A Shift in Perspective

Happy Monday, folks!

Hopefully you all had rockin’ weekends — mine was pretty busy with not one, but two different events that I worked on Saturday. First up was the Taste of Falls Church, where Intern Sean (heh) and I manned the Yelp booth and challenged many a folk to some rousing rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors in exchange for rockin’ swag.

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I know it doesn’t seem like rock, paper, scissors would be that fun at first glance, but people got really into it! Full credit goes to my beautiful coworker (and fellow blogger!) Kimberly for thinking it up. Plus it’s always a huge hit at family friendly events like this one, because it’s A) free and B) kids know how to play it. Really well, actually. Most of them kicked my butt.

The second event of the day was an Elite Event at Glynn Jones hair salon in Old Town Alexandria. It was my very first salon event so I was admittedly a wee bit nervous, but it turned out so fabulously! Elites got to nosh, sip, and watch (and if they were lucky, get selected for!) demonstrations on blow dry technique, updos, airbrush makeup, and more.

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So Saturday was a tiring day for sure, but a lot of fun at the same time. And I got to make up for it yesterday with just about the laziest Sunday I’ve had in a loooooong time. All I did yesterday was sleep, cuddle with schnauzers, cook, sleep some more, and then give all my money to Target. In my defense, I think I’m a little bit under the weather — Mia was sick pretty much the whole time I was visiting her in Macon, and given her penchant for sharing food (aww!) and my penchant for being a sucker and letting her shove said food into my mouth, I think it’d be more surprising if I didn’t catch whatever she had.

Sickness be damned, though! I’m not feeling too terrible (thanks to the probably 15 hours of collective sleep I got yesterday), so this week I’m determined to continue the good gym habits that my sister helped me start to establish on what shall henceforth be known as the Healthiest Vacation Ever. I’ve marked some classes at my gym that looks interesting and have booked time in my actual calendar to make sure I don’t book any calls or meetings during those times. So now it’s just a matter of actually, well, going!

Now, if any of you are skeptical as to my ability to keep my enthusiasm for working out up, well… I don’t blame you. After all, I don’t exactly have the best track record. I’ve never been shy to admit my utter hatred of working out, getting sweaty (ironic, because I’m probably the sweatiest person on the planet even just standing still and breathing), and just generally exerting myself. I wasn’t a particularly active kid — I played basketball in middle school because I was tall. And I wasn’t very good at it. Growing up, my family never put a real focus on fitness or being active, so I never thought of it as an important thing to incorporate into my daily routine. (This, I have to say, is somewhat funny to me now given that my sister is a marathoner who teaches fitness classes and my dad bikes like 20 miles every single day.)

So I never learned to find the joy in being active, and, obviously, that translated into my adult life. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. When I first started out on my weight loss journey and found myself immersed in the world of healthy living blogging, I definitely tried. Everyone tells you that you just have to find an activity you like doing, and then you’ll want to that thing and, by default, you’ll want to be active. So I really did try to find something I liked.

I went to the gym. I walked. I ran. I swam. I did yoga. I did hot yoga. I did Zumba. I did CrossFit. Nothing stuck. I never got myself into a regular routine, and when I did go, I still found I was forcing myself to, and only because I knew that it would help me burn XX amount of calories.

Of course, as I discussed in my last post, I’ve also only ever thought of fitness being a means to an end for weight loss.

But hey, it did work for a while! I mean, even if it was unwilling and forced, I still did get myself into gear long enough to help me shed some weight, tone up, and be fit enough to accomplish quite a few fitness milestones. I was running 5Ks and 5 milers and 200-mile team relays, after all. It’s just that even when I was doing those things, even when I was legitimately in shape (well, in shape for me, at least), weight loss was still my primary focus.

But, obviously, using weight loss as a motivator for fitness can only last as long as you are losing weight. So when I stopped actively losing weight, I stopped feeling a need to dedicate time to fitness, and that, amongst other things, meant I ended up gaining back a lot of the weight I had lost.

Which is why I can say, even with my track record of failing at maintaining a regular fitness routine, I’m actually feeling fairly confident about seeing this through this time around. Because I really do feel like my motivation, and my perspective, has shifted. Do I still find myself thinking about my weight, thinking about how I look, comparing myself against the standards that the media has set forth? Of course I do. I’m only human, and I’ve got over twenty years of negative body image and weight obsession to fight against.

That being said, it takes up only a minimal, miniscule amount of my thoughtspace now. And without all those negative thoughts weighing me down, without the constant, continual focus on how any activity, any food, any choice will ultimately affect my weight loss…well, who knows if all the things I thought I felt about working out and being active and being fit weren’t wrong all along?

I sometimes feel that within the body positive/fat acceptance culture, there’s almost an expectation that you shouldn’t want to work out or eat healthily or whatever, because doing so means you must still want to change yourself. And, more specifically, you must still want to be thin. You must still secretly be working towards conforming to society’s standards or whatever. And I know that most people don’t think that way, and it’s not indicative of the entire movement in any way, but I do believe it is a sentiment that exists.

And so I have struggled with the idea of whether or not I’m really, truly, honestly rededicating myself to fitness because I want to, or because I still feel like I need to. Am I honestly doing this because it helps me sleep better and it boosts my energy and it is healthy? Or is it just because it will help me look better?

I guess only time will truly tell since, based on past precedence, we already know that if it’s the latter, this current burst of motivation won’t stick for long. But I do know that it does feel different. I’m not weighing myself. I’m not counting calories. I’m not using food as a reward system. I’m not limiting myself to not buying clothing because I want to wait until I’m smaller, or purposely buying clothes in a smaller size to “motivate” myself.

I’m just loving myself. And as much as I used to only think of it in relation to my weight and size, I know that being active in some form or another is just one more way to love myself. So that my body — curves and flesh and fat and muscles and stomach rolls and ligaments and stretch marks and all — will be around for me to love as long as possible.

17 Comments

  1. Hi Gretchen!

    I rarely leave comments anymore but I really wanted to chime in – as a fellow weight loser/regainer, but most importantly as someone dedicated to body positivity. Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot that I read somewhere last week was that exercise (for a mostly sedentary person like myself) makes you feel good, not only for the endorphins and how your body MIGHT change, but because you’re pushing yourself past fear. For me, I struggle a lot with anxiety and daily walks REALLY help me manage that, so I know that’s something I would keep whether I’m focused on weight loss or not.

    To me, the body acceptance movement is not about totally ignoring your needs – it’s about knowing that you are WORTHY enough to feed yourself food that makes you feel good and to move in ways that benefit your life. If anything, body positivity is about pushing past fear to be the person walking on the beach in a bathing suit, going to the gym, and eating salads (if you want) just because that stuff makes you feel good.

    I just tried to find a link to give you from intuitive eating coach Christine Inge about why she doesn’t tell clients to eat whatever they want, since I can’t find it, I’ll summarize as best I remember: basically she believed (and I do too) that sugar, processed foods can mess up your intuitive eating cues and hormones and mood and stuff, and is a path to relearning hunger cues and finding out what really nourishes your body.

    Honestly, there’s not one right way to do fat acceptance. For me, the movement gave me courage to do things like walk a lot, go on hikes, sign up for the gym, and actually investigate what I’m eating and why. I think anyone who says fat acceptance is about totally ignoring your needs of healthful food and exercise is probably stuck behind some kind of fear – just my (more than) two cents :)!

    • Hooray for walks! I agree that if you can find an activity that makes you feel good, great! I don’t agree with forcing yourself to do something if you don’t love it.

  2. I used to only think about fitness as a way to lose weight, and it was always a losing proposition. I was hungrier, so I ate more. I was tired, so my willpower was weaker, causing me to grab things that weren’t healthy. I also felt like I needed to “reward” myself for being so good and going to the gym.

    The only time fitness has worked for me is when I really want to do it. I love walking my dog, Gizmo (another schnauzer!). Happily, he will walk forever, so I don’t have to worry about him getting tired. I also love various fitness games on my XBox (they also help relieve stress, because you can’t be angry while dancing poorly). I have a standing desk, which helps me actually be tired when it’s time to go to bed.

    And I don’t beat myself up if I don’t feel like moving as much one day. We all have waves of high and low energy, and that’s not a bad thing. We can’t always be at a peak. Sometimes, we just need to chill out with some tea and a book.

  3. Jennsays:

    Could not agree more, Gretchen! When you’re forcing yourself to do anything, rarely does it turn out to be enjoyable on any level.

    I’m finding myself shifting my perspective as well, regarding weight-loss/being healthy. I felt like I had to get my life all organized and ready, then (and only then) can I focus on getting healthy. Ha! Long story short, I’ve started following a diet plan that came with this electronic ab worker-outer my husband won, and while I don’t follow it 100% each week, I find when I do stray, I’m not going as crazy with the food I do choose because I just don’t want to! I’ll certainly enjoy whatever I have, but I won’t overdo it, and I don’t make myself feel guilty, because I know that tomorrow I will get right back on track! Working out is my last hurdle – I love using Wii Fit to get me moving after a few years of not moving like I used to, buuut my bed is so warm and comfy in the AM!! (I do better when I exercise in the morning, leaving it for after work guarantees I will NOT do it.) Baby steps, baby steps…

    Keep it up, girl! You’re an inspiration and a delight!!

  4. Larasays:

    I know I want to say something, but I’m not sure how best to say it…you mention that when you grew up, your family wasn’t focused on fitness, but then your sister and your father have adopted a fit lifestyle (and I can attest that your sister wasn’t that way in college, because studying for tests on the elliptical is not exercise)…I wasn’t always waking up at 0530 because I wanted to crossfit. Not that long ago, I was a chain-smoking, binge-drinking, sleeper-in. At this point, I don’t exercise because I feel as though I have to, I’m not trying to lose weight..my body craves it. There is a marked difference in my mood when I don’t work out and in my food choices. I know the most difficult part is making something a habit. but it doesn’t need to happen all at once. You can start slow and see what sticks. I think you hit the most important part on the head…there are many people (myself included) that want you around for a very long time 🙂

  5. Sometimes I think feeling you need to be healthy/workout and wanting to be healthy/workout are overlapping concepts. If you don’t feel like you need or want to be healthy or workout then you won’t. I think it’s ok to feel the need to workout at least sometimes. But if it’s dragging you down and making you feel like crap about yourself then it’s not ok. It’s a grey area (like most of life). You need the urge in order to pursue it to a degree. Does that make sense?

    • I agree, I guess I’m just making a bigger distinction between the ideas of “needing” and “wanting.” Like, you can want AND need to do something, but if you feel like you need to do something without wanting to, you’ll never be motivated to do so. Does that makes sense? Hahaha, so much of what I’m feeling about all this is so difficult for me to articulate. 🙂

  6. Summersays:

    Excellent point here: “But, obviously, using weight loss as a motivator for fitness can only last as long as you are losing weight. So when I stopped actively losing weight, I stopped feeling a need to dedicate time to fitness, and that, amongst other things, meant I ended up gaining back a lot of the weight I had lost.” YUP — right here. I used to love the gym, but then when I stopped for just a bit, and my weight lost stalled, then reversed, gone was the motivation.

    PS I neeeeeed to know where you go your shorts (pants?) from above in the photo, paired with the I <3 Yelp tank. Those buttons are adorable!

  7. Like your thoughts. Just throwing this out there … What if before your re-dedication, you simply think out how you want to feel? If exercising makes you feel x way then rededicate. Or do a trial run of seeing if exercising makes you feel [insert identified feeling]. If it does keep going, if it doesn’t move on.

  8. I just went through a shift in perspective of feeling like I needed to work out to making it part of my day. For awhile, it took a lot to get myself to the gym but now I just think about how I’ll feel after. And if I don’t feel like the gym I walk, it’s such a great exercise/mind clearer. But the main thing is I started looking at exercise like something that helped me and made me feel good and keep my balance. Now it’s not hard anymore.

  9. Jensays:

    I love this post and I’m proud of you for trying to find a way to incorporate fitness into your own life- I would also like all of you to be around for a long long time!

  10. I think it’s important to realize that being body positive and wanting to be healthier are NOT mutually exclusive things. A good analogy is the feminist movement. You are going to have some feminists who tell you to never wear skirts or dresses and to dress gender-neutral, who will put down stay-at-home moms, who will look down upon femininity. But there are others in the feminist movement who realize the most inclusive, most positive and affirming belief, is one in which you allow all people the freedom to be what they want. Some in the body positive movement might shame you for choosing a salad over fries. But I think they’re really just pushing their values on you, and you should never feel bad for wanting to make your body feel good. I work out 4-5 days/week (playing tennis, something I love), and I eat healthfully most of the week because it’s what makes my body feel it’s best. I also freaking love bacon cheeseburgers and beer, but if I ate those all the time, my body wouldn’t feel very good, so I don’t do it. So if you feel like eating a salad, do it because you want to do so, because to me, the whole point of the body positive movement should be to allow people the freedom to be whoever they want to be, and make whatever choices they want.

    And it’s okay for there to be grey areas sometimes. Sometimes I ask myself the same things–“are good nutrition and working out just a cover-up for wanting to lose weight?”. But I think that what’s most important is reminding your brain of the reasons why you want to start these healthy habits. Continually remind yourself it’s about health, and energy, and good sleep, and whatever else fitness/health means for you personally. The more you reinforce those connections in your brain, the less your brain will focus on things like just being skinny (which it will try to do because that’s what it’s learned all its life!). And even then, it’s okay to just wish you were a different (smaller) person sometimes too. That doesn’t mean you hate your body; it means we’re all normal humans who occasionally fall to “the grass is always greener” mentality. I do sometimes wish I was smaller because it would be easier to find clothes, for example. But the more I dwell on that negativity, the worse I feel. We get to choose what to believe, so choose things that make you feel good about yourself, not bad.

    One other thing I think is worth mentioning is that health should not be something taken for granted. Especially as we age, being healthy usually requires work–working out, preparing healthy meals, etc. And yes, there can be health at ANY size, but it’s fairly likely that at ANY size, you aren’t going to be healthy if you don’t do healthy things. For years, I was “body positive”, which meant not working out and eating whatever I felt like. But that did start taking its toll in my mid 20’s, when my blood pressure started creeping up at my annual physicals. Remember that no matter what size a person is, if they want to be healthy and mobile, they will probably need to do some healthy things like getting good nutrition and working out.

    Feel free to drop me an email if you’d like to talk more.

    • This comment is everything. You articulated so much of what I’ve been thinking but unable to properly express, especially this:

      “The more you reinforce those connections in your brain, the less your brain will focus on things like just being skinny (which it will try to do because that’s what it’s learned all its life!). And even then, it’s okay to just wish you were a different (smaller) person sometimes too. That doesn’t mean you hate your body; it means we’re all normal humans who occasionally fall to “the grass is always greener” mentality.”

      You are, simply, the best. 🙂

  11. Thanks! I’m just a little older than you (will be 28 in a few months), and we seem to be very similar in regards to our life experiences and beliefs, so trust me when I say that I’ve been there too!

  12. I love this! I struggle with the whole love-your-body, but I-want-to-workout thing too, because like you said, some think if you’re working out or eating healthfully that you’re doing it to change the way you look. But even if you do want to change the way you look, i.e., lose weight, that doesn’t mean that you’re doing it because you hate your body. You may want to fit in the gazillion clothes in your closet that are a little snug (ahem, me) or you may want to be healthier so you can be on the planet longer, as you said. But even if eating healthier and being more active don’t result in weight loss, I’m OK with that in the sense that I am trying. I am trying every day to be a healthier person, and that is worthwhile and makes me feel good. It’s when we feel forced to do something or like we’re doing it for society’s ideals, that’s when we’re heading in the wrong direction. So no guilt over wanting to be fit! As long as you’re doing it for YOU, then that’s what matters!

  13. Just love yourself and figure out what makes you happy and all will be well in the world! =) Besides working out, I think our happiness is what matters most and staying positive through whatever we may be going through.

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