Have you ever met someone and instantly clicked with them? That’s what happened when I “met” Sherry. I say “met” because we met on MyFitnessPal and realized that we were so similar. She was the first friend that I had that shared my love of running. I didn’t love running when I met her, but over time, I grew to love it and -dare I say- NEED it.
Sherry inspired me to stay on top of my fitness goals and to push myself when I really just wanted to quit. She is an amazingly inspiring woman who has a lot of life experience and wisdom to share with the world. You can find Sherry on YouTube.
For so much of my life, dieting was supposed to be my refuge, my fix-all plan to extinguish every miserable piece of fat on my body and turn me into some all-star beauty queen who was free of hurt, shame and embarrassment. Dieting would turn me into the girl who was courageous enough to stand up to any task. Dieting would turn me into the girl who didn’t get pushed around. Dieting would turn me into the girl whom everyone wanted to be, rather than the girl I was: the girl who no one wanted to become.
For so much of my life, I’d imagined that once I’d found that perfect diet, it would be my salvation. And so in junior high school, my rocky dieting disaster stories began. I would plan to follow some marvelous plan to the letter, be it the Atkins Diet, South Beach, low fat, meatless, sugarless, carb-free, grain-free, the no food diet, the one meal per day diet, the 12 meals per day diet, liquid diets, liquid free diets… the list goes on. Sometimes I achieved success, more often I achieved less. My life became a cyclical disaster of dieting and binging, revolving around what I was allowing myself to eat. Sometimes that meant I had to deny time for friendships I’d loved. Sometimes it meant tumultuous mental warfare between my desire to partake in something, and my will to be thin.
Life on a diet was always chaotic. When hunger arose, or I was overcome by peer pressure or self-loathing, my frantic desire for satisfaction would lead me astray. Time and time again, I failed the diet, and failed myself. Instead of becoming my salvation, dieting became the finest fuel I could find to drive my vehicle of self-hatred. Dieting made me feel like a failure… every single day. It engraved an invisible “L” on my forehead and forced me to bare my shame in binges and weight gains.
When I failed during a dieting phase, I would immediately give myself the ultimate punishment: death by means of consumption. I would eat everything I’d ever wanted. I would eat until it hurt so bad that I could no longer be bothered by the mental anguish of my failures. I would eat in a way that was so painful it was like slitting my wrists. I would “bleed” enough to cause noticeable distress but not enough to die. The restrictive nature of dieting always made me feel like I was unqualified to enjoy life the way everyone else was. It felt like a punishment that I was forced to pay for the crime of loving food, a crime long since instilled in myself by the eating habits I’d learned as a child. I dieted because I hated myself; I ate like crazy because I hated myself, but I never understood these things until I truly started to love myself.
Loving myself did not come easy. I didn’t wake up one day, look in the mirror and have an epiphany that I was “worth it.” It didn’t come from people telling me that I was beautiful. It didn’t come from make-up, fancy hairstyles or nice clothing. It didn’t come from gaining lots of friends. It didn’t come from boyfriends. Loving myself finally happened when I decided to stand-up for myself. The day I made a commitment to run for love, and run for joy (no matter how torturous learning how to run felt) was the day I learned that self-love came from discipline and commitment.
It wasn’t about taking something away, like dieting, it was about earning something, like miles on the pavement- an accomplishment I’d only dreamed of years prior. Learning to love myself continues to be a daily struggle. There is a fine line to manage when it comes to treating your body well because you deserve it, and dieting/exercising because you’re unhappy with how you look. It’s easy to get caught up in the latter, even three years into my journey.
I have to constantly remind myself that self-love is more than just a workout or eating fruits and vegetables. It’s about putting forth effort. It means that I make an honest effort to maintain things that make me happy, things that are normally hard for me to do- like keeping a clean home, cooking for myself and my family, doing laundry, paying bills, saving money, investing into my wardrobe and putting forth the effort to look well-kept, spending HAPPY quality time with my family, producing good numbers at work, etc.
Loving oneself is a well-rounded process. It is about living life the way you want to (down to the finite details) rather than allowing life to happen around you. Loving myself is the reason I don’t diet. Self-love has been my refuge. It has turned me into the girl whom many want to emulate, rather than the girl I was, the girl who no one would’ve ever wanted to become.