TW: some disordered eating/body image talk
Hi! I hate working out.
Well, that’s not totally true. Once I actually get myself going, I don’t mind it. Sometimes I even enjoy myself a little through all the panting and wheezing and sore legs. And when it’s over, I always feel good. I used to think exercise endorphins were #fakenews until I actually completed, like, four days in a row of a Jillian Michaels workout video. Turns out I just have to be a little less lazy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So beyond the whole laziness thing — (which I’m inclined to think may be hormonal but I also know myself well enough to recognize when I’m bullshitting) — I’ve also never used exercise in the context of doing a good thing for myself, even though I know I do *feel* good after. It’s only ever been a channel for the body image issues I’ve had for 15+ years.
I was a chubby kid, always one of the biggest girls in my dance class, was ridiculed for my size by classmates and some family members. This was mostly due to my complete lack of physical ability and how much I loved to eat garlic bread and instant mashed potatoes when somebody was mean to me at school or I felt socially awkward. So, you know, every day. My grandma always told me I was just big-boned, but even 9-year-old Erin knew what that was code for.
My weight fluctuated a ton throughout high school from depression and some disordered eating habits that started to emerge. Then I lost about 30 pounds over six years, starting at the end of my freshman year of college. Last summer, when I met my boyfriend, I was the thinnest I’d ever been. I used to fool myself into thinking I’d lost all the weight the healthy way because I did it slowly. Nevermind that I obsessively counted every calorie I consumed, punished myself mentally or physically when I indulged, and even purged sometimes.
Eventually, I started working out every day because I knew it was the only way I could get even thinner and stay that way, and I didn’t want to be dieting forever — I love food way too much for that. People had started telling me how great I looked, and I was getting more attention from men than I’d ever gotten before. I thought that if I “let myself go” in any way, all of that would stop.
One day earlier this year, I looked in the mirror and saw baby abs peeking out from my high-waisted leggings. I’d never felt so good about my body in my life. I was getting toned and stronger and I could even run for a while without getting too winded.
Then I turned to the side and saw my stomach protruding and realized that I would never be the type of thin that I wanted myself to be. I would always have skinny legs and narrow hips, a flat butt and a belly, broad shoulders and fleshy arms. Short of plastic surgery, I wouldn’t ever have the body type I wanted to have. But I kept exercising because I didn’t want to go back to how I looked before.
This was sometime in March or April. For the next several months, I worked out sporadically, but usually only to offset a food binge or when I’ve noticed I’ve gained a pound or two. And then November hit, along with a new round of seasonal depression. My fucked-up body image and fitness habits were no match for my complete inability to get out of bed in the mornings.
To try to get myself moving a bit, I did a few days of yoga and really liked it. Then I thought about getting a gym membership for classes, realized I wasn’t doing my Downward Dogs correctly, and had a full anxiety attack about a yoga teacher correcting my form and commenting on how inflexible I am in front of a class full of perfectly agile and toned white women. Thankfully, Joe calmed me down, but I don’t think yoga classes will ever be a thing I can handle. Our current plan is to get gym memberships when the January sign-up deals start and try to work out together when we can. I’ve tried to get myself up and moving this week, but it hasn’t worked.
So here’s my question, both to myself and to anyone who may relate to what I’ve just written: How do I motivate myself to work out in a body-positive, healthy way? How do I rewire my brain to see it as a form of self-care, a way to be nice to myself, when I’ve only ever used it as a punishment or to change the way I look? How do I accept my body as it is through all of this?
In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my subpar Sun Salutations in the privacy of my own home.