For so many years, my life has been a great disappearing act. I deprived myself of food and love and recognition, hoping that by doing this, I would not take up too much space. I used to think about indulging in chocolate and the cookies sitting on our kitchen counter, and then think about how the next day I would deprive myself and exercise to oblivion in order to go back to taking up less space. I doubted my intelligence, which has granted me incredible opportunities (which I also doubted). I denied myself of celebration when I accomplished a goal of mine. Like, honorable grades on my report card meant possibly going out to dinner to celebrate, which meant indulgence and taking up more space. Do not feel. It is not safe to feel. Numb. Numb. Numb. For years, I lived so far outside of my body that I dismissed any feelings, good or bad, that I experienced. I kept my distance from the reality that our emotions tell a story of how we are feeling. I never let my body have a point of view. I slowly disappeared. I numbed all of this away with an empty stomach and pushed all of my emotions— sadness, shame, guilt, excitement, pride, love— deep into the pit of my stomach.
I am human, far from perfect and forever changing, but as I go through these moments of self-doubt today, I share it out loud. I connect with my body and listen to it in a way I literally could have never done in the past. I listen to what my body has to say because it has something to say. I started to believe in myself and trust in what my body was telling me.
Today, I am going to take up space on this blog (given, it is my blog, I take up mostly all of the space) and celebrate my accomplishment of becoming a certified personal trainer through NASM (the National Academy of Sports Medicine- yay!) I hope that by talking about myself and my excitement about my accomplishments, I can give permission to everyone else. Voice your emotions, attach language to your thoughts, because the world is granting you space to occupy.
In November of 2017, I walked into Strength for Life gym (a strength training gym local to my hometown), nearly a month after I returned home from extensive eating disorder inpatient care. I had spent every waking hour of every day either eating or laying on the couch thinking about how much I had eaten. To say the absolute least, I needed change. I needed a space of my own away from my eating disorder (and my couch). I had been a competitive runner for the extent of my life up until I was admitted to the hospital, and laying comatose on the couch all day was comparable to being locked away in a prison cell (at least in my mind). I was cleared to exercise by November and knew returning to running would only re-surface restrictive behaviors, so with recommendations from people I admired, I turned to strength training.
I started lifting weights— heavy weights— which I always believed would turn me into some sort of amazon, beast woman. I would take up too much space, and that was not allowed. But as I began to trust in my body, harmonize with it, I recognized that I was surpassing goals I set for myself. I never once thought, Am I working hard enough to burn off my breakfast? or Do I look slim compared to these other girls working out? I saw myself as ‘enough’ when I walked into Strength for Life. I never used to see myself as enough in the past— good enough, smart enough, small enough, sick enough— but now I did, and I kept coming back for more.
I became obsessed with feeling strong. I was listening to my body and my body was fueling me to meet my goals in response. I was taking up space. I wanted to share this empowering feeling with everyone—this euphoric feeling that comes from working with your body and not against it.
This is where becoming a certified personal trainer came into the grand scheme of my health and fitness journey. I felt taken care of every time I lifted at Strength for Life. I felt supported and felt them say “I got you,” even when I did not have incredible training sessions every time. All of my intense feelings of needing to be perfect began to sift away, and I began to embrace the process of becoming stronger mentally and physically (it is a lofty process to commit to— strength training never promises quick fixes). I wanted to promise this feeling of support, granted to me by Strength for Life, to others. There are no shortcuts to reaching your goals when strength training, but I wanted to meet and support the types of people who say, “I know this will be hard, how do I sign up?”
So I studied for one year, took an exam, and passed. I passed and now I can meet people where they are and guide them towards the goals they have had hidden away in their mind for so long. I am excited to make people feel like they are a priority, that they are worthy of taking up space. But studying and passing this exam does not mean that I am now an expert in all things exercise. In fact, this is so far from the truth. Just like everyone else, I am constantly learning and expanding and growing. Completing this course was me saying ‘yes’ to a new opportunity— it is my first step towards helping others find the joy and freedom that fitness has given me.
Today I am taking up space and celebrating (celebrating!) this victory of being a personal trainer.