I’ve been working at this body image thing for awhile now. Probably since I was first told I was fat, around eight years old (and a couple of years ago I came across some pictures of me as a kid, and you guys? I was a skinny little thing at that age. The fuck with people telling me I was fat? STABBY STABBY STABBY).
I didn’t know how to sort it out at that age, but my brain was screaming out that they were wrong. I struggled with knowing what the actual factual truth was, and still feeling less worthy of being a human because of how I thought I looked. It’s evolved a lot in the last 27ish years, and I know much better now how to love myself than I used to. And, yet, I keep finding these new layers, and each time I get to that level I feel like I have all the work yet to do. It is both energizing and exhausting.
Recently as I was leaving the gym, proud of myself for having worked hard, I thought to myself, “Even if I always stay fat, at least I’ll be fit.”
And then a little voice, from the back of my brain bravely spoke up and repeated a line I’d already read and nodded furiously in agreement with in many a fat acceptance blog.
But. So what if you’re not fit?
Because I am still holding onto that desperate need to be accepted and respected by everyone always.
And, yes, I know how unrealistic that is. But it’s my core operating system. It’s a bullshit core operating system, but it takes a lot of work and a lifetime to reprogram a core operating system.
So the thing hit me: I’m still working out for other people. I may have detached the weight loss itself from my exercise routines, but apparently only with the catch that I have to at least be in good shape. Cause that’ll show ‘em.
Here’s a list of things I thought I liked about working out, but it turns out, none of these things are about me at all:
~Not being out of breath when I have to climb a flight of stairs around people who might think I’m just a fat fatty.
~Not being out of breath when I run and play with my kids. So strangers at the park won’t judge me.
~Going to the gym regularly to prove that some people are just fat no matter how much they exercise.
~Secretly wanting to be at least a little bit less fat. To show them.
It’s not their business. Ignore them. You’re awesome.
So here’s a list of things I actually do love about working out:
~Lifting weights and watching myself grow stronger.
~Doing harder cardio and watching myself grow stronger.
~Getting all sweaty and gross. No, really. I love that.
~Being able to do the more strenuous hikes without my head feeling like it’s trying to explode for lack of oxygen.
~Feeling good overall. Happier, more awake, less foggy. Regular exercise does this for me.
I’m going to keep those in mind and I’m going to do my best to live by them, to keep me motivated to exercise for me.
I’ve been a member of this gym now for almost a year and, while I certainly haven’t gone regularly, I’ve avoided that perfectionist attitude of, “well, I haven’t gone for a few weeks now so I just give up and when my contract is up I’ll cancel.” Instead I just go when I can, or sometimes just when I do.
And so what if I don’t? Well, now I know – on a conscious level, at least – that it won’t make me a failure.
I don’t have to be fit any more than I have to be thin. My personal value doesn’t rest upon size or fitness. It doesn’t rest on my health. It also doesn’t rest upon beauty, or intelligence, or sense of humor. I am valuable because I am a person. End. of. story.
(7 Days is a quarterly self-portrait group project I have taken part in for the last sixish years. One selfie a day for a week.)