So last week I went out to try a new fitness center in town. It was great, actually. I enjoyed the class I took: the staff seemed nice and enthusiastic, the center clean, the circuit training fast, efficient and fun. This morning I was greeted by an email from their head trainer, one that encouraged me to spark fitness change in myself by “getting disturbed at the body I have.”
I’ve lived too long being disturbed by my body. I spent my entire life, for as long as I can remember, hating my body for being too fat, too awkward, not strong enough. I cut myself down at every opportunity. I loathed myself, inside and out.
In the last four years, I found a safe space, between my husband and sports, to work through that garbage. I’ve spent hundreds of hours training, learning to move my body through space, make it do my brain’s will. I gradually came to love moving it, feeling the first initial spark of grace and competence — though for the first several years I stomped it out from frustration more often than I nurtured it — and slowly, surely, kindling it into something more. Lately, I can even say I like my body, which for me is a lifechanging statement. I like its strong curves, the beautiful cuts of tricep muscle, the shoulders that make my friends exclaim when they hug me. It’s a journey that’s been nothing less than miraculous; ask anyone who remembers me from even five years ago. Ask Paul. I am sad it took me until 42 to get to this point, but I am grateful beyond measure that I came to understand this truth before my body started giving out in major ways.
These days I have been working out not because it is work, but because I love it, I really *really* love it. I love how my brain feels solid, stable, calm after physical activity, in ways that nothing else can help. Every time I reach for a soothing food, a glass of wine to “unwind” — I hope to achieve that feeling of wholeness. But here’s the truth: none of that works for me, at least not for more than the moments in which it happens. I’ve changed my diet enough that more than one drink or a small sweet treat leaves me feeling gross and out of sorts the following day, and the only thing that cures it is more movement, more being mindful and present inside of myself, not seeking escape routes.
I find myself returning to movement because it feels right, because I have discovered the joy of motion, because strangest of strange things, I am coming to love myself. I learned to love myself because my physical journey was fueled by love and enthusiasm and positivity from Paul, from my friends, from my teammates, even from my opponents. All that love eventually wore down all that self-hate.
And I’m not going back to that mindset, ever. And you don’t have to, either. Move because it feels good. Find physical activities that make your body and brain happy and do them. Push yourself to find a healthy place because you love yourself and want to be better, to feel better.
Just do it: Love yourself.