By LeAnn Locher, PQ Monthly
I could write for days about my love/hate relationship with my body. My weight has been an all-consuming aspect of my head space my entire life. Dieting since a single-digit age, I learned self-judgment was harsh and acceptance by others would be gauged upon if I were a fat kid or not. Whether or not this was true of my external circumstances, it doesn’t matter. It’s what my mind internally told me.
Beginning as a young adult, I have gained weight, lost weight, gained weight and lost weight, numerous times. I have never been a skinny person. But I have been in the BMI rankings of very obese. Hell, I may be there now. I don’t look at those rankings anymore. You name the diet; I have done it. I just know it’s a lifelong struggle, and it’s tied up in an emotional bundle with lots of strings and bows and tape around it.
This summer, after training for months, I climbed the third-tallest mountain in Oregon. South Sister has an elevation gain of over 4,500 feet, and the 12-mile, 14-hour hike was a beast. But I had trained hard. The day after the climb, I did some reflection on what I had accomplished. I felt a huge boulder off of my shoulders that I had been carrying my whole life. Most of that boulder consisted of shame. Instead of shame, I found myself so proud of my body, strength, muscles, endurance, and ability to climb a fucking mountain. Did you know I climbed so high I could see to California and to Washington from the center of Oregon itself? And it was my body that got me there. My. Body. There is no shame in that accomplishment.
A few days after the climb, it was hot, and we went for a run. I wore a form-fitting tank top and shorts. It shows off my curves and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. I looked at myself in the mirror before I left, and I said to myself, “That is the body of a woman who climbed a mother-fucking mountain. Hell yeah.” And out the door I went. Air on my skin, sunshine on my shoulders, that was the most confident run I’ve done in some time. I didn’t care about what anyone else thought; I just knew I felt good. That outing wasn’t full of a mind wondering if my shorts were too short or if my arm fat jiggled or if my stomach was too big. I was present in the moment. This was a huge change.
I’ve been taking Pilates classes, sessions with a close friend and just the instructor, a woman I’ve known for over a decade. I absolutely love these workouts (thank you bloompilatespdx.com). They stretch, lengthen, and use a variety of movements that align the spine and strengthen my core. I can do some movements like a champ, even bending into advanced positions. Some I can barely do, or not at all, either because my arm length or proportion or body ability or take-your-pick reason. But you know what? My inner voice on this doesn’t give a rat’s ass that I can’t do all of the movements. If my past self, from a few years ago, were to be in this situation, the self-talk I would berate myself with for not being able to do a position would be so deafening I would have fled and never returned to the class. I would have internally flogged myself for my fat body not able to do what it could do if only I was skinnier. Now instead, I recognize it for what it is: not all bodies are the same, and this body climbed a mother-fucking mountain, and so what if I can’t walk my hands down my calves while balancing in a V position on a reformer with my toes pointing towards the ceiling? What I can do is advanced bending backwards positions powered by the pure strength of core and upper body.
This change in self-talk is me, in my mid-40s, finally experiencing body acceptance and self-love. There will always be work to do, and being healthy requires self-care, time, attention and prioritizing. I’m giving that to my body, and my mind is finally responding. It’s coming through positive affirmations, not through shaming or negative self-talk.
And by the way? I climbed a mother-fucking mountain.
LeAnn Locher writes about all things that cultivate life: gardening, delicious food, and outdoor adventures. She particularly loves using curse words in her writing. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.