Like many people, over the past seven months, I’ve gained weight. Much to my dismay, between all the half-marathons I ran and Zoom workout classes and walks, I still gained weight. Nine pounds to be exact.
I’ve never been one to be comfortable gaining weight; if it were completely up to me, I wouldn’t ever have to gain weight. I know I’m not alone with the majority of the female population, but my preference is losing weight, and I always feel like I still have “those stubborn five pounds to lose.” Over the past few months, I’ve struggled with my jeans being too tight and my arms getting flabby and the subsequent self-deprecation that comes from that. Historically, gaining weight has never been easy for me. Even as I went through puberty and went to college as an NCAA athlete, gaining weight bothered me. I’ve always had this idea in my head that smaller was better, and the tinier I was the prettier I was. I constantly pick apart my body, noticing every slight jiggle and roll with movement.
I had a doctor’s appointment in late June, and I got weighed. Knowing how uncomfortable I am with gaining even just a point, I don’t regularly weigh myself. I made the mistake of looking at the scale that day and caught wind of a number that I didn’t want to see, and my immediate reaction was, “Oh my God I gained nine pounds that’s too much,” and I felt awful about myself. I started over-analyzing gyms being shut down and my lack of movement during the day, coupled with the constant access to food since the kitchen was only a few steps away.
I felt like a wreck the days following – all I wanted to do was workout and eat plain lettuce. I wanted those nine pounds gone. No wonder I couldn’t fit in my clothes anymore, no wonder I didn’t feel like myself, because I wasn’t! In the course of three months I felt like I outdid all the work that took years and years to build up.
I don’t do well with others commenting on my body, in any way. Hearing people say, “Well, you were too skinny before,” bothers me just as much as, “Wow, you look so much healthier now.” Knowing that I don’t do well with body image, I’d prefer to just avoid acknowledging how much I weigh and how my body looks altogether. I couldn’t wait for gyms to re-open so I could just lose the weight.
As time went on after that doctor’s appointment, things got a bit easier. Shortly after that, SoulCycle opened again, as well as my gym, so I could go back to workouts that I was more comfortable with and that I enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, the running was great, but I’m at a point where I hit a wall and my back and bones don’t respond well if I try to run the way I used to. I started lifting a bit heavier in order to quickly regain the strength I lost, and I started getting back in the swing of SoulCycle to get some good cardio work in.
Since that appointment in June, I’ve realized a few things. First, I don’t get as tired as I used to during the day. Granted, I’m still tired a lot but not as seriously as before. I’ve also been able to maintain my speed in running when I want to, and I’ve also maintained and even gained some strength. Last week, I squatted my PR pretty easily, and had I not done as many reps before, I could have set a new PR.
However, as time went on, something else happened. I didn’t just lose the weight, I actually didn’t lose all of it. I realized I’m so much stronger than I’ve ever been.
I noticed the additional strength most in a SoulCycle class about two or three weeks ago. During the arm series, I’ve always used either two or three pound dumbbells – normally three pounds but if I’m extra sore then I’ll go down to two. The instructor, who is one I frequently go to and whose classes I love, said she wanted to see me go up to five pounds and I panicked. Five pounds?! Oh my gosh, I’m not strong enough for that!
Spoiler alert, I am strong enough for that.
Was it uncomfortable? Yea. Was I sore the next day? Yea. But did I get through the whole arm series without dropping the weight? Yea, I did. And I think without those nine extra pounds, I wouldn’t have been able to. Before quarantine, before the weight gain, I struggled with three pounds. And I just got through a Survivor class with five pounds for the arm series?!
Without going on too much of a rant, food is fuel, and I’m not heavier, I’m stronger. I can lift things I couldn’t lift before, I can ride to songs I couldn’t ride to before, I can run speeds I didn’t think I could run before. And the best part? My butt doesn’t hurt when I sit in my chair working all day, ha!
In all seriousness, I want to end this post by first thanking you to get to the end. I also want to encourage you, if you’re reading this, to prioritize strength and feelings over looks. It doesn’t matter that I can’t wear size 25 jeans anymore…it does matter that I can take care of my body better and that I’m learning to be proud of the body staring back in the mirror. Self love is a journey, and body peace doesn’t come easily or happen every day, but these are steps in the right direction.
Strong over skinny, always.