A new year is upon us, and with it comes the inevitable “I’m going to lose weight and get healthy” resolutions. Social media is teeming with 7-day detoxes and 30-day challenges. And while I will always unconditionally support any healthy goal, I’m not sure all these endeavors are truly healthy and I’m wary of making one myself. If there’s anything I’ve learned about food and fitness this past year (okay, past few years), it’s that there can be — scratch that, there is — a fine line between healthy and disordered thinking.
We often embark on a diet (oh, how I despise that word) or exercise regimen with the best intentions, only to encounter whispers, both internal and external, of “you’re still not XXX enough“, where XXX can stand for “thin”, “pretty”, “athletic”, or some combination of the above. Why is that?
I myself have been touched by some of these murmurs. At risk of invoking self-pity, touched is an understatement. As we all know (and currently experience), our teenage years abound with major physical, mental and spiritual changes, from hormonal fluctuations and life transitions to new relationships.
These are the years during which we’re supposed to find ourselves and be the best we can be, a sentiment that manifests itself in many facets of our lives, including body image. Especially body image.
You know, I really miss the days when we could enjoy a pack of Oreos washed down with milk without second thoughts about glycemic indexes or carb-to-protein ratios. The days when we ran around playing tag not as a means of weight management, but for sheer unadulterated fun. The days when we didn’t even know what calories were, let alone how to count them. Ignorance is bliss, huh?
Fast forward 10 years, and here we are analyzing our plates for macro content, calculating whether it would “fit” into our day. We’re wondering whether we worked hard enough during our HIIT routines to activate the “after-burn” effect (that would help us burn calories even while sitting).
For some of us, this means keeping an eternal scale of energy in vs. energy out in our minds, using it to gauge our progress of the day. Eat this, not that. 10 more reps. Pain is weakness leaving the body.
So, what changed? Maybe one of us remembers how quickly the weight slipped off during her transition from chubby child to slender teen. Perhaps she recalls the loving nickname “chunky monkey,” fondly toted by her peers. It’s possible she reminisces how they finally shut up after she made exercise a priority and “cleaned up” her diet. That would show them. Just a little bit of fat loss here, some toning up there, and she’d be golden. She was no monkey.
Maybe… That girl is me.
Writing these four (okay, five) words is oddly liberating. It’s causing me to finally step out from this “health nut” facade and come clean (at least to myself) about how exactly I live life. Those reading might be surprised. Is this the same girl that preached self-love during her #100healthydays challenge? The girl that told the world why gaining the freshman 15 and breaking your diet is totally okay? My, what a hypocrite.
Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m better at fooling myself than I am at fooling others. I have a feeling those closest to me have known for a while now, that my running 11 miles on the treadmill signified more than just another long run milestone. That heading to the gym at 12 am wasn’t exactly a part of my normal training routine… it was a response to my “surplus” over the past week.
Don’t get me wrong — I love exercise. I love the endorphins, the sense of satisfaction, the on top of the world feeling after conquering a physical challenge. But, I love exercise most when it doesn’t serve as a mechanism to balance my mental energy scale. I sorely miss the early morning jogs “because I felt like it.” When you move because you want to, and not because you have to, boy, does that hit the spot.
That’s why I’ve decided not to make losing weight one of my subconscious resolutions this year. I’m going to shift my focus from losing weight (read: becoming less) to gaining strength and self-empathy (read: becoming more).
This year, I’m going to eat the food, dammit. Call me a glutton, tell me I’m chunky, heck, you can even liken me to a monkey — see how much I care. I have faith in my desire for endorphins to keep my fitness goals alive. And if my body can carry me for 13.1 miles, then who’s to stop me from treating it with Lithuanian Coffee Cake?
Now, I can only speak for myself, but I suspect I’m not alone. I have a feeling I’m not the only one striving to reconcile these cryptic worlds of food and fitness, to make peace at last with my internal calculator and rekindle my “tag” days. (BTW, for those of who are seriously considering it, calf tag is a TON of fun.)
So here’s to 2016. Here’s to eating the food. Here’s to moving (yes, moving, not working out) to keep our endorphins levels high.
Before I sign off, here’s a disclaimer: I’m not perfect. After telling myself I’d focus on being more rather than less this year, I went ahead and ran 37 miles in the first 8 days of January. The whole time I was pounding the pavement, I firmly believed that I was doing my body a favor, that I was becoming “stronger with every step.”
Then why did I feel a twinge of panic when I couldn’t workout at the regular time on Friday night? Was that why I decided to lace up my shoes and have a go on my hamster wheel of a treadmill while watching the premiere of The Biggest Loser? Why am I sitting here now with an irritated Achilles and PMS’ing knees?
I’m not perfect, and neither are you. We’re bound to make mistakes and slip from time to time, but it’s okay as long as we remember that being more always trumps being less.
Here’s to being more.