The holidays are upon us and it’s that time of year where relationships are fraught… with our bodies. Thought it was fitting to do a throwback from my old blog.
I got a gym membership because I wanted to be stronger, healthier, and build my endurance. I had been running, but I remembered how good I felt after I worked out when I went to the gym regularly in grad school. I was glowing!
Before I went to the gym in grad school, I had a lot of anxiety around working out in groups (and when people watch me drive, but that’s another story). There was this one time when I did this sexy lady bootcamp, or whatever cheesy equivalent title, with my mom and sister and I ended up running to the bathroom to vomit because I got so anxious from people watching me workout. Yeah, it was that bad.
Working out in the gym got a little better because it was easier for me to pretend like people weren’t watching me. Which is a ridiculous notion in the first place. Obviously, I’m too conceited to realize that people are not paying me any kind of attention. Although, not too ridiculous because I watch people at the gym…
Something I have struggled with a long time is comparing myself to others and using my perception of others to measure my own worth. I would look at other people in the gym and think “Wow, I can’t lift that much.” Or “I wish I could run that long and fast without getting tired.” I rationally know these people have been working to get to the point they are and soon I would be there too. Comparing and disparaging myself is just a thing I’m working on, ok?
But this was healthy comparison. As of late, my comparing has turned from comparing ability levels, to looking at other women and comparing body types. I think it’s normal for women to struggle with loving their body at some point of my life and growing up I definitely did that.
I thought I had reached a point where I had a great relationship with my body. I accepted my weight as not being a reflection of my worth and I often admired my body in the mirror. I liked the way I looked, and I love my body.
Now when I’m in the gym, I have thoughts like “why doesn’t my butt look like that?” or “why is my stomach so flabby?”. I find myself pinching my love handles and pining over what I saw on the scale. I even got a little obsessive over going to the gym everyday for a few weeks and getting disappointed when I didn’t see results in my weight.
I don’t want to minimize the experiences of people (because men can suffer too) who struggle with body dysmorphia; I’m not implying I have this. I just started doing deeper reflecting on my intentions of going to the gym and how it was making me feel. It was starting to stress me out after it had become a source of stress relief.
Like today, I felt so guilty for not going to the gym or going for a run because I wanted to make sure I “looked good” for the holiday. Then I had to assure myself that it’s ok that I didn’t have time to really work out this week. Go eat your pasta and be happy, sis.
So, the lesson I learned from this experience is that you never arrive at self-love. Loving your body is like being in a long-term relationship (that you can never get out of) you have to work every day to make it work. You don’t want to be abusive, so treat your body with kind words, stop trying to be so controlling, be gentle. Give thanks to all your body allows you to do. Take care of her so she can take care of you.
Some books on self-love and anti-fat bias:
- The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor (and the bonus workbook)
- Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist by Sesali Bowen
- Fat Girls in Black Bodies: Creating Communities of Our Own by Joy Arlene Renee Cox
- More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by Elaine Welteroth