Recently one of my best friends came up to visit me. And as best friends are wont to do, we had some pretty serious conversations. During one particularly emotional conversation, we were talking about how I see myself- my self image, as it were. It was during this conversation when I finally said out loud that I wasn’t happy with my body. While maybe this thought has been in my head for some time, I’d never really admitted to even myself that I felt this way. There are two reasons for this, I think. One is that it went against my feminist instincts. I believe women should accept who they are and what they look like without constantly striving for “perfection.” I am not a small woman and never will be. I am what you would call “big boned,” never destined to be a size 12, the pant size of most average American women. So my feminist sensibilities told me I should just accept and embrace my body for what it was and get on with it. The second reason I never said these thoughts out loud is because I thought if I never really admitted to myself or out loud that I wasn’t happy with my body, I wouldn’t have to do anything about it. I could just continue to say, “I’m just a big girl and I’ve no room to whine about how I look if I’m not going to do anything about it, so I’ll just not whine.” And not whining became my way of convincing myself I was okay with my body.
So for the three years I’ve been out in Maryland, I continued to think I was okay with my body, too ashamed (and too lazy!) to find a gym, but walking to the moon and back without a car. I always found excuses to avoid the weight and fitness issues and just let myself be complacent.
Now, I know you’re asking, “But where does the bike figure into all of this? This is a bike blog, isn’t it?” Don’t worry, I’m getting there. As my friend and I are talking about this, and I’m admitting how I feel and we’re talking about what I can do to change how I see myself, I keep bringing up the bike. And every time I do, I get a little bit more emotional. At first I’m not sure why this is, but soon I realize it’s because the bike means I’m actually doing something to change how I feel about myself, which feels so good. And I can just feel it in my bones that this isn’t something like my Beatles obsession, or my WWII obsession, or my Space Race obsession, which all faded over time. This is a life long, life changing obsession. After our discussion, I started to wonder if it’s just a coincidence that this confession coincided with the bike purchase. I mean, how strange that after never admitting to even myself how I feel, three weeks after buying a new bike I’m pouring my heart out over a cuban sandwich. Maybe I was finally able to acknowledge these buried feelings once I subconsciously knew I’d found a way to help myself. Or maybe I’m reading too much into the situation.
What I do know is that I’ve figured out that finding an activity you love is key to making fitness and life style changes. I’ve never been this committed to the treadmill, or stairstepper, or yoga. But I love the bike and how it makes me feel. My goal isn’t to be skinny, it’s to feel strong again, to feel fit and healthy. And the bike can help me do that.
To be clear, I didn’t buy the bike for purely fitness reasons. Fitness was a factor, but I think it had more to do with my shame of not owning a bike while being a cycling fanatic. But it has become so much more than just a bike now! It’s now an instrument through which I’m able to see new things about my life and make changes to my life.
I spent a lot of time tying to decide if I should publish this post. However, not only was writing down what I’m feeling cathartic, I also realized this revelation is an important part of my bike journey and what is means to me. I think it’s amazing that the bike has helped me realize things about myself that I didn’t even know I needed to discover! Isn’t life funny sometimes?
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