Why I Stopped Trying to “Get in Shape”

Growing up I never thought about weight. I was never focused on that. I was a skinny kid who honestly and truly couldn’t care less about what I looked like. This carried into high school, where I was a track athlete, a competitive swimmer and an all around active human with a high metabolism. I could wear whatever I wanted and never worried about if something would make me “look fat”…because it wouldn’t.

Fast forward to the college years. And no, it wasn’t the freshman 15 that got to me. It was actually everything that happened after college. The slow down of activity, long hours of sedentary work and the general stress that came along with adulthood. Put those factors together along with the slowing down of my metabolism and there you have it. I gained weight; and a bit of it. Now, it wasn’t a super dramatic increase, but it was enough to realize that I had gone from being at a place where I used to be so unconcerned about clothes fitting and what I looked like to the place I was at, where getting dressed every morning was a battle for me because I hated the way I looked.

One day I got fed up and started looking at workouts and eating plans and made a mental note of what I would look like in 6 months and I got moving. The gym became my favorite place to be and I was there for hours. I quit fast food and began watched my caloric intake. I was doing all of the right things and guess what? It worked.

But, something was off. Although I was getting the results I wanted, I was unstable. I was prone to getting extremely frustrated, binge eating, and then punishing myself with a brutal workout to remove the extra calories. I was verbally critical of myself when I didn’t fit into my ideal sizes and when my body refused to match the bodies of the girls on my Pinterest fitness board. I was obsessed with the number on the treadmill and on my fitness app and became irritable when my numbers weren’t where I wanted them to be. It took me a while to get a hold of myself to be honest, but when I finally did I realized that the reason I was so unbalanced with this fitness thing was that I was so worried about getting into the “perfect shape”. All fitness (intentional fitness) had been for me was a means to change the body I hated.

I needed to make a different change…so I did.

I was going to change my body, sure. But first I needed to change my mind. I needed to:

  1. Change the way I thought about myself as I was
  2. Change the way I thought about fitness
  3. Figure out what I really wanted to accomplish

My self talk needed a total reset. I was negative, critical and honestly pretty mean. I would never let anyone else get away with speaking to me like I spoke to me…so that was going to change. Along with that I needed to understand that the real goal of fitness wasn’t all about physical appearance, but that it was about overall health: heart health, stomach health, joint health and so on. And finally I needed to figure out my real goal for myself, was it really just about looking good enough to show off, or was it more? Did I simply want to like myself? And if that was the case…does that really start in the gym?

Once I figured this out (after A LOT of soul searching…and by soul searching I really mean emotional and spiritual temper tantrums), I had a new set of terms for myself.

  1. I had some bad coping habits, but those did not make me a bad person. I needed to acknowledge the bad ones and work on creating new positive ones…like working out.
  2. Fitness was not a means to an end…it was a lifestyle to be maintained. I also had to realize that over the course of my life it would look different depending on the season I was in. And that’s okay.
  3. I wanted to be healthy: mentally, emotionally and physically. Fitness was going to be one of many tools I used to help me do that. Food would be another.

I was no longer trying to “get in shape” but I was instead aiming for health. Running, lifting, walking and whatever other physical activity, paired with food that was good for my body was one tool (well, technically two tools) of many I was using to get me there.

Once my mindset shifted, the physical work took less of a toll. I actually enjoyed working out. I was less obsessive about my calories and felt better. I could look at someone who was more physically fit than I was and simply admire them, not be jealous or think to myself “I wish I looked like that”. I could see a photo of myself sitting down and see my stomach do the thing (you know the thing…) and not want to die of embarrassment. I became gentle with myself. I grew to appreciate and understand myself. That, my friends, should have been the goal all along, but we’re human, and we mix it up all of the time. It’s been a few years later and sometimes I still get the wires a little crossed. Recently I posted a photo that I debated posting because of the way my back looked…I debated it longer than I should have because I am human. I posted it anyway though…because it’s me and I’ve learned to love me regardless of what my body is doing at the moment, and that’s my hope for you too. Bodies change, that’s what they do.

Health isn’t defined by the size of your waist or even the number on the scale. It’s not defined by whether you have abs or not. It’s not even defined by the amount of jiggle you’ve got going on. Yea sure, we could all be picking up some healthier habits, but that piece of toast with your breakfast is NOT going to kill you (unless, you’re gluten free… then don’t do that). Let health be your aim, mentally, emotionally and physically.

Till next time,

Nicole Eva