Reasons to Work Out (7 Days: Day 6)

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).

Me as a child, not fat:
me, my grandparents, and the thingie my grandpa made for the fair

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.

Dear Me,
It’s not their business. Ignore them. You’re awesome.
Love,
Me

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.

Gymming.

(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.)

Filed in 7 Days, The Zebra, This is a Woman

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Arciemme June 27, 2013, 10:54 pm

    “I am valuable because I am a person. End. of. story.”

    YES!

    So basic a fact, but so neglected too, by almost everyone when considering themselves and by lots of people when considering others, too.

    Thank you for the reminder. x

    Reply
  • Jen June 28, 2013, 9:27 am

    Your timing is impeccable! I’m am seriously struggling with these questions right now. I think this is a great prompt for me to write about because I have lots of feelings regarding this issue. In short, I really think that I’m working out for how strong it makes me feel. Also, what a bummer that someone put that thought into your 8 year old head. :(

    Reply
  • Mina June 28, 2013, 12:21 pm

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot, as my workout regimen, along with my goals, has changed very dramatically over the past few years. At 40 now, I am stronger, more overall fit (in that I mix up my exercise rather than doing one thing only) than ever, yet I also weigh more than I ever have AND I am enjoying my workouts way more than ever. Odd, isn’t it?

    I like your comment that your personal value doesn’t rest on your fitness or thinness. I totally agree with that. I also think, though, that it’s OK to take pride in something you work toward achieving. We do that in other areas. I sing in an a capella group – we work hard, rehearse, learn our parts, work together, shop for costumes, etc…it’s a ton of work, and when it comes together for a result we get to be happy about, we get to enjoy that.

    Fitness can be that too. It’s OK to celebrate being able to lift heavier, hold a plank longer, run faster, whatever the goal we are working toward may be…as long as we can separate that from our value of our “selves” (and as long as we’re not throwing out into the universe that someone who chooses not to push themselves in that realm is “less than” we are).

    It’s a slippery slope though, for me. Take the singing, for example…if that went away (if I developed nodes on my vocal cords and had to quit, say), it would really distress me…it’s a huge part of who I am. I’ve felt that way when I’ve been injured and needed to rest the injury. Like my “self” is really impacted. I’m working on that…I’d like for that to not be the case. I’d like to have a rough week where I can’t work out and not feel miserable about it. I’m getting there!

    Reply
    • bonnie June 28, 2013, 1:47 pm

      Well, absolutely we should take pride in our accomplishments. Like I said, I love watching myself grow stronger. My point is that we need to find a way – and it might look different for every person – but we need to find a way to find value in ourselves without any of these external things. I like that you point out that because some of these things are a deep part of you that to lose them would impact your sense of self. I would suppose that would come with any loss. A person who loses a limb has to go through a grieving process and, I would imagine, has to find a new way to identify their inner self based on their new outer self. But none of that – your singing or running or limbs – denotes your value. You are valuable no matter what. So I think we should all take pride in our accomplishments whatever they are, but also realize that we are more than our accomplishments because we accomplish so many different things. If you – god forbid – couldn’t sing anymore, you’d still be a loving mother, you’d still take part in these fantastic conversations, you’d still be funny and smart, you’d still be someone whose support I value. You’d have to grieve, and probably re-identify, but you’d never lose value. Am I making sense? I hope I am being sensitive and understanding of what you are saying.

      Reply
      • Mina June 28, 2013, 2:02 pm

        Yes, I agree with everything you said in both your blog post and your comment :-)

        I agree that my own sense of value should (and most of the time it does!) should be in myself and not my accomplishments.

        I just meant that working toward a goal and feeling good about pushing oneself beyond comfort to get to it is also OK to celebrate.

        Like you said – you like seeing yourself get stronger from lifting weights. That doesn’t mean you’re a loser if you’re not strong, and it doesn’t mean you think other people are losers if they aren’t strong, but it’s still OK to lift and think “Go me…I’m strong today!”.

        I guess part of why I am looking at it like this is I was sort of snidely accused of being vain for exercising (and I’m really not a fanatic…I don’t post my workouts on FaceBook…I think it’s probably obvious to people who see me during the day I go to the gym because I often don’t get a shower until much later in the day and remain a sweaty mess for longer than I’d like!).

        I felt that accusation was unfair. There are many reasons to exercise. And I admit I do do an internal fist bump when I drag myself out of bed and go to the gym when I really don’t feel like it, and get a great workout in and feel better after, and I think “Go me…”…but then sometimes I sleep, and I wake up and I think “I really needed that…Go me!”. Hahahahahaha

        Reply
        • bonnie June 28, 2013, 3:00 pm

          Wait. Did someone else make this accusation or did my post inadvertently sound like I was accusing you?

          Reply
          • Mina June 28, 2013, 3:03 pm

            Someone else!! No, not you! Bonnie, you and I agree on this issue – I can’t imagine ever thinking you were accusing me of something like that! :-)

          • Mina June 28, 2013, 3:04 pm

            Sorry – I just read through my comment and I realize why you thought that. Ooooops. I didn’t mean that at all – just that I’d been thinking about that part of it due to the reaction of this other person’s sort of subtly snide accusation (which I totally think was a manifestation of how she felt about HERself, sadly…).

          • bonnie June 28, 2013, 3:23 pm

            It’s ok! I had assumed you meant someone else but if it was something I’d done I’d want to make up for it, yk? :)

            Whew!

        • bonnie June 28, 2013, 6:40 pm

          And, BTW, I totally cheer myself for naps.

          Reply
  • bethany actually July 3, 2013, 4:13 pm

    I just Tumblr’d (Tumbled? Tumbld?) the last paragraph because it’s awesome.

    Reply
    • bonnie July 3, 2013, 5:16 pm

      <3

      Reply
    • bonnie July 3, 2013, 5:17 pm

      And I vote “Tumbld”. Vowels are so 1997.

      Reply

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