This was originally written in June 2018. Names have been changed.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever share this. Partially because it's intensely personal and very hard to write unkind things about yourself, but also because it seems like everyone who has ever joined a gym has one of these journal entries or Instagram captions or blog posts. As a general rule, I only write if I have something to say. The last three months have been truly transformative for me and, well— I have a few things to say about that.
There are a few defining moments along this journey, the first of which came almost twenty years ago, when my mom and I were shopping for bathing suits for a family river trip and she gently suggested that perhaps this year, we look for one piece bathing suits. Another came years later, playing the seventh grade version of spin the bottle when Henry Booker asked "who has the best legs?" and scoffed when the empty water bottle pointed at me. By the time I got to high school, I had accepted, as a fact, that I was fat. But more than that, I was weak. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t play sports, I had no athletic abilities or talent. I should make it clear that I was never viciously bullied and for that I am incredibly grateful. But small comments and experiences add up, and prior to very recently, I've never truly felt like I loved myself or my body.
I've gone through stretches in the past where I'd go on a diet, start going to the gym, see some minor results and then for reason or another just stop trying. There were tons of reasons why-- I'd plateau and get discouraged, I got my heart broken, one cheat day would turn into two, a week, a month. Unhealthy food is almost always cheaper and more readily available, and sometimes when we feel bad it feels good to feel worse by eating foods that we know aren't good for us. Not to mention how intimidating it was to walk into a packed gym of fit people and worry about being branded "the fat girl" or looking like an idiot for using machines improperly or not knowing workouts. For me, at the center of all of these things was a very deep seeded dislike of my physical appearance.
In December 2017, I got a roll of film developed and saw some photos of myself that were eye opening. I was at my heaviest weight and the most unhealthy ever-- I hardly recognized the girl in photos.
A couple months later, I cancelled my long since used 24 Hour Fitness membership and joined Equinox. At first, it was terrifying-- everything at Equinox is designed for a level of fitness that seemed impossibly out of reach. I started going to yoga classes twice a week and lucked into having some truly incredible instructors. Twice a week became three times a week, then four. I will scream it from the mountaintops until the end of time, but everyone should do yoga, regularly and often. When you lift weights or do cardio, you're targeting specific parts of your body and working specific muscle groups. With yoga, you're teaching you-- your whole body, your whole person, to talk to yourself. That’s where strength begins.
In addition to yoga I invested in personal training which, apart from joining Equinox, is the single most beneficial choice I’ve made for myself in a long time. I am so incredibly grateful to my personal trainer, who is kind but intense and discerning, and never lets me get out of anything. All of my biggest moments, of failure and success and the progress between the two, have come during training sessions.
On May 13, I ran a mile without stopping for the first time in my life. Ever. At age 26. My time was laughable, but I did it. Two days later, I did it again. And again, and again, every time shaving a few seconds off my time, pushing myself a little harder, breathing a little deeper, believing a little more. I bet you never thought you'd meet someone who got a runner's high after one mile, but you know me, so here we are.
It's been three months and today I'm more than 30lbs lighter than I was in those photos. This time around feels different for a hundred reasons, but to sum them all up, something in me just clicked-- it changed. I realized that I'd hated the way I looked and without realizing it, was hating myself as well. I wasn't taking care of myself or my body, and I was letting doubts and all the things people had told me about my body get in the way. I had told myself I was fat, I was weak, I was unhealthy over and over and over again my entire life until I stopped believing that I could change. When that click happened, when I started to love myself instead of doubt myself, when I gave myself the courage and ability to fail, everything else started to fall into place. I can't tell you exactly how to find that love for yourself, but for me, that was step one. Everything else that came after, all of the grueling training sessions, the sweaty yoga practices, the seemingly never ending minutes of cardio, paled in comparison.
The 30lbs isn't the end of the journey, or really even the point of all of this. As most people who work out regularly will tell you, it's about everything else that comes along with weight loss. The clear skin, improved mood, higher energy levels, confidence, happiness, strength. It's all true. It pains me to say this but the more you eat healthy, drink water, and work out, the more everything everyone says about eating healthy, drinking water and working out becomes true.
Maybe you, dear reader, knew all of this already. Maybe you even told me some of it--some of you more than once. Or maybe you needed to hear some of this yourself. Whatever the case, the point is this-- nothing matters until you believe it for yourself.