For as long as I can remember, fitness, health, and BMI played a large role in my life.
I went to college on a DI track scholarship. My coach, an ex-Olympian, was once the second-fastest woman in the world in the 400. She was ten percent body fat in her prime.
I’m not sure how much you know about the female body, but fifteen percent is the generally-accepted threshold for body fat. After that, you run the risk of releasing all sorts of havoc on your hormones. Most female athletes drop below it anyway.
I was in the best shape of my life and still hated how I looked.
I was twenty-two years old the first time I ever stepped above 15.5 percent body fat. I competed just north of fourteen, sometimes dropping into the thirteen-range toward the close of the season. Yet, for a mid-distance runner, I was obese. I was solid muscle—squatting over 200 pounds for eight reps and benching 135. Throw me on the line with a bunch of tiny 800 runners, and I looked huge.
One night after practice, I was chilling in my friend Molly’s room bitching about that day’s weigh-in. [As part of our program, we were weighed bi-weekly and had our body-fat tested quarterly.] Molly, my roommate at the time, the pole vaulter on the team, and one of only two female teammates with bigger traps than me, had a compressed version of my body type. She was tiny (just 5’2) but jacked. Like most pole vaulters, Molly was an ex-gymnast—with quads that could crush and not an ounce of fat on her body.
“You know what?” Molly said, “We rip on ourselves now, but you know one day we’re going to look back and laugh at ourselves, right?”
“Forty years from now we’re going to see pictures of ourselves and say, ‘Damn. I was hott.”
That was six years ago and I will never forget it.
You will regret every day you didn’t live life to the fullest, and you will regret every day you didn’t love yourself.
This week, I was cleaning out a few closets and found my iPad. I lost the thing when I moved back in August, and figured it would show up eventually.
I charged it up, connected to wifi, and updated any outdated passwords. I was scrolling through pictures and found these:
I took these two years ago when I was living in Pittsburgh. I was heading to Italy in a few weeks to join my best friend Rachel, who was presenting there as part of her PhD program. I bought myself a new bikini and a crop top for the trip, and was taking selfies on my phone to get a second opinion.
I hated both.
I mean, I really hated them. At first, I thought the crop top was cute, and even though I loathed my stomach, I figured the one-exposed inch of skin was fine. I threw it in my suitcase for Italy.
When we returned home and posted our photos on Facebook, I immediately texted Rachel and made her pull all the photos. All I could think was, “I LOOK SO FAT.”
I never even wore the swimsuit on the trip. It was way too small and showed my butt too much. Since I hated it, I only wore it for pool workouts where I didn’t care who saw me. I finally wore it this past summer for a camping+tubing trip, because it 1) had faded from all the chlorine and 2) was certainly an article of clothing I didn’t care about.
Two years later, I’m staring at these photos and all I could think is, “My God I look good.”
I want to punch that girl in the face.
What was wrong with me!?! Those photos are three years after I graduated college and I still look toned. I’m tan. My hair looks gorgeous. I love the fact that my butt and legs (i.e. quads) look huge. And all I can do is stare at these photos and think, “Molly totally called it.”
You’re waiting to love yourself until you’re five pounds lighter. When you were that size, did you love yourself? Didn’t think so.
I wasted so many years hating the fact that I was muscular instead of skinny, that I had ripped arms but didn’t have a six-pack, and Lord forbid I went above that damn fifteen percent. Do you see how much time I wasted? How many great years passed while I silently hated my body, when I could have spent those years loving who I was and how I looked?
If you are anything like me, you spend the majority of your days wishing you were thinner, more cut, and more gorgeous. You think that you would look so good if you just lost five pounds, if you just did ten more minutes of core a day, or could fit back into the jeans you owned ten years ago. Stop.
Waiting to lose five pounds to love yourself is like only loving your home when your house is clean. It’s still your home—where you have tons of lasting memories and the clothes scattered on the floor are just the aftermath of a fun-night out. It’s still your home. It just appears different on the surface.
I want you to think really, really hard on how you thought about yourself five, ten, or even fifteen years ago. Chances are, you were five pounds lighter, you were more cut, and you did exercise more. Did you still have those negative thoughts about yourself? Yea. That’s what I thought.
It’s not about how you look—it’s about what you see.
Even when I was a top-performing athlete, I still wished I was someone else. I’m not going to get those years back. I will continue to age and add tallies to a long-list of injuries. It will become harder and harder to run and train the way I want to, and I wasted some of the best years of my life essentially hating myself.
Time is a very short, very fleeting thing. Every day you spend hating how you look is a day you are wasting.
It didn’t take me forty years to look back and regret how I treated myself. You are an awesome, gorgeous human being. Starting believing it.