How Exercise Taught Me Self-Love as a Woman with Vitiligo
Exercise? Let’s just say that for most of my life, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with all forms of working out. It’s that thing that I know I should do, but too often other activities take priority, or I just don’t feel up to the task. Until now.
For the past year, my husband and I had been going to the gym one or two times a week. This year, we wanted to take it up a notch – and take the guesswork out of deciding when to go to the gym. That’s why we made a commitment to go every other day – a rule that is easy to keep because it is so clear cut. If we didn’t go today, we go tomorrow. No more trying to figure out which day of the week is the best day to go.
Nearly six months later, I realized that I’ve gained way more than a little muscle mass. Going to the gym has taught me how to love my body and myself – here’s how.
I Created A Habit Of Loving And Respecting My Body
You might go the gym because you don’t like the way you look – but that desire for change is driven by a respect for yourself and your body. You want to make yourself better. You want to feel better and look better. In this way, going to the gym or doing exercise is a way of loving and respecting your body. And by doing that routinely, you create a habit. Every other day, I’m dedicating time to loving my body – a body that for most of my life, I have resented and hated because of my skin. I’m not saying that I suddenly love my skin after a few months. But building that habit has forced me to regularly love my body – and my feelings towards my skin are starting to follow.
I Started Seeing My Reflection In A New Way
Every other day, I watch myself lift weights in the mirror. I study my movements and watch the body I was given perform and push itself to be better. I didn’t realize this was significant until recently. When do we usually look in the mirror? For me, it’s as I get ready in the morning and when I’m in the bathroom throughout the day. During these instances, I use the mirror to scrutinize the way I look and make sure it’s up to par with my rather unrealistic expectations. To introduce a different way of looking in the mirror – one where I’m doing something positive for my body – has given me a chance to see my reflection in a whole new way. For the first time in a long time, I’m looking in the mirror not to critique and criticize, but to love my body and give it the chance to reach its full potential.
My Focus Changed From How I Look To How I Feel
And let me tell you – I feel great. According to Web MD, regular exercise has proven to reduce stress and anxiety in addition to boosting self-esteem. For me, the focus on pushing my body and experiencing the results had led me to focus more on how I feel and less on how I look. I spend less time looking in the mirror and more time thinking about my stress, energy and hydration levels. The shift allows me to have a greater appreciation for where I am today instead of focusing on ways I don’t measure up. I’m not going to the gym because of how I look – I’m going to the gym to help how I feel.
This Healthy Habit Is Fueling More
I’ve often heard that exercise can have a ripple effect – and I’ve found that to be true. Because I regularly workout, I also find myself eating more whole foods, hydrating more consistently and sleeping more deeply at night. I’ve also started taking yoga classes when it fits into my schedule and I stretch more regularly, even when I’m not working out. Overall, I’ve learned to listen to my body and give it what it needs to stay healthy and whole. This habit has sparked a change in my life that wasn’t possible before – and it all builds self-love.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.