Confidence: an endeavor that that I embarked for years since the beginning of my journey to health and weight loss. I still have yet to reach the fullest potential of this path, but the difference between finding confidence versus hitting a weight goal is that the pursuit of confidence and self-love never truly ends. While generally confident individuals can say that they’ve reached a state of self-assurance where they often care and embrace themselves without being too harsh, the relationship with oneself always fluctuates.
Losing weight is easy if you really put your mind to it, find a range and a lifestyle that will maintain the end weight, and continually push towards that goal. In short, weight loss is blatantly clear. Self-love? Not so much. How is this so? Take it from me.
Upon the start of my journey, I was so overwrought by the negative energy in my life that I never lost motivation or drive to keep going. At this point, I made healthy choices much more often than ever, but I still didn’t restrain myself from enjoying rest days and sushi. Once I shed off the first ten pounds, I was overjoyed. I felt reborn and full of life. Health and fitness were my lovers, and I could not get enough of them. It wasn’t until I received a blunt comment from a relative that told me I could afford to lose more just because I didn’t look “fit enough” when my happiness diminished. That very night, I looked in the mirror and saw my overweight self staring at me in my reflection. It was as if almost nothing changed. What this situation entails is my lack of self-confidence to dismiss that comment, move on with my life, and continue to love my body, despite it being significantly curvier than the present body I have today. It’s softer, but it was healthy and energetic.
Moving forward, I worked harder than ever to prove this person wrong. No matter how sick I was of cardio and bland green juices and egg-white omelets, the feeling of being even more slender than ever practically canceled out every ounce of torture I endured every single day from food deprivation and overexercise. No longer did I have to just stick to black clothing. I could fit into nearly all of the shirts in a store, even some from the kids aisles. Others asked me how I do it–that is, being so incredibly healthy and fit. I thought that this was the life that I could stick with until the day I died. In reality, it was just a high of ups and downs, with perks of flat abs and a thigh gap and the downfalls of three hour-long gym sessions, low carb meals, and never touching a cupcake. If I loved myself, how could I hate my life?
Once I was instructed to gain weight to replenish some low inessential nutrient levels, I refused to accept this new endeavor. Me, at a larger size? I had no idea what I would look like or how I would feel, but whatever I sensed, I thought that others would judge me for relapsing back into my overweight days. Worst of all, I would judge myself. Someone as discipline and dogged as me fell off the wagon by eating a donut and skipping a gym session. I thought that I would lose this integral part of my identity. Of course, this was my insecurities overshadowing everything with superficiality and false values.
In this case, I had to reach a mental sense of clarity where enough was enough. I confronted this demeaning voice in my head to diminish the volume. No more could I listen to its commands to eat less because I had dessert earlier in the day, or pass on trying a friend’s home-cooked meal because I didn’t know its ingredients. At first, I dreaded not exercising and feeling stomach pain from the increased volume of food. However, I had to remind myself that this was for me–breaking out of my routine would open so many doors that even I didn’t know of. For most individuals, adopting a rigid and disciplined lifestyle is the most difficult undertaking. Personally, it was the most difficult abandonment.
But here’s the thing: my self-love did appear in many forms. I exercised to take care of my body and drank a green juice every week to nourish it. I put on makeup nearly every day to highlight my features. I wear clothes that fit well and complement each other. All of these emphasize how I take care of myself, care for my body, and how I want to present myself to the outside world: a tasteful and dignified human being. However, I balance out my discipline by incorporating more rest days, makeup-free faces, and treats into my lifestyle. Rest is just as important in my routine because I need to ground myself, take in the present moment, and re-energize for the next time I need to put in more effort. Too much rest entails apathy. You ultimately need both the vigor to make your body work hard and the sedative to give it a break and let loose.
Every time I get carried away and exercise for more than two hours or undereat in any way, I ask myself with an exasperated why, all the same whenever I don’t wake up with the motivation to workout or inclination to overeat on the sweets and snacks. In brutal honesty, I find that fear mongers in my mind the most often whenever I find myself holding back from doing whatever I truly desire. I still fear the physique and health consequences of choosing the fattier option on the menu or taking a rest day. I still fear the judgment of others when they see that my legs have grown larger. I still fear the sensation of bloat and losing discipline. But it’s just a matter of taking small steps, one risk at a time.
One of the hardest, yet most compelling, lessons I’ve learned in my development entails control. What I thought was my love-child grew to be my own slave-owner. I followed control’s commands, prioritized its needs, and isolated myself from those I loved to make our relationship work. Eventually, I gave birth to another child: acceptance. I consider acceptance more as a daughter, who sees curiosity and beauty in all things, and knows how to nurture others. Acceptance isn’t afraid to acknowledge what control demands and dismiss anything that potentially harms my self-confidence. Now, control is all grown-up, and I’ve finally mustered up the will to set it free. It will always be part of me in some way, but it’s just not present to influence my thoughts every single day.
This morning, I actually woke up to find stretch marks on my legs. They are barely obvious because they camouflage with my relatively pale skin, but regardless, they are present. Never did I ever think that I would be someone to possess stretch marks, one of the most widely-known skin insecurities in our society. I wouldn’t intentionally show them off to the world, but I’m not afraid to be honest, either. I can research lotions and DIY formulas to alleviate their visibility, or blame myself for eating two donuts and an entire jar of peanut butter in a week. But, do I really care? Of course not. They symbolize nothing meaningful of me. I have so many other qualities to be proud of, and I won’t let one part of my body get the best of me.
Sitting on the couch and watching YouTube has finally become a habit of self-love, just as much as performing burpees, squats, and dumbbell curls with maximum weight. Having a uniquely extremist and addictive personality, finding balance and moderation was and still is an arduous task, especially when I pride in discipline as a major strength. It was just a matter of finding other outlets of myself to nurture rather than maintaining a perfect physique, and learning to let go of mental barriers with time and focus. With that being said, if you ever find yourself sweating because of selecting between a green juice and a chocolate-covered donut, just say “F*ck it”, and get both.