“You’re such a piece of sh-t. I can’t believe you missed the gym again! Ugh, you disgust me. You’re so worthless…”
Such was my mental state in late spring 2015. These self-flagellating thoughts about my workouts had begun as encouragement: “Kait, you gotta go to the gym if you want to heal from this injury!” Over a few months’ time, they transformed into full-on mean girl. I lived with them, feeling endlessly guilty. Until I decided enough was enough. And like the stubborn Aries-cusp-Taurus I am, I stopped working out all together.
I knew that if I didn’t manage the self-hatred, I would spiral back into the depths of my eating disorder. So I gave up the gym for an entire summer. I decided to not change my eating habits. Instead, I’d work on loving my body. I only moved her in ways that felt joyful instead of punishing. I spent lots of time naked, often in front of the mirror noticing how she changed. I self-pleasured. I took meandering walks through my beloved city. I asked my body what she needed and practiced listening.
Yes, I gained weight. Body parts that had never before come in contact were touching. And I felt happier and more in love with my body and my life than ever.
At the end of summer, a friend invited me to her friend’s brand new dance class. The body-positive approach appealed to me. It was the movement practice I had been waiting for, and the perfect first step back into the wild world of working out precisely because it wasn’t a workout. Instead it was a joyful celebration of the body, a chance to connect and breathe, and meditate through dance, my favorite form of movement.
I left that first class in tears. For the first time in several years, I had moments without pain. I felt completely safe and at home in my body. I also knew that some things needed to change. First: re-instituting daily living room dance parties. Second, I needed a personal trainer to guide the next steps of my healing journey. Not just any trainer, but one who was familiar with my injuries and who would be sensitive to my murky history with working out. I found her — a guest at one of my sex ed workshops! — and the next phase of joyfully moving my body began.
Since then I’ve continued to both attend Embody and work with my trainer. The discoveries I made during those months were be key in guiding me through the tougher times that followed, like getting diagnosed with two chronic illnesses in 7 months. I’ve found gratitude for my inner mean girl who pushed me to stop working out and start listening to and honoring what my beautiful body truly needs.
These days, I move my body several times a week. I still host almost daily living room dance parties. I love restorative and backcare yoga. I go to physical therapy. One of my favorite friend dates – IRL or via phone – is the “talk and wander.” And those old thoughts? They still pop up from time to time. I don’t expect them to ever fully go away. But now I know they’re false – and I ask my body what she really needs and do my very best to honor it.
A version of this story was published January 2017.
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