Giving Up

Good morning! It’s been a while since I’ve written a long post, so I’m taking the opportunity to link up with Amanda and share some thoughts with you today.

I was in a class at my gym recently, sweating profusely and awkwardly attempting whatever move the instructor was imposing upon us, when it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t hating it. For the most part, I have hated formal exercise for as long as I can remember. I have forced myself to do it rain or shine, in sickness and in health, but I have hated every minute of it. In early recovery, when I took a break from exercise for my health, it was difficult not because I loved exercise so very much but because I feared how my body would change. I, like many people who decide to take on weight loss, was under the impression that I would need to be duct taped to a hamster wheel for the rest of my life, and I got used to making myself do something that I hated every day because I believed it was what I needed to do.

Even as I have come to exercise from a healthier place through recovery, I have still struggled with it being something I genuinely enjoy because I have still done it out of a desire to change. I have loved riding my bike for as long as I can remember, but even that felt like a chore after a while. In the last few months, though, something has shifted. I don’t have the same anxiety if I can’t make it to the gym. When I do go to the gym, I can’t force myself to spend hours on machines like I used to. It drains me and I simply can’t do it. However, I love riding my bike. I adore taking fitness classes that kick my ass and make it so I can’t sit down for a day. I can’t get enough of long, sweaty hikes in Portland humidity. I have realized that I am somebody who truly loves exercise, but I love it in a way that feels entirely new and different. Over the last few days, I have been thinking about what has caused the shift in my attitude toward exercise, and I think that I know what it is: I gave up.

Since I was ten or eleven years old, I have wanted my body to look different than it does. I have hated it, and I have spent countless minutes and hours thinking about how much I hate it. I dieted for no other reason than to look better, something that I believe a lot of people would relate to if they were being honest with themselves. I was under the (false) impression that weight was in direct correlation not only to health, but to happiness. I wanted to be thin because I thought thinness equaled happiness and beauty. That is the cold, hard truth. And I didn’t want any part of an exercise or diet plan if it didn’t get me the results that I wanted. All I cared about were results, and anything that didn’t feel like a guarantee of them was a waste of time to me. Because that was my attitude, my favorite activities of riding my bike and walking became insufficient. I didn’t bother to try any classes at the gym because I worried they wouldn’t give me “as good” of a workout. I needed control and, because I was playing for results, I felt like I had to follow a regimen that would get me there. I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t like spending my days obsessing over exercise and searching for motivation that was quickly running dry. But I wanted those results, and I was doing the only thing that I believed would get me there.

I’m not sure exactly what has changed in me over the last few months, but that is not who I am anymore. I gave up on results, and I’ve never been happier with my relationship to exercise. I have realized that my body image truly does not change when my body changes. I had the same insecurities when I weighed thirty pounds less and thirty pounds more that I have now, so what is the point of forcing myself to do things I hate? I decided to stop exercising with results in mind, even though I feared that I would turn into the slothful beast I imagined I would become in my natural state. Maybe it was because my mom had just died and I didn’t care about much of anything, but I decided that the risk of turning into a sloth was one I was willing to take. 

 

Shockingly, in the months since deciding to exercise in ways that I like because I want to rather than out of a desire for specific results, my fitness levels have improved. I can bike more miles, and I can do it faster. I am able to keep up in every class that I go to at the gym. I feel healthy and strong and I love it. The best part, though, is that I don’t tie what I do for exercise into how I feel about my body. I used to come home at night and pick myself apart in the mirror, thinking of what I could change in my exercise routine that would guarantee a specific result. Now, I don’t even think about that. I love going to a class and knowing that it is good for my body, even if I don’t get the triceps or abs that I have always wanted out of it. I adore being able to speed up a hill on my bike, knowing that my legs are strong enough to power me up even though I think they’re big and wobbly. People may not see a fit person when they look at me, but that is okay. People have biases and I can’t hold myself responsible for those biases. I know that I am healthy and happy, and that is all that matters. Removing the knots between exercise, weight loss, and appearance in my mind has freed me to do what I love without anxiety or fear. I gave up, and it was  one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

 

4 comments
  1. Reading back at your post from your “3 year” mark to this one made me so happy for you. you continue to amaze me in your strength and courage to stick with your recovery. I know not everyday is easy but I am happy that you continually find balance! love you 🙂

  2. This is lovely. Often “giving up” is frowned upon since it’s seen as being weak. But I think your form of giving up–giving up on results, on appearances and expectations–is incredibly strong.
    I am still off of exercise right now but I cannot wait to get to a place like this. Where exercise is not a compulsion or a chore.
    Kaylee Gross recently posted…Recent Eats: MayMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Kaylee! It takes a lot of work to get to a place of peace, and I think that my attitude toward exercise can and will change for me over time. But It feels really good to be here now, and I know that you can get there, too 🙂

  3. This is such an inspiring story, Erin! I also love group fitness classes–they really make me feel alive!–but it’s been such a relief to teach myself that I don’t *have* to go x number of times a week in order to feel good, be healthy, or even for my clothes to keep fitting the same way. I’ve also been biking more this summer; it feels so good to be outside!
    Joyce @ The Hungry Caterpillar recently posted…Currently: June 2017My Profile

Comments are closed.