I saw nothing but ugly and fat. And I was so obsessed with it that I didn’t even want to take a step out of the locker room stall to continue with my life. I was paralyzed.
Trigger Warning: Some of the language I use in this post may trigger you. If you choose to dive in, before you do, I want you to know that I do not think this way anymore and that I firmly know all bodies are beautiful, people can wear whatever makes them happy, and exercise should be a form of self-love, not self-punishment.
I used to be the kind of person who would judge certain body types and lifestyles. I used to think happiness was found in “healthy,” aka restrictive and punishing, habits. I used to think that only certain people should wear certain clothes and others should just not. It was an obsession I didn’t know I had.
Sure I’d say, “Workout to feel good! That’s why we do it.” But it was always an empty statement. Who was I kidding? I worked out to feel superior, to be skinny, to be muscular. To be better. I didn’t REALLY believe working out was for any other reason than to alter my body composition. I hated my body and wanted to change it so badly. I looked fine to everyone else, except me. In hating my own body, I hated others too, unless they fit what I had been taught was the “normal” body type to have. And even then I hated those ones as well because I envied that body type and wanted it so badly.
I was completely blinded to the beautiful things I already possessed both inside and out.
I was so judgmental that, unbeknownst to me, it ate away at my mind until one day that mentality and many other stressors broke me.
When you hear the word transformation you often think of something likened to a butterfly coming out of its cocoon and spreading its wings, experiencing that magical feeling of freedom. But have we ever stopped to think that their time in the cocoon is a time of pain, frustration, and constriction?
The truth is, transformation hurts. And this hurt. And it took a long time. A couple of years. Physically and mentally. It was like braces after a tightening appointment, and if you’ve had them, you know the pain I’m talking about: you know it’s important, but you just want to escape the dull and yet unbearable pain you have to sit with and work through.
The Stressors that Lead to My Collapse - Starting with the Most Recent
During the four years of undergrad, I was averaging 4-5 days/week, 1.5-2.5 hours a day at the gym, doing anything from weight lifting, using cardio machines, doing HIIT, and practicing my tap dancing. On top of that I was maintaining a 3.89 GPA, taking 3-4 dance classes a week in 3 different styles, and attending 3-5 hour rehearsals every night and weekend that required me to learn lines and music. My senior year I was even creating and directing my own show.
At the beginning of my senior year I had major senioritis that had sort of crept up on me, but I was in the best shape of my life and really enjoying my workouts. I was hating dance with a passion despite having loved it prior to starting the program in 2013. I was reeealllly ready to graduate. In September 2016, my boyfriend and I got in a big motorcycle accident on the highway (will never get on another motorcycle because of it) where I was thrown from the back of the bike and tumbled about 200ft (I was told, I actually have no idea how far I rolled). I was unbelievably fortunate enough to only injure my metatarsal (the joint of the toes to the foot), but my mental strength took a blow. I returned to the gym as soon as I could for all the wrong reasons, maybe 3-4 weeks after the accident, but my will to keep up with my fitness seemed to have died with the security I felt in a moving vehicle I wasn’t controlling. Still, I managed for another year or so to unenthusiastically keep it up. Although I had no clue at the time, this is when my transformation from body obsessed to balanced lifestyle began. But it would take another year and a half before the giant moment of realization hit, sending me into conscious action.
Before attending this school I had spent 4 years trying to find the place I would call my alma mater, trying out 2 other schools for a year each. I pushed myself to the maximum in New York City with a full-time program I was a terrible fit for. Then I left that place and worked a full-time job at a hotel in Times Square, during which Hurricane Sandy hit, all the while attending classes and lessons to get back into a good music theatre program, and having no idea how much stress I was putting myself under, just living with tension I thought was normal.
Then there was my upbringing, which I look back at both very fondly and remorsefully. It wasn’t until I graduated from my final school that I felt a release of physical and mental pressure that had moved under the surface of my life without me even knowing it. I saw all the stress I had been under throughout my childhood and early 20s and all the obsessive habits I’d developed because of it. Don’t get me wrong, there were many things to be grateful for during those years, but we have to address the not-so-good elements in order to move past them.
There was just no balance for 27 years.
I bring all of this up not to brag, but to explain how much I had piled onto this body, mind, and soul with constant self-criticism and expectations without reprieve. Maybe many of you out there can relate not to my specific stressors, but to pressures in your life that cause similar feelings. Read on to see where this lack of balance ultimately lead me.
Fast Forward to December 2017
I was 27 years old. It had been six or seven months since I’d graduated the very rigorous music theatre BFA program. I remember walking into Planet Fitness feeling soulless and like molasses. I was so unexcited about my workout. So unexcited about life. I slogged my way through a bicep workout, taking an hour to get through 2 exercises, hating Every. Single. Moment. Like I’d never hated my workouts before. At the end I knew I had to get in a half hour on the stepper. Well, I didn’t have to, but my mind had it figured out that I’d gain weight if I didn’t. *roll eyes*
While up on that step machine it didn’t take long for my emotions to overwhelm me. I was frustrated with my body. I was sick and tired of trying to lose weight (I didn’t need to lose weight). I could have sworn I was watching the pounds get packed on again around my waist and nothing I did seemed to work. And to me, my value was directly linked to that weight. Fifteen minutes in I decided it was time to call it quits. I couldn’t take another step. Although I still didn’t know it, I was minutes away from my transformation reaching its apex.
That moment came when I pulled on my jeans and looked at myself in the mirror. I saw nothing but ugly and fat. And I was so obsessed with it that I didn’t even want to take a step out of the locker room stall to continue with my life. I just couldn’t even fathom continuing on with my day. I hated the feeling of my stomach tight against my jeans. I hated the way it looked in the mirror. I burst into tears. I wanted to slam things and scream, but I stopped the rage from bursting, knowing the public was not a place to do that. Instead I burst into tears and started pacing. My mind was paralyzed.
I turned away from the mirror and sat down on the changing stall bench, feeling that uncomfortable feeling of my jeans pressing into me, my programming telling me I was badly shaped for perfectly normal jeans. I stared at the wall in front of me with one thought and feeling alone reverberating through my mind and body. I couldn’t go on like this:
Something had to change. And it wasn’t my body. There had to be another way. I didn'’t know what it was, but if I was going to survive this life I had to find it.
Stay tuned next week to find out the steps I took and still take to actively heal my relationship with my body.