I've declared February the month of love around here - SELF love - and in doing so I've made a point to carve out time for myself in a variety of ways all month long. But while all the self-care in the form of hair appointments, spa days, shopping trips and quiet moments have certainly helped with feeling good in the moment, I think we all know that they don't do a bit of good if we're not in a state of self-love when it comes to being happy with ourselves on a deeper level.
Self-love is complicated. For me there are two sides to it: Loving your body (anything physical) and loving your ego (anything emotional or mental). Of course, the two go hand in hand, but today I'm going to focus a little more on the physical aspect of my current self-love journey.
There's a quote that says "Comparison is the thief of joy." I'm sure you've all heard it. Nodding your head in agreement, while simultaneously going right back to doing it. Well, not only do I tend to compare myself to others (as we all do), but - maybe worse - I tend to compare myself to my past self. And while I'm sure that for some people this is actually a good thing, for me it's a very negative practice.
My golden years, for myself and my body, were between the age of 27 - 32. A pretty good run right? I hovered around a size 2-4. I lived in LA for a while which really helped because I was healthy, active and tan all the time, and there wasn't exactly a sweater season to hide my body away in. When I moved back to Seattle, and turned 30, I made the decision to hire a personal trainer and move into an apartment that was a block from a lake that had a 3 mile loop I could run around. Life was good! I worked hard for that body, but it was also easy for me to keep maintaining it.
And then things changed. I moved away from that apartment and stopped seeing my trainer. I tried to keep up with my workouts, but I hated my small neighborhood gym, and running all the time got boring. I met my boyfriend (now husband) and devoted a lot of time to the relationship. I moved again - this time to his place. I became an instant step-mom. A couple years later, an official wife. Priorities shifted. My life changed and my body changed. It's a very common story. And I found myself suddenly being completely out of a workout routine, having gained weight, and unsure of where to start in getting back my confidence and my body. You may also notice that that's about the time that I stopped posting photos of myself here and on instagram. I was ashamed of how much I had 'let myself go' and didn't want anyone else to see it either.
So there I was at 35, a size 8-10 on my 5'2" frame, and I was immensely frustrated and depressed. I tried to get motivated, and work out again, but the weight didn't come off quickly enough, so I was depressed some more. And after a cycle that revolved around me just wanting to be the weight I had been in my golden years, I realized... I had to readjust my reality. I had to redefine my idea of healthy and normal. I had to stop comparing myself to myself and realize that for most of us, ten years of aging is gonna put you in a different place. Duh. But telling myself this and accepting this were two very different things.
I know I'm not alone in this struggle because it's a constant conversation around here. At the office, at girl's night, on social media... we're all struggling with it. But, you know what's fantastic? Talking about it. I've got friends who have devoted themselves to their careers and let their bodies go. Friends who have struggled with thyroid issues. Loads of friends who have had babies and are working hard to get their body back. Skinny-fat friends who just want to be toned again. Friends who are seemingly perfect in their bodies but still have issues because - duh - we all have issues. But today I'm talking about me and mine, because I'm hoping that maybe they're similar to you and yours, and that some of this conversation can be helpful not only to you, but to me as well.
So I thought I'd share with you guys a few things I've done over the past few years that have helped me to move towards a body that I feel comfortable in, while accepting my new 'normal'.
Food & Fitness:
- When I hit rock bottom with working out (like I wasn't doing it at all), I asked myself what it would take to motivate me again, and I decided that my #1 priority was convenience. Because we don't live super close to a gym, I cleared a spot in my home where I could exercise. I made a mega playlist of workouts on YouTube to try (my favorites are from PopSugar!). I still do this, and I love the convenience of it! Most importantly: this is FREE. You may not be able to afford a trainer or even a gym membership, but if you're paying for internet, you've got workout classes online and they are amazing.
- At the same time that I started working out again, I gave myself the goal of trying to workout a little bit everyday, even if it was just 20 minutes. When I fell short, I didn't feel too bad about it because I'd probably worked out 3-4 times a week, which is still way better than what I was doing before which was nothing. Giving yourself room to fail is important!
- I used to bribe myself with rewards. For every day I worked out, I earned a small 'cheat' that week. Once I got into a routine, I didn't have to do this anymore because my body craved the workouts. But it was really helpful in the beginning!
- I learned my food triggers and habits. For example, when I have red meat, I crave red wine, and when I have red wine, I definitely want to finish my meal off with some chocolate. So I limit myself to red meat once a week, or even less.
- I also learned that if I worked out in the evening, I made better food choices for dinner, and I didn't even want wine because I was too busy rehydrating. So even though evenings aren't my favorite time to work out, when I have the time I try to squeeze in a 20-minute focused session before I start cooking dinner (focused meaning I work on just abs, or just arms, etc). That usually does the trick!
- Putting workouts on the calendar and sticking to that schedule is essential. I recognize that this can be the hardest part for most of you who are juggling regular work hours with kids or other obligations. I get it. See where you can squeeze in those moments for yourself, and stick with it as much as you can! I recently started doing Orangetheory back in September, and I love it because it holds me accountable to the times I've scheduled. Also, I just freaking LOVE the workout itself.
- If you can afford it, find a coach or trainer that can help keep you accountable, but is also a bundle of healthy positivity.
- I accepted that I will never be that person who can sustain myself on matcha lattes or acai bowls. I will never be vegan or vegetarian, because I love meat. I will probably never stop drinking, because I love wine. I am not Gwyneth Paltrow, nor can I afford to be, or do I want to be. I'm a everything-in-moderation-because-life-is-too-damn-short kinda person, and if that keeps me at a size 8 instead of a size 2, well... guess what? I've decided to be ok with that. I have chosen that. Sure, I'll diet here and there to get myself back on track or cleanse my body of alcohol for a week or two, but I personally refuse to go through life depriving myself of experiences that make me happy just because I want to look better in jeans. Because, guess what? I still look good in jeans. Just so happens that they're a size 28 instead of a size 26.
- I stopped following people on instagram that made me feel like crap about myself. The ones who I was always comparing myself to, or rolling my eyes at. I started following more people who keep it real or whose bodies I identify with. This affected my mental health so much!
- A few years ago I finally accepted the fact that I was never going to fit into 75% of my wardrobe ever again. Ever. My favorite jeans and blouses that wouldn't quite button no longer had any purpose in my closet, other than adding to my body guilt. Nope. They went away. And they got replaced with new items that I loved. That I felt good in. I wasn't perfect, but man did I feel a whole lot more confident in clothes that actually fit.
- I worked really hard on diving deep into my body issues to figure out where they were stemming from. I realized that growing up and even as a young woman I was constantly being valued for my looks, and that made me mentally equate my self-worth with how I looked. When I started to lose some of that, I had to figure out where else to look for my self-worth. This is where the loving your body and loving your ego start to go hand in hand. I'm still working on it.
And this leads me to my real point: You are you and you need to love you for who you are. You can work as hard as you can at all of these things, but if you don't love you, if you don't see you, if your perception of yourself is still "I'm too ___ (fat, skinny, short, etc) then you will never be happy. You are depriving yourself of self-love.
After working on my body for three years, I'm in a better place as a whole from a physical standpoint. I'm back to being in a consistent workout routine, I know how to manage my diet (although I still struggle with this occasionally) and I've found a place where I feel pretty satisfied with where my body is, and confident about where it has the potential to be in another 6 months. Or year. Or two years! Because I know this will be a work in progress.
I identified what I needed for me to feel happy with myself again: I needed to feel like I was at least trying to be in good shape. To stop comparing myself to my 20-something self. And to redefine my idea of beauty, health, and wellness. Being in this place now allows me to focus on my self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love on a mental - not just physical - level. I know that this next step will absolutely, 100% be easier said than done, but I also know it will so be worth the work.