Tell me if any of this sounds familiar. Before weight training:
- I restricted what I ate
- Hated myself when I would eat something I “shouldn’t”
- The only exercise I thought I could do was cardio or pilates/yoga/group classes
- I thought if I walked into the weight room I would get “bulky” (which is virtually impossible)
- I just wanted to “tone” (also impossible)
A few months ago, I wrote about my struggle with food and how, through it, I learned to show myself a little grace. Since then, fitness and wellness have become a huge part of my daily life, and I’m so thankful I found them (and my trainer, Sarah Manns).
I’m continuously learning that there are so many misconceptions when it comes to fitness, strength and nutrition. But there have been a few key mental areas I focus on that help keep me grounded.
My fitness turning point
A couple months before our wedding, I realized I wanted a shape. A real shape. Like an actual woman. I’m an ectomorph, so I do come by my shape (or lack thereof) pretty honestly. But let’s be clear—staying thin was an obsession for many years. Ten years ago at my lowest point, I skipped meals, cut calories, tracked every sit-up, occasionally threw up and taught myself to love the deep pang of hunger.
In adulthood, my relationship with food has improved drastically. However, my misconceptions about what exercises I should/shouldn’t do and how much I should weigh had not.
Intentionally gaining weight (I’m 5’6″ and went from 113 lbs. to 130 lbs.) has been an enormous mental shift for me. I had to say goodbye to the thigh gap I had worked so hard for, a clavicle you could serve soup out of and a photo-ready skinny arm (*rolls eyes*) in the process. But I’ve gained so much freedom in that process.
3 mental shifts you can make today
I love sharing with women how lifting has changed my perspective, and these are three of the best changes I’ve made in my life to keep pursuing strength over skinny.
- Do an audit of who you follow on social media. My biggest turning point in the spring of 2016 was when I stopped filling my brain with images of stick-thin models and started filling it with strong, powerful role models. Unfollow the girls who (intentionally or not) make you hate your body and start following the ones who make you want to get in the gym and kick some butt.
- Turn back to Jesus. If you’ve been a Christ follower for any amount of time, you’ve probably rolled your eyes at the thought of being a Proverbs 31 woman. Who could possibly be that perfect? But Michelle Myers’ book Famous in Heaven and at Home shattered everything I know about this well-known chapter, and I’d like to point out Proverbs 31:17 here: “‘She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” HECK YES. To quote Michelle, it doesn’t say, “She works hard and makes herself skinny/sexy/hot/whatever futile word you wish to insert here.’ She’s not in it to be thin or achieve some worldly standard of physical attractiveness.” She’s in it to be strong and to take full advantage of every breath God has given her in this tiny mist of a life.
- Think about your family. As a wife, I don’t want my husband to have to constantly reassure me that I am enough (thin enough, this enough, that enough). In fact, the other day I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror as he was walking by and said, “I look amazing!” Can we just pause here? Women are not taught to think, let alone say out lout, I look amazing. We are taught to pick apart every piece of our body and looks, and if we do get a compliment we’re taught to minimize it and ourselves. Even one year ago, under no circumstances would I believe that one day I’d look in the mirror and replace insults with appreciation. That’s because when all you want is to be thin, no matter how hard you work you still hate yourself. But when your goal is building muscle, you celebrate very tiny victory so that even when you’re only half way there you can think, You go girl. And looking forward, when I have children of my own I want them to look up to a strong and disciplined mom—not one who’s constantly on a diet and putting herself down. It’s time to break that cycle.
Are you on any kind of fitness journey? Have you had any similar struggles? I’d love to hear about your story in a comment here on over on the Fox and Bloom Instagram.
P.S. Use code BLOOM15 for 15% off your purchase on Tranquil Designs jewelry, like the necklace I’m wearing here.