The other day my coworkers and I were planning some lectures we are going to give as part of a leadership development series. For the first time in over a year, we will be presenting to a live audience in person, and we have to dress the part. My team, men in their fifties and sixties, joked about how they might need to get new clothes since the running gag is everyone has gained weight during the pandemic. I told them that was the advantage of wearing dresses–they’re a lot more forgiving.

My post-pandemic body is different than it was a year ago. It’s squishier and, according to some clothes that didn’t fit when I did a recent closet de-cluttering, a little larger.

I’m okay with that…for now anyway.

Hear me out…

Remember in March 2020 when the first lockdown happened and everyone was like, “Okay, y’all, no excuses, this is the time to blow up your side hustle and crush that gym body.”

Then we all had meltdowns about the dire reality of the situation (not to mention the political and social crises in the United States), and instead we collectively binged “Tiger King.” Still, I stayed as active and fit as I could.

Then I tore my ACL and spent months focusing on just being able to stand in the shower and walk comfortably down a flight of stairs. While taekwondo, cardio, and most strength training went out the window for several months, I did faithfully go to physical therapy and do rehab exercises at home to rebuild my new knee and withered right quadriceps muscle.

As I’ve become more mobile I’ve been able to swim, walk, and take yoga classes. I haven’t done other types of exercises as much as perhaps I “should,” but for heaven’s sake, I have a full-time job and have the other full-time job of publishing and publicizing a book. Forgive me if I didn’t get my swole on every g-ddamn day. Is that an excuse? Maybe. But I am mentally exhausted.

Oh, also, I’m in active recovery for a raging eating disorder I’ve had since age thirteen.
A few months ago when my mental state had dipped particularly low, I was severely restricting my food as a way to cope with multiple stressors. Part of my recovery is letting myself eat three meals a day and snacks when I’m hungry. Isn’t this amazing–when I’m eating a variety of foods regularly, my moods are better. It’s a miracle! (eyeroll)

Am I scarfing down pizza for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks? No. Even though I have full reign to eat what I want when I feel like it, it’s not like my satiety or food cues have suddenly disappeared. I like fruits and vegetables. I can tell when I need protein. I like sweets, but not every day. It’s actually possible that a woman in the United States is eating a balanced diet without being weird about it.

Naturally, since I’m eating more calories, I’ve put on a little weight. I stopped weighing myself since that is hugely mentally triggering, but I can tell I’m a little rounder, and I’m not thrilled about it, which is an issue unto itself to work through with my therapist. As I become more active through surgery recovery and get back to practicing taekwondo in the dojang, I will probably put on more muscle and trim down a bit. I can’t help but hope for that, or that’s what my eating disorder is hoping (this way of thinking doesn’t change overnight). That’s a mindset to work  on.

And now I will be having a second surgery on my knee that will set me back mobility-wise for a few weeks.
The arthroscopy and scar tissue clean-out happens Friday the 18th, and I’ll probably be on crutches for at least a few days. Not back to square one, but this definitely sets me back a few paces.

Whatever, right now, I’m okay with the way I feel and look. Mentally I’m in much better shape, and that’s what matters to me. I’m unraveling all the damage this decades-old eating disorder has done, and that is a huge win. My body and mind have been through major crises in the last year, and they deserve some compassion as they both go through intense recovery.

And even then, if I hadn’t gone through these major health issues, I could stand to be more loving toward myself and my body. I don’t need a reason or excuse to love myself as I am and who I am. I certainly didn’t when I was punishing myself with diet and over-exercise. Hating myself all in the name of perfection is exhausting, and I don’t have time for it anymore. Self-acceptance and self-compassion sound much more fun.

You deserve self-compassion too.

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