Megan Orr // Opinions Editor
Illustration by Rachel Wong
This week, let’s get real personal. I wore shorts to the gym – I know, wild. However, this was about more than the small amount of fabric itself, as my articles have so often been, this was about setting a goal for myself and doing it.
Here’s the real bit: I have been struggling with my body for the last few years. As a teenager, I never even thought about my weight because I was always tall and naturally thin. When I moved out on my own as a 19-year-old, I was suddenly in charge of making sure I ate well and exercised and honestly, I was not much of a leader for myself.
Like a kid left home alone for a night, I was eating whatever I wanted because I thought I could. Turns out, I couldn’t, and as my mid-twenties began to approach and my metabolism slowed, my clothes got tighter and my self-esteem lowered. I wouldn’t say that I was ever extremely confident, as that’s something hard to come by for any adolescent, but I also never worried about my body. At least, not until a few years ago.
I remember looking at myself in the mirror, examining all the fleshy bits of my body that I didn’t recognize – I had stretch marks and cellulite and folds that hadn’t been there before. In 2017, I decided to stop complaining and actually do something about it (Newsflash: I obviously didn’t stop complaining). Over the summer of 2017 I lost almost 25 pounds and was feeling super accomplished, so much so that I rewarded myself but eating whatever I wanted again and not exercising. By this new year, 2019, I had gained back all the weight plus an extra 20 or so pounds.
Again, I stood in the mirror not liking what I saw. For me, it wasn’t even the physical aspect of it that was the biggest issue. I am an advocate for people being happy at whatever size they are, so what I was disappointed in was that I had so completely stopped prioritizing my physical health to the point that it was impacting my emotional well-being as well. I knew that it required not just a shift in my eating and exercise habits, but also in the way that I thought.
So, I decided to become a person who sets goals. I focused on non-scale related things, because I wanted this to be more about making overall better choices than just losing weight. That is fucking hard though, because it’s about actually shifting your entire mindset from ‘I need to lose weight/be thinner’ to ‘I need to be a healthier better version of myself’. That thinking goes so against the idea of success having to be something measurable, because unlike the numbers on a scale, ‘being healthier’ isn’t always quantifiable.
You’ve already read about some of the goals I set for myself. I went to a barre fitness class, which was a part of me trying to find physical activities in a fun environment that I actually would enjoy. I completed a Whole30 days of clean eating, without alcohol, even though I thought it would be impossible for me. Then, last week, I wore shorts to the gym.
First of all, I was uncomfortable before we even left the house, fidgeting with the waistband of my blue men’s Adidas shorts. ‘Should I wear them higher or lower?’ If I wore them higher they would cover my muffin top, but then show more of my thighs. ‘Should I have shaved above my knee?’ I hadn’t done that since the summer. It also wasn’t warm outside and before even leaving, my knees had started to turn purple, which happens all the time because of my poor circulation, but people never see because I don’t wear shorts.
When I got to the gym I was anxiously looking around to see if anyone was staring at me. Turns out, no one gave a shit about my legs. Surprise, surprise, but whatever issues I was having with my tree trunks before leaving the house were my issues, not anyone else’s. This goal was set out of my desire to improve my self-confidence. I told myself that by March I wanted to feel confident enough about the changes I was making for my health to wear shorts to the gym. Even though I wasn’t sure if I was confident enough, I did it anyways. Although it was just wearing shorts and hardly an achievement, it did feel like a big moment where I realized that my insecurities are entirely mine and that means I am the only one who can or cannot give them power. That has been my biggest takeaway from this last challenging year or so of growth – that it really is all about how you frame things for yourself.