People often ask me my favorite thing about living in New York. And without hesitation, I say, honestly, “Walking.” I absolutely love being able to walk practically anywhere I want to go. I walk to work every day, and am angry at myself when I’m running late and have to take the subway or a taxi to make a meeting. I do it because I love it, because it’s healthy.
That’s the view I’m taking these days: health. Previous incarnations of me, the younger version, was concerned less about health and more about weight or appearance or fitting into a size closer to the ones my very thin college roommates wore. I’d say that’s probably typical of a girl in her 20’s, the skewed focus on the aesthetic vs. the holistic. Things have changed.
Growing up, my Mom was always concerned about her weight. Her eating habits were, without exaggeration, atrocious. She constantly limited her diet to blueberry yogurt and sliced turkey breast and a two-liter of Diet Coke, then would eat an entire pint of ice cream. My Dad’s weren’t much better; he’s always been uninspired by food, saying he’d rather take a pill than have to sit down for a meal. Many days, he’d be busy running around, ‘forget’ to eat, and then his 6’0”, 145 lb. frame would eat a bag of Ruffles potato chips for dinner. The picture of health, he was not. Even when my Mom cooked, she’d make things for us then nibble on her own serving. Because I was an athlete, I realized, even from a young age, that this wasn’t normal. (And I feel incredibly lucky that I had that revelation; eating disorders are often shared by family members, based on the example they had growing up.) Whether consciously or not, I have had a very different approach to eating, which is probably why I deem meals a social activity and love to dine with others. Perhaps I’m making up for many years of missed sit-down dinners; who knows.
Fast forward ten+ years, and my focus is now on health, and more broadly, balance. I preach the benefits of trying to maintain a work/life balance, but in a lot of other ways, my personal life has skewed a bit off-tilt. That’s one of the downsides of living in Manhattan; there is something - often, many somethings! - going on every single night, and as someone newer to the city, I feel inclined to go to most of them. Want to drink eight glasses of wine over the course of the night? All too easy, and often, all too free. Remove the caloric impact of consuming two bottles of wine on any given evening, and it’s still atrociously unhealthy. Accessible? Yes. Wise decision? No.
But am I making these changes to lose weight? To fit into this incredibly thin city? A resounding no. NO. Have I wanted to lose 5 or 10 lbs? Of course. I probably know five women total who don’t share that aspiration. But is it worth it? I don’t know if that’s the right question; instead, I’d say that shouldn’t be the focus. Health should be.
My good friend Daisy wrote an article for XOJane about her unapologetic desire to lose a bit of weight, and I’m incredibly proud of her for being vocal about something that is often seen as a stigma. I’ll support her regardless, but I’m approaching this differently. I want to run a 10k, so I’m training for it. I want to get my advanced pilates certification, so I’m starting to increase my frequency of classes & looking into programs. I want to be able to be active throughout all of my life, so I’m making a commitment to that now. I’m being conscious that a morning workout changes and positively affects my entire day and I’m unapologetically making that a priority for myself, even if an extra one (or three) glasses of wine were stupidly consumed the evening prior.
And you know what? I love it. I was running on the Westside Highway this morning, and I simply thought: I LOVE TO RUN. It’s not always easy and I still loathe treadmills and in the heat of the summer? Lord help me when August comes around. But I love it. I do it for a lot of reasons, and if a welcome side effect is fitting into a smaller dress size, bring it. But that’s not what I do it for. I do it because I like beating my previous mile time. I do it because I like challenging myself in a FlyBarre class when they do that horrid dog fire-hydrant leg thing & I finally don’t have to stop. (NOTE: This day has not yet happened. Not by a long shot.) I do it because I want to kick my boyfriend’s ass in tennis. I do it because when I have a daughter, I want her to inherently know that health is an emphasis in our family, that weight is merely a number, that eating is something to revel in and to enjoy, and that her Mom is strong. I do it for me. Starting today, I do it for myself.