Enough. Enough punishing our bodies because they don’t look the way we and everyone else thinks they should.
Enough feeling like we have to go into battle with exercise every single day, where the only glory is muscle soreness and calloused hands so badly torn we can only hobble from our desk to the boardroom at work, spending the entirety of the meeting picking dead skin off our palms. We’re done.
When did taking care of ourselves become a war? Against a barbell, against a clock, against the person next to you, against yourself?
Have you noticed the war is getting bigger and bigger the more we go into battle? With each draw of the sword, with each new push to be more motivated, to work harder, our bodies are retaliating.
We’re swirling in a spiral of developing resentment of ourselves for the things we feel we can’t do and can’t be. If you were your body, you’d be in revolt too! And, at the bottom of that spiral, after several attempts at a cry for help, it’s going to eventually give up, if it hasn’t already.
It’s time to call a truce. Cease fire. White flag.
Imagine a world where you pay attention and honor each other, you and that physical body of yours. It’s not fantasy land, it does exist. But it takes openness, respect, and a deep trust and love for ourselves that transcends all the shit in society about expectations for our bodies. It requires a heartfelt attempt at listening to our own wisdom.
Remember back to all those times you really didn’t feel great eating (insert fad food stuff of the moment)? Imagine if the choice to not eat that, the choice to listen to your own body’s wisdom was actually the healthier decision?
We’re so used to feeling like we need answers from an authoritative source, we’ve lost the skill of innate self trust. Everything we need to know about the ideal nutritional and training regime lies within us. Eat the way that makes you feel nourished. Move in a way that brings you joy. Imagine that… harmony.
I have no doubt that everyone begins their health and fitness journey by learning from someone else. There is nothing wrong with that concept. Unless we learn along with that how to hate our bodies, how to ignore it, and how to only beat it into submission for the rest of our lives.
To me, that’s a problem. And if we continue to pursue outcomes based on insecurity, ego and expectation, we’ll spend our whole lives running after something we can’t quite catch and running away from something we had all along.
It doesn’t matter which path you follow, if it comes from without, not within, you’ll always wind up wanting.
I was a chubby kid. I remember my grandfather on the phone to one of his friends trying to explain my latest academic achievements, differentiating me from my sisters, “no no, not that one, you know, the chubby one.” I had the usual school story—smart, picked on, lonely, growing up incessantly comparing myself to all the other girls. Always.
Then I fell into a dangerous abusive relationship, and my self trust, esteem and love plummeted even further.
Upon this basis of low lying self-esteem, I started up at the gym and followed a prescribed diet and a weights program written by a bodybuilder personal trainer. This programmed, controlled life combined with the life I felt I had to adhere to at work, the cocktail parties, the dinners, had me gaining more and more size, and more and more unhappiness. I attached to others for approval and a substitute for the self-love I’d never really known.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was into CrossFit. I got leaner, my times got faster, and my thighs could suddenly sport a newly found love of tiny shorts. But, you know what? My self-esteem still wasn’t that much better. While I may have felt slightly better about my body (slightly because the huge drop in body fat certainly did not equate to an equally proportionate rise in self-love) I had just re-positioned my insecurities.
They were now rampant in the gym: I was too slow, not strong enough, always seeking to get better, be better. I was still battling with myself, just in a new form. I still wasn’t enough, and I was still desperately unhappy.
My unhappiness and my need to always be something more, do something more, stemmed entirely from my adherence to everyone else’s expectations and an ignorance of my own wisdom. By following a prescription of what I should eat and how I should train in the hopes of finding a new me and new happy life, I was running away and avoiding the life I was in right then.
For all our attempts at seeking a “new me” and a “transformation,” we’re still unhappy, we’re still looking for more, and so we jump into the next 12 week program, then the next, hoping each time we’ll find that elusive “new me.” All the while, the 12 weeks back onto each other, and before we know it, we’ve spent so many years in search of a new, holy-grail-like life that we’ve missed an entire decade of the one life we do have! What’s crazy about this is that the outcomes we’re seeking don’t prevent the ultimate human conundrum: we all die anyway!
I have learned, over years of pendulum-like swings and jumping into numerous programs and food philosophies, that the best way to exercise and eat is in total harmony with my own needs.
This means eating the foods I feel good on, moving in a way that brings me joy and energy, not injury and exhaustion, and by immersing myself in the experiences that bring me contentment, excitement and vitality.
If you truly believe you need to beat yourself into submission, I encourage you to ask yourself why you feel you’re not enough.
If we hate doing something—the gym, a particular diet, whatever—chances are it may not truly help us overcome what we’re actually running from in the long term, and chances are we’ll keep running from those things ‘til the day we die, if we don’t stand to make peace with ourselves and move forward from a place of love and grounding.
Enough fighting the current. It’s way more fun when we float along with it.
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Assistant Ed.: Moira Madden/Ed: Sara Crolick