I spent most of my formative years as an athlete. It was at the age of 8 when I first started soccer, playing through high school and some of my years in college. The years of intense training gave me a slender physique and kept my weight at just a little over 100lbs. As a teenager I was fortunate to never have had to stress about looking nice in my prom dress or confident in a two-piece bathing suit. While I knew this was a product of a rigorous training, I cared very little about the aesthetic and focused intently on playing better when I trained. I loved every minute of soccer practice because I knew I was improving as a player, helping the team win games and having fun in the process.
At 21, I stopped playing soccer and competitive sports all together. It gave birth to a sedentary lifestyle that combined with the demands of my final year in college and a semester abroad caused the inevitable weight gain. What began as the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen” turned into 25 lbs. by the time I turned 25. As a former athlete, I tried to combat this through sporadic bouts of long sessions at the gym and adhering to fad diets for weeks or months at time until I lost the weight that I would eventually gain back when I went back to my daily grind. I became obsessed with the fluctuating numbers which made working out feel like a race — one that I was definitely not winning. Thus, I decided to change my approach.
Rather than obsessing about how much I had to lose I used fitness as an opportunity to try new and interest things. I tried everything and from there picked those that challenged me and fed my soul the most. Despite being an introvert, I opted for group classes like indoor cycling and boutique boxing to be able to absorb others’ positive energies — something I used to get from my soccer teammates. Looking back, I was in my best shape when I loved what I did and working out didn’t feel like work.
I also took time to reevaluate my goals, focusing more on progress and allowing myself to celebrate the small wins. Sometimes it was as simple as cycling for 3 days in a row, other times it was opting to take the advance level of boxing class over intermediate. I enjoyed every opportunity to master a new skill or learn a new move. I also looked for relatable role models in athletes like Ronda Rousey, who are an epitome of skill and strength in lieu of naturally gifted Instagram models that I used to follow.
Through this approach I was able to better understand what my body could endure and appreciate how strong I truly am. Most people focus on focus on the end result, not the process. It was when I learned love the process and focus on the progress did I truly attain self-love.