Warning: this is a long post.
I have been thinking about toxic thinking. I caught myself reverting to some very unhealthy thought processes yesterday. This started me down the rabbit hole, and I starting thinking about how the toxic health culture about destroyed me.
Everything is more, bigger, better. Do one more sit-up. Lose weight faster. Compete. Compete. Compete. Compete against your friends on FitBit. Compete against yourself. Push yourself! Coaches screaming to do one more. Push, Push, Push! Extreme this. Cross that.
Five years ago, I was in that space. I started my weight loss at 330 pounds. I was walking 5-7 miles daily. I was posting daily on FB my steps and how far I walked. I averaged about 11k a day. I kept challenging myself to go further and do more. So, I decided to walk a half marathon. I entered the Biggest Loser 5k/Half Marathon. To support me, my brother did as well.
I trained. I pushed myself to go further. I pushed through the pain in my back and hips. I pushed. I ate chicken thighs and veggies every day. I was losing weight. I walked a 11-mile route several times.
Marathon day, I weighed 275. I had lost 55 pounds. I was ready to go. But I wasn’t. I over-trained. My back seized, my hips were in so much pain. I was in trouble. But push through it. Do more. A friend walked the last three miles with me. My brother, who BROKE HIS KNEE, came back to walk me to the finish line. I completed it. But I was damaged physically and broken mentally. The end result was I developed crippling plantar fasciitis, I couldn’t stand long before my back would go out. I couldn’t walk, and my weight soared to 340 pounds. I bought into the toxic competitiveness of the health industry, and I almost destroyed myself.
This time around, I swore I was going to do this differently. I took a radical approach. I promised myself that I would be kind to my body. I eat well with a variety of food, and nothing is off-limits. Yes, I have taken out a pint of ice cream or two during this journey. Not often, but I do. No guilt. I am not cheating. I am making a choice–not the best choice but a choice. Usually, I eat in my calorie range, and I log my food. I don’t measure everything.
I exercise daily…well, most days. If I don’t feel well, I give myself grace not to walk or do upper-body work. I have a routine that has built-in variety. I have rest days. I am doing something physical but not a lot (walk 1.5 miles and upper-body work). I have a distance day, so I can train for hiking (4 miles). And the long walk, which is 2.5 miles for weight loss. I don’t do anything strenuous. I don’t push.
Yesterday, I started thinking like before…do questionable things to meet a fitness goal. I stopped myself. Guess what? In the same amount of time as five years ago, I am 55 pounds down. My way of life isn’t a chore. It is easy and comfortable. My body has issues, but I give my body grace to go through whatever. And I start back into the routine when I feel better. I love myself exactly as I am. And because I love myself, I want my body to be healthier. So, I eat well and I exercise.
Rejecting the pushy, loud, competitive culture is a radical act in our society. Rejecting the Madison Avenue advertising lies of health and beauty is a radical act. Loving yourself and making changes because you love yourself not because you hate yourself is revolutionary. And is it hard to shake that culture.