People who didn’t know me before running and triathlon often assume that I have no issues with weight or body image. Often someone will be talking about putting on weight, then say to me, You don’t have this issue, though – you’re so thin. I bet you have a hard time keeping weight on!
Which is so far from the truth, I can only laugh.
I started hating my body when I was a little older than Owen, when I went for a beach trip with my cousins, who were tiny and cute in their swimsuits, while I – a head taller – felt like The Hulk stuffed into my pink polka dot bathing suit.
Then my teenage years, then college, where I packed on the pounds… then infertility, pregnancy, postpartum.
When I lost weight, I expected I’d FINALLY look at myself in the mirror and love my body.
It hasn’t worked that way, though. For a long time I still saw myself as what I called Fat Karen every time I looked in the mirror, – and I kept trying to lose more and more weight. I weighed myself daily. I controlled my calories probably a bit too closely. I ran really fast, and more than was scheduled, and hated my rest days because it meant dinner anxiety, where I fought myself over eating salad versus a meal my family wanted. And I was hungry all the time.
Then I totally bonked during two marathons I ran because of underfueling. I started to get slower and slower because of overtraining. And I was tired of being hungry.
So I stopped.
I haven’t counted calories in a few years, and I’ve stopped weighing myself, and my coach holds me accountable to make sure that I’m not overdoing my training workouts. And I largely eat and drink what I want, without anxiety or fear.
I still don’t like the me in the mirror, though. I’ve gained weight, and it’s more than I like to see, and it gathers in my belly and my thighs, and every time I look in the mirror it is ALL I could see. There are days where I look at myself, roll my eyes and say something like, Ugh, and walk away, refusing to look at myself for the rest of the day. Or I change out of a cute dress into something else because the dress makes my belly look huge.
And it strikes me that this is no way to live. Goodness, how awful is it that I can’t even LOOK at myself? Where’s the self-love in that? And how can I teach Owen about tolerance and love for others if I can’t even look at myself in the mirror?
So I’m doing an experiment.
I stand in front of the mirror, every day, tell that mean voice who wants to talk only about my flaws to shut the fuck up, and I stand there until I can find something nice to say. I stand there and look at myself until I find something I LIKE about my body, something I can keep with me all day.
For example, yesterday, the purple dress I wore made my skin look amazing – I’m tan from being outside and since it’s summer my skin isn’t dry and cracked for a change. I look active and healthy, and I love that about myself.
I’ve only been doing this for a short time, but I have the sense it will be really helpful.