Embracing My Broken Body

I was finally at a place where I felt happy with my weight and my appearance.

Even though I’ve never been extremely unhappy with how I looked, to be honest I never really felt “content.” I know it might sound crazy, I mean how can you not be content with your body after running a marathon? Sure I was generally happy with myself, but there was always something I was striving to improve – whether it was to lose a few extra pounds, get more definition, decrease body fat, etc.  I will be the first to admit that I was being hard on myself and setting a high standard. I’m sure this is due to factors such as being a former collegiate athlete, working in the fitness industry, pressure from social media, etc., and I’m not saying I was right in that, I’m just being completely transparent. But last December, after completing the F45 8-week Challenge, I was finally at a point where I felt content. All I wanted to do was maintain my level of fitness. I remember saying out loud to myself, “I’m happy with the way I look. I’ve never felt this confident and content.” I felt great waking up in the mornings. My clothes were fitting well. I had tons of energy. I was eating a healthy, balanced diet, not tracking calories or stressing about food. I felt so strong physically – I was taking spin classes and teaching spin classes. I had started training for the Napa Half Marathon. I was believing in a 3:19 marathon in May. I was getting into Muay Thai and loving that new challenge. I was going to F45 classes. I felt strong and fit, possibly even more than I did in college.

But that level of fitness was short lived. After about a month of feeling this way, my Achilles tendon became my “Achilles Heel.” If you’re not familiar with this phrase, it comes from a story in Greek mythology about Achilles, a man of war who survived many great battles. One day, a poisonous arrow shot at him was lodged in his heel, killing him shortly afterwards. The phrase “Achilles Heel” is used to describe a weakness in spite of overall strength, which leads to downfall. Despite my overall strength, I had a weakness that led to a major downfall.

The physical limitations are obvious. After rupturing my Achilles and having surgery, I had to take two weeks off completely from any type of workout. I was non-weight bearing on my left leg for four more weeks after that. I am finally walking without crutches as of about two weeks ago. My left calf is about half the size of my right calf. I ran zero miles in February. In fact, I won’t be running any miles until six months post surgery (July), and when I do, it will be starting at square 1.

As you can probably imagine, this was not easy for me to accept. So my solution was nutrition. I thought, “I can’t workout, but nutrition is the one thing that I can control.” So I took the dedication I had previously had put into my workouts, and put it into trying to find the perfect nutrition plan. I dove head first into reading about intermittent fasting. I committed to Whole 30 (which on and off lasted about two weeks). I then switched to The Bulletproof Diet, and drank butter in my coffee every morning for the next couple of weeks. I cleaned out our fridge and pantry, and put all of the tempting foods out of my reach. I started writing down all of my meals for “accountability.” But what happens when you start to restrict your food? You restrict and restrict… and then you binge. I soon found myself in a cycle of being strict and following the rules I put on myself during the week, and then blowing it big time on the weekends or at night. It took me a few weeks of this pattern to realize that the whole “living the perfect diet and having your food completely under control” approach was not going to work for me. The discipline I had for working out just simply doesn’t work the same way for me with nutrition.

It’s been a roller coaster seven weeks, but I can honestly say that I am thankful for the ups AND the downs, because it has taught me so much. Restrictive diets will never be the answer for me. The more “control” I tried to have over my nutrition, the more I lost control. I was swinging back and forth between strict food rules to eating chocolate with absolutely no control because it FELT good in the moment. Food felt comforting in my shitty situation (#pityparty), but once I got the taste of something “off limits”, I needed ALL of it. And then after eating an entire bar of chocolate, I’d say to myself, “well I’ve already blown it today so might as well have a bowl of cereal. And then a bowl of ice cream. And a couple glasses of wine… it’s fine. I’ll just start over in the morning.” And then when I would finally be so full that I felt sick, I would feel guilty, ashamed, and like a failure, so I would recommit to my perfect nutrition plan and swear to myself to be better the next week.

WOW. That was exhausting. Once I realized that this amount of control was only having the opposite affect, I KNEW I had to make changes. I had previously had a healthy relationship with food and I wanted that back so badly. I wanted to stop fearing something that should sustain me. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I want to share a few things I’ve learned – the hard way – to hopefully help you learn from my mistakes.

Stop thinking about it so much!

This was the first step in getting out of the hole I had been digging for myself. I stopped writing down my meals and I stopped counting the hours before I could break my fast. I stopped reading about Whole 30, The Bulletproof Diet, and basically anything nutrition-related. I needed to stop thinking about food so much and this was only going to be possible if I stopped writing, reading, and listening to podcasts about it. It was taking so much of my time, and I was allowing it to take up so much mental space. As a result I was putting so much pressure on myself to execute my perfect plan… so of course I was obsessed with it! I was stressed out, but I was doing it to myself. I had to be the one to decide to make those changes.

Redirect that energy into other things.

Once you are intentional about not obsessing on finding the perfect diet, you will have so much extra time and energy to redirect into other things. This doesn’t just mean fill your life with pointless distractions just to be “busy”, however, but rather fill your life with things that matter, things that give you confidence and give you a purpose. Come up with things that you care about and indulge in those – self-care, relationships, hobbies, work, etc. For me, this has also meant focusing on my relationship with Christ. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” This verse has always meant a lot to me, reminding me that I can train and train and train, but at the end of the day, what holds the most value for both the present AND eternal life is godliness.

Structured eating vs. Restricted eating.

I had to work to find the balance again between restricting my eating and eating anything and everything I wanted. I am proud to say that I never resorted back to counting macros or calories, but I was still obsessing over food in other ways. I shifted my mindset from a restricted approach to a “structured” approach. I am generally eating less carbs and sugar than I was when I was running so many miles and doing so many high intensity workouts, but if I’m out with friends, I’ll eat whatever I want! I am now so much less stressed about it, and no food is bad or “off limits.” I broke the cycle of binging and restricting about two weeks ago, and found that balance and freedom again. We are all on a lifetime journey, and we have to find balance and allow ourselves to be on a spectrum. If we don’t, we’ll only find ourselves swinging from one extreme to the other.

Body confidence… not body positivity.

I had to full-on face the fact that I simply was not going to keep the level of fitness I had worked so hard to achieve. I eventually took the batteries out of my scale (#screwthescale). Instead of focusing on “body positivity,” I am now focusing on having “body confidence.” There are going to be some days that I just simply don’t feel very positive about how I look or feel. And it’s because I’m human. We are all going to have those days, and that’s ok. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be CONFIDENT. I can find my confidence knowing that God created me, has a purpose for this, and that His plan for me goes a lot deeper than how I look, or what I am physically capable of.

Do YOUR best.

Whether you’re a mom, recovering from an injury, new to the idea of eating healthy, or have a busy, high stress job, all you can do is YOUR best. And your best is going to look different than anyone else’s. YOUR best right now might even look different than it did two months ago. Put the blinders on, unfollow any accounts that cause toxic, negative thoughts, and just do. your. best. For some people, that is going to look like six workouts a week. For others it may be fitting in a few squats while holding your newborn. Maybe it’s buying all of your vegetables organic and local, or maybe it’s starting to buy vegetables for the first time. We are all on our own journey. And while it’s important to be on this journey with others, we have to remember that it’s still our own unique journey. My best right now looks a heck of a lot different than it did two months ago. If I allow myself to compare where I am now to that previous version of me, it will only lead to disappointment. Instead, channel those thoughts into focusing on what you can do and be so damn proud of yourself for that.

I hope by sharing MY story, I can encourage anyone else who is going through something similar – mentally or physically. I also compiled all of the “cast friendly” workouts into a program that I am available as a free download on my website – “Crutches and Crunches.” Even with this injury, I was determined to find ways to stay active and fit. Not only did this help me to stay in shape physically, but kept me mentally healthy and sane! I took two weeks completely off of working out after my surgery (I slept A TON), and then wrote and started a six week pull-up plan. I started easing back into upper body workouts, core exercises, and stationary biking. I followed my doctor’s instructions and only did what I was cleared to do… you MUST do the same, especially if you are recovering from an injury! Listen to your body and only do what you feel ready for and comfortable with. Be patient and trust the process!

I recorded a podcast with The Rambling Runner a few days after I ruptured my Achilles. I talk about how it happened, the incredible coincidence of who my doctor is, and the first glimmer of hope I felt in that heart-breaking moment for me. Thanks for being a part of this journey with me!

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