The adjectives I use to describe myself have a certain power. I describe myself as quirky, cheerful, artistic, intuitive, ambitious, cautiously adventurous, chill — but “sporty” has not been on that list since middle school.
My self-construct has not believed in a version of myself that is capable of being healthy.
Unfortunately, there’s a certain power in limiting myself. If I refuse to believe I am physically capable, my actions reflect my perceived ability. Then it feels like adjusting my self-construct to include a “physically fit me” insinuates I am somehow deficient, that I am a failure. It makes me a bit edgy. I don’t like being a failure; as mentioned previously I am both optimistic and ambitious. I go through life simultaneously uncomfortable with my unhealthy weight and annoyed that the social views of the day require I be skinny to be considered beautiful.
Have I lost you yet? I recognize this is a very meta post. I apologize for confusing those of you who are concrete operational thinkers. Essentially it boils down to this:
- Girl thinks she is pretty cool, but not physically inclined
- Girl does not want to admit she is overweight because it means she is failing
- Girl pushes aside all messages promoting the importance of being healthy and fit because it’s “not her”
- Girl experiences extreme cognitive dissonance as she feels shame for her body but refuses to do anything about it
Does this sound familiar to any of you? Many experience this self-defeatist cycle at some point.
I am fighting to lose weight, not for the sake of some shifting social concept, but for my overall health. It took a while for me to re-wire my brain to get to this point. I started off working out intermittently, then two to three times a week, and then finally it clicked as a daily task that I wanted to pursue. I am working out 5-6 days a week. I lift weights three times a week, do cardio at least twice a week, rock climb as often as I can, and pursue yoga. I am strong now, and I really value this strength coursing throughout my body.
While my goal is to lose weight, I have quickly realized that it doesn’t come off easily. It will take a lot of hard work, dedication, and patience. I have a long term goal set in mind and I try to celebrate the little things so as not to get frustrated. I monitor my macro intake closely to make sure I am not overeating like I usually do; my husband helps me monitor it to make sure I am not under-eating since I am working out hard and need those calories to rebuild my muscles.
While I have been pursuing this idea of “healthy Nicole,” I find myself periodically uncomfortable in her skin. Nicole is not used to voluntarily working out. Nicole is not used to posting workout selfies, particularly ones involving weights. I think part of my discomfort is knowing that people might squeeze me into another stereotype, and I’ll feel compelled to live up to it. It wouldn’t be the first time. Mostly I feel like I’m not yet deserving of any adjective similar to sporty, fit, active, or healthy. Don’t get me wrong — I’m kicking butt and I know it. However, I’ve got a long way to go before those words make it onto my permanent personality adjective list.
You are Capable
I don’t feel comfortable promoting myself as some standard by which others should follow for inspiration, but I find myself wanting to encourage people, to let them know that it is possible to stop feeling shame and to start embracing a healthier you.
Let me be clear — healthier is not synonymous with “20 pounds lighter.” Being beautiful does not require the ability to do a proper downward facing dog and being handsome does not revolve around bench lifting over 300 pounds. I do not promote fat-shaming on any level, whether it’s the personal shame most heap on themselves or the cultural shame that accompanies.
Any step toward a healthier you is a step in the right direction, and you won’t regret it in the long term. In the short term, you will absolutely regret every second you are running on the elliptical or forcing your body to do things it hasn’t been forced to do since middle school gym class. But after a few rough workout sessions you push those self defeating thoughts out of your mind and you’ll start to realize that you are not just dead sexy, you are capable.
10 Steps for Healthy Living
These steps have worked miraculous wonders for me:
- Surround yourself with people who love you and who want you to succeed in your physical endeavors. If you are so inclined, find prayer buddies to be praying you’ll be want to work out. My husband has been my number one advocate through this whole adventure, constantly reminding me how beautiful I am (no matter my size) and encouraging me every step of the way.
- Get yourself in the emotional mindset to workout — started thinking of yourself as “sporty” or “yogi” or “runner” or “fit.”
- Make time for space in your life to get healthy. This includes time for working out, resting, meditating/praying, researching, buying and preparing healthy food, etc.
- Find your gym-spiration, the one thing that is going to get you excited about coming back to the gym and getting in shape. Rock climbing became my surprising “gateway drug” into the gym.
- Look for role models to admire and look up to. I love watching the women in my gym climb these crazy walls, because they are so strong and fearless. My husband loves following power lifters.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions to a knowledgeable friend or a personal trainer. My husband is the closest thing to a fitness expert I have, so I double check my form with him all the time.
- Celebrate every little victory, from a 16 minute mile to lifting 20 pounds on the lat pull-down machine to working out three times a week.
- Allow your loved ones to shower you with positive reinforcement, and internalize it. Don’t just cast it away because you’re used to self-bashing.
- Recognize that while physical beauty is nice, it is fleeting and impermanent. It is much more important to focus on making your soul, you relationships, and your life beautiful.
- Accept that you are not perfect nor will you be a perfect physical specimen, but you are mightily loved as you are by your Creator.
There is a strong correlation between the measure of respect I show my body and the overall respect and confidence I feel for myself. I am strong, I am capable, I am grateful for the chance to pursue a life of healthy living. You can be, too.