining and losing the same 3 lbs over and over again. I became very obsessed about food and the foods I wanted to eat, but couldn’t, food guilt whenever I ate any kind of food, poor body image, the whole shebang. My list of verboten foods eventually became so long, that I didn’t even want to eat bananas anymore. Too much fructose and calories. I eventually picked up a nice little eating disorder, that sadly, I’m still fighting today, over 2 years later. I started binge eating and purging, hating myself, defining my worth based on the number on the scale and just how many miles I’d forced myself to run through injury and pain that month. It was a really rough phase.
I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without the support of my friends Sherry, Meagan, Maria and LibbyDouche in New York, Tanja in Canada, Ve, Abbi and Anja here in Europe and pretty much everybody else who never got tired of picking me back up after my freak outs and gently, but firmly, encouraging me to get help. I started seeing a therapist and while recovery is not linear or easy, I’m making progress. Good progress. I went off Weight Watchers, saw a nutritionist because I was tired of counting calories, counting points, counting anything. I was tired of constantly second guessing what I eat and simply wanted to learn again to eat a healthy diet that would support me during my workouts. I constantly try to remind myself that my body is more than just a number on the scale or a clothing size. When I saw the nutritionist in January of 2014, I told her that my goal weight was 62 kg. I’ve gained some muscle since my lowest weight from April 2012, so I felt that there was no need to go lower than that.
But back to that quote. Something shifted within me during the last couple of weeks. I’ve been doing CrossFit fairly regularly and I’ve gained some nice strength and confidence. And this time for real, it seems like my focus has shifted to what my body can do and away from how imperfect it currently looks or what the scale says. Buying a dirndl last weekend, I felt attractive and desirable, despite the scale giving me a number well above the goal of 62 kg. When my coach Jess commented on me weighing less than half of the 125kg sled we were pushing, I simply took it as a compliment instead of questioning her motives or wanting to point out my flaws.
I’ve always wanted to reach that one specific weight so that I could come out of hiding (possibly with a fanfare, spotlight + red carpet and confetti) and yell at the world GOAL WEIGHT! I’d post an amazing Before & After picture and I’d be the happiest person in the world. Only my history of disordered eating and issues have taught me that it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. Once you reach your goal weight, you simply set a new, lower one. So instead, I’ve decided there no longer is a goal weight. The goal is to continue working on improving my health. I want to run another marathon. I want to be able to lift more and heavier weights. I want to be able to an unassisted pull-up. The rest will follow. I’ve changed so much as a person – this is the true reward.
This body may not be perfect. But at least it lets me do this:
Call it gratitude. Or body peace.
[Phew, this was fairly tough to write, but I think I need this out there as a reminder for the not-so-good days.]