As a Pilates instructor, my job is to help people get stronger and more connected to their bodies, so that they can be healthy, strong, confident, and competent to complete their day to day tasks and take on the world. It’s a great way to pay the bills and I am grateful every day to have a purpose and a job that I love.
The women I teach are beautiful, smart, and successful. They are all shapes and sizes, they are stay at home moms who raise children, they are college girls who are pursuing a career, they are career women who have important jobs or own businesses. But too often, the dialogue is the same: I feel fat. I am fat. My thighs are huge. How do I get rid of this muffin top, jiggly thighs, sagging skin, cankles, cellulite on the back of my legs?
This is not a judgement and I, of all people, am no stranger to self loathing. I struggled with a negative body image since childhood. I can remember being in ballet class in the second grade and having a skinny 6-year-old girl named Bonnie (it was so traumatic I still remember her name) point to my belly and declare “You’re fat.”
I gasped, shocked by this assessment. “No, I’m not,” I said, but the seed was planted and from that day on I was on a mission. I was not going to be fat. I was going to be skinny if it killed me, and it almost did.
Growing up, I was a talented dancer, straight-A student and pretty girl, but I still spent my young years consumed with being thin. I visited the scale first thing in the morning and last thing before I went to bed. I punished myself for not being thin enough and slowly eliminated food from my diet. I started by counting calories, eliminating meat, bread, oil, cheese. By the time I was 19, I ate almost nothing but fruit, cereal, lollipops and rainbow gumballs. I was 90 lbs at 5’5″. I smoked cigarettes and abused laxatives and measured lettuce but I had made my goal. Hooray. I was skinny. Waify. Size Zero. People would describe me as “that really skinny girl.” I had made it. Thin I was, and happy and confident I was not.
As with any addiction, anorexia becomes harder and harder to control and eventually I had to go to a hospital and relearn to eat. Or die. I chose the path to recovery and agreed to follow a nutritionist’s plan and get healthier.
I was lucky enough to find pilates in my early 20s. The exercises were so difficult at first because I had lost so much strength from my lack of nutrition. Pilates was about lengthening and toning and stretching and getting strong, but also becoming more connected to my body. I liked the new feeling. Little by little the waify body I desired was no longer as interesting.
Fast forward 10 years. A lot has happened. My body has changed. I’ve put on 30 lbs since my anorexic days. I got married to a man who does not care if I am skinny. I have been pregnant and given birth to twins and had a C-section. I’ve become a Pilates instructor and opened my own business. There is more to life.
The self-loathing is getting old. I am going to try very hard to accept what I have. I was blessed with long thin legs and I have a bit of a harder time with my mid secton — especially after having twins. I feel good when I eat clean and healthy. I love exercise and feel good when I work hard in my workouts. I don’t feel too good when I don’t do those things but I have learned to forgive myself when I eat a cookie or skip a workout.