If you’re like me, then you’ve spent years caught in the cycle of dieting, over-exercising, and maybe even disordered eating. I developed an eating disorder in college, and after losing 60+ pounds through near-starvation and excessive exercise, it took me years to regain a normal(ish) relationship with my body.
In fact, it wasn’t until January 2017—seven months before my wedding—that I realized I was tired of the yo-yo dieting cycle. I’d tried every type of diet or exercise with varying degrees of success, and I was exhausted. I didn’t want to hate myself anymore. Soon, I found a personal trainer in Nashville who knew what it was like to overcome an eating disorder, and I started working out with her twice a week. Our plan was to change my body through loving it. And it totally worked.
We never stepped on a scale or took measurements. Instead of grueling sessions five times a week, I saw her twice a week for 30 minutes. She introduced me to weight lifting, and I realized that cardio had lied to me my entire life. I didn’t need to spend hours on a treadmill to see results, and I loved feeling so strong. My anxiety improved, and I saw changes in my body that reflected health and power.
But as my wedding approached, my addictive personality took control.
I joined another gym only a few miles from my trainer’s and started tacking on hour-long lifting sessions. What started as two easy sessions per week with one trainer turned into five or six with multiple trainers. My newfound love quickly turned into an obsession.
I’m not going to lie to you. I really love lifting weights. I love how strong and capable it makes me feel, and I love how it’s changed so many aspects of my life. There’s nothing inherently wrong with falling in love with weightlifting. After all, countless people hit the gym six times a week with no problem—but I knew my history. I knew there was a line between passion and obsession, and day by day, I could feel myself inching closer to crossing it.
When I got married in August 2017, I was in amazing shape. Not only did I have the fairytale wedding of my dreams, but I could deadlift over 200 pounds. Most importantly, I was happy. At least, I thought I was happy.
My husband and I decided to schedule our honeymoon for a few months after the wedding. He was busy with his job, and we thought it would be best to wait until things settled down to take our week-long vacation. Married life treated me incredibly well, but I started to worry about our upcoming honeymoon. A seven-day Caribbean cruise meant seven days of sunshine and swimsuits, aka seven days of my own personal hell.
I looked good in my wedding dress, sure, but a bikini? My new-found body confidence screamed, “Hell no.”
I realized that I had a choice. Sure, I could spend the next few months obsessively hitting the gym and counting calories, only to question my appearance every single second of my honeymoon. I remembered what it was like to get to my lowest weight in college, only to still hate my body. Truthfully, I was terrified that my low self-confidence would ruin my honeymoon.
I could also make the choice to say fuck it.
Instead of dedicating countless hours (and brain power) to a goal that may or may not actually make me happy with my body, I realized that I could spend that time trying to love myself instead. I wanted to learn how to not give a shit what I looked like in a bathing suit, and I wanted to have fun.
So, I did it. I intentionally stopped dieting before my honeymoon.
It went against every article I’d ever read about getting in shape before beach vacations. We’re constantly inundated by photos of women (and men) with perfect bodies living perfect lives on perfect beaches, but I knew it wouldn’t make me happy. And ending my diet was the best choice I could’ve made. Instead of spending my honeymoon stressing about how I looked in a bikini, I spent that time focusing on how happy I was with my husband. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any moments of doubt, but I refused to let them steal my joy.
To me, body positivity isn’t a destination, it’s a choice.
It’s something I have to choose—day in and day out—before, during, and after my honeymoon. However, the more I did it, the easier it became. I stepped away from the scale for the first time in my life, and I focused on how I felt instead. I didn’t stop exercising completely, and I did go to the gym once while I was on my honeymoon. I fought to incorporate balance in all things—maintaining a healthy diet, staying active, and eating the damn cupcake because it’s my honeymoon and I freaking can.
But I realized that I could spend hours in the gym, I could count calories, I could obsess over the way I looked in the mirror, and I could beat myself up every time I stepped on the scale—or I could learn to love myself instead.
I’m not gonna lie, it’s really hard. I haven’t perfected it, and I don’t think I ever will. I still love working out because of how it makes me feel, and I try my best to eat a healthy diet. But a friend once asked me what life would be like if we took all of the hours we spend hating our bodies and put them toward something productive. What would the world be like? What would our lives be like?
I don’t know about you, but I want to find out.