A few weekends back I was in Birmingham catching up with one of my favourites. Whilst there we ended up having the classic body discussion. The media, society and our culture as a whole constantly bombard us with their perception of what our perfect bodies should be. From skinny to strong, guy to girl, the pressure is there. So grab yourself a coffee and let’s chat.
I can safely say that in the last 8 years I have pretty much had the whole range of different body types. As a teenage rower at school I stayed roughly the same size, I trained a tonne (through chasing my dream rather than an obsession) and ate whatever I wanted. Yes I had my insecurities but sadly that seems to be par for the course as a teenage girl these days.
Then I left school and headed off to Venezuela, New Zealand and Fiji for 5 months of epic travelling. That time was such an incredible adventure and exercise and healthy eating weren’t exactly at the forefront of my mind as an eighteen year old seeing the world for the first time. Partying and adventures? Yup, nailed it. Strangely enough by the end I wasn’t feeling myself anymore, in fact I was the biggest I had ever been. I was unfit and, for me, overweight.
For someone who had grown up focussed on sport, not really drinking much and with a pretty consistent body size this was a whole new issue to deal with. And I knew it wasn’t just my own self-doubt this time. So began the real rollercoaster of diets, guilt tripping and binge eating as I desperately sought comfort in this new world. I was on an endless quest for the next best quick fix, that diet which would make me skinny, the solution to all my troubles… I’d cut out carbs after six, fat, and so on. Time and time again I’d crash and burn. I’d be too hungry and would dive head first into a pile of homemade cookies, head first into comfort.
I headed off to uni which, let’s be honest, doesn’t exactly help any health quest. Skipping over first year, in my second and third years I was trying to cut weight to compete as a lightweight rower, and this was not done the healthy way. Cue processed low calorie low fat ‘foods’, an obsession with calorie counting and feeling dizzy and weak on a daily basis. I was cold, hungry and couldn’t even concentrate enough to hold a proper conversation with my friends. I became preoccupied with counting down the time until my next meal, the next diet coke, anything. I remember one particular occasion, standing in the queue at Starbucks debating what size (black) americano I was ‘allowed’ to buy, with a 6 cal difference between them. I was in panic mode and I was miserable.
At this time I was also the skinniest I’ve ever been in my adult life. In January 2013 I bought a size 6 skirt. A few days later my back injury overwhelmed me and I had to stop rowing. I felt like a complete failure. Rowing had been a part of me since the age of 14 and now I couldn’t do it and I felt like it was all my fault, like I hadn’t tried hard enough. I was utterly lost.
So what to do? I figured that since I could eat now I might as well make the most of it. My eating began to spin out of control as I consumed excessive amounts of less than healthy foods, for fear that I’d never be allowed to eat them again. I was embarrassed by my obsession and did my best to hide it from everyone I knew, although I’m sure that the changes in my body more than showed the problem.
Slowly but surely my self-loathing grew stronger and stronger. In desperation I found myself browsing the Internet one evening, searching for a solution, a way out. I stumbled across a list of the ‘Top UK Bloggers’ and found Laura’s blog, Wholeheartedly Healthy. The more I read, the more I felt like change was possible. To my delight I found that she had started health coaching and was based in Durham, the same city as my university. It couldn’t have been more perfect. At the time I kept my health coaching secret, again I was embarrassed that I ‘needed’ this help. To this day I don’t talk about it often and I debated sharing it in this post today but to not mention it would do Laura’s work an injustice, I don’t think I’d be where I am now without her. Through working together I began to see food as a nourishment, I learnt that I could eat whatever I wanted and that it would be okay. And so my journey came to take its best turn yet…
Summer 2013 onwards I began to loose the weight I’d gained that previous Spring. I returned to working out as my injury calmed down, and I began to rebuild my relationship with food. There were still moments, there always are to be honest. But I began to learn how to handle them. As I headed to Buenos Aires in January 2014 I found myself starting to finally feel like me, a new me. My time in Argentina gave me the space to learn that it was okay to be me, something for which I’ll forever be grateful.
Upon my return I found my eating naturally inching towards paleo and I completed out the Whole 30 challenge. Educational as it was, I found myself returning to my old restrictive tendencies, somewhere I never want to go again. But again it was reiterated to me the wonders of good fats and real food. The fear gradually began to ebb away…
Whilst in Buenos Aires I started CrossFit and found what I missed from rowing, that push of your body to its extreme limits. Stretching its potential. Through eating real food, food that suits me, and pushing myself in my physical abilities I’ve found my new body.
So, that quest for a perfect body, a quest that is now over. A quest that has haunted for me years… But what is my perfect body?
…a body that allows me to run 10k just because I feel like it
…a body that allows me to eat cake and laugh with my friends
…a body that carries me on the greatest of adventures
…a body that lifts heavier weights each week
…a body that will, somehow, get me through the toughest of WODs
…a body that will be nourished from a kale salad
…a body that enjoys a good glass of wine
…a body that sometimes needs rest and a bit of TLC
…a body that holds me strong in the roughest of times
…a body that surprises me and that I learn from every day
I guess in some ways it sounds kind of obnoxious to speak of a perfect body. I can’t say that I like my body every day but I can say that I know now it’s right for me, right now. It allows me to live the way I want to and I guess that’s pretty special.
Just asking for your thoughts today…