Through Thick & Thin
I’ve never been a fan of side-by-side photos. I understand and can appreciate how some need them. Use them as a tool to highlight their progress and remind themselves how far they’ve come. I know the good intentions behind these photos for most, but I just can’t do it. To me it feels different. I can’t look at my old self and shame her like so many others did. That’s what every side-by-side post I’ve tried to write feels like. I cannot look at that girl and tell her she wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough.
I just won’t.
Because she is strong. Life dealt her a hand and food made survival a little less painful.
All of this, however, does not negate the pride I feel in the progress I have made since starting this journey three years ago.
So now I guess it's story time. At the time I graduated college, I was 194.6 lbs. As a healthy and acive person for most of my life. this was terrifying to me. I hadn’t weighed myself in years, and the large jump that I had seen shocked me more than it should have if I had been paying more attention to the lifestyle I was living.
My wake up call really came when my roommate Brittany and I signed up for a hike through my University’s Student Activities department. She was a health major and loved working out and I considered myself healthy, so I gladly tagged along. Twenty minutes into the hike I realized how ignorant I truly was. I could hardly breathe and struggled to keep up with the end of the line. We had to stop to let me, only me, catch my breath multiple times. I went back to the dorm after the ride back to campus, still sweaty and embarrassed, and went straight to sleep.
Graduation came around a few weeks later and once I got back to New Jersey, I decided something needed to change. My health was at stake, and it was the main motivation for my choice to change. I didn’t have good self-esteem and convinced nothing much would change physically, but my health was enough to convince me to get started.
I dug my old shoes out of my luggage that I hadn’t unpacked from college, and I went for a run with my dog. And let me be clear, the word “run” is a strong one. I could only move at a joggers pace for 30 seconds before I needed to simply walk for a very long time. I did this every day for 3 miles a day, trying to run a little farther each time.
3 years later and I can now run for almost an hour without stopping and have lowered my mile time to about 6 minutes. This was how I measured my progress. Not with a photo, but with my body and how I felt. When I stopped eating entire bags of Doritos in one sitting, I felt better. When I spent months trying to make sure I drank 8 glasses for water a day instead of only surviving on soda, I felt better. When I learned to cook instead of eating out all the time, I felt better. Not to mention my bank account looked better.
It was amazing to watch my body change.
And then it just made me angry that I had hidden behind excuses for so long.
“I’m built bigger than other girls.”
“I have shin splits and can’t run.”
“I can’t work out because soccer gave me knee problems.”
There was a large forgiveness process that had to happen. Internally I had to change just as much as I needed to change externally. My mindset had to change. I had to give myself the grace to fail and choose to fight for myself when I needed to get back up and start over again.
I distinctly remember sitting in a car with my mom and telling her that “I’ll never be less than a size 6. I’m not built like that.”
Yesterday, I bought two pairs of American Eagle shorts that are size 2, so once again I’ve proven myself wrong. And sometimes that is just the best feeling. To know you can always change. To know that you can always start today, and then start again tomorrow. It's a beautiful progression of using each new day as the goal. Today's little victories are the only ones you need.
If you gain nothing else out of this post, please handle yourself, in whatever struggles you may have, with gentleness. There are so many other people in the world ready to rip you down, but that is not what you need. You need someone to treat you with kindness, and sometimes you can be the only one to do that.
This was especially hard for me for a long time. I hated the girl I used to be because each time I look at a stretch mark on my body, I remember that she let that happen, and she chose not to change for so long. But then I go back and remember everything we went through together. And then I tell myself to forgive. I would never be the girl I am today, without the girl I used to be, so I need to remember to treat her with the respect she deserves. I never want to shame her because she survived so much. She used food as a tool to make the nightmares stop and I can’t blame her for that.
But this girl I am today is my future, and while I and so thankful for the girl I used to be for carrying me to today, I am so excited to see where this new girl will lead me.