And so it begins/and so it ends.

It's happening again.

I've been watching what I eat (well, except for the insane amounts of creamy pasta I've had the last two nights, whoops). I've been logging miles. Serious miles. This time around I'm training for real. I get up at 6 am three times a week to get my runs in. On Saturdays my friend Lindsay and I run long. It's a little different than plugging along with the stroller. There is some intention here. I am fitting in extra workouts at night with my husband when I can. I feel stronger. I feel healthier. On Wednesday of this week I ran 7 miles on my own and it was the strongest I've felt in a long time. I powered up a hill I usually walk up. I felt great the rest of the day. It was pretty awesome.

A natural result of all the work I'm putting in is that my body is starting to change. And when that happens people notice. They say nice things. "You are looking good!" came out of my friend's mouth at church on Sunday, and that felt really good. "Skinny minnie!" was the comment from Syd's preschool teacher. My response is usually something along the lines of "I'm trying!" And I am. I'm not trying to be skinny or to lose weight. I want to be stronger. I want to be ready come marathon time and I do not want to run this one with a bum knee. I am motivated. But I won't lie and say that I'm not appreciative of how my stomach area seems to be cinching in a little. I won't deny that I'm walking around in shorts this summer, something I haven't done comfortably in a long, long time.

What worries me is that this is what usually trips off the struggle that I have had with food in my life.

It first began when I was a high school athlete and I wanted to run varsity cross country my senior year. It was hinted at that if I could drop some weight then I would maybe be faster. And that summer leading up to the start of school I ran my butt off at summer running camp. I quit drinking my beloved Mountain Dew. I ate smaller portions. I denied myself snacks even when I was hungry. I was proud of myself when I was hungry and could ignore it. It felt like a victory.

And it showed. I dropped about 20 pounds (from maybe 138 to 118? I can't remember the number anymore but it was the lowest weight I've ever clocked post-adolescence). People noticed. Suddenly boys were very interested in me. My mother complemented me on how great I looked. And I ran like the wind. I earned my Varsity letter that year. I was All-Conference. I was strong. I could bench press my body weight at least three times. I ran a 6 minute mile on the track in gym class just for fun. I proudly bought a homecoming dress in a size 4 that year.

Now I am not writing a post all about how I turned into an anorexic. Because I don't believe that was the case. But I was definitely developing an unhealthy relationship with food. Then, food was the enemy. It made me fat, which in turn made me slow (this was my effed up thought process). I carb-loaded on Friday night spaghetti nights before Saturday morning meets with my teammates. I ate the very healthy dinners my mother put on the table each night. But I loved going to the mall Abercrombie and buying a pair of jeans in a size 4. I loved being referred to as "tiny" and I loved all the attention I was getting from boys.

And I truly believed that it had more to do with denying myself brownies and Mountain Dew than it did with the fact that I was running 20-25 miles a week and lifting weights 2-3 times a week.

That's messed up.

I have been thinking a lot about body image these days (reading Holly's posts about weight loss has been so cathartic for me). Sometimes I get really tempted to go on a juice fast or drop carbs completely from my diet. Sometimes I am really, really tired but I feel like I still need to get in a second workout at night (usually lifting weights in the garage). And if I skip it I feel super guilty, even if one of my children was up at 4 o'clock that morning. My scale broke a few weeks ago and it made me so angry because I wanted to see every single pound slip off so I could document it in my mind as some sick measurement of my self-worth.

Do you see where this is going?

I do. And I'm stopping it right here and right now.

First of all, I'm not replacing the scale. I *think* I weighed about 160 pounds two weeks ago. But it doesn't really matter. I'm buying shorts in a size 10 (the size I was buying before I got pregnant with Elijah!). But that doesn't really matter either. What matters is that I fuel and protect my body. What matters is that I am kind to myself. What matters is that I'm eating food that is healthy because I want to be healthy. What matters is that I know that it's ok to eat something if I'm hungry. That I know it's ok to splurge once in a while. That I know that it's not a victory to go hungry when my body is telling me to eat.

My friend Elizabeth has been writing about body image too, and her post about changing how she talks about her appearance in her home just rocked me (please if you have not read this post yet, READ IT). It made me take a harder look at myself. Am I healthy? Yes. Am I making better choices? Heck to the yes. Do I want to be obsessed with how I look? NO. Do I want my husband to be obsessed with how he looks? NO. Do I want my children to be obsessed with how they look? NO.

(But will I enjoy looking better because I am treating myself well and working hard? You bet your sweet patootie I will.)

So, there will be no juice fasting. There will be no South Beach Diet. I am a runner. I will eat like a smart runner. I will keep at this, one step at a time. My goals will be about mile times, about marathon finishing times. My goals will be to get my butt up and out the door and do the Right Thing. My goals will be to remember to take the multivitamins I always forget to take. My goals are to not skip a meal because I'm too lazy to come up with a healthy option and I'm too chicken to just eat a damn bowl of cereal. My goals are to not beat myself up because it was more important to get some sleep than it was to sling weights around in the garage.

This is not who I am any more. It ends right now.

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It's a brave new world. Bring it.

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13 thoughts on “And so it begins/and so it ends.

  1. Lily says:

    It IS a brave new world. Though I am still very uncomfortable with my post-twins body, post-having four babies in my belly, I’m trying to focus on being healthy (not how much I way or whether I have a teenage looking body). Thanks for the encouragement, Manda!

  2. Miranda says:

    Can I just say how much I love you and how amazing I think you are? You’re an absolute inspiration, Manda.

    I’ve been making a shift myself, finally feeling at a point where I can spend energy on eating better and getting back to working out. This morning I was telling a friend I’m thinking about starting up training for a 5K again. I think this post was my sign: do it. Just start. So I’m going to. I’m going to start. And so it begins.

  3. Gesina says:

    Wow. I had almost this same conversation with a young 30’s running friend last week. There are so many of us in the same boat. What is it about being a 17 year old girl that warps our relationships with food and exercise? And then to have all I those notions and baggage follow you into your adult life? You’re not alone – thanks for the inspiration to be strong and do it the RIGHT way.

  4. Home Sweet Sarah says:

    Rock on, sister! You are an inspiration, truly.

    I am finally, FINALLY getting to a place in my life where I don’t feel the need to notate every single thing I eat and every single second I workout.

    For years, this is what I did and I was very skinny, but I was also very miserable. Totally miserable! So clearly, documenting it all, and kicking myself when I slipped up, was not doing me any favors.

    There are still areas of struggle for me. Today I should have cut my run short because I (TMI) thought I might shit in a bush on the side of the road, but instead I powered on because I “needed” to finish 3 miles. On the other side of that, I plan to fully enjoy my homemade pizza and PW jalapeno poppers for dinner, so I like to think that makes me balanced 🙂

    But seriously, my goal is to get to a point in my life where I eat what I want (healthy, good, yummy food) without much thought to it other than that it is what I want to eat because I am hungry right now. And where I workout whenever I feel like it, rather than on a specific, ordered regiment.

    (Sorry for the marathon — no pun intended! — comment here!)

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