I could tell you my work schedule isn’t conducive to working out. I could tell you I don’t feel safe running at night. I could even tell you I don’t own any good workout clothes. The truth is, those are all excuses. I could make time if I wanted. I don’t have to run at night. Tennis shoes and basketball shorts make up a huge chunk of my wardrobe. I honestly just can’t go to the gym. I love walking places. I am constantly on my feet at work. I have no problem working out without the formal label of exercise. I’m not lazy. But I have struggled with eating disorders that I’ve finally gotten a grasp on, and I don’t want to relapse.
When I was younger, I used to hide food in my room. Although my mother constantly showered me (and still does) with praise about my podcast and writing and my beauty, I felt embarrassed about eating more than other kids. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. During eight grade, I thought I had overcome my overeating struggles by working out and balancing out my meals. However, this lead me to an almost two-year-long struggle with anorexia. I wrote out my meals on pieces of printer paper. I was burning off at least 600 of the 900-1000 calories I was eating a day. I become a physical (and literal) shell of myself. I would plan my entire social life around my workout regiment. I was miserable.
I eventually cut down my workout routine and starting eating again. I relapsed for the first time the summer before my freshman year of college. Instead of talking through the problems my family, I turned to the track. Running and walking were things I could control. My healthy meals were something I could regulate. Once again, I gave in to my eating disorder. My struggle continued until the end of my junior year of college. Then, I stopped working out and started smoking cigarettes during my senior year of college. I thought I finally had control over my eating disorder…until I realized I was smoking cigarettes instead of eating. I had traded one unhealthy habit for another. That’s when I understood I had to stop exercising and smoking and fixating on my weight.
The words “diet” and “exercise” are now swear words to me. I have to be healthy on my own terms. I usually don’t ask for rides to work because the walk gives me daily exercise. I try to create some balance in my diet between veggies and Oreos. I drink a lot of water.
I can’t go to the gym because I’m scared to relapse. I can’t plan out my meals to avoid creating an obsessive calorie count. I don’t feel bad after drinking a soda. Most importantly, I’m learning to feel comfortable in my own skin. Sure, I have my days of total insecurity, but I have to remind myself everyone is beautiful.
The only beauty standards that should exist are those of inner beauty, meaning we should, to quote the immortal words of Mr. Feeny in the Boy Meets World series finale: “Do good.” Beauty doesn’t only have one form. Your outer appearance is only the beginning, the preface to the entirely amazing and perfect spirit that makes up your beautiful being. That’s what keeps me from relapsing. That’s what I tell myself when I look in the mirror. That’s what I’m telling you now. Everything about you is beautiful. Every stretch mark. Every scar. Every blemish. You just have to see that beauty in your reflection.
[Image via iStock]