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How Lifting Helped Me to Accept My Body

I can’t think of a time where I have truly loved my body. I spent the majority of my teenage years hating my body — scrutinizing it, trying to change it, and arranging myself so that certain parts of me, namely my stomach, looked smaller.

When I was 17, I expressed my desire to get into better shape and potentially lose some weight to my then boyfriend. He suggested that I needed to stop eating lunch, and from then, he would scold me if I mentioned that I had eaten. When he broke up with me a while later, I was destroyed. My anxiety got worse and the stress of having to see him at school every day was too much for me. Somewhere in there, I convinced myself that I needed to stop eating to lose weight. “I’ll just get really hot and then he’ll be dying to be with me again,” I thought, convincing myself that my appearance, my “fatness,” was what caused him to break up with me, not the fact that he was just a horrible person.

While we (thankfully) never got back together and I got over the break up, the eating habits remained with me. I was hooked. In the course of four months, I lost about 20 pounds, going from a normal, healthy weight, to bordering on unhealthy. I began to exercise more, to the point where I sometimes felt like I was going to faint, and I limited my eating. I got a food tracking app and used it faithfully, tracking everything that went into my body. Every morning I would weigh myself and would get upset with myself if my weight was higher than the day before. I calculated my BMI, desperately striving towards one that meant I was underweight.   Before I went to a restaurant, I would look up the menu’s nutritional information to see what I “could” have. My friends at school began to notice when I began giving away half of my lunch every day. Multiple times, my friend Yasmine physically fed me to make sure that I ate enough. My mom would ask me “Why aren’t you eating? Do you have an eating disorder?” I would always say the same thing “No, no I’m fine. I’m just not hungry.” I’m not sure what the honest answer to that question would have been. I hesitate to label what I was experiencing as an eating disorder because I never really felt like it fit into the stereotypical definition, but it was definitely not healthy.

As I neared the end of high school, things began to get better. I felt less pressure to be skinny and allowed myself to eat a bit more. University brought with it different kinds of stress, combined with being away from home and eating residence food and my own cooking.

This summer, after gaining a bit of weight, I was tired of feeling bad about my body. I felt lethargic and unhealthy, and decided to begin working with a trainer. Together, we discovered that I love heavy lifting.  In my workouts before, I had mostly stuck to cardio with some light dumbbell weightlifting mixed in. With Kristy, the majority of what I do is bar focused, with the main goal of increasing my strength. She’s also encouraged me with my eating, regularly asking what I’ve had to eat that day and offering suggestions. Kristy has helped me to learn that lifting isn’t just for boys, and healthy weight loss is more about changing what you eat rather than how much you eat.

Lifting has helped me to become more comfortable with my body and love it for what it is and what it can do. I no longer strive to be stick thin, instead I’m working towards gaining strength and muscle so I can meet my next goal. While the old thoughts do remain, lifting has helped me to quiet the voice in my head that tells me I’m not allowed to eat.

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Alex Hawkins

Western '21

Alex is doing a master's degree in library and information science. She graduated with a BA in psychology and criminology in 2019. She previously served as co-Campus Correspondent and President of Her Campus Western. Follow her on insta @alexhawkins65.
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