This post started off as a Facebook update… At first I was going to make a quick comment about something that happened to me at the gym today, and then I added a little commenary, and then it got longer and longer, and I realized maybe I had something to say that was more than a Facebook status update. Now, the orderly part of me (and, let’s be honest, judging by the current state of my dishes that’s a very small part of me) knows that I have drafts upon drafts of posts about my history with this subject that I haven’t written out or fully explained, and telling this story feels like jumping ahead. I was tempted not to post this.
And then I was like, okay, screw this. I’d like to tell the first part of this story correctly… but that’s going to take a long time, and even two years later I haven’t figured out the right words. But the highights are this: between 2011 and 2013 I had an eating disorder. I know, that’s fucking uncomfortable for some people (which is fair, it was uncomfortable for me too.) But I’ll save the details for that other story I’m going to tell eventually… for now I’ll say it started as a well-intentioned diet and exercise program that turned into orthorexia and then– when my body wouldn’t conform to both my lifestyle and the ideals about what my body “should” be– turned into full-on bulima. That was fun.
But I pulled myself out of that shit and then began a two year journey to where my life is today, which includes a lot of eating whateverthehell I want (but, if we’re going to be honest, more protien shakes than I would have thought possible) and also a lot more time than I ever would have thought devoted to weight lifting because I love it. (Plus I like to throw rowing or crossfit once a week with some of my coworkers and I work out with one of the strongest and most awesome trainers once a week as well to make sure ass is thoroughly kicked… all of which are genuinely some of the best parts of my week.) My current goal is to complete “Murph”– 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another mile run– by the end of May.) So, just as context for the rest of this: I eat and drink unabashedly, and I do some pretty amazing workouts every week too.
So. Here’s the story. Tonight–as I was in the middle of four sets of curls–one of the kids that works at my gym stopped over and told me it looked like I’d “lost a couple of inches.” I honestly had no idea what he meant and then when he clarified by asking if I’d lost weight I genuinely laughed and was like, “That’s unlikely, but I have no idea because I haven’t stepped on a scale in 3 years!” His face was priceless.
And I’m not making fun of the kid. (He was trying to pay me a compliment, and I haven’t turned into some militant overly-sensitive post-eating-disorder version of myself, even when someone comments on my body.) No, it was actually genuine, delighted laughter because the reason I don’t know what I weigh (which, let’s be honest, is bsaically the numerical representation of the amount of force my body exerts on the earth because of gravity, and yeah, it does sound like a silly thing to care about when you say it like that) is because it doesn’t matter to me. I never think about it. I also don’t think about the number randomly assigned to the pair of jeans I try on that I feel awesome wearing and don’t cut off blood flow to the lower half of my body. And there was a time where those things could make or break my day, so to be reminded that I legitimately don’t think about those things ever anymore is… amazing.
Truthfully? I have so much fun working out and getting stronger that on a day-to-day basis I forget that the vast majority of people think that exercise or “going to the gym” is inexorably linked with wanting to look different. On a personal level, I love that I forget that, and I also don’t want to tell other people how to handle their shit, but, because I’ve been there (and it was miserable for me) it feels important to offer this alternative:
1.) You don’t have to have aesthetic goals for your body regardless of what you weigh, what size your clothes are, or what you look like. You don’t. (Part of me wants to say “and fuck anyone who tells you that you do” but I also try to extend some grace to those people. I don’t internalize what they say I “should” do but I do very clearly recognize that they’re dealing with their own shit, or, at the very least, some very deeply embedded cultural norms that make most people miserable.) But for you, the person who is reading this, what I’m saying is… It’s totally cool to just be you.
I’m looking at my life for the next six months and I’ve got a film crew showing up at my house in January (to film more fun stuff like this), and after that I’ve got a wedding on a beach for my dearest friend where I plan to run around in my underwear more than is socially acceptable… and my body currently is sporting both fat and cellulite—and scars, calluses, probably a few spider veins if we’re going to start cataloguing this shit– that lots of people are going to see and you know what I think about that? It’s cool, body. We’re doing awesome shit together. Not just a job, and running a farm, and building awesome things, but we did 200 GODDAMN PUSHUPS on Tuesday which is at least 50 more than I thought was physically possible for me to do in one workout. Hell yes! And if fat and cellulite and scars and calluses are what is required for me feel amazing and powerful and do awesome shit every day, I’m cool with that.
2.) Exercising or “working out” literally has nothing to do with your diet. Yep. Real things. We want to pretend that no one is allowed to work out who isn’t a low-carb, high-protien, flexible dieting manaicac. Uh. Except it turns out there are no police who patrol what you eat and then decide if you’re worthy of lifting weights or being a boxer or riding your bike to work, or vice versa. You can do those things and still eat nothing but Big Mac’s if that’s what you want to do (and you don’t have to earn that shit by doing cardio beforehand either.) Nor do you have to justify anything you eat to all the assholes out there who don’t know how to keep their eyes on their own plate. (I know there are so many good people who are going to read that sentence and want to respond with some shit like “yeah but you shouldn’t eat Big Mac’s all day because of cholesteral,” or “your workouts will be better if you eat all the egg whites” or whatthefuckever. You guys, just stop. I get why we want to do that… it’s conditioning mixed with a weird desire to “help” that actually is not helpful at all. Here’s the truth: what other people do with their bodies is none of our goddamn business. It is literally the thing in the world that is the least of our goddamn business. How other people eat or sleep or drink or interact with other humans may impact their heath and their ability to function in certain capacities… that’s true, but it’s also an individual choice.)
Now, my caveat to this is that you may find that eating certain ways (or just actually eating) makes it easier for you to do more awesome shit like, in my case, lift heavy things. Food can fuel that, just like it fuels literally every single thing you’ll ever do in your life, but different bodies have different needs and process things different ways. Everyone has to figure out what works for them… but doing awesome shit with your body does not require food-prep or six meals a day or protien shakes if that’s not your thing.
3.) Self-sufficiency is amazing. I spend a lot of time thinking about this, trying to decide if I’m imposing my ideals (because I love being self-sufficient and in control) on other people. Maybe? But I think I’m being pretty objective when I say that being able to do shit yourself only adds to you as a person. You don’t have to do it yourself. You can ask for help, you can pay someone to do a job, you can decide you just don’t want to do a thing… but it’s amazing and powerful to know that you are capable. Even if you decide to ask for help, or decide to pay for a service, it’s not because you have to, it’s because you want to, and I think that makes a huge difference.
Now, self-sufficiency means different things to different people, and that’s okay too. For me it might mean being able to lift 30 bales of hay into a hayloft (or for you it might mean being able to lift 1500 bales of hay into a hayloft because you’re a real farmer.) And it might not mean being able to re-wire your entire house, or build cabinets or patch drywall holes like I do, but maybe it means being able to run 10 miles (pretty sure I can’t do that) or rig up a ham radio out of batteries and tinfoil.
All I can say is that from my perspective being able to physically do things has given me a sense of power and confidence and weight in the world, and I don’t tie those things to a physical aesthetic or a diet plan. (When I did I was physically weaker and less capable than any other time in my life, so… that was counterproductive.) Since I go to the gym and do workouts to make me stronger and more self-sufficient–and because I just plain have fun with my workout buddies–instead of to look differently… there’s no way to lose. It’s not something I have to do, it’s not punishment for what I ate, I don’t get dejected and stop going because my body doesn’t look a certain way. It is nothing but an awesome part of my day that makes me better at doing more awesome things. Crazy, right?
I don’t mean for this to be some heavy shit for a Friday. It’s just an alternative view that I think we don’t stop to consider enough while we’re hating our bodies, and not recognizing our capabilities, and not living up to our potential as awesomely badass human beings. So this is just something to consider while I go finish this wedge of brie and bottle of wine that I declared was dinner, and prep for a full day of work tomorrow followed by a lot of awkward attempts to do a pull-up in my bedroom doorway.
It’s not glamorous, you guys, but it’s a pretty awesome life once you accept it.
**Let’s have an honest moment here… most people who haven’t followed me for a while you’re wondering what the hell I look like before you make a judgement on what I’ve written. I’m tempted not to indulge you (because my words are actually meaninful despite what I look like) but I’m also weighing that against telling an authentic story. So here’s me, authentically, post-workout, sans-makeup, and after at least half a bottle of really good chardonay. No filter, no photoshop…
Yeah, that sportsbra is too small because it’s been efffing laundry-day for a week. Turns out no one died because I had split-boob today, but I still got an awesome workout in. (And, because I know we’re sick this way, if you’d like to compare that to mid-eating distorder…)
In the first picture, recently did 100 burpees, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and ran 900 steps inside of an hour. In the second picture, couldn’t do any pushups (maybe two if I tried real hard?) skin broke out, didn’t go out with friends because I was afraid of eating or drinking too much, and also used to take sleeping pills when I got home from work so I would just fall asleep instead of thinking about eating all night. That was fun and healthy?
Yeah… no. I don’t do that shit anymore because it was miserable…and I also have plenty of belly fat…
And also plenty of muscle…
And I’m real happy. Like unaccountanly happy.
And I just want to say this before you comment on this post. The gut-reaction people have when someone tells them they have had an eating distorder is to say one of three things: 1.) I wish I looked like that, I can’t believe you’re unhappy with it. 2.) You look good, I don’t know why you’re complaining. Or 3.) You’re so close! If you just lost a few pounds you’d look great!
Just so we’re clear, none of those comments are welcome on this post (and I will happily delete them.) I don’t want or need compliments or assurances. I don’t want you to compare yourself to me. I want you to see a woman… 34 years old. Fucking badass and whatever she chooses to do. Imperfect. Messy house. Oddly proud of her muscles (which aren’t that big… I’m not a fucking bodybuilder). Completely accepting of her fat (it’s necessary to live guys, seriously.) Drinking a bottle of wine while she writes this (because it’s fucking delicious.) Not telling you to be perfect, or to be like me, or to think the things I think are important are actually important. Just consider this: love yourself for who you are. That’s it. And let other people love themselves for who they are.
We’re all capable of such awesomeness, and stupid shit like our weight, or body-fat-percentage, or how much cheese we eat in a week is never going to determine how amazing we are, unless we let it. Let’s not.