Even as a high-level athlete for ten-plus years, I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I believed that I was overweight, when in reality, I was the perfect size. I used to believe that once the scale displayed a certain number, I would be happy. Boy, was I wrong.
I remember I started desiring perfection during sophomore year of high school. I would eat salads for two meals each day, get frustrated with anything less than an A in school, and pressure myself to improve in swimming to the point of panic attacks.
It’s silly now, looking back. It’s all just numbers. Who cares? Yes, I would like to feel my best and most confident, especially in the summertime. I wanted to get good grades and swim fast so that I could go to a great college. But by the same token, it’s not healthy for us to spread ourselves too thin trying to chase perfection.
That pressure resulted in binge eating disorder, average grades, and a plateau in swimming. It took about two years to learn to keep a consistent weight, four years to achieve my first 4.0, and five years to improve my times again.
Right now, I am in a time of transition. I have been consciously working to improve myself all summer, and I’m still not exactly where I want to be. Between being extremely depressed at school for a few months and not being allowed to work out because of my injury, I gained a ton of weight and am truly out of shape for the first time in my life. I am mentally stronger than ever, but I have been so busy trying to work, take care of my injured shoulder, see friends, and get enough rest, I have struggled to motivate myself to work out.
When I grab my bikini and head to the beach, do I feel great? Not really. But, that’s okay. Because on a daily basis, I am able to recognize that I feel better and stronger than ever. I have overcome so many things, mentally, that I never thought could defeat, and I think it’s important to recognize that.
You’re not going to be at a place in your life where every single thing is going right. I’ve learned that there are some things that I have to sacrifice in order to find my happiness. I make an effort to go for a walk on my lunch break and do an ab workout every now and then, but it hasn’t been my main priority. At this point, I probably won’t make it to my goal weight anytime soon because sometimes, I’m going to reward myself by eating chocolate at the end of a long, hard day. I’m not going to hold myself back from going out to dinner with friends because I want to avoid eating too many calories.
It’s healthy to spend time with the people you love and enjoy yourself on occasions. Lately, I’ve learned to make more days occasions. Everyday life is fun that way. It needs to be balanced. In the past, I have dieted too strictly, to the point where I was miserable. I barely ate and I lost weight quickly, but my quality of life wasn’t even close to what it should have been.
I think it’s healthy to prioritize. There’s going to be times when you have to choose what’s more important to you, because there are only twenty four hours in a day. Those twenty four hours are meant for you to decide which of your goals are the most important. There is a lot to be desired in this life, and it’s natural to want a lot of different things: a bikini body, a promotion, a relationship, you name it.
I decided that my mental strength needed a ton of work. That has been the best decision that I’ve ever made for myself. I don’t regret any of the choices that I’ve made this summer. When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t love what I’m seeing, but I love what I’m feeling. I always remind myself that I may not look the way I want to, but I feel like the person I want to be. Calm and confident. Mentally stronger than ever.
By the same token, just because I feel better, doesn’t mean I never get upset. There are still plenty of hard days. But part of finding my balance was realizing that I now know how to deal with and get through my hardest days. I believe that I wouldn’t have that knowledge if I had overwhelmed myself trying to reach all of my goals at once.
Eventually, I’d like to lose the extra weight. But, right now, I’m still taking mental health days. Once I feel confident that I’m completely over this hurdle, I will move on to the next one.
Hear me when I say this: you will never be 100% satisfied with where you are in your life.
Don’t sacrifice your social life in attempts to impress your boss. Don’t deplete yourself of all energy trying to look like a model. Don’t give up who you are so that you can be in a relationship with someone else. Find a comfortable balance. A place where you’re confident in what you’re doing and you feel optimistic that the work you’re doing will eventually make you the person you want to be.