My roommate and I had a conversation the other day about getting back to the gym and how hard it can be to stick to eating healthy and exercising. We decided that the cycle of non-activity and frustration goes something like this:
You’re not eating well or exercising, so you decide to head back to the gym and change your diet. You do well for a while, maybe. Then, it gets harder. You kinda want to give up. So, you tell yourself, “You know what? My friends should love me no matter how I look!” and there goes the eating healthy and the dieting. You look in the mirror and realize you’re still not where you want to be, no matter what your friends say. Frustrated because you’ve broken the habit of being healthy, you eat your feelings, which looks like sitting in front of your television eating Ben & Jerry’s and watching Real Housewives of Orange County. And the cycle repeats.
My personal struggle has always been how to reconcile the seemingly oxymoronic concepts of beauty and health. Growing up, and even now, I’ve never been completely comfortable with my appearance, finding myself on the hamster wheel of the cycle above. My biggest struggle, weirdly, has been finding the motivation to actually change something. Everyone’s had at least one day where they wake up and decide “something needs to change.” It’s not like I’m on the fast track to heart disease or anything, but I’ve had those moments where I decide that if I’m not happy with myself, all I can do is act. As they say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” right?
So I take the step. Then, things get problematic. I realize that working out and eating well can be hard. I splurge one day, and decide that I’ve “completely ruined it.” And I move to the next phase in the cycle. I tell myself, “All your family loves you the way you are. Your friends love you the way you are.” Shortly after, I lose motivation to continue my health routine, propelling myself further into the cycle.
I think many other women can understand the struggle. Being surrounded by family and friends that love you, it’s pretty hard to find the motivation to get up every morning and make changes to yourself. It seems like a nice idea. “Oh, I’d like to wear this or that,” you say. But then when things get real and it’s 6AM and you don’t feel like running, you revert to those idealized notions of acceptance and your resolve melts. This is true especially if you’re not out of shape to the point of major health issues, if you only would like to “tone things” or lose a couple pounds. It just doesn’t seem pressing.
I’ve spent the past few months thinking about exercise, diet, and self-image. I’ve asked myself the question, “How can I accept who I am now while changing for the future?” Maybe, just maybe, I’ve stumbled upon something.
I’ve come to the conclusion that health and beauty, while closely related, have to be separated. Health needs to be what drives us to make positive changes in our lives, not beauty. Health is the number on the scale, telling us that we might be eating out too much and walking too little. Health is what determines whether I’ll be out on the field playing with my kids in ten or twenty years or sitting on the sidelines. Health is my small way of choosing how long I get to hang out here before I chill with Jesus. Health is something that is definable.
Beauty, on the other hand, is in the eye of the beholder. And what a marvelous thing that is. Beauty is the reason why people sparkle from the inside out, no matter how many pounds they think they have to lose. Beauty is what your friends, family, significant other will see no matter what, that causes your boyfriend to think you look nice even when you’re in sweats, that causes a child to think his mother is the most lovely person he has seen. In the eyes of those people that matter to you and care about you, beauty is static.
And this brings me back to making changes. As I’ve learned the hard way these past couple of months, it’s all about self-love. While, sure, I’d like to improve my appearance, as most women would, I keep reminding myself that beauty is intrinsic. The people that love me are going to think I’m beautiful regardless of whether or not I get a latte tomorrow or go to the gym. And I should think I’m beautiful too. Beauty, however, isn’t going to convince me to leave the dorm and pick up the weights. At the end of the day, the beautiful me now has to love me enough to invest the time in creating a healthier me for tomorrow.
Please comment with any thoughts you have about self-image, health, beauty, or anything else relevant. 🙂