Ever since I can remember I’ve struggled with my conceptions of my physical appearance. I’ve been curvy since those hormones smashed into me at age 12 & I swear if I just side glance a carbohydrate of any sort, my pants hug me a little tighter. I joke around with my mom that there’s some kind of crazy food survival gene in our dna, way back before electricity & grocery stores, our ancestors survived well on little food & constant activity.
I remember dieting like crazy in 2013 before Pow Wow, a big AA retreat out in Palm Springs. I bought a really cute bikini and didn’t dare to eat anything for days leading up to and during, knowing I was going to be wearing next to nothing most the time I was there! Pow Wow was fun. So many of my close friends were there, & I made deeper connections with new people.
A big group from Long Beach always goes, & knowing that bikinis were involved I purposely avoided it for many years. “Are you going to Pow Wow?!” friends would ask excitedly. “No, not me. It’s not my thing,” I would answer which was partially true, it’s stupid hot in Palm Springs in June even in the pool. Who signs up for that? I also knew what it would bring up. I didn’t want to face it. But for some reason that year I dug in & set a goal for myself, to lose weight, & do the unimaginable: To feel comfortable in a bathing suit in public. I think that this mindset was growth, not all the way to self love, but part of the journey to get there.
I look back on the pictures, & can see my physical body & how thin I looked. But I also see the look in my eyes & remember how I felt. Alone. Desperate. Confused. Sad. Even though I was thin I wasn’t happy. Gasp, right?
I still wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter how much weight I lost. There was something deep inside me that wasn’t fully healed.
Giving birth to my son has put me on a different path. Being pregnant was liberating. There was no more, “just me.” What I ate & the physical activity I took directly affected this growing baby inside of me.
It wasn’t all about me anymore.
I truly believe that one of the keys to growth & change is unselfishness.
I gave birth & when you have a small infant to care for, you’re too busy to be obsessive about the way you look. I stopped straight ironing my hair on the regular. I stopped wearing heels. The baby weight didn’t go anywhere. I realized that there are much more important things in life than looking like a magazine cover.
I started becoming obsessed with esteemable acts & with self care instead of the way I look on the outside.
Those esteemable acts started in early sobriety. Whenever I would bring up my low self esteem, my sponsor in Long Beach would always point me in that direction. I witnessed this in action as I watched her with us (her sponsees), at AA functions, & everywhere else. She liked to have fun but you better believe that she was there to serve too. Like a muscle to be worked, the more I focus on helping others & self care, more whole I grow. It’s taken me a long time to get to this place. I didn’t really choose to get here, although I’m so grateful I did. I never wanted to do esteemable acts instead of thinking about myself all the time. It’s way more natural for me to be selfish than unselfish! Now, there’s hardly anything else I’d rather do than meet with a sponsee. I relish the opportunity to focus on helping someone else rather than think about all of my “problems.” Please.
My sponsor here in Oregon talks a lot about self care. Her sponsor used to ask her, “what have you done for self care today?” Thank goodness for this & the lesson it’s taught me. Many days I ask myself that same question. Sometimes the answer is a gluten free cupcake & sleep. Most days the answer is working out the way I need to work out & eating the foods that will fuel my body. We are all different & what works for me may not work for you.
Food was a place I went to when things got dark. Now food is fuel. Self care is nourishment. If I want to live a healthy life, then healthy food is the answer. I still eat crazy stuff, I just try to focus on what works for my own body for the most part.
Instead of trying to look like someone else, which is sort of crazy since they are them & I am me, I focus on having goals. Who the fork cares how much I weigh? What I do care about is if I can balance in handstand for 10 seconds. If I have to lift weights to get myself there then so be it. If running & weight lifting makes me into a stronger yogi, then I’m all over it. Having goals takes the pressure of what size I am or my measurements. My goals are to be strong in different ways, not to wear a size 2 or get rid of all of my cellulite.
Last year in May I asked a photographer friend to take some pictures of me practicing yoga. It was fun, we went to Portland & she got a lot of good shots. I remember before the shoot, having that anxiety, just like before Pow Wow, like I needed to lose more weight. How were these pictures going to turn out?
They turned out amazing, yes, but some were cringeworthy. I noticed the extra weight, the softness, the wide curves. This is my body, I remember thinking. It’s okay. Last Summer, they opened the pools in our neighborhood & it was the longest stretch I’ve ever had with not really caring about what I looked like half naked. Like, this is just it man. Embrace it. Granted, I wear a conservative “mom suit,” out there for the most part & no one is there some days, but still.
I’m okay with how I look. Maybe because I’m okay with who I am. Are all of the cliches true? They must be.
Fast forward to now, I try to eat protein & veggies for the most part, I intermittent fast, I run 3 times a week, I work out a different body part four days a week, & my class load ranges from 8-10 classes per week. I take 2 or 3 days off. Is it a lot? For me, yes. It’s been a slow process to be this active. My clothes fit better. My injuries feel better. I have a lot of energy. I feel strong which was my goal. Do I still have curves & cellulite? Hell yeah I do, I’m 41 so that probably will not change. Do I still get tired? Yes. Do I eat gluten free chocolate chip cookies? Again, yes.
I’ve taken my time writing this post because I know how much weight talking about diets & exercise carries. It’s an emotionally charged subject & I don’t bring it up lightly.
Wishing all of you out there lots of self love which is more important than the way you look.