Beginning as a young adult, I have gained weight, lost weight, gained weight and lost weight, numerous times. I have never been a skinny person. But I have been in the BMI rankings of very obese. Hell, I may be there now. I don't look at those rankings anymore. You name the diet, I have done it. I just know it's a lifelong struggle, and it's tied up in an emotional bundle with lots of strings and bows and tape around it.
A few weeks ago, after training for months, I climbed the third tallest mountain in Oregon. South Sister has an elevation gain of over 4,500 feet, and the 12 mile hike was a beast. But I had trained for the 14 hour hike. The day after the climb, I did some reflection on what I had accomplished, and felt a huge boulder off my shoulders that I had been carrying my whole life. Most of that boulder consisted of shame. Instead, I found myself so proud of my body, my strength, muscles, endurance, and ability to climb a fucking mountain. Did you know I climbed so high I could see to California and to Washington, from the center of Oregon itself? And it was my body that got me there. My. Body. There is no shame in that accomplishment.
A few days after the climb, it was hot, and we went for a run. I chose a snug fitting tank top and shorts. It shows off my curves, but also doesn't leave much to the imagination. I looked at myself in the mirror before I left, and I said to myself, "That is the body of a woman who climbed a mother fucking mountain. Hell yeah." And out the door I went. Air on my skin, sunshine on my shoulders, that was the most confident run (okay, it was part walk too) I've done in some time. I didn't care about what anyone else thought, I just knew I felt good. That outing wasn't full of a mind wondering if my shorts were too short or if my arm fat jiggled or if my stomach was too big for the shirt. I was present in the moment. This, was a huge change.
I've been taking Pilates classes, sessions with a close friend and just the instructor, a woman I've known for over a decade. I absolutely love these workouts. They stretch, lengthen, and use a variety of movements that align the spine and strengthen my core. Some movements I can do like a champ, bending into advanced positions even. Some I can barely do, or not at all, either because my arm length or proportion or body ability or take your pick reason. But you know what? My inner voice on this doesn't give a rat's ass that I can't do all of the movements. If my past self, from a few years ago, were to be in this situation, the self-talk I would berate myself with for not being able to do a position would be so deafening I would have fled and never returned to the class. I would have internally flogged myself for my fat body not able to do what I could do if only I was skinnier. Instead, I recognize it for what it is: not all bodies are the same, and this body climbed a mother fucking mountain and so what if I can't walk my hands down my calves while balancing in a V position on a reformer with my legs up at a 45 degree angle? Check out what I can do:
This change in self talk is me, in my mid-40s finally experiencing body acceptance and self love. There will always be work to do, and being healthy requires self care, time, attention and prioritizing. I'm giving that to my body, and my mind is finally responding. It's coming through positive affirmations, not through shaming or negative self talk.
And by the way? I climbed a mother fucking mountain.
P.S. My upcoming column at PQ Monthly will chronicle my climb, the amazing group of women I trained and climbed with, and the story of getting to the top, despite altitude sickness. I'll share a link here when it's published. The women I train with are the Miss Fits, and we're led by the compassionate super hero, Nikki Becker.
P.P.S. If you're in the Portland area and are interested in exploring Pilates with a wonderful, insightful instructor in a sweet studio, visit Jodi at Bloom Pilates and Wellness.