Too often I find myself saying ‘I’ll just watch one more episode’ while I’m watching Netflix in bed, ‘I’ll run tomorrow’ when I’m feeling sluggish, or ‘what should I have for dessert?’ When I just claimed I was too full to finish my dinner.
These little things quickly turn into big things, which weigh on my mind and make me feel less than fabulous, trick me into not loving myself, and cause me to doubt even my most inherent skills.
My goal for this year is to watch out for the little things, and to address them before they become big things.
I guess you could say that my weight bothers me. Not because of how much I weigh, but because of how I wear it. I’ve allowed myself to slouch all my life, maybe in part because I grew quickly as a child and was always taller than my friends. The more people commented on my height, the more I slouched, wanting to fit in, to hide from the spotlight cast upon me by my physical attributes. But I was also just lazy. Slouching took less effort than sitting up straight. I’ve actually had my doctor tell me during a routine physical when I was younger that I might develop a curved spine because of it. Still, I slouched.
I was never a stellar athlete, but I did run Cross Country and Track in high school. During those years, everyone would comment on how skinny I was, how I ‘should eat more’, how if I got any skinnier it might effect my menstrual cycle. As a runner, I was hungry all the time. I ate nearly as much as my brother did in high school, though we weighed nearly the same and I was taller. I couldn’t gain weight. When I attempted to talk to my friends about it, they laughed in my face or told me to shut up because I made them feel bad. They said I should be thankful I wasn’t like them, struggling to lose weight.
When Cross Country ended my senior year and I had already decided for entirely different reasons that I didn’t want to run track that year, I stopped working out entirely. Typically I gained 5-10 pounds during the holidays and lost nearly all of it in the spring. This time it didn’t happen, because I had stopped running entirely. I was tired of people telling I was too tall and too skinny, so I maintained the extra 10 pounds through the summer, and then I left for college. Being in college was stressful, and in college they like to give you a meal plan that allows you to eat everything and anything you want. It was great at first. People in college are much less likely to comment on your body simply because they don’t know you. This freedom was wonderful. I missed running a little bit, but my campus was huge, and I walked everywhere.
Freshman year I gained 10 more pounds. When I visited home, no one made comments about me being ‘too skinny’. I was happy. I still missed running. Sophomore year I gained another 5 pounds, astounding even myself. I had to go up a pants size, and I no longer needed a belt to keep them up. However, ‘Low-rise’ jeans soon became the enemy. At first I loved them, but as I gained weight and grew out of puberty, my body distributed my weight throughout my hips, thighs, and boobs, and the cut of the jeans gave me a permanent roll.
I didn’t notice it at first, but somewhere between transferring colleges and moving back home during my junior year, it became really obvious (to me at least. I doubt other people really noticed). I started driving everywhere because nothing was in walking distance anymore. I switched to a major where I was sitting in meetings or at my computer all day rather than hiking and searching for signs of wildlife. Between my transfer and my graduation, about three years, I gained another 5 or 10 pounds, making it 30 pounds total since highschool. I had run maybe 5 times in as many years, and I felt it. I developed terrible acne, and I started to see myself as, horrifyingly enough, overweight. Looking at my BMI I could easily see this was not so, but that didn’t stop me from worrying about how my clothes fit.
The first thing I attacked wasn’t my weight or my posture. It was my acne. I had your basic, run of the mill acne during high school, but once I got to college, I started to break out a LOT more. maybe it was the stress, maybe it was my diet, maybe it was my lack of exercise, but I quickly became a pizza face. At first it didn’t bother me. Sure, I had red bumps all over the place because I picked at it, but it was just skin, right? and it wasn’t like I really had time for a boyfriend, so what did it matter what I looked like? When I moved back home junior year, I finally realized that it wasn’t just caused by my stress levels. I spent the next 2 years attacking my acne full-force, trying everything from drug store cures to Proactive, but nothing worked until I acknowledged that maybe I had over reacted. Maybe I had jumped on the medical miracle band wagon before I looked at all the clues. I recently dumped all my acne creams and cures. I’m now washing with just water, using a gentle astringent when I need it, and adding a daily moisturizer.
The second thing I did was tell my aunt I would run a Thanksgiving 5K with her this year. That means I have until November 26th to whip myself back into shape. I am thankful to have an event to work towards and people to keep me accountable for getting back into running. It may be slow going, but I refuse to give up.
Finally, I’m addressing my posture. I am being extra mindful of how I am sitting, making sure I have adequate back support in all my chair and couch choices, and not watching Netflix in bed! I’m looking at starting to lift weights again like I did in high school to compliment my running. There’s a technique called the ‘farmer’s carry’ that looks especially helpful.
I’m increasing my awareness in terms of diet as well. I adore dairy and carbs. I refuse to give up my carbs, and since I still have a high metabolism I’m not worried about my caloric intake, but I am cutting back a lot on dairy because too much of it could be assisting my chronic acne. Not so much pizza and yogurt and cheesy sandwiches for me, and more of what I need, like fruits and vegetables.
The last month has been rocky because of my travel schedule, but now that things have calmed down for a while I can focus wholly on my health and fitness. I have the power to be whatever or whomever I want to be. I don’t want to lose weight necessarily. If during the course of getting shape I lose or gain a few pounds, it doesn’t really make a difference to me. I DO want to scourge my closet of old clothes that don’t fit me right. I want to wear ‘hip-hugger’ jeans that actually hug my hips, not my butt, and I want to get back in shape. I want to be healthy. I want to get enough sleep and have enough energy to keep up with my little cousins and my more active friends. I want to have a nutritious diet so that my brain will function at its best and I can get back to doing what I love: learning new things.
So, now that I am 23, I want to take control of my life. Part of that involves getting an adult job, and part of that involves taking care of my body and my health. I hope you’ll read along and follow my journey as I chase my theme for the year: Becoming My Best Self.