To begin at the beginning, I did not start exercising regularly until I graduated from college. In high school I had to do sports, but I got away with lots of aerobics, and running, and intramural squash (in other words, not doing a whole lot). In college, I didn't exercise at all. No thanks. Then I gained a ton of weight (for various reasons none of the least of which was that I got quite sick and was on various meds with weight gaining side effects.) I had also been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and that was not good for a 21 year old. Definitely not. Even though my hypertension was primarily genetic, I thought maybe I could combat it with exercise (and hoped that would take care of some of the weight I had gained as well).
I still, to this day, remember the first day I decided to "work out," which was about eight years ago. I "jogged" around the block at my house. The whole excursion probably lasted fifteen minutes, but I thought I was going to die. I had such bad shin splints that next day I didn't think I was going to be able to walk. Pathetic? I think so. But, I stuck to it. I walked a lot. And then I started to run. And then I ran a lot. And then I got a personal trainer, and I kicked my ass into high gear. I no longer had high blood pressure, and I lost a lot of weight (too much, frankly.) And I kept running. A lot. Until my hips were in screaming pain every time I ran, and the doctor said to stop immediately.
When I moved to California, I took a more laid back approach to exercise because I wasn't living in a community of people for whom excessive working out was just a way of life. Before moving here, exercise had practically become my religion. If I worked out less than four days a week, I beat myself up. Now, not so much. I have actually been
My family are either athletes on the one hand or people who do not work out at all on the other. So, I thought that not working out was fine. My mom is fit, builds exercise into her life, but has never (with one exceptional period) been into working out. And she looks good. My sister works out in bursts, but is convinced that it makes her gain weight, and she is a hottie. So I thought I would go that route, too. But, exercise boosts my mood, has made me healthier, and is a good stress relief (when it isn't causing me stress because I am not doing it). When I look at blogs or magazines (or those horrifying "Thinspiration" boards on Pinterest) where people give workout tips I feel like I am falling short at being a 'perfect' woman. Aren't women are supposed to put themselves through hell to look good? And wanting to be a 'perfect' woman has plagued me most of my life. So, if I choose not to follow those tips, not to drink kale shakes, and not to go to pilates five days a week, what does that mean? I know a walk in the park isn't going to give me a six pack, but it is going to make me feel good and clearheaded, and it is good for my heart. But, is that a cop out?
I know that people say that getting older is supposed to make you more comfortable in your own skin, but I don't feel that way yet. My mother would be the first person to tell me to sit down and write instead of going to the gym. My husband doesn't care (in fact, not to sell him out, but he hasn't seen the inside of a gym in years). My friends certainly don't care if I work out or not--although I do think there is a culture of comparison particularly amongst perfectionistic professional women regarding how much one is doing not only to maintain her intellectual prowess, but also her physical self. I would like to argue that killing yourself in the name of thinness is the opposite of loving yourself. In my ideal, fully self-actualized world, I would walk in the park, go for a hike, stretch, stroll, bike occasionally, and never set foot inside those God-forsaken places called gyms. If you love exercise, if it makes you happy, if pushing your body is a way of life for you, more power to you, but I'm just not that person.
(By the way, I discovered this when I typed "Thinspiration" into the search bar on Pinterest:
Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening.As always, aspire to be really thin, but not too thin. Cause that's dangerous...In case it is unclear, that was sarcasm.)
For treatment referrals, information, and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org