I write this article as I sit in a café, sipping on a large chai (the best I've had in Vienna) and eating a piece of apple cake. Does my body necessarily need this drink or dessert, could it go without it? Sure, it could. Has that stopped me from going to probably 5 (or more, honestly) cafés in the past week or splurging on a meal out or whatever else Vienna has to offer? You bet it hasn't.
For those who know me, you know this is a big deal for me. One year ago, I was in a much different place. The summer after my freshman year, I lost a significant amount of weight (the freshman 15+ was a real thing for me) and I came back to school "motivated" to stay in shape. For me, this meant depriving myself of most carbs, simply eating grilled chicken or salads or chickpeas (which we all know I love, but still).
I had this intense fear of gaining all the weight I had lost back, saw it as something that would deem me a failure.
The truth is, I was miserable doing all this. I was obsessive about what I was eating always. I was working out 6 days a week, some weeks all 7, not giving myself any rest. I even started counting calories and tracking my exercise.
I had thought the summer prior that by losing the weight, I would feel better about myself, but the truth is, it's never about the weight itself, it's about loving yourself at every stage.
Losing weight doesn't magically make you comfortable in your own skin, that is a belief that cuts deep.
A year later, I can say that I have made progress I'm proud of. Do I still get anxious some days about the fact that I may be eating more than I should or feel bad about myself when it's been a few days and I haven't worked out? I'd be lying if I said I didn't.
However, as I said in the beginning, I have not been depriving myself of all the amazing cuisine has to offer or forcing myself to work out every day. When one of my friends here offers to make me french fries, you bet I'm eating them.
There's a quote that comes to mind when I think about all of this:
Those 5-10 extra pounds, that place where your body naturally wants to be- that's your life. That's your late night pizza with your man, that Sunday morning bottomless brunch, your favorite cupcake in the whole entire world because you wanted to treat yourself. Those 5-10 pounds are your favorite memories, your unforgettable trips, your celebrations of life. Those extra 5-10 pounds are your spontaneity, your freedom, your love.
Yes, I could have come abroad and stuck to a diet or a strict workout plan. But, I came into abroad wanting to make the most of everything this experience has to offer and for me, that means letting myself simply live.
Maybe I've gained weight since I've been abroad, maybe I haven't. Whichever it is, the important thing is that I haven't been depriving myself the opportunity to live, to enjoy spending time in a foreign country.
This doesn't mean that staying healthy goes out the window, simply that a little indulgence here and there isn't something to be looked down upon, but embraced as part of the experience, wherever you are, abroad or not. Those 5-10 extra pounds are ones often full of memories with loved ones, new experiences, and more. To me, that makes it worth it.
A life of deprivation isn't a life. A life of obsessive workouts and calorie tracking to me, strips life from many of its happy moments (though that could just be me, if this works for you, all the power to you).
As I mentioned earlier, we need to start loving ourselves at every stage. We need to start seeing our bodies as strong and capable.
Because when you think about it, isn't it amazing the things our body achieves every day?
Our bodies are, quite literally, working to keep us alive every day, and they will continue to do so. We ought to show ourselves some appreciation, some self love, for being able to take care of ourselves.
Life is greater than the number on the scale. This is easier to preach than to fully believe, but I trust that we all can start to change our mindset around health and fitness one step at a time.
Eat food to nourish your body (and your soul). Move your body because it wants to show its capability and strength.
Most of all, listen to yourself and just live.
As I prepare to head to Germany this weekend and spend the rest of my time abroad there, I hope I can continue to embody this mindset, we all deserve it.