Today I ran topless.
It’s not really as risque as it sounds. I did what millions of other woman do every day, I ran in a sports bra.
This was a big deal for me. You see, I’m not a little girl. Quite the opposite actually. According to all the charts and standards assigned to women today, I am overweight, borderline obese.
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life hating my body. I’ve looked in the mirror and wrinkled my nose wondering who this woman was before me, because she looked kind of like that young, firm 18 year old that I use to be, but so many things were different now. Many times I looked at myself and grabbed the fat here, tucked the skin back there, and even years ago after losing 106lbs, I was never happy with what I saw.
After having lost all that weight in the past, I spent a few years putting it back on. I felt even more disgusted with myself and hated my reflection even more. I avoided mirrors, I squeezed into too small clothes and I convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad. But it was. But not for the reasons that I thought. It was bad because I was refusing to accept myself for who I was and the person that I had become.
I wasn’t just an overweight woman in the mirror. I was a Mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a coworker, I was someone. I was someone that people liked and loved and admired even when I didn’t like myself. And didn’t I owe it to those people to finally after 40 years to learn to love myself?
I started slow. Afterall, it was going to take some time to learn to love myself after having such mixed feelings for 40 years. I knew that a lot of the way that I felt about myself was tied in to how I looked, so I decided that I needed to lose weight. And so I did. I lost 30lbs rather quickly. After a few failures in the past, I started following a Paleo diet and this time it was making sense. At first, I just focused on cutting the grains and dairy and packaged foods out of my diet. Then I started splurging on Organic foods. I always said that I could do Paleo without splurging on the Organic foods, but I was wrong. Eating them was not only helping me lose weight, but I felt better, and indeed I looked better. My skin was clearer, my waist was smaller, but I still wasn’t loving myself, but I certainly did dislike myself less.
Over several months I really started focusing on me. Putting me first. I had spent so much time being a mother, a wife, a friend, a coworker, that I forgotten how to just be me. I’d go for long walks with nothing but my thoughts, focusing on myself, how I looked, how I felt, how I was putting myself out there to the world. And then it happened.
I went out for a run wearing a cotton tank like I often do. It was late morning and the weather was still mild. I had my 16oz water bottle with me that should have been more than adequate to drink and splash myself a few times to cool off. While I was in the woods it was pleasant, comfortable even. The first 3 miles of my run were cake. Then I came out of the woods into the bright sun. I got hot. I got hotter. I reached down and grabbed my shirt to wipe the sweat from my eyes. I keep going, my shirt getting heavier from the sweat. I tried tucking my shirt up in my bra to keep my stomach and back uncovered. The breeze felt amazing, but the shirt just would not stay tucked. Finally, with about ¾ mile until I got my car, I made a decision. I didn’t know it at the time, but the decision that I was about to make, was going to change me. I took off my shirt.
It was amazing. It was exhilarating. For the first time in my life, I didn’t care what I looked like. I was hot, and I was going to do whatever it took to cool off. I was not only putting myself first, but I was putting my fear of what other people thought of me to the side. It was amazing. I had never felt so free. And then I realized, it wasn’t the criticism of others that I had always feared, it was the self-criticism that I was sure to endure from myself. But that didn’t happen. I felt something different. I felt proud. For the first time in a long time, I felt pride, and it was wonderful.