Today’s beautiful personal essay comes to us from Sam, the healthy food genius at Insider Wellness. You can read more of her blog posts here. We hope you’ll enjoy her honest, vulnerable story about what being healthy really means, and what getting married is all about.
A couple months before my wedding, I sat across the table from my man and said, “I think I’d like to shape up a little bit before the wedding. Nothing major, you know? Just a bit of slimming.”
Full disclosure: I was just starting to crawl back into the light after a crippling bout of depression. I’d recently been to the doctor’s office, where I weighed about 4 pounds more than I usually do. And I had just tried on a bunch of ill-fitting bathing suits. I’m a genius.
He stopped what he was doing and looked at me as if he were about to cry. Then he said, “That makes me want to cry.”
With all the stress we had going on – the planning, the financial fallout of all that missed work, the crippling bout of depression – why would I put this pressure on myself? We were working so hard already. Couldn’t we have a little compassion? Couldn’t we just love ourselves as is?
But, wedding day. Seeing friends and relatives for the first time in years. Dress.
I didn’t ignore him, because he was right. He usually is. But I knew I wasn’t wrong for wanting to be my Best Self on the hugest day of my life. I just had to reconsider the how and why.
Why did I want to work out all the time and eat super clean in the weeks leading up to my wedding? Because I wanted my body to look bangin’ – duh. But even more than that, I wanted to FEEL bangin’ – smooth, strong, feminine, transcendent. THIS is the kind of why that sticks.
But how? Could I go all Jillian Michaels on myself, berating and yelling and nothing is ever good enough? Sure. God knows I’ve done it before. (And who didn’t love hanging out with me?)
But this is what Matthew was getting at – he was thrilled to the gills to be marrying me. Me, with all my perfectionism and toenail fungus. Me, with my unquenchable thirst for adventure, and staggering inability to carry a tune. My curves and my olive skin; my nuclear-grade garlic breath.
This is the fundamental conflict of all wellness programs: recognizing something that’s not working and taking the steps to change it – while loving and accepting yourself unconditionally AT THE SAME TIME. It seems oppositional; two mentalities that can’t coexist.
Every time a client blows off my advice or drowns in a pile of Milano cookies, I know this duality is somehow the cause.
I’m not going to pretend to have the Answer, but I know it has something to do with making changes because you love yourself, being brave enough to try, and loving enough to be okay when you crash and burn. I haven’t mastered this, not by a long shot. But these past two months, I came really fucking close.
I designed a gentle, six-week cleanse. I went for easily prepared meals, and put extra focus on body care, like skin brushing and cold showers. (Future program offering, check.) In a radical departure from my anti-numbers stance, I even took my measurements that first day, in a rush of excitement at my future before-and-after stats.
I had a few setbacks, including out of state travel, and getting sick for the first time in five years. But by the final week I was feeling like goddamn Gisele. And it showed – I started wearing dresses instead of yoga pants every day, and let my long hair flow instead of rocking the standard messy bun. A few people even commented that I looked more svelte. (I love that word, svelte. So rare that you get to use it in a sentence.) My energy and mood were the top of the pops.
And guess what? After six weeks of green smoothies, hardcore workouts, grain-free dinners, and detox tea, I didn’t lose a single inch.
Wind taken out of sails (adj.): That moment when Sam wrapped the tape measure around her waist, after busting her ass on a six-week cleanse, only to discover that it hadn’t even changed one millimeter. (Cue sad trombone.)
I was bummed. I was pissed! And of course, I never told anyone about the tape measure, so I was all alone with my disappointment. I went on with my day, deflated. I flirted with the Jillian Michaels reproaches – I didn’t do enough, didn’t do it right, I was pussin’ out in my workouts. But I knew that a) this wasn’t true, and b) this attitude was a kind of regression for me that wouldn’t accomplish anything good. I ricocheted between these two inner monologues all day long.
This right here, is the reason I hate using numbers in a wellness program. A number, on its own, has no good or bad properties. One-hundred-forty-six is the number of pounds that equals Sam. Whether that’s “too much” or “too little” is a contrivance of the fitness industry, the weight loss industry, the Entertainment Weekly magazine whose cover I can see from my perch at this coffee shop. How I feel in my body? That’s real. In fact, there’s nothing MORE real. How disrespectful of me, how demented, how absurd, to allow the little lines on a tape measure to invalidate my svelte-ness!
And here’s another truth: people who radiate strength, femininity, and transcendence? Are HAPPY. And people who buy into their inner Jillian Michaels, beating themselves up all day long? Are NOT happy.
I decided to forget about the stupid tape measure. I never did get back on the scale to see if I’d dropped any pounds. Fuck that noise. Instead, I chose to rock on with my bad self. I kept hitting the gym, eating my greens, sipping my tea.
On my wedding day, I didn’t feel like Gisele. I felt like me. Authentic, serene, beautiful me.
I’m Sam, a certified holistic health coach and founder of InsiderWellness.com, an online meal-planning service for families of 1 & 2. My original recipes are inspired by my busy life as an entrepreneur, and dutifully taste-tested by my man (it’s a tough job, but somehow he muddles through). We live in the mountains of Asheville, NC with our fur baby, Henry the cat. My favorite things are trail running, writing in local coffee shops, and olives.