Workout To GAIN!

After graduating fifth grade, I remember looking at a photo of a friend and I, and thinking, “Oh my gosh! I am SO much bigger than her!”… and I was! I was always the tallest girl in my class, and I had “a bod” before many others my age.

It was around this time, FIFTH.GRADE, that I started being very self-conscious about my body. I felt uncomfortable in swimsuits, I felt uncomfortable at sleepovers, and I felt uncomfortable around food, but… I also always *loved* food… and people.

In order to continue enjoying food and feeling more confident around others, I started exercising. My parents always did it, and I figured… it was time I did, too.

During middle school, I spent a lot of time with Billy Blanks and Tae Bo, and Richard Simmons… Sweatin’ to the Oldies.

Now, I DID enjoy these workouts. I usually did them with my mom, we had fun, and I DID *feel good* both while and after doing them. BUT… what I loved the most… was how my clothes felt looser. I loved the compliments I would get about losing weight. I finally felt noticed and recognized, and the reason – my smaller body. Hearing, “Oh my gosh, you look so good!” made me realize I didn’t look so good before, and now I do, therefore… I.must.continue.

On my 14th birthday, all my dreams came true when I officially became a member of the local recreational center. This was all I wanted for my birthday.

I counted down the days until it would happen, I looked over classes I could take, I pictured myself on the elliptical and bike, and most importantly; I thought about the weight I would lose.

I just knew that once I had regular access to the gym, I could *finally* create the body I wanted, and oh… I had a total vision of what that body looked like; thin, toned, pretty, and TINY.

This was the beginning of 20+ YEARS of working out in order to lose weight, and look a certain way.

All through high school, I was either up bright and early or at the gym late at night – typically, extremely light-headed, because I wasn’t eating enough.

All through college, my friends and I would hit up the gym to sweat out all the beer, Jungle Juice, and pizza we had the night before, or… we’d go before the festivities to prepare to partake in them.

During my years of teaching, I remember going to the gym after dinner with friends in order to burn off drinks and food on the elliptical – sometimes, tipsy!

I later found out that this obsession with working out in order to burn calories is actually compared to that of a person who is bulimic since you’re trying to rid yourself of the intake.

Because (in my mind) working out was simply for the sole purpose of burning calories, when I wasn’t “in a good place” with food, I just wouldn’t workout. I didn’t see the point of exercising if I wasn’t attempting to lose weight.

After my middle child was born, I was able to experience a few health coaching sessions with a wonderful teacher, mentor, and friend. Not only did she validate my thoughts and feelings, but helped me truly see and understand so many of the reasons and whys behind them all. She also helped me reconnect with myself, which was *huge*. Shortly after, I reunited with an old friend from college who helped me develop a love and passion for overall health and wellness. This was the first time, five years ago, that I ever thought about eating well and exercising because of wanting to take care of my body.

During my third pregnancy, I found myself doing light to moderate exercises simply to be healthy… to feel good… to stay strong… and prepare myself for labor.

Although I had come a long way from my middle school days, I was still very much in the mindset of eat this, not that… and workout so you can eat more.

Fast forward to 2020.

During the first several months of the pandemic, I treated my body HORRIBLY. I consumed all the things, I rarely worked out, and mentally… I was not in a good place.

As was tradition, I spent several months after that attempting to lose the pandemic weight I had gained, and although I was very much in the mindset of “getting healthier”, this meant back to diets and exercises that would burn the most calories to speed up the process.

I did lose weight, I then gained it back, and then tried a combo of all the diets I’ve ever known and done until I hit a wall. I then ate all the things, and tried again – all while completing workouts that were WAY crazy intense and I rarely enjoyed, simply because I felt that’s what I should be doing if I truly wanted to see a change.

In February 2021, I had arrived to a place where I truly felt numb. I had no idea who I was anymore, what I believed in, who I was trying to be, and what my main goal was. I was SO fixated on a number on the scale, yet so far from it… and whatever I did, I couldn’t get even close to it!

I was frustrated, and felt defeated.

Something magical happened between February and March. My body basically shut down and got super sick. I know that’s an odd experience to identify as “magical”, but it was… and I needed it to happen.

Between that experience and a couple honest and quality chats with close friends, I woke up one day and decided; I’m done dieting, & I’m only exercising in ways I enjoy.

I no longer track my workouts on my Fitbit, and I haven’t weighed myself in weeks.

I may not love every workout *in the moment*, but afterwards, I feel stronger.

I feel that endorphin rush everyone talks about.

I feel calmer.

I feel more sane and patient.

I’m less anxious.

I feel energized.

I feel successful.

I *strongly* believe in moving our bodies – for the right reasons.

I intentionally participate in some form of “purposeful movement” every day, and I never dread it because I listen to my body, and do whatever it’s craving; weights, cardio, walk, hike, bike, yoga, etc.

It’s truly liberating to be in a place, for the first time in my life, where I’m not tracking losses but counting gains! To be in a place where I recognize that my purpose is to be and feel my best, not to be thin and pleasant to the eyes of others.

Fit is a feeling, not a size – and my hope is for us all to feel and gain this realization.

May we all move our bodies in order to feel our best and show them some love; for they are truly the only physical thing we will always have during our time here on Earth.

Published by Laurel

I'm a mama of three, teacher by degree(s), and a dual-certified health & life coach. I am EXTREMELY passionate about helping those with a history of disordered eating make peace with food, their bodies, and their minds as they embark on their health and wellness journeys. Having spent over 20+ years of being a disordered eater myself, I have firsthand experience with the power behind awareness, experimentation, patience, a strong mindset, and accountability. You are not alone, My Friends... and you're in good hands. We’re in this together! 💞 Follow me on Instagram @pacifythechaos

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