For most of my life, I hated my body. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Ugh. Imagine not liking the only body you've got -- for 35 years. It wasn't until one year ago, after I enrolled at the San Francisco CrossFit box (that's lingo for gym) and faced my mental and physical fears, that I can really say I LOVE my whole body. Walking past windows, I would catch a glimpse of my reflection. I saw an awkward, chubby boy with bad posture. I was the kid who would always keep his shirt on at the beach and wear oversized T-shirts to disguise my belly fat.
Two family members told me early on that I was "ugly" and "fat." "Your face is flat." "Look at your big belly, it's gross." They even made up a song pointing out why they thought I was ugly. I pretended to ignore it and acted like it didn't bother me. It hurt deep inside.
The truth is, looking back at old pictures, I was never overweight or ugly. But I felt like it.
I think all of us have a little boy or girl inside us who comes into our consciousness as adults. That child visits us and is the bridge to our childhood insecurities. The "little boy" inside me is about 10 years old... that awkward age just before puberty. This boy believed he was fat and ugly.
Fortunately, the lies and low self-esteem never manifested into deadly disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.
There were a few key factors to working past this part of my life:
1. Surrounding myself with people who aren't toxic -- people who lift me, inspire me and love me. People like Lynn Billett, my sister who inspired me to love myself from the inside out. She was a shining example of getting fit the right way and incorporating healthy eating and exercise as a kid, so it's habitual when you're an adult. All you adults know that after 30, your metabolism and energy aren't as rockstar-ish as your 20s. She now inspires others through her words and stories at her website, EmpowerWithLynn.co.
2. I didn't go to a psychologist to help me get through this mental torture. Instead, I talked to many trusted people in my life. I realized what those family members said wasn't about me. It was about them and their own insecurities.
3. CrossFit. This week marks the end of Year 1 of this lifestyle change. I started with the basics, training with coach John Post at the San Francisco CrossFi.
I know some of you may think it's a #cult. Don't believe the myths! These other words and hashtags also come to mind:
Sure, it's good to see a physician and read up on the possible dangers of a workout routine. But it's also important to find something that works for you.
In the past year, I've seen social media posts that would scare even the strongest of Olympic athletes.
One article that went viral was about a CrossFit clown, aka "Uncle Rhabdo," an unofficial mascot who is commonly referred to within the CrossFit community. Rhabdo sounds like a cool new dance trend right? According to WebMD, rhabdo (or rhabdomyolysis) is defined as "a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney failure and in rare cases, even death." One of my most physically fit friends shared this message on Facebook after reading the article: "This is why I will never do CrossFit." I had a visceral reaction to this post -- which is huge -- because I don't generally let things alter my mood that quickly. #namaste."
Then I received an email from a friend who attached that article and wrote, "Hey hon, I saw this and read it and made me a little concerned, so sending it your way." This prompted me to share my story about CrossFit and address these concerns.
I was inspired to try CrossFit because my brother Dat is a CrossFit athlete. Likewise, my friends Doreen Hess and Rob Mayeda's Facebook status updates and photos on social media amplified my interest. But I was still SCARED! I Googled local boxes and watched many videos and got even more scared. I passed by the San Francisco CrossFit box and heard weights slamming, people grunting and athletes climbing rope. The scene was out of a Hunger Games trailer. The little boy visited my thoughts and I became embarrassed of my belly.
After a lot of thought, conversations and sweaty palms, I thought, maybe I could face my CrossFit fears and at least give it a try. My eagerness to face my fears and challenge myself mentally and physically overpowered that little voice.
Before signing up for regular Level 1 classes, S.F. CrossFit requires that you enroll in Basics -- a two-week introductory course to train aspiring athletes correct form, safety and how the movements apply to your life (such as minding your posture while driving and sitting at your desk and how to lift things in awkward positions).
After the first class, I started getting addicted in a good way. Finally, I felt like I was learning how to exercise efficiently and properly. This whole time, I've been doing pull-ups, push-ups and squats all incorrectly.
I was sore for two straight months, but it was a good kind of sore.
Within two weeks, I noticed a huge difference physically, mentally and spiritually.
Just a few months later, I could confidently climb rope, (sort of) do a handstand, pull-up, snatch, clean, jerk, etc. I surprised myself because one class I was doing assisted pull-ups with a band and the next, I was doing three kipping pull-ups. Woot! Little milestones like this keep me inspired to come back. There is also a sense of community that comes along with being a CrossFitter. Each class at my box starts with handshakes, greetings and meeting new people. Then the coach goes over the Workout of the Day (WOD). Many times you're paired with a partner to keep you motivated. During the workout, the coach walks around correcting form and teaching proper technique.
I can go on forever about how exercise has physically challenged and changed me. But above all, spiritually, this has been a lesson of evolving, facing my fears and feeling deserving to (as my sister says) be proud of and own the body that houses my soul, that takes you to the next day, the next dimension. My brother explained it best: "CrossFit is like the software for your body, which is the computer." Gotta love computer programmers.
I noticed that a year later, I'm still ever more present and aware of my form and posture. I eat better and more regularly. I felt my body composition change. My body is more toned, tummy is trimmer and of course, one of the best outcomes (aside from being healthy) is a new wardrobe. All my clothes that were tight are now so loose!
I not only shed the weight and fear of going in the box and becoming a part of this vibrant, energetic community, the training taught me to face my fears and confront (my two family members) and verbalize how much the words hurt me. The fear turned into forgiveness. It wasn't about me afterall. It was their insecurities pushed upon me. Once heavy words that no longer weigh me down.
It took many years for me to work past the mental struggle of being teased and taunted from those two family members. I think somehow CrossFit was the final leg of the journey to a new me. The "I love me inside and out" person that I have grown to love.
This is the first summer that I'm OK with ditching the shirt (on the beach) and saying goodbye to the little boy who once believed the lies.
1. Be careful with your words. They can be used for good or evil. They have impact on you and those you touch.
2. #CrossFit is the lifestyle that works for me, it involves community, is sustainable because every day is different and it challenges my physical and mental self. If you're interested, check out a box near you and if it isn't for you, find something that will help you move your body efficiently and have FUN!
3. Try not to react when you face negative teachers in life. Usually it's about them -- their insecurities -- not you. Identify them, learn not to be like them. You know you're awesome!