I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today when I an old friend’s post caught my eye. It said “Murdered my glutes at the gym today- #no excuses.”
My beautiful friend is six months pregnant.
It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this type of language, and I’m sure you’ve heard it too. All these phrases used in the fitness world that connote hurting and punishing our bodies.
As a former eating disordered person, I have punished my body far too long to use this kind of language. I exercise most days – it keeps me happy, sane, functioning and healthy. I’m thankful that the gym I use (the YMCA) takes a healthier approach to fitness than some gyms I have been to.
I used to murder my body- slowly, deliberately. As a teenager, my self-starvation was an act of defiance against my own flesh. The more I cut calories and exercised, the more the numbers on the scale dropped, and I believed I was winning the war I waged against myself. Only the thinner I became, the worse I felt. I became even more depressed and anxious about gaining weight.
It took becoming pregnant with my oldest at the age of 20 for me to change the way I looked at my body. Suddenly, I became obsessed with nutrition. Instead of depriving myself of vital nutrients, I became vigilant about consuming the right amounts of vitamin rich, natural foods and I indulged my cravings of home-made banana bread and Indian food. I was making up for lost time.
I started exercising not to lose weight but to feel good. I took long nature walks, used the elliptical trainer, and practiced prenatal yoga.
Despite my positive changes, I still gained over 40 pounds during my first pregnancy. It’s possible that years of chronic malnutrition made my body think it needed to stock-pile fat in case another famine should arise.
Loving my postpartum body was a tremendous challenge, but somehow I managed to do it. My love for my tiny new human was strong enough to conquer any lingering feelings of hatred towards my flesh. My body had created this miracle. How could I abuse it?
It took several years to lose all the weight I had gained with my first pregnancy, but it happened slowly and healthfully. By the time I married my husband and became pregnant with my younger daughter, I was back to my first pre-pregnancy weight (although my body looked different). This time, I took good care of myself again, exercising and eating well, but was more careful about over-indulging, and I gained the recommended 25 pounds.
By a year postpartum, I had lost the weight and then some. I found that working out regularly and breast-feeding allowed me to eat pretty much whatever I wanted and still lose weight.
Fast forward 4 years. Somehow along the way, after several moves, two miscarriages, balancing work and home life, and battling a rare (but treatable) cancer, I have gained about ten pounds.
It shocked me when I realized how the weight crept on. I became determined to lose at least some of the weight that had insidiously found its way onto my small frame. For the last several months I have been working out nearly every day and eating a healthy diet of whole foods but still, the scale hasn’t budged.
In fact, I have gained two pounds. I don’t feel comfortable in this body even though my BMI is in the healthy range. I look in the mirror and instead of feeling proud of my assets I focus on my flaws. It is so tempting to give in to that voice that says “you’re not enough.”
But I am. This body that has broken, that has bled, that has carried and nurtured and sustained life – it is enough. It would be enough even if it never produced children because this body was made by God in His image. How can something crafted by our creator be anything less than marvelous?
Twice a week, I attend a high-intensity interval training class, (also known as boot camp). Most other days I do other forms of exercise, like hiking and yoga but it’s the boot camp classes that really get me working. While I’m doing burpees, mountain climbers, and push-ups, my muscles are burning, and I am pushed to my absolute human limit- but I’m not murdering my body, I’m loving it. With every class I take, I feel myself getting a little bit stronger, a little faster, a little more coordinated, and a little more confident.
I’m trying to make peace with my body, and accept that I am doing everything I can do to be healthy. Perhaps now that I have entered a new decade (I’ll soon be 31) my metabolism has slowed down and found its own desired weight- regardless of what I think about it.
Every day it is a battle to choose healthy thoughts but it’s a battle worth fighting, and it starts with how we think, and what we say. So while I may be a little sore the day after my work outs, no part of me is dying all of me is living, and being alive is a gift I no longer take for granted.