This post is gonna be hard for me to write. I have struggled so much with my body image, following certain plans, what I “should be doing” and pleasing others. I was worried so much about what others thought of me and if they thought I was “attractive” or “fit”. I just wanted others to like me and I thought being fit and looking a certain way would get me more friends. I am an introverted person and shy, but thinking back on my fourteen or fifteen year self, man the self confidence was at an all time low. I am an identical twin, so people were really aware of how I look ( or so I thought, nobody really cares.) I was approached differently in high school because people simply didn’t know who I was and were afraid to ask. Seriously, just ask, it makes everything easier. Anyway, my sister started to workout before me. I was always active with dance and I took on average three classes with ballet being the most strenuous. I loved it and I thought I could eat whatever I wanted aka fruit snacks, tostitos and ice-cream as an after school snack. Nope!! Doesn’t work that way, not all the time. Moderation yall.
As I started to become more aware of social media and fitness accounts I started to compare myself to others. I noticed that I didn’t have abs and no thigh gap. I immediately thought that I was inadequate and chubby. I thought that people would think that I am ugly and not likable if I wasn’t skinny and thin. I hated my legs for the longest time and despised bikinis. I did only cardio on the elliptical because of my knee injuries and did not lift more than 5 lbs. I thought I had to lose weight and just get smaller. I had no idea what to eat and spoke terribly to myself. I would look in the mirror and rip myself apart calling myself “ugly” to “fat” when neither of those are true. Thinking back on how I talked to myself makes my heart sink – it physically feels like a rock is on my chest as I write this. I wasted so much of my time and energy hating myself. I caused myself so much anger and anxiety for what? Being born with beautiful legs? Being born as a unique individual? I don’t know what I was doing. Please, never speak to yourself in a hateful way. Nobody deserves to hear words like that especially not yourself. Your body is a temple and it should be treated as such; treated with respect and care. I used to tell myself that I didn’t deserve certain foods because I didn’t look good enough to eat them or that I didn’t look good enough to go to the gym. Does that even make sense?
Workout wise, I started at home. I started following online websites and videos from a well known brand. I saw bikini bodies and abs and tans and I thought “I want that.” I saw smoothies, veggies, black bodies and happiness and I wanted that. I would go down to my basement and do HIIT upon HIIT workouts and if I didn’t burn enough I would go on the elliptical until I burned enough to be good enough. I wasn’t happy. I thought I was. So, I gave it up and stopped working out. I focused on dance and I ended up hurting my knees. I would have to wear a brace on each knee. I went to physical therapy for patella femoral syndrome around my knee caps and tendonitis where my quad meets my knees. My IT band was so tight that sometimes I couldn’t walk. I then tried a chiropractor and would have relief for a day or so until my muscles or ligaments would move or tighten. The pain would then come back, so I went back to the chiropractor. They ended up adjusting my back as well. At that time I did not have any back pain. After they adjusted me I have had back pain since. Luckily as I have gotten older it was lessened, but it still has its moments. Cold weather causes my knees and lower black to ache. I describe it as having a headache in my body.
As I have gotten older I began to learn more. I began to learn more about food and nutrients and veggies and proteins. I found different types of exercise. I discovered weights more than 5 lbs thanks to my sister. Without my sister I don’t think I would have ever stepped foot in the weights side of the gym. She inspired me to try something new and I was absolutely terrified. I was worried of people judging me. There again, I cared so much about what the outside world thought of me, not what I thought of me. I let negative thoughts control me. But, I also thought, if my sister could do it so could I. I wanted to look like her in the gym. She was so controlled and lifted heavy weight. To behonest I was jealous in the beginning and vanity kicked in. I’m gonna be honest about that. Everyone wants to look good and when you have someone who is identical to you, you don’t want people to be able to tell the difference by someone having a better body. Anyway, I started to ask her for help in the gym and we would go together so I wouldn’t hurt myself and so I could learn how to work certain muscles and use machines.
I then, again, hurt my knees.
I tried to fill all of my rings on the apple watch and worked out like crazy for seven days straight to the point that my knees were bruising from the inside out and swollen. It hurt to walk and I couldn’t go up and down stairs. I was miserable, but I did it to myself thinking that is what I had to do to be “fit.” That happened in January 2017. I was then in physically therapy for twelve weeks after eight weeks of trying to let it “heal.” Thank god for my PT. I knew I had to heal and get stronger. Every session I went in an tried as hard as I could and pushed myself because I am eighteen and I needed to take my health seriously. I did not want to have a knee replacement in my thirties and wanted to be able to be active in the present.
After I graduated from PT (I got a graduation T Shirt ) and joined a series with millions of other women to be bikini ready for summer. My main goal for doing that was to gain strength. I went back to where I started and worked on learning how to squat and lunge properly without feeling a twinge or pull or pain. I wanted to just be able to move again and that is what I got from the series. I didn’t lose tons of weight or gain massive amounts of muscle, but I could do jump squats and lunges without any, ANY pain. I was not used to that. I thought in the past that some amount of pain was normal, but as I started to connect with more amazing women on Instagram I realized that yea, nope, pain is not normal while working out. The series got me on the endorphins and nutrition and into the fitness lifestyle. However, I felt stuck.
Now that I could workout properly, I was stuck. I needed to have a push and I needed a change. Burt, I was afraid. I was afraid of change. I felt comfortable with the program I was using and I was aware of it from when I used it in the past. Even more so, I was afraid of getting injured trying something new. However, as I became more educatedabout food, I began to become frustrated with the terminology and wording that the brand used surrounding food like “slimdown,” “detox,” “slimming,” “fat burning” and just certain times to eat food. All of these words promote, at least to me, that body that you have now is an issue that has to be fixed. It personally made me feel worse about myself. The constant social media surrounding those terms made me feel inundated and overall anxious. I had this epiphany during the summer of 2017. I went to the weight room again and began to dominate as one of the only women there.
The weight room became a place of release and a time to focus on me. An hour dedicated to me and only me. It felt good to put myself first for once. I tend to be a people pleaser and I am starting to learn how to say no, but also try new things. If I never tried the gym, I would never have developed a passion for weightlifting.
Fast forward to present day. I have been squatting and doing jumping lunges and hitting new weights and new accomplishments. The stair master is fun for me and I enjoy the cable towers. It took me years to find what I love. I remember telling my sister last summer “ I just wish I could figure out what works for me so I can finally feel happy.” I was weight training then, but I wasn’t focusing on the aspects of it that I am now. I was training to tone and not look bulky and lose weight. Of course I wouldn’t improve because my mind set was allowing growth; it was diminishing any improvement. I was not letting myself grow. I wasn’t open to changing because I wasn’t accepting where I was in the moment. Once I allowed myself to have patience and listen to body, I started to grow. I started to gain strength and confidence within myself. I can not believe where I am now in my life. I never thought that I would get here. I think back to the girl who scrolled through Instagram and felt unworthy of growth and happiness and I feel so bad for her. If you feel that way, you are not alone and you will find happiness. Physical health will only improve if your mental health is strong. Have patience and work on yourself. It is hard to confront those demons, but necessary for success. I have faith in each and every one of you. Remember that “the flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”
You are enough.
You are worth it.
You are beautiful.