A Different Kind of Transformation Tuesday
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and, as always, it took me a decent chunk of time to first determine how I wanted to talk about this and second, to actually talk about it. Bear with me, y’all.
For me, these past few months have been an incredible time of self-awareness, self-discovery, self-compassion, and growth. For the first time in my life I am totally unconcerned with how I appear externally, how small my waist looks, or what other people may be thinking about the way I look. Let me just say this: IT FEELS FREAKING GREAT.
I’ll back this up a bit: rewind to a year or two ago when I was spending hours in the gym at a time, grueling over every extra inch of “fat” that appeared on my body, and wishing desperately that I could just look this certain way and then everything else in my life would be okay.
For a good three years of my life, I had fallen into orthorexic behaviors that I justified for the sake of health. From social media and our culture in general I was taught that food restriction, excessive exercise, and chronic dieting was healthy and, even worse, that it was normal. Too often, I see women and men fall to these notions and enter periods of distress; they continue to diet and exercise with the promises of seeing “results” and having that perfect body only to realize that, uh, dieting sucks and plateaus occur ALL the time.
Real Food Matters started as hannahchapmanfit, an Instagram account dedicated to motivating others to live a “healthy” lifestyle and be the fittest version of themselves each and every day. I took pictures of my body with six-pack abs and visible muscles to give others hope that they, too, could look like that with enough hard work and dedication.
My captions included updates about my physique, my training that day, and how I felt about my appearance. I’d find myself saying things like, “I didn’t feel like working out today at all but I still did, and you should too!” or, “Dreaming about these donuts because I’ve been eating ground turkey and rice for five days straight and I want to cry but, ya know, it’s all about willpower!” Yikes. Those are some cringe-worthy sentences if you ask me.
Regardless of how good my intentions were, I was hurting myself and others who supported me through this platform. I engaged in and promoted overexercise, restriction, and close tracking of calories and macronutrients. I encouraged people, myself included, to dissociate from their bodies and force head to rule over heart when it came to food and movement. I subconsciously told myself and others that our bodies cannot be trusted and we must exert some form of control over them or, God forbid, we might gain weight.
I look back on those days and while I don’t regret them, I wish someone had told me how ridiculous I was acting. There were days where I would choose two hours at the gym over two hours of quality time with my family. I remember nights I had to opt out of dinner with friends because “none of the food fit my macros” and I couldn’t stray for even one meal. Needless to say, dieting ruled my life and left me unfulfilled even when I achieved the body I had been chasing for so long.
Thankfully, I realized that my ideal body couldn’t fix the issues I had to deal with internally regarding body image and self-worth. I decided that my mental well-being was more important than having a perfect butt and that I loved food WAY more than I loved having abs. Hallelujah.
Now, I live a life based on feeling and intuition. I have reached a point in my journey where I can look in the mirror and think, “Damn girl, work it” at all times rather than, “Ugh, look at that jiggle under my arms… No dessert for me tonight (or ever, for that matter).” I have kissed the diets goodbye and instead pledged to live a normal life that makes me feel good.
Sure, I may have gained a few pounds and some of the chub in my cheeks, but I am so okay with that if it means I get to have my cake and eat it, too. Never again will I choose the gym over friends or miss out on an opportunity to connect with others to accommodate my food restrictions. I’m done comparing myself to others or wishing my body was different; instead, I thank my body for everything it does and for all of the knowledge it gives me when I simply listen to it.
Giving up dieting doesn’t mean you give up on life; it means you get to fully experience it. I still exercise 3-6 times per week depending on how I’m feeling and engage in walking, biking, and other active activities everyday but it never feels forced, leaving me with a focus on joyful movement rather than unwanted stress. Eating is now an extremely pleasurable experience for me rather than an event I just have to get through and upon realizing that I have the sweet tooth of all sweet teeth, you can bet your bottom dollar this girl always says yes to the dessert menu.
Eating what your body truly wants in the moment is NOT a sign of meek willpower, it is simply honoring your body and nourishing it as it should be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to your cravings, whether that means eating a green smoothie bowl or a burger the size of your face; food is food, there is no “good” or “bad.”
I find it incredibly disheartening that society and culture idealizes thinness and disregards the fact that all bodies are different and some of us will never live up to that ideal. Rather than feed that notion as I have in the past, I have vowed to fight against it and promote a way of living and being that derives from self-love and self-compassion. I want others to be empowered to live in their bodies as they rather than constantly seeking to change them. Above all, I just want to encourage others to be wary of what they see and hear and rather than follow what everyone else is doing, find what works for them individually and do what makes them feel their very best.
Life is too damn short to be spent doing 50 burpees a day when you hate burpees and it’s certainly too short to say no to cake on your birthday. We’re on this Earth to make the most of it and love the life we are given, not to work tirelessly to change ourselves externally to fit an unrealistic expectation set by society. I will no longer engage in things that do not bring me joy, and I encourage you all to do the same; I PROMISE you’ll be a heck of a lot happier upon realizing that, yes, you can live your life exactly as you would like to.
I hope you all live a life that brings you nothing but immeasurable joy and satisfaction because you deserve it. If you’re in a place that I used to be in, there IS a way out and I promise it’s so much better, but it takes a lot of work and patience to get there. Lastly, if you have any kind of platform or influence, I hope you decide to spread the right messages rather than perpetuating the wrong ones and make the choice to do everything with love. And with that, I’ll leave you to choose.