I find that I am still very much in that mindset, even though my days of competitive soccer are long gone. When my foot started hurting a few weeks ago, I continued exercising. I grimaced and winced as I did so, but I continued to run. It wasn’t until my foot pain got so severe that even swimming hurt that I really bothered to pay attention to it and acknowledge the pain. Even now, I realize that I am in denial about my pain. I know that I am not training for anything, and that I risk longterm and more serious damage to my body if I don’t take some time off and heal now. But it is unbelievably hard for me to give up my workouts, even as the pain persists. Part of me still believes that, like when I was playing soccer in college, taking days off now will affect my fitness in the future. My challenge now is convincing myself that taking rest days now WILL affect my future…in a positive way. Allowing my body to heal now will give me the opportunity to be active and healthy later on. On the flip side, if I don’t give myself the time to heal, I risk having a longterm injury that may affect my ability to exercise at some point down the road. I know this, but it is very hard for me to truly accept it.
Another reason why rest is so difficult for me is because I am genuinely afraid of what will happen to my body if I don’t exercise for one day or a few days or even a few weeks. This is really hard for me to admit because I am working to be kind, loving, and compassionate to myself. However, I would feel dishonest if I didn’t articulate this fear. From 2007-2009, my body was a “work in progress” as I lost weight and changed my eating and exercise habits. In the last two years, I have found my happy, healthy weight, and I am no longer trying to lose weight. I am always working to be more fit and active, but my weight is at the low end of my healthy range for my height and I am not interested in losing any more. For me, my happy and healthy weight is one that I feel I can easily sustain with my healthy eating habits and a level of activity that is comfortable and challenging. Even though I am not always in love with the body I see in the mirror, I know in my heart that I am at a good place with my weight right now.
It is precisely this contentment that makes me feel afraid and nervous about taking time off from exercise. I worked very hard to get to this place with my body–and I continue to work hard to maintain my 50+-pound weight loss–and I am scared that all of my efforts will fly out the window if I don’t exercise daily. I don’t honestly believe that I will wake up tomorrow morning and weigh 180 pounds again, but in my worst moments I do feel slight tinges of fear that I will gain one pound…and then another…and then another until I won’t be able to recognize the person I’ve become.
At those moments–and at this time right now when I know more than ever that I just need to rest–it helps me to think about my longterm vision and goals for myself. I want to be an active, happy, healthy person for the rest of my life, not just the rest of this year. I want to be able to continue to run, bike, swim, hike, walk, kayak, dance, and discover new and exciting ways of exercising my body and mind until I am old. I want my body to be strong and capable of taking me wherever I want to go and doing whatever I want it to do. I do not want my weight to be my burden for the rest of my life. I do not want to strive for perfection or beauty to such an extent that I lose sight of the things that are more important in my life. I do not want to look back on my 20s and feel like I spent these precious years agonizing and worrying rather than enjoying myself, the people I love, and the life I’m living to the fullest.
Instead, I want to feel like I learned to listen to my body and treat it well. I want to continue to be conscious and aware of my eating and exercise habits, but I do not want them to define me. I want to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to my body and myself. I want to take time to let myself heal so that I can ultimately be stronger, happier, and healthier.
More than anything, I want to be patient. I never expected that I would still be dealing with some of the emotional and psychological issues that emerged before, during, and after I lost weight, but I am…and that’s okay! Even though my body may no longer be a “work in progress,” I know that I still have a lot of work to do in cultivating my positive, happy, healthy relationship with myself and with food and exercise. I realize now more than ever that my journey towards health didn’t end the day that I reached my “happy weight”; rather, it will carry on for the rest of my life. I hope that I will continue to explore new foods and recipes, new forms of exercise, and new ways of keeping my body and mind healthy. And as contradictory and backwards as it may feel to me sometimes, I know that rest is an essential part of this journey, and one that I need to embrace if I want to sustain myself.
Of course, that is much easier said than done, but I’m working on it. For the moment, I am committed to listening to my body and honoring my pain right now. That means that until my foot feels better, I am refraining from doing anything that hurts. I am staying active, but I am also trying to adjust to the fact that I must redefine what this means to me. For now, it means lifting weights, swimming without kicking, and staying away from running and biking. Hopefully, this period of active rest will allow my foot to heal on its own. In the meantime, I am doing my best to take advantage of this opportunity to reflect on the work that I still need to do on my ongoing journey towards health. It is not easy by any means, but I am committed to becoming the happiest, healthiest me possible.
Thank you for reading and for being part of this challenging, exciting process with me!