November 17 2017
Five years after admitting defeat during a high school race, this runner reflects on her eating disorder recovery.
Sometimes I feel a little crazy trying to strike a balance between loving my body and pursuing big fitness goals. The body positivity movement tells us we should love our bodies, no matter what shape or size we are–which is true. The fitness industry tells us we should exercise regularly and pursue fitness goals, which is also true. The question becomes, Can I love my body where it is right now and pursue my fitness goals?
The answer is, Yes! Here are five tips I’ve discovered that help me mentally balance body positivity and the pursuit of my fitness goals.
By definition, stewardship is “the job of supervising or taking care of something.” When our perspective of fitness shifts toward stewardship because we love our bodies instead of as a means to an end, it becomes sustainable. If stewardship and body love are your primary motivations for fitness, you’re less likely to do unhealthy things to your body in order to achieve your goals.
Goals that are about fitness rather than about looking a certain way are more sustainable and mentally freeing. As we get closer to achieving our fitness goals, we often lose fat and gain muscle–but not always. This is why it’s important to focus on goals like setting new PRs, gaining new skills (I’m still trying to master pull-ups over here) and improving flexibility.
While pursuing fitness goals, it’s important to take moments each day to celebrate what your body can do. Even if your goals seem like far away finish lines, your body is still doing amazing things. We can be thankful for things like strong legs that allow us to run many miles (regardless of speed), strong lungs that enable us to take in fresh air during workouts and pumping hearts that power our bodies to handle training and our busy daily schedules.
Have you ever eaten something and immediately hated yourself for it? I call this “food guilt,” and it’s something I’m trying to kick out of my life because it breeds an unhealthy relationship with food. The best advice I ever received about food was to view it as fuel for my body, to be thankful for everything I eat and to avoid using food as a punishment or reward for exercise. If we want our bodies to perform well, we should eat high quality calories through the intake of whole foods. Still, eating a donut here or there won’t kill you, and you shouldn’t impose food guilt upon yourself for eating less healthy treats every once in a while.
Ultimately, you have to make a commitment to fitness because you love your body and want the best for it. You have to do it for you and no one else. It’s your body–you are the one who gets to live in it.
Erica Cook is a runner, writer, marketer and wife who lives in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.