(Original blog post from 6/2/17)
I have disliked my body for as long as I can remember. I believe it was around twelve years old that I first thought about it. I was a toothpick of a girl – skinny arms with legs almost the same size, but I had a tiny bit of a belly. I was also going through puberty and things were changing. Around that time I was playing three sports until an injury sidelined me prior to high school. My weight really yo-yo’d from that point on.
I would drop down to a comfortable weight according to the scale, but I was NEVER satisfied. I still wanted to tone the flab on my under arms. I needed to tone my stomach since I had too many rolls when I sat down. My thighs touched, so that obviously meant I needed to hit the treadmill. (heavy sarcasm)
It was never ever enough.
I would constantly watch TV, or watch movies, or look at pictures in magazines, even glancing at strangers I saw out in public… how did they achieve such perfect bodies and I can’t? It became an internal obsession for nearly twenty years. I thought I would be happy if I could only lose 5 lbs more or if my stomach came in just 2 more inches.
“Be mindful of your self-talk. It’s a conversation with the universe.” – David James Lees
I was self-sabotaging. It honestly consumed me, and there were times when I even ditched plans because I wasn’t feeling comfortable with myself. I couldn’t find something to wear that made me feel OK about my body and attractive. Which is CRAZY because honestly, at my “heaviest” I was around 140 lbs, and that was in high school. Even when I dropped to around 110 in my mid-twenties, it wasn’t enough. The number on the scale would drive my insecurity to a certain point, and when I hit a comfortable number I would then just zero in on the areas I hated about myself.
This went on for years.
“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’” – Nayyirah Waheed
(BRB, crying over that quote.)
Subconsciously, I have been working towards loving myself for longer than I realized. It really came to my attention within the past year, following my diagnosis. Everyone finds motivation somewhere, but here’s mine. And if you’ve read any of my other posts, it will come to no surprise to you, but it is insane how much of a POSITIVE impact getting an MS diagnosis has had on my life.
When you’re told that your body is very literally (and scarily) attacking itself, and eventually could possibly hinder yourself from doing even the smallest every day task, you go into fight or flight mode. So I made an unspoken promise to myself and to my husband that I would do everything in my power to be the one in control.
So I did. And I continue to do so.
I went vegan and I started following MS-related diets laid out by Dr Swank and Dr McDougall. I had severely cut back on my gym routine around my diagnosis. Partially because I physically had to (fatigue is the most common trait of MS), and the other part was due to fear. What if I worked out to such excess that I would trigger a flare? So I took it slow. I cut out cardio completely until I felt I was ready. I then incorporated incline walking at a height and speed that was just outside my comfort zone. And when that got easy, I increased it. And then I increased it some more. And some more.
It is a little over a year later and the fruits of my labor are coming at me from all angles. The longer I followed my combination of a diet and I consistently exercised, the better I felt.
Sticking to my diet religiously has given me so much energy. I no longer need a nap on the couch every day after work. Last weekend, my husband and I went to the gym, we did demo on our back porch, and then we went to run a bunch of errands late in the afternoon. I had energy for ALL OF IT!
When I’m in the gym I feel STRONG. I felt so strong one morning last week, that I actually almost broke out into a full sprint at the END of my 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes prior to that of general weight lifting. I am comfortable pushing myself, because I know what my body can handle – and let me tell you, it’s a hell of a lot more than I thought it could.
I feel better than I did even years prior to my diagnosis.
But it takes a consistent effort every single day. It takes TIME.
Just like my diet and my exercise, learning to love myself has taken TIME. Through this journey I’ve learned that my body really only wants to work WITH me and not against me. I just need to listen to it, and give it what it needs. For that reason alone, I am no longer going to speak badly about my body.
Regardless of physical features, A LOT of self love comes down to psychology. The scale could read a certain number today, and if I ate like complete shit all week and weighed myself again next week and it was the same number, I would still feel poorly about my body. But if I ate great for that following week and the number was the same, it would knock me down a few pegs still. Now THAT is silly.
So I stopped using the scale. Because numbers don’t reflect how I feel inside.
I said out loud to my husband a few weeks ago that I was going to stop talking negatively about my body, and I feel like everything has changed since then. I focus more on the things that I love about my body. I accept the things that I am still working on, and focus on how much they have changed and responded to how I’ve been exercising. Since I have started doing this, I’ve found that I’m more comfortable in outfits I haven’t worn in a long time. I even got a Stitch Fix in last week and kept EVERYTHING! That has never happened. (Shout out to my girl Erin, my stylist!) And I also keep checking myself out in the gym. #feelinmyself
“Self love is asking yourself what you need – every day – and then making sure you receive it.” – Unknown
What do you need today?