Last month when I was in NYC for work, I had the opportunity to meet Tara of Chip Chip Hooray in person. I had ‘talked’ with Tara for the longest time via Twitter and through comments on our blogs. Now that we’ve actually met, I feel a little less crazy calling her a friend. In the short time I’ve spent with her, I can tell you this: Tara is absolutely beautiful, inside and out and radiates confidence and joy. I hope you are as touched by her story as I was. – Madison
Like a lot of the women who’ve told their stories here, I can remember the first time I decided that I needed to lose weight. I was thirteen, and when I stood sideways and looked in the mirror, all I could see was the—to me, unacceptable—curve of my stomach. For more than a decade since then, thoughts of weight and food intake and need for exercise have alternately consumed and exhausted me.
While I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, I know that the way I viewed and obsessed over food could for a long time have been labeled “disordered eating.” I counted calories, panicked if spontaneous changes of plans pulled me away from my preplanned meal or normal exercise routine, and, on top of everything, still felt hungry more often than not. Going to the gym was a punishment to me—I loved food (if you read my blog, you know I still do), but every cookie I ate had a price in the form of more minutes logged on the treadmill, more laps spun on the bike.
I saw results in the form of my jeans size. But I didn’t feel any more secure in myself. If anything, the desire to run harder, restrict my diet more, made me feel like I could be “better.” I just wasn’t working hard enough, and I looked in the mirror every day and told myself that. If you were skinnier, more boys would look at you. Why did you eat that dessert? Everyone noticed and thought you were a pig. At the outset of my college years, I was subsisting on a granola bar for breakfast, a soup-to-go and an apple for lunch—nowhere near the nutrients I needed to rebuild from the workouts I was putting my body through daily.
At some point, something had to give. As I became closer to the girls who would become my roommates and best friends throughout college, I found a group of girls who made me feel safe. They too loved to celebrate through food—it was rare that something wasn’t cooking in our apartment—but for once I knew that they weren’t judging me for the food I put in my mouth, or analyzing the fit of my jeans the way I so often imagined others to be doing.
I don’t think I have felt truly comfortable in my relationship with food, and with my own body, until now, though—and it is still a daily struggle. Just before the new year, I decided to channel my exercise into a plan. If I had some sort of goal to work toward, I thought, rather than the abstract desire to prevent any weight gain, maybe exercise could actually be something I looked forward to. And unbelievably, it worked.
I ran my first half marathon at the end of March, and each week of training made me prouder of my body. I celebrated my muscles’ growing strength as I could log one mile farther, and I nourished my body with the food it needed—and enough of it—to be healthy. I finally came to understand and appreciate rest days as time for recovery that was necessary—not a sign of laziness or weakness.
But most importantly I was proud of my body as I crossed that finish line. For as long as I can remember, I have found reasons to be dissatisfied with anything and everything about my body. And believe me, there are still days where I look at a plate of cookies with trepidation—and have to remind myself that eating one is not something I have to punish myself for. I hope with all my heart that this time in my life is the start of a new and beautiful relationship between me and my body, one that will last far beyond my marathon day.
If you’re interested in sharing your No Fat Talk story, I would love to chat! Just e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can give you more information.