Body Image and Push-Ups

I saw this woman walking down the sidewalk the other day and I felt like crying. Literally, I got a pain in my chest when I noticed her arms — on display in a sleeveless shirt due to the warm weather — were so thin that if I’d circled the upper part of her arm with my thumb and index finger, I’m pretty sure they would have met. I wanted to cry because she was wearing a pair of tiny jeans, and the legs of the jeans were so baggy that it was impossible to see her actual legs in them.

I wanted to cry because, years ago, I could relate to at least some of the things she’s going through. I never took my disordered eating to the same extent this woman has, but I can relate to the feeling of being hungry. I can relate to looking at something and wanting it, but not eating it. I can relate to sticking fast to a set amount of calories and having my mind race if I had to choose something in a restaurant and I didn’t know how many calories it contained…it was so much easier to just eat at home.

I wanted to cry because, even though my arms were never quite that skinny, they were pretty darn skinny.


I wasn’t very happy during those years — and when I remembered that, it made me think the woman I saw on the street couldn’t be very happy, either. It’s impossible to be happy and fully live your life if you’re so consumed with how you look and with every single thing you’re putting (or not putting) in your mouth.

I’m so glad I’m not at that place anymore, but now that I’m doing better I can’t help feeling I should be able to do more. Like the whole inability to do “real” pushups thing. I’m close, and getting closer, but I still can’t do them.

And I kind of felt super-disappointed in myself the other day when someone I know was just sure I could do them by now (my strength has really progressed from where I used to be), but I just couldn’t. I tried, and I tried again.

The reason I was disappointed in myself was because I don’t want to be that weak girl anymore. I liked being able to carry large bins up the stairs when my roommate moved in a few months ago. And I like being able to say, “No, thanks, I’ve got it” when someone offers to take something heavy from me.

So yeah, my arms are no longer sticks, and I can see and feel my biceps when I flex, but I kinda wanted to cry when I couldn’t do those pushups because for just a few minutes — until I got over it — I felt like a failure.

You want to know something else that makes me want to cry…but in a good way? When I realize that failing — at least with this particular goal — doesn’t make me want to quit. It makes me even more determined to succeed.

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