It’s that time of year.
The time of year when my Instagram fills up with sweaty, post workout posts. When Facebook is filled with testimonials of the newest 137 hour fix and beetroot wonderfood shake. I am always proud of my friends who are working to transform their bodies and their lives, but I must admit, often times these posts take me to a dark place.
A place filled with shoulds. A place where my inner voice starts shouting about all the diets I should be on, and all the new workouts I should be trying. Of the way my body should look, and the ways I should be spending my precious down time. I often tell others to stop shoulding all over yourself. It was time I took my own advice.
My history with self image is… fraught. There is a strong family history of unhealthy body expectations and practices that is ingrained into the way I view the world. Whenever I go one a diet, I am immediately transformed into a different person. One who is hyper-focused on the number on the scale. My entire week’s success or failure hangs on the results of my weigh in. Meal planning and denying the voices shouting in my head takes up all my mental energy.
So, a few years ago, I decided to hop off of that train. No more diets for me. No group exercise because frankly, I spend the entire time comparing myself unfavorably to others. I decided to love myself, and realize that who I am is WAY more than what my body looks like or a number on a scale.
But most of all, by giving up dieting, I gave myself permission for that to NOT BE MY STORY. I do not want my kids to grow up remembering me as a person who jumped from one diet to the next. Someone who shied away from photographs and bathing suits. I didn’t want my daughter to see me constantly evaluating myself on outward appearances. I wanted them to remember a mom who was joyfully present. Who baked with them. Who showed them how much FUN playing outside could be. A mom who took care of herself, soul, mind, AND body- and did her best to keep the three in balance.
Does that mean I gave up taking care of myself? No. In fact, I have actually lost weight since stepping out of that ugly cycle. Instead of focusing on denying myself the foods I can’t have, I focus on feeding myself well. Of celebrating with others with cake and champagne, but also falling in love with the crisp simplicity of a salad. I realized that exercise could be a reward for me. That I like using my body. But that I like to exercise alone. To give myself a chance to clear my head and process my life. Or to take a walk with a good friend. For me, that’s about as sweet as life gets. And it turns out it’s good for me too.
Should everyone quit on diets? Of course not! For me. they became an idol, and they chipped away at my sense of self worth. But more than that, for me, I decided that I wanted my life to be about more than just that. That this was a priority I was consciously putting aside. And I feel stronger by engaging in that process. By giving myself a divine permission to walk away from that unattainable standard. By embracing the everyday grace available to me, and recognizing my infinite worth in Christ, which is separate from the worth given to me from the outside.