Michelle found refuge in fitness during her healing to manage her mental health and ultimately fell in love with herself unconditionally.
I fell off the wagon
I started my morning workout routine back in winter 2019 in an attempt to manage my mental health. I fell in love with strength training. It demanded so much focus that I was able to channel my depression and anxiety in my exercises. It helped in clearing my mind and as I progressed and got stronger physically, it strengthened my mind and confidence. I worked out every single day. Even on days that I didn't want to. I did because I knew in the end that it would give me the energy I needed to sustain the day. Gaining healthy control over my body helped me gain healthy control over my thoughts and emotions. My progress made me feel so empowered that it spilled into all other areas of my life. At first, it was very difficult to stay focused because as a binge eater and emotional eater, my weight number was always an obsession. This number climbed at the beginning of building muscle triggering my anxiety demon. I had to actively remind myself that I wasn't getting fat; I was building a stronger body. Working on my body forced me to look at myself, recognize all the good and the bad, fall in love with myself, and best of all, SEE the strength that resided within. Along with this new healthy coping method, I stopped dieting. Restricting my food intake worsened my eating disorders. Removing the limits on my eating was scary but the freedom to choose what was best for me actually gave me the trust and confidence to make better choices. Being physically active was a great motivation to eat better. I was working too hard to fill my body with crap. I still binge and eat junk food but I savour it and move on instead of eating out of scarcity and a depressed mindset. Muscle building also allowed me to eat more which I really loved! The ultimate accomplishment though was the healing I went through. The self-love I cultivated. The self-acceptance I created.
Then, Christmas came and went. Schools got closed. I reunited with a friend. I started a new business venture. My workout routine was gone with the wind! I went months not working on my body. Do you know what else happened? My stress levels rose. My eating habits became unhealthy again.
I fell off the wagon and gained 25 pounds.
The old me
The old me struggled with her weight. I started gaining weight in 5th grade and I obsessed over it since then. I dieted, forced myself to work out, and died in misery. I emotionally ate and had no limits in my portions. I craved junk food all the time. I also had an unhealthy relationship with myself. I hated my body but changing it was too hard. I hated myself.
The old me would have broken down. When I would lose weight and fall off the wagon, I would lose my mind. I would slip into a depression lasting months. I would go from "loving" myself to hating myself. I only loved myself when I was doing good or filled this picture of what I should be.
I would get overwhelmed because I felt like I had to start back at square one and restart the whole process. There's nothing I hated more than having to restart something I put so much energy into.
The old me didn't focus on the journey but on the destination and that was her downfall.
The new me
On my healing journey, I've learnt acceptance; love; nurturing; kindness; compassion. I've also learnt that real love isn't conditional. Well, I knew that and aced that test with others but always had difficulty loving myself unconditionally. I've learnt that you can dislike something on your body and still keep your self-love intact. In the past, I would equal something I disliked about myself to my whole self. In healing, I've learnt that I am more than one thing. There is more to me than my body. My body size does not define or represent all of me.
This mindset saved me when I fell off the wagon. The unconditional love I feel for myself saved me from another depression episode. As the numbers on my scale rose, not because of muscle building, my self-love didn't shift. My stress levels didn't send me into an anxious spiral. My view of myself didn't drop.
My weight gain didn't mean I was a failure. It didn't mean that I was lazy or that I was now ugly. My weight gain meant that my life faced some changes and when I was ready, I would have to rearrange my day to find space for my workouts. Now, I work out in the afternoon, after an eleven-hour day of babysitting and working on my writing. Yes, I am EXHAUSTED when I get home but working out for my mental health instead of wanting to be skinny makes me look forward to my time on the yoga mat! It is therapy. It is time to mentally recharge. It is time to expel all of that tired and negative energy I accumulated during the day. I've only been back at it for a few days and I am already feeling the positive changes.
The new me enjoys the journey. She embraces the changes, the obstacles, the setbacks, and the curves she faces because she knows that this is where strength is built. She also realized that when you start working out again, you don't start back at square one but only fall a few squares behind. Your body is incredible. There is such a thing as memory cells and when you jump back into your workout, those cells are woken up. It may take a few weeks but eventually, your muscles and organs are like, "Oh shit, she's BACK. Get to work boys!"
Knowledge is power.
For example, when you start working out, the number on the scale may rise due to muscle building, water retention, bloating, etc. The number on the scale is not a true reflection of your body.
The body is so much more complex than a glass shell with a battery for a heart.
Loving myself to freedom
Loving myself opened the cage I was trapped in. I lived to please others. I constantly wondered what people thought of me or what they said about me. I always felt inadequate and unworthy if I didn't live up to my idea of perfection. I hid my imperfections and ultimately my true self. When I couldn't live up to my own standards, I wallowed in self-hatred.
Loving myself allowed me to not give a fuck!
If I love myself, nobody else matters. If I accept my good and bad, others' validation doesn't matter. If I stand in my truth, in my imperfections, and in my mess unapologetically, I am unbreakable.
These days, when my fitness falls by the wayside, it doesn't affect how I see and love myself. It just means that I need to re-evaluate my life, my day, my priorities and decide what to do about it to get back to what matters most to me: My mental health<3
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Michelle Brady