Never in a million years did I think that this would be the first item I checked off of my 30 Before 30 list, but, hey, life is unpredictable.
Before I tell you how I checked it off my list, I think I should explain why I included it on the list in the first place. I remember going on spring break with my friend when I was 14 and noticing a bit of a spare tire around my belly for the first time. I remember wearing a bikini, but feeling self-conscious when sitting down because my stomach would hang over my bikini bottoms ever-so-slightly. When I gain weight, that's where it all goes. I have done thousands of sit-ups in the past decade and gone on low-carb diets trying to achieve a stomach that looks like Britney's or Gisele's. I've learned how to dress my body to play down my tummy, but there's no hiding it in a swimsuit, so I've always been self-conscious on the beach or at the pool.
In early August, I went to Fire Island in New York. It's a gay vacation destination, and I was nervous for weeks beforehand about walking around in a bikini in front of all these ripped, hot men. It was in the 90s the day I arrived, and the first thing I did after a long travel day was put on my swimsuit and jump in the pool. Soon, we went out to the beach, and something happened. I was jumping waves in the ocean with one of my best friends, and I couldn't have cared less about how my stomach looked or whether people were judging me in my bikini.
When we got back from the beach, I left the cover-up in my suitcase and stayed in my bikini until the sun set.
What changed? This summer, I started training for the marathon. I haven't lost a pound, but my mindset has shifted. Instead of criticizing my body for its extra lumps and bumps, I appreciate it for how it carries me through hours-long training runs. I view food as fuel, not a constant temptation that needs to be carefully measured and evaluated for every calorie it contains. I look around my training group and see all sorts of bodies - thin bodies, overweight bodies, muscular bodies, flabby bodies - and I realize that it doesn't matter what our bodies look like; it matters what they can do. Mine can do some pretty awesome things, spare tire and all.