I have been at school for about a week now. It’s been lovely seeing people again and reconnecting with friends. What I didn’t expect is that SO many people would talk to me about my blog. People have told me they’ve been following it all summer and love the content. It is crazy to me that my words are actually reaching others and that people are taking the time to read what I have to say. I feel flattered and humbled and want to create more to share with you all.
And then yesterday I heard something I didn’t know quite what to do with.
“The pictures of your body make me feel better about my sorry abs. It’s nice that you’re not as serious about fitness as some people.”
Wait what? First, I am totally disenchanted by our culture’s obsession six packs. They’re literally zero indication of actual strength, and are largely dependent on your genetic makeup and build. Some people, no matter how hard they work for it, physically cannot have a six pack. AND THAT’S OKAY. THAT’S MORE THAN OKAY. I am sad that the perpetuated obsession with abs has affected this girl. Second, I felt a little stung by the comment. My head immediately began creating a spider web of doubtful thoughts and self-criticisms.
Wait so does that mean my body is less than ideal? Does that mean she feels good because her body is better than mine? I was relatively proud of my stomach, should I not be now? Should I not post any more photos of my body until it’s more toned and cut? I should probably go take that photo down now. What does she mean I’m not serious? Do I need to buckle down more? Do I need to start being accountable to my Instagram and blog with my workouts?
I smiled and laughed off the comment, and then proceeded to lay every single ounce of myself into my workout. I upped every weight, added more reps, and my med-ball slam downs were so aggressive that the guy next to me looked a little worried. I felt myself recoil from food, eating a bit less, deciding I wasn’t that hungry to warrant a snack. I stood in front of the mirror and cringed at the generous bulk of my thighs, the innocent roundness of my cheeks, fullness of my breasts. All day I felt on edge, off-kilter, distracted. I talked to my best friend about the comment. As I described it my voice got harder and harder, and I felt my throat clenching around the words. I lost it, people. I sobbed and blubbered through my thoughts. I heaved as confessions of self-doubt and dissatisfaction with my body poured out.
“She has no idea. She has no idea how hard I’ve worked to get here.” I kept saying this sentence over and over, and at the time I didn’t really think through why it was so important. I couldn’t communicate why I was so hurt by a comment that was surely not meant to offend me.
As I sit here with my coffee, having slept on my thoughts I realize why I was so injured by her words. My account portrays the messages it does for a reason. I am not going to tell you to eat this and not that. I am not going to tell you how to cut weight or to chisel and carve your body into an unrealistic ideal. I am not going to glorify being enslaved to fitness and “health.” I’m not going to post every rep I do, every body scan, or every less-than-appetizing healthified meal. The thing is, I know how to do all of that. The reason I am not going to do any of that is because I have lived that before and it brought me to a place of incredible unhappiness. I have denied food and people and relaxation in the name of “getting fit” and it was the most miserable time of my life. I worked myself into an inescapable cycle of soul-crushing workouts and food so healthy it should be illegal. I carved an impressive physique out of my natural body, and it took everything from me. It destroyed my relationships with others and with myself, but I was so oblivious because that body was everything to me.
Eventually, I hit rock bottom. I realized that yes, I had the body, but I had nothing else. My mind was not my own, I had zero social life, and I lived in a sludge of self-hate and loathing. I wasn’t healthy, in fact my body was a shitstorm of health complications, despite being wiped of every ounce of body fat. I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out of this world that I have created.
And that, people, is where the REAL work kicked in. And this work was a thousand times more difficult than the work to achieve that physique. It took years for me to undo what I had done to my mind and soul, not to mention my body. I cannot quantify the amount of tears I shed as I reworked the condition of my mind. I cannot describe the paralyzing fear of reintroducing my body to food. I was utterly convinced of a negative correlation between worth and food that every bite felt like I was becoming lesser as a human being. It took years to repair my relationships, and some of them were irretrievable. All the damage I had done to myself and those around me was so mountainous that day after day I had to give everything I had to the recovery process. There was no half-assing it, no negotiating or cutting myself some slack. I had to be so completely engaged, otherwise there was no chance of reclaiming the life I had lost. It has taken years, and I am still picking up the pieces from the storm I created.
So, yes, I am really f*cking serious about health and fitness. I know how to be one of those people with zero percent body fat, but that is not where I need to be. And that’s why that comment hurt so much, because I have done immense, incredible amounts of work to get to where I am. Although I may not adore my body, it has taken so much mental and physical effort to realize that this is where my body needs to be. This is its natural state, and I have to be okay with that. People may look at my body and see an average, undefined figure. People may think that I am not really serious about health because I don’t have the body of a bikini competitor. But that does NOT mean that I haven’t done a whole lot of real, gritty work to be here. I have worked to have a body that is softer and rounder. I have worked to have a stomach that is smooth, rather than chiseled with muscle.
I know that that girl meant no harm with her comment. I know that she meant to flatter me, rather than hurt me. I hold her to no fault. But that being said, you have no idea the history of someone else’s body. You have no grounds on which to judge someone for the definition of their muscle, or their percentage of body fat. You have no right to judge someone on their food choices; you have no idea what their body needs. And that is why I will never be one of those accounts that glorifies that extreme level of fitness. I have fought to be where I’m at with my body, and I am only going to put forth things that encourage that process. I am not going to buy into the lie that I need to look a certain way in order to be a health and fitness advocate. So if you are just looking for ways to achieve a certain body type, please look elsewhere, because you will only find self-love and the eating of impressive amounts of ice cream here.