Are You Exercising From a Place of Self-Hate?
Today I want to share with you some thoughts about exercise. I have plenty to say on this topic but here are some things I want to start you off with when it comes to the intersection of exercise and self–love.
I remember around 10 years ago, I was weighing around 225 pounds, a size 16 or 18 I believe, and I was desperate to lose weight. I absolutely hated myself when I looked in the mirror and felt pretty much like the ugliest human being walking the Earth. This was really my second attempt at losing weight — the first being when I was 16 years old and I will tell you that horrific story another time — but this time, I joined a gym and I pummeled myself HARD. I did this day in and day out, going to the gym at least 5 days a week, sometimes 6, sometimes even all 7. And the most I ever got down to was a size 14.
Then, something bad happened. I started a business during that time and all that stress led me to develop an ulcer. The numbing agent of choice was Nexium, the purple pill, and little did I know that the side effect was weight gain. Within a short amount of time, I regained EVERYTHING that I had worked hard to lose all those years. Back to where I started.
This experience really crushed my heart because it felt like the universe was, once again, helping everyone else except me, standing in the way of my dreams, sabotaging me, playing cruel jokes on me. For the next few years, I stayed away from exercise completely. Going back was too emotionally painful. I couldn’t bear to work hard again and discovering my hard work didn’t matter at all.
Later on when I revisited this trauma, I realized I had a very unhealthy relationship with my body and it was fighting against all the pressure and hatred I placed on it. She simply had enough and kicked and screamed and did what it wanted to do: revolt. It means that your ego will do what it’s programmed to do: shame yourself, beat yourself up, whip yourself into shape — and your body will do what she wants to do: eat, binge, not exercise, gain weight even if you starve yourself. It’s a constant war zone between the ears and also inside the body.
I’ve said that a lot of women experience beauty as pain. It’s because we give ourselves a list of must do’s and must never do’s in order to control ourselves: DO NOT eat past 8pm, MUST exercise at least 60 minutes a day, NEVER eat more than half your plate at the restaurant, MUST curb sugar cravings. We make beauty a destination, a goal that we have to reach, mostly by suffering our way there.
In my experience, it really isn’t a sustainable approach to beauty because beauty, to me, is an energy. Beauty is a sense of well–being, an inner peace that hums in the background. It is a grace and elegance that doesn’t come from standing in front of your own battering ram and beating yourself up into pulp. This isn’t beauty. This is self–hate. Especially when at the gym.
I have to tell you that I was SO TRIGGERED each time someone asked me about going to the gym. Back then when I went, I was living with my family. I would dress in my gym gear and head out the door. My mom would always remark/smirk with that certain tone, “Oh, you’re going to the gym?” Well, no duh. Obviously. Thank you for pointing it out. Nightly. I felt so many levels of scrutiny and judgment as I head out the door, feeling that I *should* absolutely must fix myself and don’t come back until I do. Even if a friendly person were to casually or innocently ask me, “Oh, are you going to the gym?” it would trigger me into an intense rage inside my heart, as if they were measuring how well I was doing with controlling myself or working on fixing my ugliness.
Because of that, I equated the gym with an environment of self–hate, a torture chamber to mutilate or annihilate who I was in order to be someone acceptable and loveable. Because if I didn’t lose weight or if I gained weight, I would be told, “No one will ever love you if you are fat.” I felt that beautiful people didn’t have to work out, that gyms were specifically set up for the unlucky and the ugly. For me, there was no such thing as “exercise gives you endorphins and makes you feel good afterwards.” I hated each and every workout and felt depressed at the end, because it meant 24 hours later I would have to repeat and re–experience the self–loathing shame.
It was such a hateful relationship I had with exercise. But thankfully, in the end, I healed my relationship with exercise. I learned to see exercise and the gym as a friend. I call her Eleanor. “I’m gonna go hang out with Eleanor” is what I would say in my head, and it feels genuinely open and filled with love and joy. I’m back on the treadmill again — not pummeling myself — but I would walk — or rather, strut — at my own pace. I don’t kill myself if I don’t break a sweat and I don’t see exercise anymore as even about losing weight. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. Now, I simply see it as a way to ground my soul into my body, ground the higher energies I always work with down to the root and to get my blood and creative juices flowing. Now who wouldn’t want to hang out with Eleanor?
Is it working? Well, you tell me! Just a couple of days ago, I bought my very first size 8 dress! Merely 14 months ago, I was a size 18W / XXL. It is amazing what the body does to self–heal once we stop feeding it so much hate and criticism and it is allowed to relax.
What has your relationship been with exercise? If you found this article, please let me know in the comments below!