Striving for Fitness and Confidence: My Journey
My fitness journey began when I was in elementary school. I remember being told by my doctor that I was underweight for my age and that I needed to eat more. For some reason, one that I am still unaware of, I had a very difficult relationship with food when I was growing up. My issues extended beyond the lack of motivation for a young child to eat fruits and vegetables, I was anti most foods. I remember eating very little and never really having an appetite. And essentially being almost forced to eat. This changed after I got to about the 5th grade and I went from being very underweight to being over weight. Over time the pounds continued to glue themselves to my body and it tore up my already fractured level of confidence. I remember hating having to get new clothes for school because I could no longer wear the small sizes I used to.
Looking back I now realize that I never really had any positive influences when it came to eating properly and getting good exercise. This led me to coming up with my own diet when I was in about the 7th grade, which consisted of me counting my calories and exercising three times a day(this was during the summer break). During that time I watched my body change and I looked forward to when school started because I wanted to see how people would react. I wanted those same people who had called me fat and made me hate by body to say, “wow Barnell, you look really good. Look at how skinny you are”. That word, skinny, has been the bane of my existence for much of my life. What was once an insult had become a goal of mine. I didn’t realize it then, but my unhealthy relationship with food was continuing.
By the end of that summer I was skinny. I was confident and I finally felt like I could possibly fit in. I remember the first day of school that year. I wore a pair of kakis shorts and one of the three shirts we were allowed to wear to school along with a new pair of shoes. No one said anything about my new body at first. They complimented by new shoes but the comments about my weight loss were few and far between. That first day was hell, not because of what anyone said, but because of what they didn’t say. I went home and felt like a complete failure because I didn’t hear the words I needed to hear to validate the hard work I had done. I didn’t realize it then, but that success felt empty because I had done it for the wrong reason. I had gotten into shape not because of how it would make me feel to look in the mirror with pride about my body, but because I wanted people to notice how I looked.
Over time, the weight started to come back. Not all at once and I was happy with how I looked for a while but my confidence began to wane and I felt helpless. I started wearing jackets as though I was a young pregnant girl trying to hide her growing belly from the world. I did this even during the summer. I did this whenever I needed that extra shield that would allow me to function as though people weren’t watching my failure. This continued on into college where my weight continued to increase at points and decrease at others. I even remember one of my friends giving me the nickname, Moby, because I was “Whale like in size”.
I honestly don’t remember what changed in me but in 2013, I decided that it was time to try my damnedest to get into shape. I enrolled in a weight training class that summer and started to do weight training for the first time in my life. The results were slow, but I continued and after a few months, I weighed lower than I did when I graduated high school. My body was not perfect, if fact, at my peak during this time I was still about ten pounds heavier than I should have been, but I was happy. I played around with the way I dressed and truly felt happy and really enjoyed my workouts.
Now 5 or 6 years later, I have mostly maintained working out. I have had gaps of time where I didn’t but I finally feel dedicated again. I think the difference now is that although I do care about how people see me, I am doing this for myself. I have learned over the years that you can’t change yourself because of what others say because without the real passion for that change the success will feel empty. I now have a purpose and I now have support from a friend who only wants me to be happy and healthy. There are times when I still feel incredibly insecure about how I look, but I am learning to embrace the person I am today while working toward the person I want to be tomorrow.