Oftentimes all we ever hear is how we just need to find the balance in life.
But WHAT does that look like?
This past year before my wedding, I never had any intention of “getting fit.” Sweating for the wedding? UM what. Why would anyone assume I was taking care of myself because I wanted to look toned in a dress? After my recovery from anorexia, I’ve always looked to find a balance. Something important in my recovery was that the clothes are meant to fit your body and not the reverse. So after enduring the road to finding health, I was wrestling with this whole “sweating for the wedding thing.” Let’s just say, I wasn’t a fan.
Part of suffering with an eating disorder is having a completely unhealthy outlook on life in all ways. I do think however, part of my inner turmoil was the struggle to find peace. (which heck yeah happens to be my “word” of 2017). Starving myself and using eating disordered behaviors really did work for me to help me cope for many years. After a long and intense battle, I saw the light, and let go of the eating disorder.
Fast forward about 6 years into my recovery. In that time, I completely gave up exercise. And I literally HAD to when I “stopped” being sick. It was an all or nothing thing for me. Exercise had to go in order for me to find peace with my body again. And I never wrestled with that. I was content. I found joy again, and the reality of not exercising other than leisurely did not bother me-like at all. And in turn, my relationship with food was completely normal. I did not struggle with food. I picked whatever I felt like, didn’t bother with portion sizes, nothing. I never looked at a food label. Never checked my weight.
But about 2 years ago, I joined a local Planet Fitness. I honestly cannot recall what brought me into the gym or why I signed up. It was summer time, and I was tired of feeling winded after a long walk or a hike.Weight loss was never a goal for me when I walked into the gym. I really felt like a “normal” person when it came to how I felt about food, exercise, and body image. And I actually really loved the message of Planet Fitness. They say “judgment free zone.” I don’t think anyone was ever actually executing that “mission” if you will, but the principle was a nice idea (sorry PF). And my now-husband has always been into fitness, so I contemplated integrating physical activity into my lifestyle when I saw how interested he was in it. Note that there were several years we were together when I could care less that he went to the gym and I didn’t. It just never bothered me. And it still doesn’t “bother me,” but I do think in the long run it has had a positive effect on me. Nevertheless, I was never “serious” about my fitness routine during this time of my life. As long as I was getting my blood flowing a little bit, while getting connected with my body again, I was happy.
Nonetheless, sometimes I had to fight the thoughts of going too “extreme” at the gym. I too was guilty of looking at other people envying how they could run so fast, or why they looked so much leaner than me. I continued to fight the good fight. I knew in my heart that fitness didn’t have to look like an eating disorder, but couch potato also didn’t have to be my norm. I just had to work a little harder than your average person to discover the in between. So here I found myself again in the past 3 years, trying to find a balance without going extreme. All in all, I can say at this point I made peace with my body, stopped hating it, made peace with food, but I was searching for something more.
One year ago, I was on an elliptical at Planet Fitness, and once again disgusted by the men gawking at me as I walked in. I did not think I had the courage to up and quit, but with rage and the disrespect I felt from the catcalling, I walked up to the woman at the front desk, and quit. A super impulsive move, but I’m so thankful to myself for doing that.
I left that gym happy and confused all at once. YAY! I’m DONE with that place. But what am I going to do now?? I scoured the internet to find something fitness-esque in my area that I felt I could connect with. There is a local all women’s gym that I knew of, but wasn’t quite sure about. And nothing had that perfect Yelp review I was so desperately trying to find.
But again, I looked for the courage inside of myself and walked into the gym, asking if I could try it out. Signed up for the membership just kinda hoping for the best. It just so happened that I was able to sign up for the “New Year’s Special” and I thought UGH great, now they’re going to judge me and think how this girl is never going to come around but YAY we got her money anyway! The next month I signed up for personal training so that I could get to know the machines and the gym. I think this is what really developed my relationship with fitness into a healthful and fantastic way of life. I learned how to use machines, how to do tons of different exercises (even without machines-so how cool is it how we can transform our own body’s strength on its own??!) Then, one day on the treadmill, I was watching “The View,” of which I was an avid viewer because what could ever get your blood pumping faster than watching women yell at each other!? And I saw Kayla Itsines on the show giving a little workout tutorial to the women. I was completely amazed by her, and how a woman could have so much strength, and just completely “get” this whole fitness thing. I wasn’t that avid of an Instagrammer, so didn’t really have too much exposure to the whole women in fitness ideology. (Not that Instagram is the only game in town for this, but it surely is a wonderful platform).
Around that time, her app “Sweat” launched, and I downloaded the free trial. It was such a great way to work out without feeling the pressure of constantly thinking about what you are going to do at the gym each day you go, especially if you don’t have a trainer to do the thinking for you. So I started the App, and I have really enjoyed it, but IT WAS SO HARD. I was so confused about how the workouts could truly be that difficult if I already started building some strength and stamina at the gym. And I put so much pressure on myself. Wondering if something was wrong with me, or why I couldn’t push that hard. Cue using everything I’ve learned in my eating disorder recovery to keep myself in CHECK. I never wanted to go back to that, and I didn’t, but it’s cool that some of the skills and the things I learned on that awful journey can actually be applied to my life today.
In those first few months of joining this woman’s fitness center, I was still cautious. Still trying to find where I fit in with fitness. One day, I again practiced courage, and stepped into the back of a Zumba class. Thinking to myself, “Oh gosh, I don’t know the moves, everybody here is dancing so well, they know everything…um…oh no, that lady is giving me a dirty look- did I take her beloved ‘spot’?!?!” But I kept challenging the thoughts, and using positive self-talk. “Michelle. Everybody starts somewhere. These ladies probably go to class every week. That’s how they know the moves. You have a dance background. You will pick the moves up quickly enough. Look up, smile, have fun!” I kept integrating that positive thinking pattern, and I began to have such a great time doing ZUMBA! I love, love, LOVE Zumba for so many reasons. Maybe, I’m late to the game, but a fitness activity that doesn’t track anything, no counting, no yelling, just people enjoying themselves and having fun. I feel like I’m just letting loose, and not working out. It’s amazing! And about your beloved spots-ladies and gents-next time just smile at the person who walks in late or for the first time. How on earth is anybody supposed to know that they took your spot?
I was falling in love with fitness day after day. I was passionate about it for sure. Feeling good, having so much energy I didn’t have before. Wanting to chase the world around me.
I ended up joining other classes at the gym and building my confidence in many other ways (which I will definitely expand upon in future posts). I found a community, a sisterhood for sure.
I’m really enjoying this part of my life, because I’m working hard to find that peace. It’s a learning curve that I find enjoyable. I don’t think balance is ever actually attainable, at least for me. Life just always swings you a teeny bit more in one way than another. Yet, if you have an ideal of what you would like balance to look like for your life, then it becomes easier to set goals, and figure out how to reach them. So I encourage ya’ll to hit the “Reset” button. Find what works for you, no matter how many times you have to try and try again. Eventually, it becomes more natural to reach peace and positive energy in life when you have a good understanding of what works for YOU.
I hope my own life journey can inspire someone else to take a path to wellness. Wellness has countless interpretations, but it really is worth it to discover what wellness looks like for your life so that you start to wake up in the morning and feel like you can take each day and crush your goals, and chase your dreams. Don’t just wish for wellness, but find it.
Live out your rainbow!