2012 and 2013 were busy years. I completed a 100-mile bike ride and ran my first marathon.
That second one surprised me, since prior to that I had avoided even walking too fast in sneakers, lest I be mistaken for a Person Who Jogs®. But it’s amazing what a combination of the emotional instability of your 20s and a newfound abundance of free time will do for your workout ethic.
I was finishing up school and starting my first (essentially part-time) job, so my schedule was pretty free. I had also just been dumped when I feverishly signed up for the marathon. Nightly runs darting through the crowds spilling out of honky-tonks in downtown Nashville were my coping mechanism of choice.
Suffice it to say, I was in the best shape of my life. Nowadays, if I start running, my right foot goes numb. Yes, I googled it and bought a new size of shoes. (That was not, sadly, the panacea I was hoping for.) I’ll always look back fondly on the time when eight miles was a casual afternoon distance.
But something I’ve spent a lot of time looking back on a little too fondly? The fact that during this period of time, I got extremely skinny. OK, maybe not “extremely” by Hollywood standards of skinny, but you know, extremely for me. By the time I had neared the marathon, clothes from high school were baggy on me. There was a thigh gap, people.
Then I turned 30. Started a traditional 9-5. Got married. And poof! I had gained weight.
Steadily over the course of six years, I’ve added 40 pounds to that rock-bottom number of yore. And for a long time, I have clung to that number as a standard of happiness and success. The more angular version of my face was the real me, and I had betrayed her. And my clothes. I actually felt embarrassed about this.
For a long time, I have clung to that number as a standard of happiness and success. The more angular version of my face was the real me, and I had betrayed her.
Shoutout to my husband, who listened to me bemoan the tragic loss of “skinny” me for… a while. He also had some valid points, like, “You weren’t all that happy. Do you really want to go back to eating leaves and barely affording groceries?” Because that’s the reality. A scared, unsure version of myself with no savings, in my mind, was a “better” me, simply because I weighed less. And forced myself to consume raw spinach.
Well absolutely fuck that.
Weight loss is a super complicated issue for just about everyone. There’s a million perspectives on what to eat, when, and how — and even more ideas about what it all means in the context of health. I think it’s something everyone should have the freedom to navigate without a barrage of judgement. In short, wherever you are with it, that’s cool.
But have you ever noticed that in a lot of “inspirational” stories, weight gain is a symptom of all the things gone wrong in a person’s life? That “love yourself” often seems to mean… “love the way you look”? I can’t sit quietly about my own triumph any longer.
Who am I kidding? Gaining 40 pounds was great for me!
These have been the years where I’ve advocated for myself like never before. I’ve taken risks, accepted failure, and faced difficult truths about myself without blinking. Changed careers (twice). Embraced love. Bought a house. Worn what felt comfortable and went home when I felt like it. I even fulfilled my dream of going to bed ridiculously early without a single thought to what everyone else was doing.
I’ve spent hours and days and weeks feeling contentment, a calm reprieve from the constant need for outer validation. It was quiet. And it was good — I got a dog for crying out loud.
I’ve realized that I do not want to be less, physically or otherwise.
Turns out, less time to work out at the gym just meant working on myself — and what I really wanted out of life — even more. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to exercise. I especially love being outside. But I just don’t have as much time (or energy) for it as I did for those two years.
Instead, I made room for more life — challenging myself to create, to care for another person (and animal), to say what I meant and be real. And yes, while I was busy building a life, I gained some weight. But that’s a fact I’d like to stop caring about.
I’ve realized that I do not want to be less, physically or otherwise. I just want to be whoever I am, in the world, for as long as I’m here. Because embracing self-improvement on your own terms in a world of competing wellness narratives is far from simple. But learning about yourself — and embracing your contradictions and complexities — is a wholeness that absolutely no one can deny you.