my struggle with body image & exercise

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I originally thought this post was just going to be about working out in the winter, but the more I thought about what I was writing, the more I realized I needed to talk about something else first: body image.
To be completely transparent: my motivation for working out at all isn’t always what it should be.
Sometimes I work out because I see a friend who does and how fit they are and I get jealous.
Sometimes it’s because I look at my body and don’t like what I see.
Other times it’s because I ate a lot that day or have been drinking too much alcohol
The least often it’s because I know it’s healthy for me…
Which sucks because that’s usually the answer I give if anyone ever asks why.

In short – my answer is typically a lie.

I don’t normally talk about this part though, because the response usually sounds something like: but you’re so skinny! you don’t have to worry about that.
This typically makes me embarrassed that I struggle, to the point that I don’t say anything to anything about anyone.I’ve always been active, playing sports since I could walk. When I got to college, I stopped playing sports and started eating ice cream every day. I wasn’t motivated to exercise until I started to see my body changing. Since then, I’ve tried so many things, none of them have stuck:
  • P90X 1, 2, & 3
  • Gym membership/weightlifting
  • Blogilates
  • Yoga
  • With Nick & by myself
  • Zumba
  • Running
  • any Beach Body program imaginable

I’ve also thought about taking kickboxing or cardio weightlifting classes. I just haven’t figured out anything that I like enough to stick. I’m pretty certain this is because it’s not competition. There’s no team, no opponent, just me. As Jennifer Lawrence says: I’m incredibly competitive. It’s like a disease.

Have you heard that saying: when you work out, you should think about it as a competition against yourself? That never worked for me.

After 6 years of this, I’m still what I like to call skinny fat. & I’m still trying to figure out what works for me. I think I’m getting closer, though.

Which brings me to the planned part of this post…

One of the biggest reasons I hate winter (there are many) is that it is nearly impossible for me to get out of the freaking bed.

I hate being cold. I love being wrapped up in 20 blankets under the covers or on the couch. I love a warm fire and a hot cup of coffee or hot cocoa. I do not like being in the snow.

You get the picture.

So how would a person like me decide to workout in the winter? The struggle is real.

I barely ever shave my legs in the winter, much less want those things near cold air.

Trying to maintain consistency in working out is difficult, regardless of the season.
Winter is the hardest, though.

It’s cold, you’ve been eating sweets and having as much alcohol as you want on winter break with your friends and family. Then the New Year comes and you try to drastically change that – but nope. Isn’t gonna happen.

Drastic change is difficult to maintain and even harder to not completely relapse from.
I’ve learned I need to take small steps to make drastic changes in my life.

I also need to develop patience to allow time to make these changes at my own pace. My tendency is to rush things. Don’t we all want the reward faster? I want the great body, but I don’t want to wait 6 months or a year for it. I want it to happen in 6 weeks or less and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. But it’s not sustainable for me. Maybe you have the discipline to make this happen in 6 weeks. If you do, I envy you. You do you.

But if you’re like me and giving up certain foods/ingredients in diets like the Whole 30 sounds like prison, patience is imperative.

When I made my goals for 2018, I thought a lot about exercise. Don’t we all? It’s the classic cliche.

I genuinely do want my body to look better and feel better in this new year. I want to make myself workout every single day for at least 30-45 minutes and eat just chicken and vegetables for a few weeks so I can trim down.

Realistically? I’ll stick to that for about a week and then I’ll have a really intense day at work, be too tired to lift my arms and I’ll skip a workout. Then I’ll skip another one. And another. and I’ll buy ice cream. This is my cycle. And then after 5 days of missed workouts, I’ll be depressed. Why can’t I stick to anything? Why do I not have enough willpower to work hard every day like these women on Instagram?

Here is the answer: 

& neither are you.

I work full time, 8-5 and I work my ASS off because I love my job. Sometimes I don’t leave the office during the day because it’s winter and it’s FREEZING.

I love working hard and then falling onto the couch and resting for the night. That might be my favorite kind of day.

But I also want to feel confident about my body and work hard for a toned, healthy body I can be proud of in the summer. Who doesn’t want that?

So how do we compromise these two things? How do you still work your ass off at a job you love and also work hard at your health and appearance?

Well, first of all, we all need to remember that neither one of these things define us.God does that. That’s the most important thing. I am fully loved and fully known by God. That should be the foundation of my entire life.

Second is understanding that some weeks will be different than others. Some days will be different than others.  That’s okay.

This is why I don’t pin myself to certain days of the week anymore.
I don’t expect that every week I’ll want to workout on those days. I used to say “Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ll workout.”
Or even “I need to workout 6 days a week, just have Sunday off”. Woof.
None of these schedules ever stuck because I’d write down Monday: arms, Wednesday: legs, Friday: cardio (or something similar) and one Monday I’d come home and be EXHAUSTED and skip my workout.
Then I’d get discouraged.
Can I really do this? Can I stick to this? I’ll have to do this workout tomorrow, and I hate that I couldn’t stick to my schedule.

The problem with this schedule is it’s too strict. It’s too set in stone with no flexibility, no room for change.

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The solution: 3 days a week, I workout.
It doesn’t matter which 3 days for now, but I have to do 3.
If I’m not feeling it on Monday, I’ll do it Tuesday. Or Wednesday.
I have the workouts set out, but they don’t have to be on specific days.
And maybe I’ll do more weight on Wednesday because I feel great, and the next time I do a little less because I’m tired.

3 days a week isn’t going to get me results in a month or two. It might take longer, and I know that. But in the meantime, I’m not discouraged and depressed because I skipped a Monday. I’m free to do the workouts whenever I want.

These 3 days a week I do home workouts – BBG to be specific. This is another thing I’m trying that’s been working for me thus far. I’m also planning on starting up yoga again. I miss it a lot, actually.

Pro tip for working out at home: play Netflix in the background so you don’t get bored. Especially if you’re not doing workout videos. It keeps my brain occupied and helps the time pass faster.

Here’s the next struggle: I can’t talk about working out without mentioning food.
The two go hand in hand – as I’m sure you know. You can’t workout and then eat whatever you want and expect drastic change.
What you can do is make wise choices.

Nick & I buy healthy food like organic chicken, tons of veggies and fruits, and we always have frozen berries and protein powder for smoothies. But we still buy snacks like popcorn, chips & salsa, dark chocolate, etc. We just buy the kind with organic olive oil or less calories per serving.

We’ve both tried cleanses that cut out certain types of food for a short period of time, but those don’t stick for us.  Once the time is up, we crave the sugar, so we eat a lot of it. That’s not healthy, and it kinda negates the entire purpose of the cleanse. So we don’t do those anymore.

Instead, we buy healthier snacks and (try to) eat them in moderation. I’m terrible at moderation because I sit on the couch with a bag of popcorn and watch Netflix and then half the bag is gone. I’m working on it.

And you know what? I’ve had to learn to be okay with that. It’s a process!

We also…

  •  eat gluten free pasta because it’s better for our guts.
  •  don’t cook a carb to eat with dinner every night. Sometimes it’s just chicken and asparagus or steak and green beans.
  • don’t have beer or wine in the house very often unless we’re having people over.
  • don’t eat dairy except cheese because CHEESE IS SO GOOD.
  • try to avoid foods high in sugar (like over 30 g per serving).
We do all these things, but in general, we listen to our bodies.

If we’re hungry, we eat, but we do our best to eat what our body needs, not just what’s most convenient.

Even more important is we give ourselves grace.
Life isn’t supposed to be about counting calories and depriving yourself. It should be about taking care of the body God gave you and enjoying the life He made for you.
We should not just ENDURE the life we’ve been given, but ENJOY it.

For now, I don’t have to workout on a day I feel exhausted, because as long as I do 3 a week, I’m hitting my goals. I won’t always feel great about my body, but I can’t just sit around and complain and not do anything about it. That’s a rule in our house. If you’re not willing to make a change, you don’t complain.

I’m not a pro at this. I’m not a health expert, nor did I study nutrition at all. I am an expert on my own body: what works for it, what doesn’t, and what makes me feel strong. I also know what’s good for my mind: I’ve unfollowed accounts on Instagram that make me feel insecure or inferior. & I remind myself of these truths:

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made...” Psalm 139:14
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

“For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10


10 thoughts on “my struggle with body image & exercise

  1. I really respect this post.

    Written from the heart with honesty and humility.

    I love the state of consciousness in your words.

    It’s not easy to convey and capture some of those feelings.

    I love the vibrancy…and the passion within this post.

    I really respect it

    As a soft tissue specialist…movement analyst and elite performance coach…who runs his own clinic…fixing “broken people,” and working with professional athletes…I think it’s amazing how you have written this.

    You are an inspiration to both women and men.

    Never forget that 99% of people wouldn’t put their hearts and soul on the line…for us all to read.

    That is a special trait.

    I wish you nothing but prosperity and success

    Have an amazing day

    Mr Cleaver

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erin, your writing always inspires us! We actually have been talking a lot the last two days about, how we need to stop falling in the trap of comparing ourselves to others, and just be “us”. Your Instagram post and your blog post have solidified our belief that our journey will look different than others, and that is okay! We want to inspirire and lift people up! Be proud of who you are! Because you are an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

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