DIYSC - Do-It-yourself-care

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I should be getting up and going for a jog right now.

I promised myself I would.

I have a ‘race’ in under two weeks. (It’s not really a race. It’s a fun run with bubbles and two gorgeous women are running with me however they regularly exercise and are good at running, and I fall in a heap after stairs these days. I don’t want to let them down.)

But I have woken up today, blissfully unhungover (I do not know how, trust me, it’s Sunday morning after two nights drinking and I think I might get a delayed one on Monday at this rate), and my legs are not tingling with unspent energy, as one would expect before a run. They are twinging with a slight muscle ache (potentially from attempting to badly demonstrate tap dance barefoot, on carpet, last night, but I suppose we will never know) and they are kind of saying ‘don’t you dare’ to me.

Or is that my head talking?

Would I benefit from leaving my cosy little pit where my cat has curled up close, to run? Or is this self-flagellation hiding from me as ‘practise’?

I am confused.

Things have changed quite a lot in the space of six months.

My self-care used to be simple: eat what I was allowed to, attend boot camp. I could tell that I was successfully taking care of myself when the scales went down, or failing that, I at least felt a bit slimmer. Something to show myself (the world) that I wasn’t failing at life.

The brain is a funny thing. It will believe the lies sold to it about needing to suffer in order to be accepted. It will go along with what you make its body do. It will ask you nicely to stop but your addiction/commitment will overrule.

And it will breathe a sigh of relief when you realise none of it is doing you any good.

You see, that ‘self-care’ in which I forced aspartame-heavy food down my throat, forced myself into eating food I didn’t enjoy (and now cannot stomach a Muller Light even if I were at gunpoint) was in fact the opposite: it was self-punishment. I wasn’t going to Slimming World and boot camp because I wanted to, or because they had any positive effect on me, I was going because I thought I was disgusting and deserved to be in pain. I had lost a lot of weight, then been through something traumatic, and gained it all back again. During the gaining phase I re-started Slimming World several times. I would go, have a gain, freak out and restart my membership with a blank slate the very next week. At no point did anyone ask what was wrong, more put pressure on me to stop their targets looking poor.

I had failed fat club.

One day, like a switch, I decided I wasn’t going back. There was no real moment where I got mad or snappy, more a calm decision; I can’t do this anymore.

Like a uni dropout (of which I am also one), the question was what I would do ‘instead’.

In that moment I saw my life as a woman mapped out before me.

It was dieting one way or another, and if you weren’t dieting, you were binging.

That isn’t going to be my life. I am not going to spend my remaining glorious life paying to sit in a circle of people who are swallowing the lie that they need to hate themselves to lose weight and that every social occasion needs to be a minefield. I refuse.

So I found sanity online instead and now THAT is my self-care. Asking myself what I want to eat, and eating it. Trusting that my body knows what it needs. Trusting that I will only binge if I tell myself I shouldn’t.

‘Should’ is a banned word for me now. ‘Should’ is laced with poison. It’s a button in my brain ready to explode. I refuse.

My other ‘self-care’ was boot camp. Now, if you genuinely enjoy this - knock yourself out. For almost a year it kept me afloat; it regulated the necessary hormones in my brain to make it look like I was taking care of myself. It was a bit addictive.

But once I had stopped dieting, I stopped seeing the point in going. My reason had really been to support weight loss, but admitting to myself that I wasn’t actually interested in punishing exercise regimes opened some floodgates. It got problematic.

One instructor out of four I used to ‘train’ with got me. He seemed to understand that not all bodies are capable of the same things. He seemed to find a way to encourage and motivate without really saying ‘sweat is fat crying’ and still churn out catchphrases that were ridiculous but funny. The rest of them? Not so much. I found myself less inclined to attend an exercise session in which it was obvious that I was the fattest one there, and I felt I was more likely to be allocated punishments than those of smaller stature, and it felt problematic to hear catchphrases that used to motivate me but now made me realise how much of my ‘self-care’ had been wrapped up in a degrading, horrible package.

So I am now biding my time in a direct debit that has a month or so left on it. I will never go back in that time. I wasted money but if I were attending I would have been wasting my time.

For some people, this helps. For a while, it did it for me.

But I am not someone who will stay in a place of misery for money’s sake, appearance’s sake, or for anyone’s sake. I am worth more than that.

A friend once told me my mental health was more important than weight loss.

I should have listened.

My exercise now is tap dancing. It is of course, far less intensive but far more fun. I go with such a bubble of energy. I will take up more dance when the leeches at boot camp can’t get their paws on my money anymore (I have asked to leave but been told no). That, for me, is how I take care of myself. I do what I want and don’t care anymore.

I have a body with some fat on it. Big deal. I can’t do all of the tap moves, but I don’t punish myself for it and I don’t get told off by a twit pretending to be a lifestyle coach because of my lack of trust in others/my own balance to go backwards; I get offered an alternative move or gently prodded by a lovely teacher instead. I will take that any day.

Which leads me to now. Sitting in bed with the cat and a coffee. Considering going for a run. Knowing that I ‘should’ but also, rejecting the idea that ‘should’ is something I ever want in my life.

But, do you know what? I think that instead, I will take my parents up on their offer of a long walk around a body of water.

I have spent half my life on ‘shoulds’ and hating myself. I have finally found a way to fill my life with what I want to do and it fits right in because I want to do it. There is no more fighting about when I can ‘make’ a session of pain and torture. There is no more starving myself on a Tuesday so I weigh less on the industrial scales. There is only taking the time to be gentle with myself, seeing what I want to do and eat, and if that isn’t self-care, then I don’t know what is.