How My Week of Walking Helped Me Learn to Love Myself Again

I’m going to start in the middle because the ending hasn’t happened yet and beginnings are all the same.

I’m fat.

I’ve gained a significant amount of weight in three years. It makes me feel bad about myself. I’m embarrassed about this because, on an intellectual level, I believe it doesn’t matter what I look like. I’m smart, funny and nice. But inside, I feel I have diminished value because I’ve gained weight. I carry the shame of it like a fist in the pit of my stomach.

I don’t want to feel this way, but I don’t know how to stop.

My boyfriend doesn’t touch me. I’m not just talking about sex. He doesn’t even sit next to me on the couch. Sometimes, he makes remarks about the attractiveness and desirability of other women. He doesn’t do it to hurt me, but it does. He’s a computer programmer, and sometimes, the power of words eludes him. He’s a wonderful person, so I’m trying to work with him on that.

More: Sorry, but Body Positivity Isn’t Making Us Fat

I want to change. I want sex and romance. I want to feel better about myself.

This means exercise.

I work from home, sitting in front of my computer all day. Sometimes, I don’t leave the house for weeks at a time. The closest I get to going outside is opening the front door for our weekly grocery delivery.

I know that if I’m going to lose weight, I need to get out of the house and move around. So one day, I decided I’m going to start walking for an hour every day for a week.

A week is very short. But I’m an overthinker. If I commit to anything longer, like a month, I’ll start to worry about the variables. I’ll be plagued by thoughts about what would happen if I got sick or missed a walk because I was under a crunch to meet a deadline.

There’s a good chance I wouldn’t take a single walk if I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t meet my ultimate goal. The fear of failure would immobilize me. I understand this about myself.

This is why I chose a week. A week is manageable. I can commit to a week. And after that week is over, I can commit to another one.

Day 1

I don’t like leaving the house without a shower, but I worry I might get sweaty, so I decide to walk first, shower second.

Once outside, I’m not sure where to go. We live in a small townhome community. I can probably walk the whole parking lot in five minutes. If I remain here, I’ll have to walk in circles. I’m likely to get bored and quit. I decide to leave.

I walk out of my community and take a right on the main road. I like the way the gravel crunches under my feet.

Day 2

When I gain weight, my face swells. It’s always round, but it becomes so much rounder that my eyes look too small. Almost like someone put them in the wrong face. I try not to think of this as I tie my shoes and head out the door.

It’s raining. I pull up my hood, but I can’t zip up because my coat doesn’t stretch across my middle anymore. I start walking.

Day 3

When I was little, my stepfather used to tell me I was ugly. I knew he was a mean person and it was wrong for an adult to say something like that to a child, but I still believed him.

The ground is wet today. I’m getting mud on my shoes, but I don’t care. With each step, I’m leaving the past further behind.

Day 4

I didn’t tell my boyfriend about my seven-day plan, but surely, he must know I’m up to something. This is the fourth day in a row I’ve gone on a walk. But he hasn’t said anything. This is typical. He hasn’t said anything about my weight gain either.

I’d like to think this is because he hasn’t noticed, but I know this isn’t the case. A couple of months ago, his sister sent me a picture of a dress she wanted me to wear for her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary trip in a size much larger than what I used to wear. That’s when I knew I wasn’t fooling anybody with my baggy sweatshirts and black pants.

I was so devastated I almost decided not to go on the trip. On today’s walk, I think about how I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

Day 5

I wish there was a way to take my walk without leaving the house. It’s cold, and I’ve got a lot of writing to do. But I keep my promise to myself and step outside. I start thinking about all the different places a person can gain weight.

More: Why Jameela Jamil’s “I Weigh” Movement Is About So Much More Than Body Positivity

I gain weight in my stomach and face. I have friends who gain weight gorgeously. When they add pounds, their stomachs remain flat and their waists remain small. I wish I gained weight like that.

I wonder if they think the same thing about me and the way I gain weight. Probably not.

I keep walking. My legs burn a little because they aren’t used to exercise, but it’s a good burn, and I like it.

Day 6

I think about my relationship with my boyfriend as soon as my feet touch the pavement.

I haven’t initiated sex for over a year now because he always turns me down. I wonder if this will change if I lose weight. If he’ll want me more. Love me more.

The thought makes me angry. I hate the fact that society judges people for the way they look. And I hate even more that I judge myself that way. It doesn’t make me feel empowered.

I have friends in various sizes. They’re all amazing. Their weight does not affect how precious they are to me or how beautiful I find them. I want to love myself like that.

Day 7

I come home from my walk, strip for my shower and stand in front of the mirror.

I’m not any thinner than I was a week ago. My stomach is still large, and my face is still round. But I’m tired of being mad at myself.

I’ve spent the last week thinking about my body — moving it in new ways instead of hoping it would go away. It’s caused a shift in how I see myself. I still want to lose weight, but I actually see things I like in the mirror. I have full breasts, soft skin and long legs.

I lock eyes with my reflection and tell myself I’m beautiful. I don’t believe it, so I say it again. Slowly this time. And I almost believe it. I tell myself I’m beautiful again, again and again.

Because I am.

I might even initiate sex tonight.

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