I want to talk about working out and all of the drama surrounding it as well as how working out has affected my life. With growing up being told I was big-boned and my ass being a frequent topic of conversation, I have always had body image issues.
I got to my heaviest in 2011 after two years of traveling for the fraternity, and my primary food groups being beer and fast food. When I moved back to New Mexico, I was blessed to get a job at a place that had a gym and a trainer. I started losing weight and feeling great. I also walked miles each day around the building. I didn’t sit at a desk as I do now. I still ate like shit, but my activity was fantastic. When I say I was feeling great, I mainly was feeling great. I felt sick every night and couldn’t figure it out. Once I did figure it out, thanks to a great grandmother and grandmother, I realized I had genetically inherited celiac disease. Once I cut out all things gluten, I lost more weight.
I hit my lowest weight as an adult and couldn’t keep the weight on. I was moving so much every day that I was finally burning everything that I was eating. Until we moved to Utah and I discovered all of the delicious, sugar-laded gluten-free junk foods. Then I started putting on weight, albeit slowly. I stayed about the same weight for a few years and moved a pretty good amount each day. I struggled with getting a good workout routine in. I didn’t want to go to a gym because I hate being in front of people for working out, and I just didn’t have the drive.
In 2014, I found Beachbody and LOVED doing their HIIT programs. I found what made me happy with working out and did that for a few years. That was until my back hit a point that I could barely move each day. In the fall of 2018, I couldn’t work out anymore. Hell, I could barely walk without pain. I got to the point that even cooking dinner was too much. So, I quit working out. And I haven’t worked out consistently since, but not for lack of trying.
After my spinal fusion, I waited to be cleared and wanted to get back to working out as so many other people had after their fusions. I mean, Kevin Hart got back to it pretty quickly after his car accident caused his back surgery. That was the thing, I was comparing myself to other people’s journey. They did it, so why can’t I??
I couldn’t because my body, muscles, and nerves are different. They have years of being in compromised positions that were adjusted with my surgery. Over the past two years, I’ve tried to find some kind of working out other than just walking that would make me happy and that my body would be okay with. The thing was, I went into those workouts as though I hadn’t had the gap in time of working out. I kept trying to modify but do something similar to the abilities I had before surgery. I kept pushing too hard.
The last two years have been an emotional struggle with working out. I crave those HIIT workouts that leave me dripping in sweat. I felt so good when I did them. But I can’t just dive in. My body can’t handle it. Just the feeling of my body not being able to handle it is depressing to me. I physically can’t do what I love.
It’s no longer about trying to be a certain weight or losing weight to be a specific size. Working out for me has become this thing that I crave because of how good my body feels. I feel the most alive, have the most energy and am an overall happier person when I can workout. Yes, my gut and arms have gotten a bit bigger than I like, but getting those down would only be a side benefit for me.
I feel the need to work out to get my energy back. I crave the kind of sweating that I used to do. I crave the feeling of taking care of my whole body, not just my nutrition. Walking is boring to me, but that’s what I can do. I am going to try to get back into workouts again, but this time my mindset has been adjusted. No, I can’t dive into a workout at the same ability that I had two years ago. I have to start more modified and as more of a beginner than I ever have. I have to take it slow. I can’t dive in and do five days a week right away. I have to listen to my body. Hell, I might not even finish a full workout, and I keep telling myself that that is okay.
Me getting back into working out has nothing to do with what society says about my body or my size. I am continually working on accepting that I don’t have perfectly flat abs or that my arms are a bit flabby. I am not the only one, and we are all beautiful regardless of the number on the scale.
My approach to accepting and loving my body and wanting to get back to working out is different than it used to be. I want to care for my body, not punish it because I had three cookies after dinner. I want to workout because of how it makes me feel, not how it makes me look. I am never going to have that perfectly sculpted CrossFit body, and that’s okay.
I had to take the time away from working out and not being able to so that I could appreciate working out in a different light. I desperately needed to be sidelined so I would stop trying to push my body past its limits to fit some societal ideal that is unrealistic for me. I had to distance myself from most people who workout and show off their post-workout selfies or gains. I had to start following women who do not have sculpted bodies but who workout for their health and because they want to. I had to start following women who give themselves grace for eating something that isn’t approved by most diets that our society says are approved for losing weight. I had to learn to love all of me with absolutely no buts.
There are no more “I love my body, but I wish….” statements. I’m not perfect at keeping those at bay, and I still have those thoughts. But I had to get to this point that I could respect what is going on in my muscles, nerves, joints, and overall body before I could ask my body to do any kind of laborious work.
I wish we could flip the script as a society. I wish we could make it more common to workout to feel good from the inside out than to have some sculpted body. I wish we could make it normal to love our bodies just the way they are. I wish we could, as a collective, teach the young girls today that their body is beautiful and that the most important thing isn’t to fit some ideal; it’s to be healthy from the inside out. And not the healthy that diet culture promotes.
What is your relationship with working out? Do you workout to punish your body for the cookies you ate or to burn off the beer you drank last night? Do you work out to try to sculpt your body so you can be accepted? Or do you exercise because you love your body and how you feel when you do?
Do you not work out? That’s okay too. Not everybody has to work out. But I absolutely believe that we all need to move our bodies more since we sit at desks and watch too much TV, but I don’t think that every single person needs to do a structured workout.
What does working out mean to you? Have you stopped to consider that, or are you trying to fit into the societally accepted term of working out?
You do you girl. You do not have to punish your body. Listen to it. If it hurts, don’t push it, take care of it. If you don’t like lifting weights, then don’t!
I have completely changed my stance on working out over the past seven-ish years, and I want to tell you right now that you do not have to answer that social media message telling you about that new product or workout that can help you get back your body. Figure out what taking care of yourself means to you as an individual and do that. If you want to work out, then do it if you are taking care of your body. If you don’t want to do something that is considered a workout, then don’t.
Take care of you. Period.
I am continually adjusting to figure out what that means for me, and it might mean that I may never do an activity that is considered working out ever again. I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to feel good and healthy from the inside out. That is what is important to me.