As a teacher at a year-round school, I have the luxury of six glorious, obligation-free weeks in the summer. I spend that time visiting family. I spend that time as a break from real life, from the stress that comes from being a teacher, from my writing gigs, from my coaching and tutoring gigs, from publishing a book and, oh yeah, trying to have a life.
This year, I decided that in addition to letting myself “sleep in” (my normal routine is to wake up at four, so for me, this meant waking up around 5:30 every day), I would give my body a much-needed break from working out.
You see, I joined a gym that specializes in professional athletic training and the workouts are like p90x on steroids. My body, while stronger than ever, was also sore every day and growing fatigued from being pushed to the limits six, sometimes seven days a week.
So I decided to take a week off. And that week turned into one, turned into two, turned into five. And my body–much like my emotional state–turned to mush.
It wasn’t enough that I was taking time off of exercise. I was also visiting family, eating my mom’s delicious food and telling myself that it is a travesty to lay by the pool and not drink margaritas. It was all fun and games until one day I put on my pants–my biggest pair of pants–and could barely button them up. That was not a fine moment for me. And it also sent me into a downward spiral.
Now, I know this is a site about real women and being comfortable in your own skin. And usually, I am. But the moment I realized how much I had really let myself go, I grew extremely uncomfortable with myself.
It’s not that my self-worth is based solely on the way I look, but the way my body looks does play a role in how I’m feeling. The amount of sugar I’m eating has a direct, inverse correlation with the way I feel. And after five weeks of indulgence, I was feeling like utter and complete crap.
I was having a hard time being motivated to do anything. Many of my last days of summer were spent laying on the couch, trying to find the energy to do anything and I daresay I was depressed.
I found myself actually looking forward to going back to work so I could get back into my routine, a routine that I previously thought drained me both physically and emotionally. Turns out that my hectic schedule and regimen actually energizes me and keeps me going.
The day I went back to the gym, it all came back to me. Not my strength–I’m two weeks back and it’s going to be a couple more until I return to where I was–but how great I feel when I’m taking care of myself.
This all has less to do with my size and everything to do with how I feel. It is simple. When I take care of myself I feel great. When I don’t take care of myself, I feel lousy.
I am back in my routine–it is 4:30 in the morning right now, and I’m heading to the gym in a little while–and I’m taking care of myself the way I know I should. I’m not obsessing over food. I’m eating what I want when I want. But as it turns out, I don’t want cake for every meal. I’ve wanted it twice, so I’ve eaten it twice. My body is telling me exactly what I want and need to feel good.
And guess what? I feel good. I’m not back into my skinny jeans, but I’m on my way. And what I learned is that I love myself no matter what, but I am not comfortable no matter what. For me, taking care of myself and being healthy translates to feeling good. I am not okay with letting myself go. That is my truth.
image courtesy Jesse Therrien