I came upon fitness in an unconventional way. I spent years as an athlete in high school and worked out some after I had kids, but I would never have said that fitness was important to me.
Playing hockey and fastpitch softball was important to me, because I enjoyed being on a team. I had high-pressure positions (goalie and pitcher/3rd base) so I also think I sought social validation by playing.
When we joined the local YMCA after having a couple kids, I joined group exercise classes. I had no idea what to do in the weight room and running on an elliptical machine for 45 minutes was pretty boring, so I liked the idea of being told what to do and participating in the “shared suffering” of the class. This, however, I did so I could be less fat. I didn’t do it to be healthy or strong, I simply wanted to be less fat.
So twice now I’ve done something unexpected and out of the ordinary for myself since we moved to a new town 150 miles from where we grew up back in October 2015. One of the first things I did when we got here was to say “I don’t know ANYONE here! I need to connect with other moms.” I joined MOPS. The second thing, was when my husband deployed last year. I said, “If I’m going to survive this, I need to take care of myself.” Somehow, even though I hadn’t stepped foot in a gym in more than 5 years, that thing became CrossFit.
Interestingly, I had spent the previous year lurking in a Facebook group all about self-acceptance. “Weight is only a measure of your relationship with gravity.” “How you look does not determine your value.” I began to appreciate my body for all the things it had done for me. It grew 5 tiny humans, and then fed them. It carried me through my toughest moments. It held me for my happiest moments. Every mark is part of my story.
All of a sudden, I wanted to take care of this body. I wanted it to be strong and capable to play with my kids, to take them on hikes, and to be around for them as they grow up.
My dad has been “prediabetic” for many years (basically he has diabetes but it can be managed with his diet and exercise, and recently started on some oral medication). His mother was diabetic and took insulin shots most of my life. I knew this was a risk for me. Then, suddenly, in August of 2017 my mom was diagnosed with full-on Type 2 diabetes. I didn’t see it coming, and it shook me.
Now my risk is even higher. I realized I have several familial risk factors for feminine cancers as well. Uterine prolapse, fibroids, stage 1A endometrial cancer, all in my family tree. And now 2 biological parents with diabetes.
My health risks, self-acceptance, and husband’s deployment all piled on top of each other, and I decided to choose fitness.
This time I wasn’t trying to look better, but to feel better. I wanted to be strong.
And this time it stuck.
It took months of me taking the time to accept and appreciate myself for who I am RIGHT NOW to give me the strength, courage, and resolve to change. I didn’t change because I disliked who and what I saw in the mirror, I changed because I cared about that girl. For the first time in years, I really cared about her and wanted something different for her.
There are so many messages out there about what women’s bodies should look like or what we should think about them, who we should strive to be, and I’m here to tell you to turn all that off. Hating who you see in the mirror won’t help you make any lasting change in your life. It won’t help you to grow and become the woman you are capable of. Self-hatred will only breed hateful thoughts, and at the first sign of adversity, you’ll quit.
It’s a journey. Take that first step.
Look in the mirror and appreciate the girl looking back at you. Remember all the things she has done for you. The journey you’ve been on. The stories you share. And start to love her. Feed that love little by little until you believe it with all your being.
Then sign up for that painting class. Join a gym. Go for a walk. Go on a date. Put yourself out there and believe in yourself, because that’s when the magic happens.