I attended college at a school known for its teaching program and the drinking habits of its student body. By the time I was a sophomore, I’d gained 30 pounds and felt bloated, timid, and generally misguided.
I spent my days in class and my nights working as a waitress at a failing restaurant. Exhausted and deprived, I’d shuffle into American Literature at 8:00am with a bitter McDonald’s coffee and a lukewarm breakfast sandwich. I’d finish my day with a greasy dinner while commiserating with the other servers over bad tips. Don’t be fooled by the smile I was wearing on the left – I was not happy.
My weight gain hurt, both physically and mentally. I went from feeling capable and secure to hiding behind baggy clothing and slouching when I walked. I felt terrible: my back ached, I suffered from headaches and clouded thinking, and my anxiety was at an all-time high. My low self-opinion put me in an unfortunate cycle of negativity. I began associating with unsupportive people who listened to my complaining, but who gave me no guidance or encouragement to actually fix the things I didn’t like.
I was fortunate to have a beautiful, 82,000-square-foot gym on my college campus, but I hardly used it. Although it seems surprising to me now, I used to feel very intimidated at the gym. When I looked in the weight room, it was always full of burly guys throwing weights around, grunting, and sweating. I had no idea how to use any of the equipment. I felt like I’d hurt myself if I even stepped foot in there.
On the rare occasions I would go to the gym, I hovered around the treadmills or ran the indoor track. I limited myself to running because it was the “safe” option: I could sneak in, jog halfheartedly on the treadmill, and sneak back out, unnoticed—invisible. While I don’t want to live in regret, it’s hard not to imagine how much happier I would’ve been with a better commitment to my wellbeing. I let myself go because it was easier to avoid uncomfortable things than to tackle my real problems head-on.
One morning (after staying out way too late once again), I took a long look in the mirror. I hated how weak and sluggish I’d become. I was only in my early 20’s, but I felt decades older. I knew I needed to make some changes, and I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.
On the blog over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how completely changed my mindset, became a student of fitness, and finally overcame my fear of the gym. It’s been a long road that has spanned almost 7 years. Some days, I still can’t believe how far I’ve come – I actually cried the first time I did a bodyweight squat.
I think that, in life, you either choose the pain of staying the same or the discomfort that comes with growth and change. I’m so glad that I didn’t settle for being that person on the left.
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