Let me set the record straight: I was a terrible athlete as a child. I kicked the soccer ball in the wrong goal, was the last kid to finish the mile, never won any of those presidential fitness achievement awards. Sometimes, I still have difficulty telling my right from my left.
All my life, I was told that exercise was something I “should” be doing. It was a means to an end to get me to lose weight. Sports, it seemed, to me, came naturally to everyone else. Each PE class made me want to curl up in a ball under the bleachers. Each sports team I tried (with the exception of fencing…) left me feeling humiliated, and like a beached whale. Exercise felt like a chore, rather than something that was rightfully mine. It was a place where I hated my body more and more every day.
Yet, I danced alone in my room, singing at the top of my lungs. I went on long, meandering walks in my neighborhood. I tried on roller blades. I moved in my own way.
Fitness became a regular part of my life, serendipitously, in my early 20s. I had just moved to California, and was working in an office job. I felt sluggish and miserable all day, and I was ready for something to change. A friend of mine was working for the Berkeley YMCA, and convinced me to try some classes there. I had nothing to lose, and, I enjoyed her company.
At the Y, I was awed to be in a community of people of all different ages, sizes, genders, and abilities. Everyone moved in different ways and everyone was encouraged and supported, no matter where they were at in their fitness level. When competency was taken out of the equation, when weight was taken out of the equation, I found that I was able to truly enjoy moving my body without feeling judged. As I worked out more, and as those around me encouraged me, I developed a passion for long distance cycling and running, and went on to complete several half marathons, centuries, and triathlons.
Over the years, regular exercise has helped reduced my stress level, given me more energy throughout the day, improved my mood, and helped me regulate my sleep and digestion. It isn’t a cure-all for my problems, but it has become a cornerstone of my well-being, and a non-negotiable part of my day.
I believe we, as a society, get too caught up in equating health and weight. We get caught up in what we think we “should” be doing, we try to fit into someone else’s ideal image, we get overwhelmed with all the different diets to try, we lose track of what exercises, what foods are “good” and which are “bad.” In this milieu, it is easy for our negative self-talk to take over, for us to lose the connection with what our bodies really want, or what we want to strive for in our lives.
I work with a Health at Every Size approach because I was never able to find a path to fitness through the avenue of body shame, judgment, and punishment.
I believe that health is multifaceted. Health is so much more than a number on a scale or how long you can jump rope for. Health is about feeling comfortable in your own skin, about coming home to your own body. Exercise is one mode through which we can get to know ourselves better.
This path to self-love and body acceptance is not an easy one. It is not the road that has been paved for us in the fitness magazines, in the diet industry, or, even, for many of us, by our families. Self-love is not a battle that is won overnight. It is a daily maintenance, a lifelong process.
I am humbled every day to work together with my clients in this journey towards greater health, joy, and physical ease.