Last week I wrote a quick post asking if your thoughts of yourself would be different if you had no one to compare yourself to. And it was prompted from something that happened to me last week at the gym. Generally I wear looser fitted workout tank tops because I just feel more comfortable in a light, airy shirt that’s not clinging to my sweat drenched body. However, the other day I bought a fitted shirt. It was purple, a really pretty style and the husband loved it.
I wore it to the gym.
People did a double take at me. Probably because they assumed I wore empire waisted workout tops or ones with drawstrings on the bottom to camouflage an obviously flawed chubby middle instead of the reality that it’s just more comfortable to sweat my face off in loose clothes. I could see the surprise on people’s faces that I was not in fact as thick as they probably thought.
Anyways.. since I do go to the gym at the same time every day, I tend to be there with the same people day in and day out and I’m fairly friendly. Nothing serious, just a smile, a nod a “hey, how’s it going today?” type of chatter. There is one gal there, probably around my age, and she is super chatty. With everyone. She’s ridiculously nice and she also competes in fitness competitions. Working out is literally her job, and it shows.
That day we happened to be standing near each other as I was loading up a leg press with some weights and she was getting ready to leave. She made a comment to me that I truly believe was said without a single ounce of maliciousness, but meant as a compliment because she’s just that kind of girl… She said, “You’re starting to look really good! How’s the diet?”
Now, I know when she said ‘diet’ she didn’t mean to imply that I was on a diet, because I hear her preach her (true) belief that diet, in the true sense of meaning anything you put in your mouth and not the ‘go on a diet to lose weight’ sense, plays a huge role in your body shape. I have probably heard her say “it’s all about diet” more times than I can count.
But in the 60 seconds that followed her comment, psychologically I went through such a crazy range of emotions. My first, immediate thought was… yeah, she’s right.. I am starting to look good… and then after 20 seconds of dealing with this thought, and looking at her ridiculously tiny and toned body and instinctually thinking about the ways to improve my body, that maybe I do need to be counting calories and being neurotic again (What can I say? Old habits die hard.). Then I got a grip on reality and my thoughts instantly switched to the way I truly feel.
My real feelings of myself kicked in. And the thought that went through my head was.. what is this starting to business? I DO look good. Present tense. Already there. Already DO. And you know what? Hours later while making lunches and prepping supper before I went off to my first day of work (!!!!), I reflected on this thought that came over me. It wasn’t forced, and it wasn’t a ‘fake it til you believe it’ moment. Just as quickly as the initial negative thoughts came over me, the much stronger, positive thoughts about myself and my body took control.
And of course, as most things do, it got me thinking about how crazy it is that that morning while getting dressed for the gym, and putting on my new, fitted workout shirt I was feeling comfortable, confident and proud of myself.. and these words I now associated with myself that had taken years to achieve were so easily pushed aside in the matter of seconds by someone else’s ‘perfect’ body in front of me, and one off hand comment by someone.
Again, by no means do I feel her words were meant to be negative, but to someone who has struggled so profusely with not only disordered eating behaviors and body image issues very strongly in the past, these kinds of comments can so easily be a trigger to send me back into a little spiral of crazy. And I know that I am not alone in this. I know for anyone who has struggled with weight, eating disorders, body image issues or anything along those lines it is amazing how easy you can slither away if you don’t have the strength to say “fuck you” to those nagging voices trying to tell you that the person has a good point. Or to feel disappointed in yourself for your obvious lack of perfection.
I suppose the only thing that I am disappointed in myself for was my public reaction to her comment. Instead of saying flat out “I am not on a diet. I like my body and I like how I look. I don’t care if I lose another pound or not, and I come to the gym because it makes me feel good and I like to and not because I think I need to lose weight, but thank you for your concern” which is exactly what I felt, I said “oh, it’s good” and put my earphones back on. Perhaps if I had chosen to speak up she might have thought twice before approaching someone else with the same attitude and comments.
Thankfully I was able to get a grip on the situation ASAP and instead of agonizing over her comment, and in turn getting my ‘self hate’ cap on, the mentality I now have kicked that nonsense to the curb. While I have acknowledged the fact that my own body image and the way I view and value not only my body but my entire being has been completed overhauled and has become something so wonderfully positive, I have never felt so aware of just how much I truly have changed in my head until that day.
Until then I had not truly realized that the way I see myself, the way I view my body, my life and who I am comes from a place of genuine love and kindness, regardless of how I should want to look, or should want to live or more importantly, regardless of how other people look or how other people live.