Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Finally Make Peace with Your Body

A few weeks ago, I survived a week locked in a lodge with my family. Some may call it a vacation. Others may call it a question of one's sanity. Nah, I'm just exaggerating (one of my many flaws). But, really, my spring break vacation began with a series of physical and emotional challenges.

Eight of us piled in a van for 18 hours to Breckenridge, Colorado, where we planned to snowboard. After a day of falling on my rear, I traded in my board for skis. That same day, I had to trade my pants for a new pair because ... well, let's just face it. Mine were too tight. To top off that day, I woke up to a negative pregnancy test, of which was the third one I'd taken, only to confirm my suspicion that my body was failing me again.

For a girl who resists change and resists failure (with everything in me), I was not having such a great first day of vacation. In my mind, I saw myself as someone who wasn't good enough to pick up snowboarding and wasn't thin enough to fit into a pair of pants I wore only one year ago. The facts of the matter are: 1. I'm a WAY better skier, and actually, I skied faster than anyone else in our group. And 2. All of these squats I've been doing have actually worked. Over the last year, I've turned my back-with-a-hole-in-it into a bootylicious butt. 

My experience was just confirmation in that we tend to see ourselves through the most critical lens. Instead of seeing my body as stronger, faster, curvier and in my husband's eyes, more beautiful, all I could see was that I was bigger. And that I must be worse because I'm bigger. Actually, my waist is the same size. My butt's just bigger. And then, I remember that's what I've been working on all year, so obviously, pants will be tighter. Duh!

Although the heartbreak of still not being pregnant is a little heavier, it's one I'm learning to bear in hopes that God will provide in His perfect timing. Every time a negative thought crosses my mind regarding my body and the fear of not having children, I recall how God has brought me through other painful times. When I am weak, God is strong. 

Summing up that afternoon with some very emotional tears and realizing how easy it is to fall back into a posture of self-hatred, I finally chose to enjoy the rest of my trip and appreciate the health of my body. Not only has my body gotten stronger physically, but the fact that I could bounce back like I did was proof that I've gotten stronger emotionally. With the support of my faithful husband and family, we rallied together to descend down black diamonds and zoom through half pipes. On our long and quiet drive home, I reflected on several lessons I learned.

1. Rest before Vacation. Recreation on Vacation. God shows us the value of rest in creation, when he rested on the seventh day. To me, this indicates that rest needs to be a part of our daily lives. Unlike my initial view, we can't wait until we have a week off of normal routines/work to rest. We must learn how to integrate balance and rest into our daily lives. Vacations are meant for fun and adventure. If we want to relax on vacation, that's different. I feel like relaxation is simply an attitude that you can maintain, not necessarily a lack of activity. I learned that it's better for me to try to integrate more rest periods from my normal schedule, so that I don't feel like the recreation part of vacation is stealing my energy — or like I'm going to have to pay for it later.

2. Work What Your Momma Gave Ya. When I traded in my board for skis, I'm not going to lie, I felt a little disappointed in myself. After some deep thinking, I realized that I could care less if I learned the skill of boarding ... what I really feared was other people's disappointment in me for not getting it, or for giving up. I remember my husband Micah grabbing me by the shoulders, looking me square in the face, and saying, "Babe, I don't care if you snowboard or ski or do nothing at all. I just want you to be happy and have fun. That's what makes me happy." As sappy as it sounds, I think it finally clicked that I needed to stop trying to impress everyone else and start trying to enjoy myself — my body and soul. I started embracing my ski skills and before I knew it, I was climbing to the top of Peak 6 with the GoPro on my head like a rockstar. Boom! It felt good to finally be free of the pressure to be the best. I started thinking about other areas in my life where I need to have the same change of perspective. I'd encourage you to focus on your strengths and learn to rock them too. In your fitness life, it may be that you've got long, lean legs and are insecure about your tummy... dude, show off those legs. Maybe you've got a bubble butt and have a hard time finding jeans to fit ... I bet your butt looks good in some leggings, eh? Instead of focusing on what you hate about your body, choose to see what you like and then rock it.

3. Fuel Up and Become an Intuitive Eater. When I got home from Colorado and resumed my workouts, I didn't feel like I was playing catch up. Although I hadn't picked up a dumbbell in seven days, I had been moderately active, getting in a light sweat each day. More importantly though, I had maintained a healthy nutrition, focusing on vegetables and lean protein. That being said, I didn't count calories or think about every little thing I ate. Instead, I tried to listen to my body on what it was craving. I remember one night, I really wanted a burger. That same night, I ate a burger with lots of veggies and half the bun. Normally, I'd beat myself up about it, thinking that I could have ordered "leaner," but instead, I was satisfied and didn't overeat. Throughout the week, I tried to follow my senses. Since I fueled my body correctly, I was able to bounce back in my workouts and maintain my lean muscle mass post-vacation.

4. Attitude is Everything. One of the most important lessons I learned early on in marriage was that love is a choice, not a feeling. I should say I'm still learning that .... We have a choice to change our attitude despite our feelings. Although I felt like having a pity party after boarding busted my butt every three seconds (literally) — and that was just on the bunny slopes — I told myself I'd give it until the end of the day before I gave up. When the end of the day came, and I still wasn't having fun (or rather making everyone else's trip horrid too), I changed my mind about what it meant to turn in the board. It wasn't giving up; it was simply changing gears. When my pants wouldn't snap and I feared I'd suddenly ballooned out like Violet on Willy Wonka, I chose to remember the gains I'd made in the gym and the womanly shape I'd added to my physique — not to mention the fact, I'm training to prepare my body for creating a miracle instead of training for a show. When my pregnancy test came back negative, I chose to trust in the Lord and know that it wasn't my body's fault for not being pregnant yet.

Every season of our life, we're faced with decisions, conflict and hardships that challenge our self-confidence, and more so, our confidence in God. I urge you to step forward into the challenge, instead of back in fear, and remind yourself of where you came from and how you've progressed since you first began whatever kind of journey you're on.

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