That title though. I couldn’t think of a title for this post until the end, so you’ll have to read on to see what I mean.
Anyway, last week, I mean two weeks ago, I told you I would be writing about how changing my training and mindset over the last year has led me to be a healthier happier person, so lets chat about that.
To explain where I am today, we must go back to the past a bit. Walk with me down memory lane, no? Okay, just sit there drinking your coffee or wine and I’ll tell you a story.
I haven’t always liked exercising or eating healthy. In fact, for a long time I was just a thin kid who liked Kit-Kats and Pepsi. You couldn’t pay me to run a mile. Then I got a little older and had a couple of kids and boom there I was overweight and out of shape, eating Toaster Strudels and on the couch watching Barney with my two year old. I noticed my sister started to lose some weight and really firm up, so I joined a group exercise class with her and had fun being active two days a week. I remember one day it was so hot in the rec center where we took the class that I had to take my shirt off, exposing my sports bra and post baby body. It had to be really hot in oder for me to do this. I was embarrassed and even apologized to the group of women for exposing my body to them and told them I’m embarrassed of my rolls but I couldn’t take the heat anymore. I was just so hot.
Okay, let’s stop right there for a moment. Here is a 24 year old young woman who is doing something good for her body by exercising, and because she is overheated and needs to cool off she made a decision to workout in her sports bra and is apologizing for her body and feeling ashamed of what her post baby body looks like. However, the instructor herself had taught plenty of classes in a cute sports bra exposing ripped abs and she’s not apologizing to anybody. Why? Because her body was more socially acceptable than my soft, post baby belly at the time.
Anyway, my point in that story was to share with you the thought process I had in regards to my health and body image 17 years ago. I joined a gym shortly after that and plugged along on the elliptical or taking step classes from time to time, but always hiding in the back if I could. I later found Pilates and Spinning classes which sparked my love for fitness and instructing. I started running and participating in various endurance races, and became obsessed with working out, tracking calories, and fitting into a certain size pants.
The obsession with the scale was relentless, weighing everyday, letting it have power over my self-worth and happiness. “Yay, I’m down two pounds!” or “Why am I up three pounds?! That’s it, I need to do better today, longer workout less food.” I would take three exercise classes back to back without enough food almost passing out a couple of times. Or I woudn’t have enough time to eat in between teaching three classes back to back and finding my body shaky, hungry and with a lack of mental focus after a class.
I began to realize I had a problem. Never satisfied, always shaming myself for eating something I deemed “bad” or “cheating.” I had to take a long hard look in the mirror. What was I trying to achieve? Why wasn’t I satisfied, or happy with how much progress I had made so far, and when would I be happy or satisfied? I saw this in other women too. Women who I considered fit, or beautiful, they were never satisfied, always talking about diets or changing their body to look better in some way, shape or form. I later started to make progress in the food area. Enjoying a Hershey bar and not punishing myself with exercise. I slowly stopped weighing myself too, and although it took a little while I eventually threw the scale away.
But then, a new
love obsession came into my life. CrossFit. I was burnt out on running and cycling, and all the gym classes. I wanted more of a challenge. I wanted to feel strong and really push myself past my limits. Seek and ye shall find. After finally getting to a healthier place in my mind as far as diet and the scale were concerned, CrossFit opened a whole new obsession and body shaming issues for me. Wait, don’t get me wrong, I am not putting down CrossFit at all. It served me very well in many aspects of my training, mindset and even social life. There are many positives to that way of working out, so before I lose my CrossFit loving readers, let me explain.
Here is what I loved about CrossFit, waking up early and having my ass handed to me. In the early days of CrossFit, I loved working out with mostly men, even though I felt like a weak Olive Oil around a bunch of strong Popeyes. There was something invigorating about working out beside these guys and doing my best to keep up with them. I loved learning how to do Olympic lifts, and I loved getting my first pull-up. I also loved that in the early days of CF the underdog was cheered on and sometimes got more support than the fastest, strongest person in the WOD that day. Even more so, I loved the community! The way many of us became fast friends and the way we would come together to support someone in need. If a fellow CrossFitter was in the hospital, we started a meal chain, when the riots where going on in Baltimore we drew a collection box for our fellow Baltimore Police officers to get them a massage and a gift card to dinner. Someones pregnant, we throw them a shower. You get the idea. Community is hands down the best part of CrossFitting.
However, as great as those positives were, there was a more negative side happening in my mind. A little dark place growing bigger and taking up more space than welcomed. That space held shame, self-doubt, anger, worry and even physical pain. See even though the scale no longer defined me, Wodify sure did. When Wodify took the place of the cute little white board in the gym where we recorded our numbers and wrote down if it was RX or scaled, this new computer app called Wodify soon developed a whole new way of feeling shame. The app on my phone let me know exactly how I measured up to others in the gym. For the record that’s not Wodify’s only intent. It’s for tracking your numbers and training progress, but it also lets you know how you did compared to others. Complete with a number system. For example, the person who did the best at the WOD that day gets to be #1 and it continues to score you depending on how you did. So if it took me more time to complete the WOD or I had less reps, or scaled, or what have you, then I might be last on that list. At the very bottom. To me that meant failure, weak, loser. Only if I weren’t last, not if someone else was, then it was different, but if I was lower on the number scale it really effected my self-worth. It wasn’t just me who felt this way. Many times people would comment about how they were last and would follow up with a statement of shame, or perhaps an excuse they felt they needed to share as to why they were last. However, the same could hold true for being first. If a CrossFit girl was #1 that day, they might make a statement on how something was wrong, how they might have miscounted the reps or how the more elite athletes must of not showed up that day.
Shame, shame, shame. That Wodify was a real mind F*ck. Besides Wodfiy, Paleo took on almost a new eating disorder in my mind. A new health obsession with challenges and all. “Is that Paleo?” became the question before eating at a party. Participating in 30 day challenges and countless google recipes for how to make a yummy Paleo treat. Again, don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with Paleo, I lived that lifestyle for 5 years, and I really developed a healthier way of eating good nutrient dense food, and it has led me to make better choices with food in general. But, for a moment in between then and now, I had a new obsession other than working out.
CrossFitting six days a week, doing my best to eat squeaky clean paleo, comparing how I held up on Wodify. Constant thoughts of how can I get better, why can’t I get under the bar faster, how come I can’t lift heavier? I need to do more pull-ups, more double unders, more, more, more. Followed by back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain. Telling myself to suck it up, mobilize more, ice more, take ice baths, hot baths, get massages, use the Voodoo band, the knee brace, the weightlifting belt. Take in more fish oil, MCT Oil, make sure not to eat any grains…
Soon, my body just said no more. I tried to run, my knee said nope, I tried to kip my back said hell no, I tried the snatch and my shoulder said, bitch please. That, coupled with everyday stress, and my body physically shut down. I ended up in physical therapy for four months. Walking and PT exercise and pilates modified were the only exercise I was allowed to do. I was frustrated. I wanted to move and lift and run, but my body said no, you need to be still, rest and heal.
Who was I if I wasn’t in a gym? If I wasn’t cycling, teaching group exercise, who was I if I wasn’t running or CrossFitting? These things gave me life. A hobby, something to work on, something to improve.
I learned to enjoy rest. To take it easy, to listen more to my body than I ever had before. When I could start working out again, I had my garage gym ready to use. I took it slow. If I pushed too hard one day, I rested and reset the next. I worked on form. On learning new movements (believe me there are so many more to learn and this is coming from the mobility queen.) I did a little workout and then moved on with my day. As I got better and my body got healthier I programmed more movements. If they didn’t work for me, I didn’t do them. If my body said this is all you get today, then I learned to respect it. I wrote down notes and tracked my progress and it felt good. If I had a “bad” day there wasn’t shame to it. It was more like oh, I didn’t get enough sleep or I have been stressed so that makes sense.
Over the last year I have changed my mindset in regards to training and my health is much better for it. If there is a movement that I don’t like or my body doesn’t like, I don’t do it. I feel satisfied when I leave the gym. No longer are there tears or feelings of unworthiness. Just satisfaction that I got my workout in that day. Moving on with life. At one point I put on weight this year. I was 155 and felt good with that. No longer trying to be 125. But then, my pants didn’t fit and I wasn’t feeling great in my body aesthetically speaking. The scale at the doctor said 167 and I wasn’t okay with that. I didn’t shame myself, I didn’t restrict foods to the point of starving myself or punish myself with over exercise. I just said, okay, let’s take a look at what I’m eating. Clean it up and do something about it. Yes, I started tracking what I ate, even macros (eyeball roll) but I used it as data. No obsession, just data. I lost 12 pounds and did it in a heathy way.
Even when I was 167, my mindset to my body was healthy. I liked my curves. I liked that my body resembled a greek statue in a little way. With arms of course. Lol! Curvy hips, little belly, a booty and some muscles as well. I came up with new goals. Healthy goals. It’s okay to have aesthetic goals. It really is. Yes, I want to slim down a little, not because I’m disgusted with my body or hate the way it looks, but because I want to feel a little different in my shorts, and mostly I want to see the muscles I have been working on lately. I even bought a scale. The difference is that it’s only used for data. Nothing else. I am supposed to weigh at least 2 days a week on the RP Nutrition program. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Not because I’m afraid but because if I’m feeling good and feeling results in other ways, it doesn’t really matter if I lost a pound or two that week. I’m feeling good in my own skin.
The RP nutrition isn’t messing with my head or causing obsession. It’s experimenting for me. I am liking the results I’m seeing the how good my workouts feel. My mom and aunt were here last weekend and I enjoyed their company. I didn’t restrict myself from eating out or drinking a glass of wine during their visit. I enjoyed yummy food and then moved on. I am following this nutrition program because I’m in a good place mentally to do so and I want to see what will happen, how my body will respond and change.
Never again will I ever apologize for taking my shirt off and exposing my belly to anyone. I won’t apologize for my body, for my presence or my performance. Over the years it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions when it comes to my body, the way it looks and performs. No more. It’s going to change again. I mean menopause it right around the corner. So I want to enjoy the way it is right now, in this moment and learn to enjoy the way it will change as I age. I know that will take practice, patience, and experience, but I think I’m ready.