8 years ago I could have gone a week without touching vegetables. I convinced my body to do things it couldn’t normally do by pushing bags of candy, coffee and energy drinks to see how much later I could stay up and how much more I could get done with less hours of sleep everyday. I consumed junk and I didn’t put much thought in how I presented myself everyday. I saw my body as simply a vessel in which my brain was contained.
That was college and post graduation. But then came my son and the fear of leaving this earth before he could be independent was enough to get my act together. I took exercising seriously, I got real about what I was eating and drinking, and real about how much rest my body needed. I know I don’t have a say on how long I live, anything could happen, but if I do live to be 80 I want to be healthy.
So here I am basically a year later from when I got serious about my health. I appreciated the physical change, it was nice to know my work was paying off. But I also started to appreciate my body for all the things it did FOR me. I got more in tune to how my body reacted when I wasn’t treating it right and how that affected everything else.
Having a routine also helped with a lot of things. The routine of creating days which I would workout gave me stability when other things were uncertain. If my nerves were a wreck from worrying about what the next few years were going to look like, I put on my shoes and went for a run to clear my head.
But once I started appreciating my body for all the literal and physical things it was doing for me, it allowed me strength to take care of my mental health. I started being intentional about what I consumed besides food. I gave myself time to heal and a space to find joy. The voices in my head that normally spoke down or discouraged me got quieter as I started to appreciate other small achievements I was making within myself.
I got the strength to keep a distance from people that tore me down, and I got the strength to build myself up when I got knocked down.
When I started working on my physical strength I had to get vulnerable with myself. I had to be self aware and make healthier choices. I’ve learned to be intentional with my actions, proactive versus reactive. I created counter-failure plans on the days when I didn’t have the mental strength to try again. And I didn’t have strength a lot of days but the routine and the feeling of avoiding regret was enough to get me out of bed.
When I did miss a day or over eat or indulge in too many sweets I learned to be compassionate with myself and remember that I had another day, something I wouldn’t have allowed myself before.
Self compassion is the greatest gain I’ve had since I started to take my overall heath serious. Before when I would make a mistake it would cripple me. I would ruminate for days about that mistake and use it as proof that I was incapable of making wise decisions. Instead of using it as a jumping board for doing better tomorrow, I used it as a tether. I’m my own biggest critic and if you paired that with someone else’s criticism it was enough to spiral me into a deep dark depression.
People love to tear other people down. It’s a side effect of being unsure of yourself and losing hope. And I allowed myself to think that their opinions of me were more important than how I wanted to view myself. Every time I did something to better myself it felt like their sharp criticism came back stronger.
Because the thing is when people are trying to keep you down and see that they can’t, they look for ways to get a stronger grip over you. Before that would warp the whole image I had of myself. But I learned, slowly and painfully, that it didn’t matter what someone else thought of me. I wasn’t going to get their approval. I just needed my own.
Sometimes those forces keeping you down are external, sometimes its internal. Sometimes it’s both. Now when I hear those voices however, I hear myself saying “you are strong” “you are capable” “you can get through this” “nothing is forever” “that was the past, tomorrow is a new day”.
How do I know I’m stronger than before? I don’t go running to everything that throws me a bone like a starved dog. I’ve walked away from things that weren’t bringing me joy. Things that got out more from me than I got from it. I’m intentional about who I let into my life and how much they’re allowed in.
Sometimes my demons come searching for me to pull me back into their hell. On most of those days I tell them “You don’t have a hold on me anymore”. But I don’t always come up on top. There are days when the exhaustion of fighting back succumbs to the power of my old inner voice. There’s a fight for my soul, but on most days the light shines through. And on the days it doesn’t, I know that tomorrow is another day.