“Every weight loss program, no matter how positively it is packaged, whispers to you that you’re not right. You’re not good enough. You’re unacceptable and need to be fixed.” -Kim Brittingham
Like many women in my generation, I grew up admiring the thin, dainty models in magazines. I watched my mother grab her hips in disgust every time she stepped foot in a fitting room. I saw commercials touting the latest “miracle diet craze”. Then later, the Internet came along, and I spent hours scrolling through Tumblr, gazing longingly at the spindly limbs of beautiful girls and women. I grew up in, and still live in, the ‘thinspo’ era. We, as a society, have been taught over and over again that smaller is better. Less is more.
Start 'em young...
I remember hating how I looked in a swimsuit at eight years old. Eight. That sentiment only grew as I did. Years later, I had grown out of my “baby fat” and had become athletic looking, I wanted to be thin and delicate like the girls on Tumblr. Once I reached high school, the pressure to be thin felt like it was closing in on me. Eventually, I succumbed. I succumbed because I was a volleyball player, and I wanted to look good in my tight, spandex uniform. I wanted to be the best-looking girl that year’s homecoming photos. I wanted my thighs to be smaller than the (pre-pubescent) boys’ in my grade. Achieving those things required getting smaller. So, I got smaller. I ate way less. I exercised way more, only caring about how many calories I burned each day. People started noticing, and I loved the attention, but eventually I took it too far. What started as a motivational kick to “get the body I’ve always wanted” turned into an unhealthy obsession. I restricted all ‘unclean’ foods, did way too much cardio (in an effort to ‘slim down’ my athletic legs), and shut myself off from any and all occasions that presented temptation (read: I turned into a hermit). Eventually, I got skinny. I had a thigh gap. I was one of the smallest girls in my friend group. But, for what? I no longer saw said friend group because I didn’t want to miss my gym time or deviate from my ‘clean eating’ plan. Day in and day out, I trudged along on the treadmill, elliptical, stair master, stationary bike, you name it. All in the name of being skinny. I was fueled by discontent, and on a mission to purge myself of it. The funny thing is, the baggier my clothes got and the lower the scale went, the less I liked myself. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Wasn’t getting my “dream body” supposed to bring me true happiness and solve all of my life’s problems? Well, long story short, it only made me feel even worse about myself, and when it was all said and done, I had pushed away the people I cared about because they had tried to steer me away from the path I was going down.
Inner Strength Above All
Now, I’m not saying that eating healthier, or exercising more, or adopting a fit lifestyle is going to make you crazy and push everyone away. I’m saying that what’s inside is way more important; What motivates you to make a lifestyle change is important. When I decided I needed to lose weight, I did it for all the wrong reasons. I already had a lot of underlying insecurities, and losing weight only magnified them, because once the insecurities tied to my weight fell away, all of the other insecurities were just underneath the surface.
Turning Insecurities Into Strengths
It took me a long time to work through those, and my mindset will never be perfect, but I am SO much happier and healthier now. What got me to this point was choosing strong over skinny. Once I realized that I needed to make a change, I started focusing on my abilities instead of my looks. I started walking right past the treadmills and pushing myself in the weight room instead. My workouts became a form of therapy rather than a form of torture. I started fueling my body for performance and eliminating all of the restrictions I had imposed on myself. As the months went on, I saw my strength increase in leaps and bounds, and my happiness increased right along with it. I had a newfound confidence. I felt like I was actually getting somewhere with my “fitness journey”. I realized that there is no feeling like setting a new PR, or noticing your muscle gains in the mirror. I couldn’t believe that I was actually proud of myself for gaining instead of losing, but I was gaining so much more than a few pounds of muscle. I gained a new outlook on life. I became capable and strong in every way. Every time I completed a workout, I healed myself from the inside, out.
Bulk up your confidence
Like a lot of women, I feared that lifting heavy weights would make me “bulky”, but the only thing that bulked up was my confidence. Not only did it make me incredibly happy and self-confident, it also gave me some new curves in all of the right places. Today, I appreciate all of those curves, as imperfect as they may be, because I earned them. They are a reflection of my hard work and dedication. They represent a series of small mental and physical victories.
Choosing "strong" over "skinny"
Lifting weights isn’t for everyone, but it has become my salvation and my passion. My work ethic, determination, and confidence are now forged in iron. Choosing strong over skinny was the best decision I have ever made.