updated pic of heart blooms, may 2013, in CT

{I’ve always wanted to see these flowers in person. I finally did in Connecticut!}

Last week I was up north visiting my family and friends. I had a wonderful time. And while we stayed busy, there were certainly pockets of relaxation (like when we went to Connecticut and spent all day in a park).

But I’m a creature of habit. I thrive on routines (with some flexibility and freedom in between).

While I was away, I had very little structure. My sleeping, eating and exercise patterns zig-zagged.

So it’s not surprising that when I got back to Florida, I didn’t feel relaxed. I was uptight and edgy.

I felt lethargic, exhausted and the feeling-that’s-not-a-feeling: “fat.”

There were even whispers of weight worries. What if I gained weight? The weather is getting warmer. I’ll be wearing less, and I want to go to the beach. Crap. Maybe I should do extra workouts.

These thoughts made me feel even worse, especially since I am a body image blogger.

Don’t I know better? Do I still have to keep re-learning these lessons? Can’t I just freaking stop and have an unshakable positive body image?

But what I continue to learn is that with a positive body image, there’s no pinnacle or apex to reach, where you simply sit down, and take off your coat. There’s no Ok, I’m done. I’ve learned it all. 

Rather, there’s progress. And there’s practice. And there’s a path. And it just happens to be pretty windy.

But I do notice the progress, which certainly takes practice and life to reveal.

Before those whispers of weight worries and fears would’ve turned into gnawing commands and then punitive actions. Before I would’ve restricted my food, eating less or cutting out dessert.

Before I would’ve worked out more. Before I would’ve condemned myself, blamed myself for eating too much of this and not enough of that and berated my body.

I might’ve stepped on the scale for confirmation and spent too much time worrying about the results. There might’ve been tears and disappointments. There might’ve been a few “you’re such a failure, and you suck.”

Today, I’m simply getting back to my routine. I’m not cutting out dessert. I’m not eating less. I’m not adding in extra workouts. And I’m not hurling insults my own way.

Instead, I’m listening to my body. I’m eating when I’m hungry and trying to stop when I’m full. I’m savoring home-cooked meals and bites of Russian chocolate and apple cake.

I’m back in the gym because my group classes make me feel alive and soothe my stress. But I’m also taking walks with my mom, and taking it easy. I’m trying to get to bed earlier, and not get overwhelmed with work.

Today, I realize the limitations of focusing on weight. If I focused my attention on whether I gained weight (and wanting to lose it), that’s all I would see. I’d be numbed by the numbers, ashamed and unaware.

I wouldn’t be able to realize that instead of needing to shed pounds (and making myself miserable in the process), what I really need is to nurture myself with more sleep, calm, movement and yummy meals at home.

I wouldn’t be able to see the habits and activities I need to truly feel better, more energized, relaxed and fulfilled. Instead, I’d be scrambling to lose weight, feeling deprived and still edgy.

I also realize that a positive body image isn’t the absence of negative thoughts. It doesn’t mean always feeling fantastic.

This might seem obvious. But sometimes we need this reminder, because we forget that we are moving. We are not stagnant. We grow. We change. Our routines change. Life happens. Stress happens. And, sometimes, we forget.

We forget that we can’t turn a positive body image into just another thing to get obsessed about; another path for seeking perfection. We forget that weight loss isn’t a panacea. It isn’t the answer to our pain.

Having a positive body image means regularly reminding yourself of your priorities and re-learning old lessons and being blown away by new ones.

It means checking in with yourself, asking and re-asking and asking again: What do I need? Am I getting it? Why not? How can I provide for myself? What is my body trying to tell me? What am I learning here?