Dancing with the Devil
There's this amazing woman and great writer - her name is Wendy and her blog is called Athletic Monkey. Check her out. She wrote this incredible post that just made me well up. It's called The Bucket List. Thanks Wendy for sharing your story, inspiring others, and giving me the courage to write my story. Lately, I've had the devil scratching at the door a little more loudly because...you know...I'm older, do NOT have a perfect body, and am teaching fitness classes to people who may (or may not) look at me closely and may (or may not) judge what they see. It's hard to keep the voices from screaming and taking over...so...here we go. My dance with the devil: My whole life I didn’t have to think about weight – I was tall and naturally thin. And yet it was always swirling around me. “You’re so thin!” My tongue-in-cheek mom, “Skinny bitch.” So, though I didn’t have to ‘think’ about it, I was always dealing with people’s perceptions of my weight. My mom, like so many women, struggled with her weight, self-image, and would try various diets and exercise. But our family life was (understatement here) challenging and she and I would self soothe over some potato chips – sour cream and onion for her….barbecue for me. (More on that later…)
Around the time I was 40, I put on some weight…what? Now, all of the messages that I’d received clearly about how important it was to be thin started banging loudly like a gong. Must.lose.weight. Now you add to that that I had just had kids and felt all the weird pressure that new moms feel to ‘get back into your pre-baby pants’ and you have a person whooooooo signs up for a marathon while pregnant with her youngest daughter for 18 months later. (insert headshake here...)
But the bite wasn’t venomous yet.
The poison came when I got my fitness certification. “Well, I have to be super fit and lean or people won’t take me seriously or want to work with me.” Combine training for a half Ironman with some very.clean.eating and you have a very thin Sarah. I wasn’t ‘trying’ per se. But the day I went to get some new jeans and was a size 4 or size 6 … and I’m 5’ 9 ½” mmmm perhaps I’d lost some weight.
I WAS DELIGHTED. Look at me. Look how fit I am. Look how thin I am. Yessssss. Everyone, “You look GREAT!” “You are SO thin!” “You look AH-MAZING!”
But it was at the expense of something really important…balance and my mental health. I wouldn’t let anything pass my lips that was contraindicated. I wouldn’t drink any alcohol during the week. I exercised all the time. I’d slipped off the edge of wellness.
Fall came. My events were done. I fell into a funk…nee depression. I started comfort eating. I started self-loathing. I started feeling like a loser because I couldn’t control myself or my urges. I drank wine and ate bag after bag of barbecue potato chips in front of the television set.
I was a TRAINER what was WRONG WITH ME? What a LOOOOOSER.
I gained back the weight. All of it. And maybe then some.
I looked up in the spring and was freaked out. It was shorts weather! I was going to be teaching people soon. I HAD TO LOSE WEIGHT!!!!
It was around this time that I realized that I was dipping my toe into something dangerous…something powerfully addictive…something that felt sticky and gross.
I read a book that changed my whole self – inside and out. It was called “Women, Food & God” by Geneen Roth. From that moment forward, I tried really hard to slay my dragons. I try every day, to be in touch with myself and eat accordingly and give myself what I need. I also try to model listening to my body for my girls. Because if you tune in, it tells you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. If you listen, you can tell when you are calling out for comfort…instead of potato chips.
But it’s hard work. And as a 46 year old mom of two young girls, it is a worthy battle for me and for them. And I will stand up for my beautiful self in the face of all of the bullshit society and marketers shovel every.damn.day. Because I’m worthy. My health (mental and physical) and wellness are worth it. And that wellness is about being ABLE TO MOVE. It’s about BEING DURABLE. It’s about feeling STRONG AND ABLE. It’s not about the size of my damn pants.