Workin’ on my fitness

I’ve been in a battle with my body since I was 10 years old.

I looked down at my legs and saw my bulbous calves and thought “This is fat” and fat is bad and I am fat and I am bad. And that circular thinking has plagued me since then, eating away at self-esteem and body image and making me hate myself.

I used to look in the mirror and see a person staring back who wasn’t me. Who was like a caricature of me, like those ones artists in parks draw where your head is too big for your body and all of your flaws are over-emphasized. That’s what I saw, and that’s what I thought all of you saw too. All of the worst parts of me, front and centre. It didn’t matter if I was smart or kind or funny. What mattered was that I was fat.

I thought this way for a long long time, longer than I want to admit but I’m going to anyway. Up until about a month ago, I hated myself and my appearance so much it was all I could think about most days. The way that the waistband of my pants cut into my fleshy love handles, or my side boob squished out of my bra, or my thick arms rubbed against my thick core. And don’t get me started on my thighs–just gross. I thought about all my parts and the way that they didn’t fit together right. I was wrong, I was fat, I was ugly, I was awful. It was awful. It’s time consuming and depressing to think of yourself this way, trust me. And it’s hard to do anything when you can’t stop thinking about the sound your pants make when you walk and your thighs swish together.

I decided to do something about it. I’ve tried to “do something” about my weight countless times before. And I mean that. I’ve lost track of the fad diets and the workout plans and the weird smoothies I’ve drank. I’ve starved myself and I’ve binged and I’ve starved and I’ve binged so many times that it actually just felt like my normal diet. It’s strange now to eat three solid meals a day because for over half my life I just didn’t feed myself properly. It’s terrifying to consider.

I took charge of my body by hiring a personal trainer. Her name is Katelyn and she works at Studio 4 Fitness in downtown Victoria and she’s amazing. I talk about her all the time and I still don’t think I can do her justice here. She’s just, she’s great. People ask me what she does and the answer I usually give is “A lot of counting.” She keeps track of my exercises and counts my reps and makes sure I hinge at the hips and not the knees. She tells me to look at my form in the mirror and square my hips and keep my shoulders in the right position. She grabs mats for me to exercise on, she carries weights when they are too heavy for me to carry myself, but most importantly she tells me I’m strong. She tells me to keep going. And the other day she told me I was beautiful and you know what? I believed her. I felt beautiful for possibly the first time ever in my life. Drenched in my own sweat, glasses fogging up, frizzy hair pulled into a tight top knot, I thought “Damn, I do look good.”

Because I wasn’t thinking about what I wasn’t. I was thinking about what I was. Am.

I am strong. I have legs that are thick with muscle and that carry me from point A to point B to point C and back again. I have baby muscles in my arms, and when I flex I can kind of see them… but when I am carrying my groceries home I can definitely feel them. I have a core that is strong, and even though my stomach may never be flat and rippled with abs… my balance has improved so that I can walk up stairs without gripping the hand rail for support. I sleep better. I eat better. I am better.

I mean, it’s nice to fit into pants with a button and zipper again, but I think this is about more than just looking good in a pair of jeans. Honestly, that feels like a happy bonus. What it’s about is feeling like I belong in my body for the first time ever. Feeling like I can take up space. Feeling like I’m working with my body and not against it. Feeling like… just feeling happy to exist.

I know that you can’t buy yourself a body. That exercise is hard work. That loving yourself is hard work. And I know that I am a work-in-progress, always. And for the first time ever, I’m okay with that.

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If you’re interested in working with Katelyn (or any of the other awesome PTs at Studio 4), you can contact the gym here. Or, if you just want to check out the facilities, you can check them out at 715 Yates St in Victoria, BC. Everyone who works there is so nice, and they offer all sorts of classes, and the gym is located in this great older building in the heart of downtown. I love everything about that place.

And just so you all know, this post is in no way sponsored by this gym or Katelyn, I’m just really, really, really happy and I needed to let that out.

things I learned this summer

This summer I somehow found myself working for a beauty supply/esthetics school/spa, and it was a very Devil Wears Prada experience. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to my looks, so when I started at the beginning of summer… my nails were cracked, my cuticles were bleeding, my ends were split, and my skin was a hot mess.

And being surrounded by all these beautiful women with perfectly coifed hair and beautiful ageless skin and outfits only made my… “differences” more obvious. It was a very Sesame Street moment–one of these things is definitely not like the others.

I honestly have no idea why I was hired in the first place. But, it turned out to be a really educational experience–I learned a lot about myself and my face. Since it was all mostly new information to me… I thought it might be beneficial to pass what I learned along to y’all.*

  1. A skin consultation is the best thing that will ever happen to you (and your face).
  2. Microdermabrasion and chemical peels–er, clinical exfoliations–work. And they aren’t nearly as scary as they sound.
  3. Masks are the bomb. Exfoliation is awesome.
  4. Wear sunscreen every damn day. You should wear at least a teaspoon of sunscreen on your face daily. And, no, the SPF in your foundation isn’t enough.
  5. Nail oil, cuticle butter, and a good hand cream are fucking essential. Invest in these immediately, especially my fellow Edmontonians–the dry winter is on its way and we all know the havoc that can wreak on our hands.
  6. Your late-20s is when the skin cell regeneration starts to slow down. Now is the time to nip the skin aging process in the bud–that means moisturizing, exfoliating, and WEARING SUN SCREEN.
  7. The difference between skin purging and breaking out. Purging refers to that old adage “it gets worse before it gets better”–skin reacts to treatments by pulling all toxins to the surface. Break outs are, well, you know what breakouts are. They last longer than a purge and if you think your skin care is causing them, switch it up (but keep in mind that the best thing you can do for you skin is maintain a consistent routine).
  8. Charcoal is great for detoxifying and pumpkin has anti-inflammatory properties–both are great for acneic skin (which I have, sigh). Citrus is also a breakout-busting superstar, but be careful–it can also make your skin sensitive to the sun. So WEAR SUNSCREEN.
  9. Biting your nails (or in my case, cuticles) stimulates growth, but not in the good way if y’all keep chowing down. So, biters, leave them the hell alone. Same goes for my fellow cuticle-pickers. Instead of biting/picking, moisturize! I found that the only thing that has kicked my cuticle-picking habit is replacing it with a cuticle-moisturizing habit.
  10. Pedicures can save lives. Pedicurists get all up close and personal with your feet–a part of your body you might not get the opportunity to examine all too often. And they know when something is up–if your pedicurist suggests you visit your GP, you’d better get to steppin’.

I think that about sums it up, beauty-wise. But I also learned another very valuable lesson along the way–the beauty industry has a really bad rap about being obsessed with what’s on the outside. But beauty isn’t about just looking good–it’s about taking care of yourself, and feeling good. I still rock my perma-bun every day and I brutally ripped off my gel nails 7 days after they’d been meticulously applied (don’t worry, my cuticles are still intact). And there’s definitely some bullshit beauty products out there (do your research, please, and be critical) but getting into the routine of taking care of my skin and nails and cuticles and self makes me feel like I’m worth something. Not to the rest of the world, because y’all know those beauty standards don’t matter… but I’m worth something to me. And in the end, that’s what beauty is all about.

*I feel the need to add that I am in no way qualified to give this advice and all of it is based purely on my experience and research. If you have skin/nail/beauty questions, the best place to direct them is a certified dermatologist, aesthetician, or your GP.