I had a moment of clarity at the gym today ….at least it felt like clarity, or maybe acceptance. Whatever it was it was real, and it spurred me on when I needed it most! I will try to explain.
For many years nutrition, health and fitness has been my job, my life. I have always tried to be active and eat well in order to stay healthy. Admittedly, this began from an unhealthy obsession with food, or lack thereof as the case maybe.
I was certainly never ‘fat’, and growing up we led a pretty active lifestyle. No computers or games consoles to keep us inside. I don’t remember many days when we wouldn’t be out riding bikes, swimming, making up our own games outside with the all the local neighbourhood kids. I wasn’t great at sport…I was the academic; my sister was the one who was the better sportsperson, but I loved to play tennis and ride my bike. I’d have a go!
I’m honestly not sure how, or why, it all started but I do know I’ve always had a need to be liked, so there was probably something in my head telling me that if I was thin it would make me more attractive, more likeable. As a teenager I began to restrict my eating and exercising obsessively in order to control my weight…and probably to feel as though I was in control of everything! I’m surprised I actually made it through my HSC (Higher School Certificate … the Australian equivalent of SATs and GCSEs I guess) with the little I would eat!
Anyway, I’m not writing this to glorify restrictive eating at all. From my training as a dietitian that really wouldn’t sit well! Yes, I went on to make a career out of food and nutrition…that obsession with food drew me to the profession! And you know what, I was good at it. I have worked in a variety of roles since graduating, though I have not counselled clients for at least 10 years when I moved into a corporate role. My restricted eating stopped after high school but over the years my relationship with food, exercise and my body continued to have it’s good moments and it’s bad – I’m sure many of you can relate. When things have been good I do not hesitate to congratulate myself…like when I completed my first triathlon, or my first 10km run, I knew it was because I had put the hard work in, did everything right and focussed on the goal and what was right for me. But when things have been bad I beat myself up like there is no tomorrow …. “of course they don’t like you, look at you!” Self doubt has plagued me terribly over the past few years, and so has my weight. Slowly creeping up, like a fearful predator, to the point where I have been embarrassed to say I am a dietitian because of what people might think. Isn’t that crazy?
It’s a vicious circle you can get into – you feel bad about yourself so you eat; your weight goes up or your clothes don’t fit as well anymore so you feel bad about yourself. You start to doubt you deserve anything good. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I exercised over 2 years (the 2 years up until this year). I was working long hours, not making time for me, travelling for work and eating out…and so on. The vicious cycle would continue. As it turns out there was a physical reason or this was happening. I recently learned that my thyroid gland was inactive.
Fortunately, with the help of an endocrinologist, and some time to refocus on me, my body is back on track, and with that so is my mind, or the self-talk. And it’s that self-talk that came to me during my spin class today! Fifteen minutes in and I wanted to just give up. Feeling like my thighs were too big and heavy to get me out of the seat, my head telling me you will die if you go any harder….rubbish! Something clicked…I knew I wasn’t going to die, I knew I could get out of the seat and pedal like I could see the finish line ahead. And who cares what people think…nobody is looking at you during the class anyway, they’re just trying to get through it, just like you! I got tired of the self doubt!
I took some pictures to remind myself of this day. Some “before and after” shots, so to speak. I know the voices, the self-doubt may sneak back in again every so often, but when/if they do I can look back on this day and know that when I don’t doubt myself I can achieve wonderful things. Things that make me feel good, things that are good for me, and things that make me smile.