I’ve been frustrated lately with my exercise routine because of my wonky knee, the Holiday Junk Food season that is now, thankfully OVER, as well as living with a boy who loves to cook Waffle House-style breakfasts on the weekends and these elaborate goddamn dinners which I feel too weak to resist. But I digress. I thought in light of Resolution Season, I'd share my struggle with diet, exercise and body image. Okay, so here we go.
2007 was my Skinny Year. Maybe the planets were aligned, maybe I’d hit some sort of pre-thirties metabolic freak-out, but whatever the reason, my normal, everyday workout’s nitro boosters kicked in and I lost a lot of weight. I was 5’7” and weighed 119 pounds.
But I didn’t start exercising to get skinny. That was merely a happy and expected result. I began exercising to escape my head. Depression had been lurking for three years at that point, which was far too long, I decided one January afternoon as I smoked a cigarette outside of my office building. I’m joining a gym, I thought to myself.
And I did.
I noticed the short-term benefits immediately. Whatever hundreds of stupid things that buzzed around my head like a horsefly suddenly vanished. I felt clear-headed, alive, energized. I told myself I’d found the answer to my stress and depression management.
After a month or so, I noticed a significant attitude improvement and had more energy at work. Depression seemed but a faint memory. That alone fueled my motivation and aside from obligations like appointments or the occasional dinner or work event, I exercised every day.
At this point I craved feeling healthy so I started eating well. I paid close attention to what I bought at the grocery and what I ordered at restaurants. I ate almonds and dried apricots instead of chips or crackers. I ate tons of veggies with my meals. I stopped drinking soda and anything with high fructose corn syrup. I drank cold ice water all day long. I ran at least 3 ½ miles 4 times a week and lifted weights.
I occasionally had a splurge—like a fat cheeseburger and french fries—but I never felt guilty because I knew I’d burn it off.
After three months, I’d logged some serious hours on the treadmill. Of course, I lost weight but I was primarily motivated by my newfound spirited mood so I kept right on sweating and eating well. It was an affirming cycle. The more regularly I exercised, the healthier I ate, the better I felt.
Another month, more weight loss.
My parents said I was too thin, that I had chicken arms. I thought, they’re nuts. Ladies at work would say something similar. I’d pop a bourbon ball in my mouth and they’d go, “how on earth do you stay so thin?” I usually mumbled something about watching what I ate or that I ran. Discussing it too often or in too much detail embarrassed me.
Pretty soon though I began to see what everyone was talking about. My clothes had become a tad baggy.
Standing naked in front of my full length mirror one evening, I saw what everyone was making a fuss over. I saw tone in places that never had been before. My hips and thighs, what I have always considered my “problem areas,” had slimmed. That maddening jiggle was replaced by a supple elasticity. I looked long and lean. I felt pretty.
Shopping suddenly became a smorgasbord of options. I picked up sizes I never dreamed I’d ever wear. I was consistently dumb founded by how well clothes fit my body and when I shopped, which was quite often, I bought nearly everything I tried on. I racked up a nice little pile of debt because of that. But I didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I was excited about shopping for a bikini.