When I was a child, I fell off a balance beam in gymnastics class and injured my shin. Badly. But I was shy and scared so I hobbled along for the rest of the class, gritting my teeth through the pain. My babysitter noticed something was off when class was over and she took me to the hospital. Turns out, I needed a soft cast -- I'd fractured my bone.
That was the first time I told myself that my body wasn't important, or special, or deserving of attention. That was first time I learned to make myself small.
When I turned into a teenager, with all of that stage's hormonal ups and downs, I focused on drawing attention away from my body. Every time someone (usually, an adult) mentioned how I'd lost or gained weight, how my skin had started to break out, how my womanly curves had started to grow in, I'd turn further into myself, disconnecting more and more from the body that didn't feel representative of me.
It's a kind of magical thinking -- to believe that by making ourselves as small as possible we can eventually make all the things that bother suddenly disappear. This isn't the way the body works. It exists, it takes up space, it has needs and wants that may not be in line with the needs or wants you think you should have.
That's why I hate the word dieting. That's why I cringe when I hear someone espousing the weight-loss benefits of one kind of exercise over another. No workout or diet is inherently better than another. There is room for yoga AND Crossfit, SoulCycle as well as meditation in your practice. All carry benefits, all can be good for you when practiced responsibly.
It's about balance -- a holistic health routine that includes mind as well as body -- and, ultimately, what makes you happy.
I made a decision this year to stop thinking of exercise and dieting as tools for weight loss. To stop looking for that magical concept of results. Instead, I exercise because it makes me feel good, because my brain needs it to stay afloat during the rainstorms that sometimes exist inside of me. Instead of beating myself up if I don't work out every day, I celebrate when I do work out, and my only rule is that I do it twice a week. I give myself permission not to feel bad about skipping the other days. The weeks where I do more than the required two days become causes for celebration, instantly lifting my mood. I've discovered also that high intensity training just doesn't work for me -- it triggers my anxiety and leaves me feeling more drained than energetic. So I look for ways to do cardio that won't put a strain on my spirit, and I'll switch over to yoga if I start a workout that just... Isn't working out in that moment.
I'm making an effort to cook more because being in the kitchen makes me happy. I'm listening to my body and making decisions based on what makes it feel good (sometimes it's roasted veggies, sometimes it's a donut). I'm working on not setting restrictions, on not seeing food as "bad" or "good" or guilt-inducing. Because why shouldn't we enjoy the things that literally sustain our lives, and the things that give us joy?
When we focus on "dieting" or "weight-loss," we automatically signal to our brains that we are not good enough the way we are. That we are wrong and must change.
None of that is true. You are beautiful because of the ways in which you're different from everyone else. You are the only you that has ever existed, and ever will: Celebrate your body the way that it is, wrinkles, scars, curves and all.
My body is not perfect -- it will never be perfect -- but it is a gift: eyes that let me see the stars at night, ears that allow me to enjoy music, arms that let me hold the ones I love, lungs that breathe in life every single day, and a brain capable of understanding that I am here, that I am a being worthy of taking up space on this planet.
You are, too.
Looking for ways to incorporate holistic wellness into your routine? Join me for CURANDERAxWalkClub: a chance to meet other kick-ass women while exploring DC, followed by rooftop drinks + snacks. Tickets available here.