Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Ottawa artist Sherry Tompalski's Female Boxer

Ottawa artist Sherry Tompalski's Female Boxer

It’s 9:30 on a Saturday morning. So far today I’ve gone to the gym, watched Annie, witnessed a live performance of the hits of Annie, and done about 45 minutes of administrative work for my cabaret company.

I’m about two weeks into regular gym visits and a month into fairly careful eating with a focus on high protein, and no more gluten or sugar. I feel fantastic, and can only wonder at what was taking me so long to REALLY start taking care of myself.

I’ve never been athletic. Never. I felt I was lacking in coordination, so generally stayed away from team sports, feeling much more comfortable in the company of the other pasty drama geeks. I’ve never really had a weight issue, but now into my thirties, I’ve noticed that I’ve become squishier than I’ve ever been. I really believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but I haven’t been FEELING good.

About two years after graduating from College, my boyfriend at the time got me interested in going to the gym. We were in a rocky place in our relationship, and so the gym became a solace for me as my life was in upheaval. We were soon moving out of our apartment, and I started to feel like control was slipping away. As life got more stressful, the weight just fell off me, and then of course the positive reinforcement started. I began walking to work, one hour in each direction, and soon realized that if I limited myself to one full meal at lunch, with apples or nuts only to sustain me in between that I would quickly drop two more sizes. The boys who wouldn’t even look at me in high school; the jocks, the white collar Bay Street boys, were eating out of my palm. I could see the bones around my sternum, my clavicle looked like you could cut yourself on it, I was a horrific and moody, bitchy mess, and then the migraines started. Horrible, soul-numbing headaches that would blind me for hours – nothing would fix these except a dark, quiet room, and the fetal position, often accompanied by tears.

Eventually, a concerned girlfriend confronted me and told me I actually looked like shit. Of course I didn’t believe her. I assured everyone, including my family, that I was just eating healthier and working hard at the gym. I continued on like this until I met my ex-husband and love and our mutual enthusiasm for food resulted in me packing on a few very necessary pounds.

I still don’t know what fueled this horrible behaviour, but I credit this period in my life for why I’ve hung on to some extra, unhealthy weight over the last few years. My body isn’t naturally rake thin, nor do I want it to be. I think though, there was something in me that deeply resented how quick people were to reinforce the stupid things I was doing to my body to be as thin as I was. There was something scary and offensive about being valued more because I was starving. Now, after several years of making bad food choices, and being more sedentary than I really should be, I’m hanging on to extra weight out of fear.

It’s fear of not being good enough as I am. It’s fear of meeting my full potential, and realizing all that I could be. It’s fear that my desire to be stronger and healthier is somehow linked to the bullshit ideals created for women by the mass media.

I don’t want to be afraid. A lovely fella named Abraham called me out on this months and months ago, but I wasn’t ready to hear it yet. I’m ready now. I owe it to myself to be in the best shape I can be, and I LOVE how I’m feeling. I’m eating well, I’m feeling super grounded, and more coordinated and confidant. The goals I’ve set for myself are based on how I feel, and not about meeting any size or weight.

I’m taking vitamins, and supplements, and drinking protein shakes, and there’s a spring in my step that has everything to do with my own momentum, and commitment to being the best I can be.

We carve out our own identities based on notions of what we CAN or CAN’T do. These notions mostly come to us from the outside world; people telling us what we’re good at, and because we develop at different rates, what we’re “not good” at. There is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be athletic. None. and you know, I’ll bet I’m actually really good at math too.




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  1. Mom
    October 10, 2009 / 12:55 pm

    Mom loves this new attitude that taking care of one self should be priority #1.

  2. Amanda
    October 10, 2009 / 10:17 pm

    This post really resonated with me and I loved the power that came through. I applaud where you are and how you identify where you have been. As a mother of a beautiful baby girl I know I would like her to read this some day.

  3. Jackie
    October 11, 2009 / 3:32 pm

    Thank you for this. With my body having been transformed against my will over the last few months, I am now ready to accept the body I used to complain about with open arms. Between your wisdom and my own resolve, I am finally ready to stop caring about being as thin as possible at 32 but rather as heathly, happy and confident as I can at any age.