Thank you Facebook for bringing me (quite literally) face-to-smiling-face with my 20 year-old self this week.
Five years on, we are very different people – poles apart in our understanding of ‘health and fitness’; what is it, what it means, how it looks, how it is achieved…
Borrowing some apt phrasing from Fearne Cotton*, it was a ‘prickly’ time. A period of time in my life that I still struggle to make sense of, and vocalise. A blip. However it’s a blip that set me on a path to where I am today, and therefore not something I wish to erase from experience, or memory, or learning.
Looking at my 20-year-old self, there were so many things I wish my 25-year-old self could tell her.
So here, I try.
A Note to my 20-Year Old Self
We’ve been a sucker for comparison over the years, haven’t we?
You were perfectly healthy as you were, you know.
Looking back now, it’s hard to pin-point the moment that you decided that you weren’t happy enough as you were.
I have to admit, and sorry for the spoiler, but comparison – it’s not something that we’ve nailed even 5 years later.
But we’re getting better.
I remember vague feelings of wanting to re-invent yourself.
A fitter, happier, healthier version of you. Molly mark II.
A Molly that would be noticed.
I know that being a size eight was something you’ve aspired to for so long.
But smaller doesn’t = better.
Time will teach you that it’s not about being ‘thin’.
And the attention you get, it will get old. I think we’re happier as a wallflower.
You’ll stop weighing yourself and the scales will start to gather dust. We’re happy not knowing the numerical value of our relationship with gravity.
Counting calories will become a thing of the past. It’s time consuming.
Reading labels in shops will become tiresome.
Yes you’re going to gain weight.
All of those size-eight clothes that you were so pleased to buy – they’ll slowly make their way to the back of the wardrobe.
You’ll cling to them for a few years, in the hope that they will once again fit,
But eventually you will let them go, accepting that life is more important that re-becoming a version of yourself that was smaller, but that couldn’t eat cake.
You’ll learn that controlling your food won’t control the worry.
The anxiety. The feelings of uncertainty.
They’re still going on five years later, but we’re dealing with them now – with therapy not control. With positive communication and self-care, not restriction.
Exercise will stop being about calorie burning and overloading and 6-days-a-week moving. Rest days will become more important.
Through learning and trying and understanding, you’ll find a respect for your body that you don’t know you are lacking, and you’ll start moving because it makes you feel good, and that’s all.
It will take years, and a lot of trust that you’re moving forwards, not backwards.
It will take for you to travel to another country, on the other side of the planet – to literally turn your world upside down – to shake these habits, but boy will you thrive. Thrive on the time gained. The headspace freed. On the food rediscovered.
But you’ll meet people along the way who will help you, and you will learn things that will bolster your conviction that you are doing the right thing.
It will be worth it.
*from her podcast interview with Elizabeth Day (How To Fail, S6 Ep7, 6 Nov 2019)