I had just finished putting on my bikini in Puerto Vallarta last week and was standing in front of the mirror adjusting all the appropriate bits. I wasn’t happy.
“I hate my legs.
“GIRL! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! You’re grounded!“
That’s how I talk to myself sometimes, in case you were wondering…
Standing in front of the mirror, I took in the stretch marks and cellulite. The bruises and curves screamed out their imperfections. I was at least 20 pounds heavier than 2 years before when I stood in the same city to take in some beach time and I was dreading this minute since I booked the ticket. One of the reasons I didn’t go in December is that I thought I could do better than that for a beach body. Here I am 10 pounds lighter, and training for my first cycling century but it doesn’t feel better. It definitely wasn’t good enough or my best. Two years before I was on a path to run 5 half marathons in 15 months. I remembered I was fit then. I remember eating anything I wanted. I remember I got hurt and I stopped running and I gained 30 pounds. But almost immediately after I found myself wallowing in self-hatred with my statement above, I remembered something else.
At some point in that running year, I remember sitting in an ice bath following a race. I had just made my body go 13.1 miles on the power of my own legs and was using the torture of immersing my body in ice to heal myself. I remember looking down at my legs through the water. “I hate my legs” came out of my mouth that time also. It was bullshit then too.
My struggle with body image and an eating disorder is something that I’ve dealt with for a long time, and have never been very private about. I’ve been very lucky to have come a long way in the last 10 years since things were nasty and I wasn’t eating, but I will always carry with me some part of me that ties physical beauty to my value. “I’m a 7” I said in March when I was sizing up my potential luck on the dating market. I know I’m cute, and look rockin’ in a pair of tight jeans, but there has always been a part of me completely dissatisfied with my appearance and incredibly envious of those that I deemed better than me – prettier faces, cooler hair, expert style and makeup, curvier chests – anything I could minimize on me in contrast. Being introspective and fairly enlightened in a lot of things, I have always struggled with being able to identify very logically that my worth is not in my appearance, that I am more, and yada yada yada. But it has also always boggled my mind that I could equally acknowledge all of that as completely reasonable and then still hate what I was working with.
The day I was sitting in the ice bath, I was delirious, but I caught the irony of my statement almost immediately. How could I hate these pieces of my body that just performed beyond expectations? How blessed was I that I was able to put one foot in front of another for mile after mile? I made a mental note that I needed to write about this then. How ridiculous that I was focused on the external appearance in such a moment of triumph?! I’m an idiot. We live in such a fucked up world!
You would have thought that moment might have stuck with me. That maybe after having started training for this century race around Lake Tahoe and feeling the most accomplished I’ve ever felt in my life that I’d have some continued appreciation for my body. But no, that wasn’t the case. Instead, I found myself looking back over my shoulder and critiquing my curves and focused on the weight that I’ve gained since last time I’ve had to show that much skin publicly. GROUNDED!
I spent so much of my 20’s hating my body and when I look back now I hate myself for not appreciating that. What was I thinking hating that?! So I consciously know that when I’m in my 40’s, I’m going to be wishing for this. But I slip. It’s freaking hard being a girl. We get it from every direction. Even from ourselves. Sometimes you gotta check yourself.
I don’t hate my legs. That’s a bit of a silly thing to say. My legs have been fantastic to me. They are used legs. They are well loved legs. They are my best-loved legs. I am so grateful for them to have taken me on all these adventures all over the world. These legs have stepped foot on 3 continents. These legs have ran races, cycled mountains, balanced in bikram, driven miles, walked cities and danced in the desert. THESE legs. I don’t hate them. I actually really love them and think they are amazing. But I hate that I hate them.