Being a woman in the United States, weight loss comes up a lot. Being in the health and wellness space, weight comes up a lot. Having been in tip top physical shape a couple years ago, MY weight comes up a lot.
It seems like yesterday that I had to buy a whole new wardrobe because everything I owned had become too big. I would briefly lament over the fact that I had lost nearly all my breast tissue, but then remind myself I would rather be fit, full of muscle, strong and have less body fat than have boobs again.
I got rid of all my old clothes because obviously I would never again need such large things.
Now here I am. Writing this, back to my heaviest weight, and the most physically weak I have been in my life. For a second time I had to buy a new wardrobe, because every time I tried to put on my clothes I felt like an over stuffed sausage which sent me bursting into tears.
From overweight, depressed, and anxious - to fit, energetic and healthy... and back again. I spent a large part of the couple years asking, "Why?" and "How?" Now, though, I've realized that's not what's important.
What's more important is what I've learned along the way.
I believed my worth was defined by my body.
If you would have asked me before all of this I would have denied that profusely. The truth always finds a way to come out though, and I don't think I would have realized it if I hadn't gained all the weight back. When my familiar body got taken from me I felt like I had also lost myself. I felt like a foreigner in my body. As if someone had come to my room one night when I was in the deepest sleep and stolen the Tera I knew and replaced her with a new ill fitting one. It literally felt like overnight I was a different person.
This new body created a new struggle of feeling like a fraud. Like my knowledge in health, nutrition, and fitness means nothing since I look the way I do. The harsh reality is that I grew up being a 'pretty girl' and that's how I related to myself. When 'pretty' as I saw it (how we are taught by the media to see it) was gone I lost all sense of self worth.
Am I completely over this? No. I still have days when I put on an article of clothing, or I look in the mirror and my mind says "You are disgusting, who would listen to you, who would like you when you look like that?" There is this nasty voice in the back of my head that even questions how my own fiance could want to be with me or find me attractive. How could he love this girl that has physically changed so much?
I know that voice and those thoughts aren’t true. I am not my body, I am more than my body. The first step to change is realizing the behavior, and we can only take one step at a time. Now I'm onto the next step, shifting the thoughts and behavior.
Health is much more complicated than diet and exercise.
For some people you can take sugar out of their diet, or tell them to work out a few times a week and all their health or weight problems will be solved. Those are the people you will see in the media, but that is not everyone. In fact the majority of people have more complicated issues that take much more to solve. Unfortunately we don't often hear about those stories, because they don't sell things, and it makes life complicated when we want easy.
When my health declined I literally could not work out anymore. I used to practically jump out of bed ready to hit the gym, do yoga, go on a bike ride, anything that was active. Then it was a struggle to get out of bed, or out of the house.
Other than that though, nothing else much changed. I live fairly impeccably. I eat healthy whole foods, most of which I cook, I get adequate sleep, I stay away from too much caffeine and alcohol. It all seems like enough, but in my search for healing, and for answers I've learned that often the healing that needs to be done is emotional, mental, psychological and lifestyle based. It's often the hard stuff, the stuff we don't want to deal with.
To be grateful for all that I have.
Even at my physical best I wanted to be better, which can be a good thing, but it can be a slippery slope. I still saw a pooch and wanted those defined abs, I thought I needed to be ketogenic (running off of fat and ketones for energy) and then as I started to gain weight I thought it couldn't get any worse. It did. Now I look back and wish I would have been more grateful for what I did have.
My body isn't my ideal right now, but I am grateful to have enough energy to get out of bed. I am grateful that I can ride a bike and that I can travel. I am grateful that I got my period for the first time in two and half years in 2015 and it has been regular ever since. I am grateful to my body because it carries me through life, but I realize who I am is not defined by my body. I am grateful that although my body and my health are not perfect, in striving to heal I have learned A TON. More than I ever thought I would.
Our culture's views on women are sick and twisted.
I never thought of myself as a feminist, because that brings about pictures of angry, man hating women (which is ridiculous). This journey though has turned me into a feminist, and not in a angry women way. It's opened my eyes to the ways in which women are portrayed, spoken to and spoken about, and I think it's absolutely unacceptable. How women used to be revered for their feminine qualities and now they are seen as less.
It's given me new passion and drive to help other women, and helped me to see exactly what they are struggling with and against. Not only in terms of body and confidence, but also when it comes to health. Dealing with my own hormonal battles and being able to openly discuss them, I now see how many others are struggling as well. I see how many women don't know much about their bodies or how they work.
It's time for the divine feminine to once again rise to our fullest potential.
I have learned so much compassion. We are all dealing with something. We all have struggles and we are all trying to hide them. Each person has a story. If only we could reach out and share instead of hide. Put our shame, our ego and our pride away. If we could do that we would see we are all in it together. We aren't alone, no one's life is perfect no matter what their Facebook and Instagram look like. Even for the people that seem to have it all figured out, they had to go through some shit to get there. It's our struggles that teach us, help us to grow and to strive for more.
I have big dreams.
In an effort to regain my health and to find my happiness I've done a lot of reflection and brainstorming. I've learned my dreams to do something big don't go away just because my body or health does. In fact they have only grown.
I know that this too shall pass and when it does I will still have my dreams, so I better start working on them now. Enough waiting. Enough thinking I can't work towards them until I am back to what I used to be, until I reach a certain figure, until I solve my ailments. I want to inspire people to rethink their lives, and their health. To live differently, to wake up and follow their bliss. I want to help guide people back to their body. I want to build a community of like minded women. I want to run retreats, workshops, and trainings. I want to be a TED speaker, to teach at Wanderlust, to put together a conference and to meet the the movers and shakers of the world. I want to create information products that help to awaken people and that give them another step on their journey. I want to create an online journal. Reawaken the feminine and help change our world. To travel the world, to continue to explore and learn, to inspire people. To open my own bed and breakfast in another country, and maybe even a full blown restaurant or retreat center. My own struggle is what has helped to guide me to these dreams, but waiting until I am 'better' won't make any of them happen.
The honest truth is even despite all of these lessons sometimes I can still be unkind to myself because of my body. We are all a constant work in progress. I am not perfect and neither are you. There isn't any point in trying to be because we will only end up constantly disappointed and unhappy.
You are more than your body, just as I am more than mine. Strive to find your health, but don't allow your body or the desire of perfection incapacitate you from fully living.
This is what my own body has taught me and what I continue to learn each day.