How November Project and Weight Lifting Changed My Life

Several years ago, I discovered November Project. Anyone who was Facebook friends with me at the time could tell you that I fell hard for the group. It was exactly what I was looking for. Internally, I was uncomfortable with the shape of my body, with my level of activity-despite biking to work every morning for 4-5 miles. I wasn’t happy with my job  and had a burgeoning eating disorder that exacerbated discomfort with my body. I turned to this group as a way to change the way my body looked.

I didn’t exactly get that out of the group. Instead, what I got was a community that turned the focus on fitness instead of weight loss. I was reminded that my body was a tool for me to use. The idea is to challenge yourself, not to feel defeated by the 3:03 marathoners who also participate. It’s about the community and personal fitness growth. So instead of getting just a changing body to make my body look better, I suddenly became more invested in how my body could perform, like I had when I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I ran two miles. Three. And then eight on one of the coldest nights of the year for a ninja race. ( Sitting half frozen on the redline with other finishers, it occurred to me that if I could run 8 miles, I could run a half marathon and then I had a goal. It was once I completed the half marathon that I started looking for a new challenge and I discovered weightlifting.

Weight lifting changed my life. Suddenly, exercise was definitively not about my weight or how skinny I could get, but about how many weights I could lift up and put down. I suddenly started seeing definition in my arms and my quads. I was able to distract my little skinny-focused voice with the new muscles and capabilities. It filled the little need in me to be in control, to be powerful instead of feeling powerless in the face of weight gain, confident in my strength instead of feeling like the only solution was to run for miles and miles just to be able to eat food.

My therapist and I both agree that weight lifting was a turning point in recovery for me, giving me another outlet to feel in control in my life and less a slave to the fickleness of trying to be smaller, to be more socially acceptable. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or eating disorders, I hope that you have found effective tools for your recovery. If not, I hope that you can.

You Are Enough

You are enough. If you know me in person, there is a chance you’ve noticed that I have had that phrase tattooed into my forearm. I got my first small tattoo a year or so after my thru-hike. Everyone thinks it’s an arrow, but it’s actually the symbol of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a small reminder to myself of just how much I’ve accomplished in my life. I look at it and see that if I can hike 2200 miles, I can certainly make it through the day, that I can succeed at tasks that might seem insurmountable at first.

But getting the small AT symbol on my wrist was like the start of a drug addiction that I have to resist at every turn. Tattoos are beautiful, a way for me to choose how to display my appearance in ways that I can control. Fortunately for my budget and savings account, I’ve managed to mostly resist. After a few years of therapy, however, I wanted to celebrate what felt like (and was) incredible progress in managing my sense of self worth, Eating Disorder (ED) recovery. After playing around with phrases, I stuck with “You Are Enough.” When I look at it, I’m reminded that I don’t need to play into the comparison of internal self to external other. (And in case you haven’t intuited what that means, it means comparing how I see myself to how others present their best selves and feeling as if I come up severely short)

I’ve been able to use it as an example in conversations with friends who are down on themselves, been reminded of it in downward dog in a yoga class and remembered it when running my fingers down my arms. Once, I was reminded of its existence when I pulled up on my bike next to a guy on his bike and he noticed it. I needed the reminder then. Oftentimes, I remember its existence at the exact right time. They are reminders and boosters for myself, and a motto that I use to remind others of their own worth. I find it amazing just how many friends and acquaintance admit to feeling inferior or have low self-worth. When I remind them that they are great as they are, that they don’t need to be different or better, the looks of relief and pleasure on their faces shows me how much people are stuck in a spiral of low self-worth, self-criticism, and self-recriminations.

The simple phrase of telling people that they don’t need to be more, that they can ignore the messaging that we are always not enough, that this product, that service will make you better, that we have to rely on outside sources for our sense of worth and being.

None of those messages are true. You (and I) are enough. As we are, right now. Remember thatIMG_20150314_170729.jpg