About two years ago, I start walking for fun. I was jobless and needed something to fill my days, you know? Nowdays, I run two-to-three miles about four mornings a week, but at one point I was running every day. I lost a grand total of 103 pounds and have pretty much kept it off, though that wasn't my intended goal. It was the result of a hobby, a new thing in my life that I could get into as a fun pastime instead of thinking of it as a torturous road to a model physique.
I never had a personal trainer screaming in my ear or or a rigid diet plan to fail. I asked myself what kind of physical activity I could incorporate into my life, and I did exactly that. I got results that made me happy, because I wasn't looking for results in the first place.
Photo Credit: Rachelle Ellis
I was happy because I didn't hate my body before, so changing my physique never felt like something I needed to do. It took months of running before I noticeably lost any weight, and I never looked at my slow progress as a failure, because losing weight hadn't been my intended goal, anyway. I was outside exercising and seeing more of this beautiful town. Nothing wrong with that.
I was glad to lose weight slowly and healthily, because I was not running away from myself. I am thankful that my personal politics have always kept me at odds with the media's beauty standard (thin, pale skin, long hair), something that isn't attainable for most Americans. I think it's dangerous to use that standard of beauty as motivation for cultivating a healthy lifestyle, because it is not a healthy look.
I was kind to myself, and that was my No. 1 goal beyond all others, even beyond getting active. I'd witnessed many friends and family attempt to lose weight in the past, all while hating their bodies and hating the gym and hating food and hating everyone who was thinner than them. I saw beautiful women hate their natural ethnic curves and pine for body types that they are literally incapable of possessing no matter how much they starve. People assumed that I was a miserable person and asked if I hated fat people or suggested popular tricks among the eating-disordered, like swallowing ice cubes or pretending to be vegan to provide an easy way to get out of social eating.
Even worse is seeing people dump money into certain aspects of the industry that has sprung up around health and wellness. Lots of people benefit greatly from the help of yoga and nutritionists and gym memberships, but there are also people who would gladly profit from our hatred of our natural selves. It is in the best interest of some to keep you feeling ugly, so that you continue to buy books and pills and the chemical maelstroms that low-calorie and fat-free foods really are. A person who is able doesn't have to pay anyone a cent in order to take her health back and have a body she loves. I know this, because I did it myself, and the secret is loving the body you already have and putting its health first.
The best thing you can do when trying to get fit is to get that ball rolling, but to do it on your own, and truly on your own. Most people fail at dieting, because they take an unsustainable approach by eating so little and exercising so much that it's a miserable experience, but it doesn't have to be that way. Ignore the expression “no pain, no gain.” Never say that to yourself again.
Photo Credit: Rachelle Ellis
Learn to love your body and treat it well by keeping it active. Get your motivation straight. Stop trying to make your fat-phobic parents happy (you won't). Stop thinking about pissing off your ex or competing with your thinner frenemy who probably loves seeing you torture yourself. Stop looking at “fat” photos of yourself and crying. Be kind to yourself, because others are glad to beat you up. Stop untagging yourself in photos on social media—everyone already knows what you look like, and they love you just the same. Be active, by all means, and focus on the way it feels. Be happy when you feel your cardio strengthening or your flexibility improving.
Set reasonable and healthy goals. When you reach a goal, celebrate it. Don't immediately set a tougher goal—wait two weeks, or don't set another goal at all. Get into the way you are. Let yourself be happy. Let yourself love yourself, and let yourself love others in their natural bodies.
Bodies are beautiful in their diversity, and it's important to celebrate that and love ourselves the way we are, however we are, and any endeavors of self-improvement should truly be about the self.