You won’t read this column and discover how a particular “diet” will help you drop weight.
You won’t learn how many miles you need to run every day to lose weight, gain muscle or otherwise alter your body. There will be no shocking before and after photo, nor will you unlock the secrets of dropping ten pounds in one week.
I can tell you I used to be a lot heavier than I currently am, but I couldn’t tell you how much of a difference there is between now and then – I haven’t stepped on a scale in months.
I spent most of my college years trying to find a balance between my desire to be a size zero, my “need” to drink beer and eat pizza and my lacking motivation to drag my hungover ass to the gym on a regular basis. Since I wasn’t willing to give up the booze, junk food and sedentary lifestyle, I resorted to other measures:
- A week on a diet that consisted solely of diet coke and apples.
- Phases of 500 calories of food per day and 1000 calories of beer at night.
- Diet pills.
- A relationship with cigarettes that began when one of my (very thin) friends told me smoking burns calories.
Listen, I said I was in college, not that I was smart.
These poor choices affected me not only physically, but mentally. When I found one thing wrong with my body, the floodgates opened to criticize other parts. I was tired. I was hungry. I was frustrated. I was fat.
I was a lot of things — but happy wasn’t really one of them. By defining myself by the shape of my body, I had been cursed with a serious case of the “not enoughs:” I wasn’t thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough.
Enough of ‘not enough’.
I’m not really sure what caused my shift in thinking, but one day I decided I was tired of “not enough.” It was time to make a change. Even though I wasn’t sure I was capable of running three miles without stopping, I signed up for my first 5K race and started training.
I ran. It was hard.
I ran some more. It got easier.
But this isn’t a diet success story.
I didn’t sign up for my first race because I wanted to lose weight — I signed up because I wanted to cross a finish line. By being “enough” to accomplish one goal, I was “enough” to accomplish others. There’s a certain sense of empowerment that grows with each mile run and each finish line crossed.
The weight loss was a happy byproduct of this process. Though I’m thinner now, running and triathlon didn’t give me a waif-like, model-thin body, or even a ripped, muscular one. I have a little cupcake belly, not a six-pack. You won’t see me on the cover of Competitor Magazine, unless my editor decides it would be a hysterical April Fools’ joke.
But — and this is a big but (not butt) — I’m happy.
Running helped me see my body in a different light. I no longer get frustrated with my body for how it looks, but instead am in awe of what it can do. My little cupcake belly is the fuel tank that gets me through training and racing. My legs, which TV tells me can never be quite small enough, are what I trust to keep powering me up hills when they have every reason to quit.
My body may not be as chiseled as most of the athletes I race with, but it has the power to cover the exact same course as they can. And though I’m not cover-model material, I don’t really care. For the first time in my life, I’m happy with who I am and confident in what I can do. I finally feel like I’m enough.
This isn’t a diet success story. Stop looking for one.
When a person stops focusing on how the body looks and starts truly appreciating what it can do, it becomes obvious how those thoughts of ”not enough” have limited the release of so much potential, in so many ways. It’s as simple as using the body you have to accomplish what you think it can’t. Exercise can change how the body looks, sure, but the effects on the mind, self-concept, and confidence can be so much more powerful.
There is no magic pill. There is no secret diet. There is no miracle that will get you to a perfect body.
There’s just you and what you’re capable of doing.
And that’s more than enough.
(Image via BodyPhat)