I grew up with two females who served as my example for how to have a relationship with food: my mom, who couldn’t stick to a diet, but was always on a diet, and always wished she could just lose a few more pounds; and my sister, who was and is naturally lean, long, thin, and ate whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.
But it turns out it doesn’t even matter what you look like. If the example is the same then the outcome is the same. My sister and I both struggled with our relationship with food, once we were old enough to consider those kinds of things on our own.
I struggled. I lost weight, and I meticulously counted every calorie I put in my body. I picked up running, and I battled crippling anxiety if I missed a workout. I loved shopping for clothes in my new size, and I had a panic attack in the dressing room if the size I thought I wore didn’t fit.
My food obsession got me some wins – an interest in fitness, and a wardrobe that never leaves me with nothing to wear. But mostly it was all still about loss.
I joined Title Boxing about a year ago after a doctor told me I needed to take at least 6 weeks off from running to give my injured knee a chance to recover. Boxing was a good alternative because it was low impact for lower body.
The workout was great. The trainers were great. It was still very cardio-focused, so my anxiety was quelled, for the most part. A few months after I joined the gym, a trainer asked me when I was going to do some training sessions.
A few days later, I “won a raffle” for 3 free training sessions with that trainer.
I have an “arm thing.” That’s a phrase my friends say to dismiss my obsession over the way my arms look in photos. They never seem to look thin enough, even at my thinnest, even when I’m eating as restrictively as possible, even on a day when I just ran the most miles I’ve ever run.
I just completed 36 sessions of personal training, and I still have an arm thing. But now, when I see my arms in pictures and start thinking about how big they look, I also don’t give a damn.
I work fucking hard. I work out 6 days a week. I can lift fairly heavy things. I can run fast. I can do more burpees than you’d believe. I can move out of the way when my trainer’s 6′ 7″ frame is lunging at me with a right hook. I am the strongest and most capable I have ever been, and I don’t give a damn how my arms look in photos.
This is not to say that you have to work out 6 days a week to love your body. This is not to suggest that everyone can afford a gym membership and a personal trainer. This is not to imply that only girls who lift weights can feel good about the way they look.
This is simply to say: stop being so hard on your body. It does a lot for you. It can carry you through an intense workout. It can help your best friend move into a fourth-floor apartment without an elevator. It might take you through the door that introduces you to the love of your life. It allows you the opportunity to go somewhere new, see something amazing. It takes you to and from work every day, to and from school every day, to the kitchen to eat and to your bedroom to sleep.
It can fight illness, take you on countless adventures, carry you through all your trials and accomplishments.
Be good to your body, because you only get one. But respect your body by not passing judgment on it based purely on the way it looks.
I’ve gained a lot since I stopped setting all my sights on losing. A better understanding of myself, the ability to help my sister as she works through her eating issues, the freedom to see physical beauty in myself and others, no matter what each of us may look like.
I said learning because I still am. It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. I always will be.
Today, my journey is all about growth. Not making myself smaller.