My Perfect New Body
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My Perfect New Body

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There has never been a time in my life when exercise hasn’t been important. There have even been times when it has been the most important thing in my life—when it came before alcohol, drugs and sex on my list of obsessions. Exercise and food, or more specifically a lack of food, preoccupied my mind from the time I got up in the morning until the time I went to bed.

I was a daily—sometimes twice daily—attendee at my gym. The buzz I got from making my body work until it was completely exhausted was addictive and the results were even more so—which means that I would sweat and squat and crunch my way through every week. Even sitting at my desk at work, I was constantly clenching my butt muscles to get that “you could bounce a coin off it” firmness. I obsessed over fat grams and calories. I remember how elated I was when I did a fitness assessment at my gym and found out that I was underweight and needed to eat more fat. I danced out of the gym that day on a high. Yet the high lasted only a few hours as I vowed to get even leaner. Still, I never did achieve my ideal body.

You may wonder how it was possible, given all that obsessive exercise and food control, that I did not reach my ideal weight or body shape. The answer is that I am an addict and so nothing is ever enough in my world of active addictive craziness. It was simply impossible for me to achieve something and be happy with it back then. Even today, it’s difficult for me to give myself a pat on the back for anything I accomplish, no matter how major. My subconscious still whispers, “You’re not good enough,” softly at times but always waiting there—ready to make its full attack when I am at my most vulnerable.

Back then, comparing myself to other people was a full time job. I seemed to want everything everyone else had and with that came a thorough inability to see what my own attributes were—although the truth is that I didn’t believe I had any so I was constantly striving to create some. Living in a world full people obsessed with physical perfection—yes, even in Ireland!—I, too, bought into the phenomenon that a size zero was the goal and tortured myself because I couldn’t ever seem to be that seemingly effortless skinny girl. Even though my boobs and butt received compliments, I considered curves as evil as the devil himself and it seemed my eternal punishment was to forever be on a crusade to get rid of them.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that self-hatred has been the biggest obstacle for me to overcome. I’m not sure when it started or when it ended. I just know that I used to feel that everything about me was ugly, both inside and out. I only felt remotely good about myself when I was pushing myself to extreme limits and the only time that I got relief from feeling like the worst failure on the planet was when I was drunk and high. Even then, my self-obsession and self-hatred was being fed, because I told myself in the back of my mind that the drugs were making me skinnier by the second and the hangover from the alcohol would make me sick the next day so I wouldn’t be able to eat.

While it appeared that I was caring for myself by eating healthy and exercising, the truth of the matter is I did it (and hid it) to such a degree that nobody knew how much I was damaging myself. Nurturing and caring for myself wasn’t even something I understood. I believed that self-care meant blood, sweat and tears in every avenue of my life. I didn’t understand balance or self-acceptance and I most definitely didn’t understand self-love.

Thankfully, a lot of that has changed. Yes, I can still be sensitive about my weight and appearance—but not overtly so. I now exercise two or three times a week and I went to my first yoga class in 15 years. Yoga never really appealed to me before as an exercise. The truth is that I didn’t even view it as an exercise but more something that hippies did while puffing on a reefer in an attempt to connect with their higher selves. I tried it in my early 20s but gave up after two classes because I was frustrated that it didn’t move fast enough. There was no sweat nor burning muscles so I ticked it of my bucket list and never went back.

I went to yoga with my friend because I knew it would be good for my mind, body and spirit. I didn’t have to make sure I had the perfect outfit or that every strand of hair was in the correct position. I wasn’t worried about the size of my ass or if anyone behind me would find it as disgusting as I once did. Today I love me; I honestly love who I am and how I look. I no longer see my C-section scar and less-than-toned lower abdomen as an embarrassment but more as a badge of honor for having carried two squirming, kicking lives in there for nine months apiece. I don’t beat myself up anymore about being a European size 12 (10 in America) because I understand now that it’s how I am made. For me to be any smaller than that would require starvation and quite frankly, having been there and done that, I’ve learned it’s a total waste of time.

Today I care for the me that is, not the me I think I should be. I have learned that I am worth love and care and nurturing, not only from others but from myself also. Nobody else dictates to me how I should look and feel or how I should live my life. I feel the best I ever have—mentally, emotionally and physically—and I know it’s the abstinence from alcohol and drugs that has given me the space to really live my life and squash the negative self-image I once had of myself. I no longer have to weigh myself obsessively for two days because I have allowed myself a sweet treat. In fact, there are times I derive such pleasure from such a simple act that it makes my toes curl.

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About Author

Nicola O’Hanlon is part of the blogging community for the recovery website intherooms.com. You can see her blogs on iloverecovery.com. She was born and still lives in Wexford, Ireland.