sunrise

It’s 4:57 AM. My alarm is going off. I am smacked in the face with sleepy, and literally cannot picture myself getting out of bed and going to boot camp. I think, “Just sleep, Sarah. You need the rest.” It sounds so real and so right, that I confirm, “Yes. Yes, I do.”

Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. How I don’t really need “the rest” because I went to bed at 10:30 PM and slept like a rock last night. That if I miss boot camp, I will feel guilty throughout the day. As I laid there in bed, bargaining with myself, I knew this to be 100% true. I did what I had minutes before deemed unthinkable, and got dressed.

I’m well overdo for a health/fitness update. Been putting it off for a while now for quite a few reasons. None of them are good, so I’ll spare you. The last update I gave you was on December 2, 2012 when I posted I AM ENOUGH: The first steps on my health journey. I opened up to you about how vulnerable I’d become about my (progressive) weight gain and how it was affecting me emotionally. I revealed how much I weighed, why I wanted to change my habits, and also my need to accept my body just as it was – before I did anything to alter it. I talked about eating healthier and starting a boot camp class, and when I submitted that post I felt really good about my outlook. I felt it was positive, but without high expectations. As you probably know, when it comes to any kind of lifestyle change, it’s hard not to set yourself up for failure by raising the bar too high. Of course, we never mean to do this. It just happens.

Even though I just said that my outlook was positive and without high expectations, looking back, I now know that only half of that statement is true. I was positive, and I did have high expectations. Damn. As I sit here now typing this truth to you, I can’t help but feel like I let myself down (even though that is not true). Over the past few months I have regularly retreated to my negative, self-shaming place where I remind myself of the following:

1. All the times I cracked and ate unhealthily or had a celebratory moment.

2. How I’ve been boot campin’ it up for almost three months now with nothing to show for it.

3. That I’ll never have what my mind’s eye perceives a healthy body to be, because I don’t deserve it.

4. This is all easier for everyone else. No one understands my struggle.

What a mess. All those statements I have felt and believed, but are completely false. In I AM ENOUGH, I spoke about self-acceptance, but the truth is that an undertaking of that size is not something that can be checked off a list and considered “done” in an instant.

“I now love my body, even my muffin top that hangs over my size 14 jeans.”

Nope. It’s just not that easy. It is a daily process. Changing clothes in front of the bathroom mirror and looking at your body with appreciation, not depreciation can be a tall order on a bad day. I’ve had quite a few bad days over the past three months. Change is never easy – especially changing how you perceive yourself.

Let’s break down my go-to self-shaming with honesty and empathy. Maybe you tell yourself some of the same things? Whether your change is related to weight loss or something else, I’ve learned that anytime negativity is part of my mindset my progress time is cut in half. If not more. It’s so important to get to the root of where the shaming comes from, and why it is done. As Brene Brown says, light must be shone in all the dark corners.

1. Indulgent moments, splurge meals, celebration and the like. During the holidays, I ate like it was the holidays. Once or twice a week, I’d have some kind of splurge meal with Shelton, usually on the weekends. There was a lot to celebrate over the past few months, what with my best friend getting married (bachelorette party + wedding). Could I have splurged less? Yes. Could I have celebrated less? A resounding NO. On this health journey I am learning that regret is akin to poison. It just brings me down like none other.

How to battle regret when it starts hitting: focus on the now – the choices you can make right-this-second that are positive. Pour a glass of water, eat an apple, do 30 jumping jacks. We all know that the smallest things can make the biggest difference. Put that truth to work. Remember that you are human, and it doesn’t matter what has transpired. It only matters what happens now.

2. The amount of work put in compared to perceived “results” (or lack thereof). Yes, I’ve been working out regularly for three months and yes, my thighs still jiggle. It’s hard not to think that it’s all for nothing. That no matter what I do, my body isn’t going to change. It’s so incredibly easy to hone in on what you don’t have instead of what you do have. We all want tangible proof though, don’t we? We want our clothes to be a bit baggier, people to notice our change, and so on. It’s exhausting for me though – this vicious cycle I get so easily caught up in.

Instead of obsessing on what you lack, tell yourself what you have. I say tell, not remind, because sometimes I really have to tell-off my inner critic a lot. Reminders don’t always work – they can be counteracted. Tell yourself what you’ve got, as many times as it takes.

“It is now part of my routine to work out, I’m proud of that.”

“I’ve learned to cook many new healthy meals that I wouldn’t have before.”

“I have a better understanding of myself, and right now that’s worth more than fitting into my high school jeans. If I keep loving myself like this, I’ll eventually get there.”

3. That what I see in the mirror is not how I picture myself in my head, and is also no where close to how I think I should look. The belief that I do not have a perfect body yet because I don’t deserve one. I have a very specific image of myself in my mind, and also another image of how I believe I would look if I was perfectly skinny. Guess what. The self-image I have of myself is off base, and also my visualized my “perfect” body is not attainable. Go with me on this.

While I wholeheartedly believe that visions can be road maps, when it comes to something so personal as my body, I am literally too close to it to see it objectively. Craft projects are different. Recipes are different. Visualizing a clean junk drawer is different. My body is not a DIY project. My body is alive and moving and changing even when I feel it’s not. When I see myself tagged in pictures on Facebook, that’s me. That’s my body. That’s how I look from the side. It’s not a “bad picture” or a “bad angle.” It’s a moment, captured. Understanding this is what self-acceptance really means to me. Not constantly trying to match up what I picture in my head to what I see in the mirror, but really loving what’s real. The mental pictures are not real and they are not signs pointing me in the right direction. If anything, they’re detours and fruitless meandering paths. What is real is what I see with my eyes and know to be true in my heart. My head will jack me up every time.

Insert deep, grace-filled breath here.

I am going to let go of my visualized perfect body. The one I picture hundreds of times a day, the one I’ve been using as motivation to keep going. To combat my go-to metal images, I will focus on what is real in this moment, and also liberate myself from what “could be.” It’s entirely possible that whatever I can achieve physically with my body is more than I could ever project. I accept and welcome “the unknown” in so many other parts of my life. This should be no different.

Wow. Just typing that I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

4. The idea that living a healthy lifestyle is easy for everyone but me, and that no one understands my struggle. Granted, I’m feeling very mentally balanced as I write this so that’s why I am all “zen,” but I do know that what looks to be easy hardly ever is. If it was easy to practice this lifestyle, no one would be obese and we’d live in a world without Jillian Michaels. I compare myself so much, to my friends, actresses, random girls I see when I’m running errands. It’s endless. Some days it seems like everyone else is so effortlessly thin, and basically what I deduce is that something is right with them and wrong with me. I ask myself, “What are they doing right?” and then “What am I doing wrong?” Goodness. For the most part I consider “right” and “wrong” to be four letter words. I even wrote about the idea of “right” in this post, There is no such thing as “the right time.”

Just because my friends and family are more fit than I perceive myself to be, that does not mean I understand all their daily struggles, some of which may include their own self-perceptions. Just because I see a girl at Target that looks incredible (to me) in her leggings, that does not mean she works out every day or even works out at all. She doesn’t have some secret to weight loss. She’s just living her life, shopping at Target. The end.

To live in the world is to be a part of that world. That means being surrounded by many different people. Some big, some little, some I know really well, some I don’t know at all. I shouldn’t fill in the blanks to their life like a Mad Lib. I am not them. I do not understand them. Any time I spend trying to figure them out is time I could be spending on figuring myself out. I don’t want to go on detours. I want to stay on track as much as possible. I want to know and love myself more than anything else, more than spending energy analyzing things I will never fully understand. I want to be present.

As I read over my words, I know that I have come further in the past three months than I ever have before. I feel that this mindset is a part of who I am now. I have never been able to stay committed to a workout/diet plan for longer than a month (truthfully) and now I feel the self-motivation to keep going. After February, I intend to mix up my workouts a bit and spend more time practicing the breakthroughs I’ve had. It is a journey, and not a short one. But it’s okay, because at the end of each day, I like it. I like the opportunity to challenge myself (both mentally and physically) in this way and want to experience more so that I can learn more. So that in turn I can write more. It really is that simple, even though fully loving myself everyday is a practice. But it’s one that I’m getting better at, and to me, that is success.

-Sarah