Growing up as a young girl I always knew that my body looked slightly different than those of my friends. I was active as a child and loved make-believe play more than anything. I loved imagining myself as an actress or TV reporter, and often chose that kind of play over running around outside. We would wander outside and play other physical games for short bursts of time. I didn’t play many sports as a child and that was in part due to my lack of interest and the lack of funds we had growing up. It seems that the money always found another place to go. My lack of interest in physical sports only seemed to grow stronger as I grew older. I tried soccer for a season, and basketball too. I dabbled in golf and cheerleading. But nothing ever seemed to stick for me. I never counted myself as a runner and always discounted my ability to keep up with my friends who seemed more athletic than me. As a result I became pretty unhealthy. I chose physical INactivity over being active and I chose chips, soda, and burgers over healthier options. I allowed my life to go like this for quite awhile and it wasn’t until I was getting married that I saw any reason to change.
I began running. Ironically, that was my gateway drug into the fit life. Me, the girl who “couldn’t” run, the girl who was bad at running. I surprised myself with each race that I entered (which weren’t many). But still didn’t ever feel completely satisfied with how I looked. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son that I decided to give weight lifting a try. I followed simple programs I found in magazines or online and would work diligently to see what my body was capable of. I tried the gym thing for a while, but always felt like it was too hard to get there with two kids. Over time my husband and I began building a small home gym. This way I could train while the kids were napping or they could be out in the garage with me. As the days turned to weeks in the garage I began to realize that I not only enjoyed lifting weights, but I was pretty good too. I began to carve muscles I didn’t know existed, and began to have a new outlook on my body.
Up until this point I was obsessed with looking like the girls on the magazine covers, but always grew frustrated because I was never able to obtain the look. I wanted the “long and lean” body, the body that seemed to make girls happy. That is the idea that we are sold after all, isn’t it? It’s the idea that there is an “ideal” female shape and anything outside of this ideal is not good enough. But because I was never able to reach the ideal I began hating myself and talking negatively to my body every chance I got. I tried exercise and unhealthy eating habits as a means to punish myself skinny. In my pursuit of the ideal body I tried so many different plans, pills, and potions only to give up or be let down that I still didn’t look like I rolled off the latest cover of SELF magazine.
It took awhile for my mind to catch up to my body. What I mean by that is, my body over the few short years I had started exercising had changed drastically. It was strong and lean. It birthed two healthy humans. It had taken me across more finish lines than I could imagine. My body had even gotten me up on stage for a couple of fitness shows. But after all of that, I still looked in the mirror and only saw a flawed body. It has taken some time to make amends with myself and to see me for me. Yes, there are still imperfections and no I will never have the long and lean body. But what I do have is far more precious. I have pride in what my body is capable of as a result of trusting a process over and over again. I can only hope that I am teaching my daughter love herself and not loathe herself.