On a sunny afternoon at Westmont College I strolled into my favorite class, surrounded by my best friends and slid into my seat. It was a day just like any other day...breezy, beautiful and for the most part carefree. This particular professor was known for his unique, inspiring and sometimes intimidating teaching style. On this particular afternoon he started class in silence a passed out brown paper bags, one for each student. I can't quite remember the details of what came next but what I can remember is that soon enough the entire class was sitting silently with paper bags over our heads.
He then instructed us to state out loud what thoughts go on in our head that no one else can hear...in other words, what truths we believe about ourselves that we keep hidden.
The murmurs started quietly and within seconds loud statements were being shared freely, all at the same time, the classroom became a sort of confessional, the paper bags providing just enough safety for honesty to come forth.
Amidst the murmur, I said one sentence.
"I believe I have to be skinny to be worth loving."
I'd never said that sentence before. In fact, it surprised me. I hadn't realized that this belief had become one of my biggest truths.
Up until this point in my life I had an on-again off-again relationship with fitness. My perspective had always been very black or white.
Exercise was about calorie burn.
Exercise was about weight loss.
Food had two categories: "good" and "bad."
And if I'm honest, I used both food and exercise as a form of punishment.
If I ate too much I definitely had to workout to make up for it.
If I didn't workout then I had to watch my calories and definitely couldn't eat anything "unhealthy."
And if the equation didn't add up I would ruminate on the feelings of guilt and engage in an endless conversation with myself about how I screwed up, how I'm so fat, how I'm going to get more fat, how I NEED to do better.
The thing is, I never, EVER felt like I had to be skinny to be loved within my family or during my upbringing. It wasn't until my teenage years that I (like so many young women) started absorbing messages from the media about what it means to be beautiful that I started realizing I was not "that" (a skinny, airbrushed model in a magazine).
From the paper bag day forward, I began to change. When I made that declaration out loud, for the first time it sounded ridiculous. For the first time I was able to recognize that I was believing a lie.
And I began to change. Day by day, decision by decision, new thought by new thought.
I stopped working out. And it was awesome. And I didn't get fat (!).
And then a friend asked me to train for a half-marathon and I felt like it was time. It was time to get back into exercise, but this time for the right reasons. And it was so much fun. Yes, exercise was (*gasp*) fun!
Sunday afternoon runs with my friends became a time for conversation, laughter and bonding.
Coming home exhausted but accomplished was the best feeling ever.
A year later I added another love into my newfound relationship with exercise...Pilates.
Pilates took me one step further on my journey. During class I learned to listen to my body, to respect my body and to work WITH it, not against it.
And ultimately, Pilates began to change my body and my mind for the better.
Exercise became less and less about calorie burn and punishment and more and more about kindness.
Other practical changes I made included cutting out gossip magazines, tossing my scale, purposely staying silent when friends talked about feeling fat/needing to exercise/wanting to lose weight, and journaling to change my self-talk.
It's been a long journey and it's one that I'm still on today. It's why I do what I do. It's why I've literally dedicated my life and career to the purpose of inviting others along on this journey with me. It's what this space is about.
Because it's too easy to give in as a consumer and sell out as a professional.
It's too easy to listen to the lies and fall back into the ways of the world.
Because life is so much better when decisions are made out of kindness instead of punishment.
I eat well because it makes me feel better.
I take care of myself because when I do I am a happier human.
I exercise because my body was MADE to move.
I exercise because it gets me away from the computer, in tune with my spirit and makes the world feel a little brighter.
Beauties, if you can relate to this struggle...doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing will lead you backwards every time. We must commit to breaking the cycle...one thought/purchase/comment at a time.
So I challenge you today to take a close look at your relationship with your body and exercise. Are you currently using exercise or your diet as a form of punishment or as an act of kindness?
This post is a part of the Skinny Dip Society blog tour hosted by the lovely Katie Den Ouden. Katie has brought together 25 incredible bloggers from around the country who are dedicated to living happy, brave, free and ALIVE and asked us to share our stories.
Continue the tour...
And tomorrow you can continue the tour with Erin over at Sewbon.
Enjoy the tour!
PS - have you seen this sneak peek yet? Hint: free Pilates on my blog for the entire month of February! More details coming soon...