A Month of My Body, Again

by thethreepennyguignol

Sometime in the distant past, I was flicking through a magazine in a doctor’s office. A little pull-quote from an article caught my eye: did you know, it asked cheerfully, that most people are in their physical prime at the age of twenty-seven?

God knows why, but this particular little snippet decided to rise to the top of my algae-infested brain around the time that I turned twenty-seven. There seemed little harm in throwing myself into making that my reality, even if I had literally no proof it was anyone else’s. With my nonsense descent into eating disorders over the course of my early-mid twenties my body hasn’t been doing totally fabulously, and I decided I was going to change that.

Which, of course, was the point the universe decided to hit me with a mega-bout of depression, a hospital stay, Covid, just for the sheer hell of it. But, once I was feeling well enough to work out and focus on my physical health again, I’ve actually…done pretty well with it? I’ve cut five minutes from my 5km running time, I’ve started lifting weights again, I’ve been focusing on getting more nutrient-dense foods in my diet, while sidestepping the old “wellness” culture bullshit that had done such damage to me before.

And I am very proud of that. I am! I worked hard for this, and there’s something supremely satisfying about working towards a goal and actually managing to hit the marks you’ve set for yourself along the way. I’m not sure if I’m in the greatest physical shape of my life, but I’m doing pretty well, and I will take it, after years of feeling like a small pile of dung in an MCR t-shirt.

But in the process of this, I realised, I’ve been seeking another goal, too – a goal I didn’t even really acknowledge to myself. Somewhere, at the back of my mind, I associated my fittest body, the one that would serve me the best, as the one closest to the ideal I still hold so highly in my head – thin, toned, lacking those deposits of fat and muscle that make me stick out in the wrong places. Even though I know – and I knew – that fitness didn’t necessarily equal thinness, I found myself motivated by the thought of a pristine outside (by most of the standards of the culture I’m in) reflecting a pristine inside.

And truthfully, I didn’t get it. The strongest version of me, I have discovered, the one with energy to do the things I enjoy and achieve the fitness goals I want to pursue, isn’t one with cut abs or skinny legs or thighs that don’t touch. I wanted fitness and health, but I also wanted the body I’d been told reflected it, and I don’t have it. It’s the veiled promise of wellness culture, that wellness comes with hotness in the most traditional and popular sense, but that’s just not true for a lot of people, me included. I truly don’t believe the healthiest version of my body and my mind is the one contained in the smallest package, even if some part of me wants it to be.

So, that’s where I’m at with my body right now. Fitter? Yes. Healthier? Yes. More conventionally attractive? No. Has focusing on fitness and health changed your relationship with your body? And if you’re focusing on fitness, what goals are you chasing down (figuratively or otherwise) right now? Let me know in the comments!