After I blended my homemade kale and green apple juice, I decided to get some exercise. I finished my spinach salad for dinner and threw on my workout clothes for a few running/walking laps around the lake in my neighborhood. The sun is going down as I take my second lap around the urban oasis. My mind trailed off to when I first began to run just over a year ago. I remember telling a friend that I “couldn’t” (as in uncomfortable/did not like to) run, but to keep her company, I would tag along and walk behind her. Today, I am running, increasing my speed from a jog to a sprint. I notice how my stamina and stride have improved. Through controlled yet heavy breathing, I wave to neighbors and say hi to those I pass. I nod my head and flash a quick smile to the older gentlemen sitting on their porches watching the day go by. I notice that I am paying more attention to me and less attention to what others might think of me. In the past, that held me back. As a woman over six feet tall, I am used to people staring at me for one reason or another.
But when it came to exercise, I was so self-conscious that I just didn’t work out. At all. Whenever I did get the nerve to do something outside of a home video, too many thoughts ran through my head: how will I look running? The “girls” don’t stay in place like everyone else’s do. What if people hear me when I get tired and my breathing changes? What if I have to stop and catch my breath? Won’t people think I’m weak? How will I look on a treadmill doing my best at level 3 and the person next to me starts running at level 6- will I look fat and lazy?
Oh, the things we say to ourselves when we don’t like who we already are. It’s like we are defeated before we even start. Trust me; I get it. I understand how it all works. There are billboards that promote fat-shaming among children and adults. Millions are spent on infomercials and tv ads promoting weight loss as the gateway to a happier life, encouraging (especially) women to fit into a narrow standard of American beauty. Some people are very vocal about acceptable body politics, positive and negative. So it is certainly not purely from thin air that you wonder about your ability to feel acceptable while working out. The reality is, though, it’s your life. Find your “Oh yeah that’s right; I’m doing me,” Drake attitude added to a #kanyeshrug and make it clear: “No Haters Allowed!”
Whether others are judging you or not, it is up to you to take care of yourself, not them. Staying active and living a healthy lifestyle has many benefits. Likewise, inactivity has consequences. Will the people we dread encountering during a workout go to the doctor’s office with you if something is wrong? Will they donate funds on a crowd-share website to help foot your medical bills? Will they even click “like” on your status update to report that you are taking some medicine and hope to feel better soon? My point is we give away too much personal power to others. It is high time we stop swearing off exercise and value our lives.
It is important to know it doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose to take care of your body and love yourself no matter what others may think: self-love. The alternative is to be subjected to all the negativity thrown at you and find yourself embracing self-hate. You might feel that hate is a really strong word to use here. However, listen to your words. Some things go beyond merely what you want to change. It is about the perception of others and the perception of self. You don’t like something about you, so you vilify yourself or your body. You make you the bad guy. You question everything about yourself. Honey, call it what you want but that ain’t love. Let’s be clear on what else it is NOT. It is not acceptance, or healthy self-image; and it’s not motivation for you to lose weight by telling yourself how much you hate your current weight. Many of us have been dealing with this for years, so it may not just go away. But you must not let it stop you from becoming a better, happier, healthier person. I still have to confront the negative self-talk because I am still tall, plus size, and the girls still don’t always stay in place. However, I refuse to sit on the sidelines of my own life while my health takes a hit on the field.