Monday morning rolls around and it’s tradition for my hubby and I to go to the gym together. This particular Monday morning we decided to do a pretty intense Crossfit workout. I hadn’t done a workout this intense in a while but I was feeling really good going into it and wanted to give it a shot. It went great! I scaled appropriately, rested when needed, and didn’t push myself over the edge. Now a days, I do this kind of intense workout about once a week, sometimes less. But this hasn’t always been the case. Over the course of many years, I used to do this type of high intensity workout almost every day and then my “rest” days were filled with a 4-6 mile hike. *News Flash* this does NOT count as a rest day! There were points in my life that if I didn’t spend 2 hours at the gym, it didn’t “count”. On top of these high intensity workouts, I was not fueling myself with enough food to sustain this level of activity. Don’t get me wrong, I was ripped as hell and at that point in my life, I thought this was what healthy looked like. I thought I had it all under control, when in reality, it was the opposite. Exercise and food consumed my every thought. I had lost my period, was tired all the time, and believed that my worth was tied to how I looked and therefore I had to earn my food by exercising excessively. From the outside I looked like I had it all together, when on the inside I was abusing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I hear this very similar story all too often among women. This is why I’m sharing this extremely vulnerable story of mine. I want other women and young girls out there to know that their worth has nothing to do with how they look, how often they exercise, or what they do or don’t eat. You never, ever, need to earn your food. Period. You are so much more than that.
What finally got me to realize that I was indeed not as healthy as I thought or seemed was losing my period for almost a year. On top of the Birth Control Pill (which is another topic, for another day), over exercising and undereating, I had put my body into a place where my body fat percentage was too low to produce the hormones I needed to have a period. Ladies, I know we oftentimes curse our periods, hate them, and wish them away forever. However, your period is a sign of health and if that goes away or is off and on, something(s) need to be looked at. Our bodies are pretty amazing machines and they do a damn good job at keeping us alive. Put extremely simply, if our bodies are under extreme stress (for me it was over exercising and undereating) one of the first things to be put at the bottom of the priority list is growing a human inside that stressed out body. Our bodies will stop producing the hormones needed to be fertile (often times, leading to a lack of a period) to put that energy toward something more important (i.e. staying alive).
It was time for me to make a change. Did it happen overnight? No way. It’s been a long road, and I am still traveling down it, but I am extremely proud of the spot where I am at today. So how did I get my period back, increase my energy levels, and feel, in most moments, extremely happy with myself and my body? Mindset, less intense exercise, and more eating.
Let’s talk about mindset first because I truly believe it is the most important part of this journey. You can’t just tell a girl who ties most of her worth into what her body looks like to just stop exercising and gain weight. It’s not that simple. “Listen to your body” everyone says, hell, I even say that! But how do you start listening to your body when you’ve been ignoring it for so long? It’s not simple and it’s not easy, so if you’re struggling with this, know that it is totally okay, completely normal, and you will get there with practice and patience. This is where mindset plays a huge role. For me, I needed to completely change the way I spoke to myself, looked at myself, thought about myself, the way I valued myself, everything. Again, this did NOT happen overnight and I definitely still have days where this is a struggle. However, I now have tools for days like that. Tools I’ve learned on my own and also tools I’ve learned through work with a therapist (Therapy has such a stigma to it and it’s really frustrating. I truly believe that everyone can benefit from going to therapy at different points throughout their lives. It’s an amazing opportunity and can help immensely with so many situations). One of my biggest tools I utilize is Mindfulness (if you’re interested in learning more about Mindfulness or would want me to do a post on this, email me or comment below!) Mindfulness has helped me completely change the way I view myself. It has helped me to love every single inch of my body, mind, and soul. It has helped me to see where my values lie within myself and how eating and exercising has no ties to those values.
Next up, less intense exercise and eating more. Again, this did not happen overnight; however, full disclosure, if I would have stopped exercising and started eating more immediately, I most likely would have gotten my period back a lot faster. I don’t regret my slow approach though. I didn’t have the headspace for this all or nothing approach at the time, but if you do, seriously GO FOR IT! Over the course of about 10 months I started exercising less, resting more, and eating more. I had finally gotten to a place, mentally, where I could take a couple weeks off here and there and feel no guilt towards this. I started eating what I wanted, when I wanted, of all the foods that made me feel great from the inside out and holding no guilt towards those decisions either (again, through mindset techniques). I also started to look at what exercise was differently. Before I would have laughed at the thought of a hike with my dog being exercise (that was a “rest” day for me remember?), but now this constitutes most of my workouts and it TOTALLY COUNTS! I still make my way into the gym, but only when I want to. If at any point I think “I SHOULD go to the gym,” I don’t go. This is because we shouldn’t exercise to punish our bodies, we should exercise because we want to and it feels good. If you don’t enjoy exercising you’re either a) doing the wrong type of exercise for yourself (i.e. I don’t run, I don’t enjoy it, it’s not fun for me, so I’m not going to punish myself because society says I should run) or b) you’re viewing exercise wrong (it’s not a punishment and walks COUNT!). Now, there are going to be days where you’re lacking motivation to exercise but you know you’ll feel better afterwards. This is where truly understanding and listening to your body comes in handy. I know days where I need to say no to the gym and just rest compared to the days where I’m just lacking motivation. And the days I do get in a great sweat session, it feels awesome because I’m doing it from a place of love, not punishment or not because I “should.”
Let’s talk about eating more...It was a very unnatural feeling for me to start exercising less but start to eat more. For so many years my thoughts were “the more you eat, the more you need to exercise to burn it off.” This is really backwards by the way, but who can blame us when we are fed this type of bullshit by just about every social media outlet and diet culture. I had finally gotten to a place where I knew I needed to gain weight, specifically, fat. (To repeat myself again, I have worked extremely hard on the mindset around this, and still continue to). Over the course of about 10 months I started eating more and more. I knew the kinds of food that made me feel really good and gave me a lot of energy (nutrient-dense, real food) and just started eating lots of it, with zero guilt tied into it. There were days where I just wanted spoonfuls of coconut butter and instead of resisting that, I trusted my body to know what it needed and just ate the damn spoonfuls and enjoyed every second of it! I put on between 10-15 pounds (I never weigh myself, this is merely a guess) and through this weight gain, less exercising, and my mindset, I got my period back, my energy back, and the love for myself back! I am seeing myself in a whole new light and it’s absolutely magical! You can feel this too! Please reach out if this story hits home for you.
We are so much more than our looks. We are so much more than the food we eat and the exercise we do. As women especially, our bodies go through many seasons and changes throughout our lives. I will not look back on my smaller self and think negatively, the same way I will not look at my body now or the way it looks in the future negatively or compare my different bodies against each other, because this body keeps me safe, and loves me, and knows exactly what it’s doing. I am a strong, fierce, beautiful woman, who is so much more than just a body. Our bodies are deserving of all kinds of love, but most importantly, love from ourselves.