"I wouldn't want to be caught in a dark alley with her." I was working out at the gym, earbuds plugged in, when over my gym playlist I heard a man within earshot say this to his spotter. He did not know I could hear him, but his comment wasn't malicious in tone. In fact, this muscly stranger would eventually become one of my fans at the gym, rooting me on through heavy lifts and asking me about my super sets.
As a woman, I've inherently felt shame around my body, and since I was a preteen scrutinized over my weight, size, shape, diet and more. As a black girl, I aimed to be twice as feminine to be considered physically attractive. Therefore, not too strong, not too big, not too flat, not too dark. Until I embarked on my wellness journey in my young adult years, I drew attention away from my body, away from myself, to avoid the stress of combating racist and sexist notions that black women are inherently masculine. (Google "black women masculine" and you'll see the results.) Consequently, avoiding my body meant not taking care of it.
One year into my carefully tracked wellness plan, I was no longer a fast food vegetarian whose favorite past time was binge-watching and binge eating. I was eating meat and exercising six times a week. To remain unwavering in my goals, I focused on the women who modeled strength and self-approval. More specifically, I looked to Serena Williams who smoothly represents self-approval when it comes to her body and gender expression.
At first, in conversations around my health goals, I avoided talking about my body because I wasn't comfortable in my skin. My confidence grew once I realized my goal was not to lose weight. My goal was to release what I was holding onto, what was weighing me down. With every barbell lifted and every mile ran I released the weight of shame, fear, anxiety, doubt, insecurity, regret, and the list went on. Within a year I was twenty-five pounds lighter, emotionally and spiritually. In a year, I learned to see and talk about my body with positivity. I blew past limitations I had set for myself--I got over my belief that I couldn't run, and ran 215.4 miles in a year. I sat in the sun and tanned. Yes. Tanned. I wore whatever I wanted to wear--sporty or slinky. I also became courageous in other aspects of my life beyond my physical wellbeing: I wrote more than I had since college, got promoted at work, traveled to places I never thought I'd visit, and expanded my comfort zone.
When I realized there is no such thing as too strong, too big, too small or too curvy, I accepted my body as more than enough. Thus, I accepted myself as more than enough. While I have one year down, I know it will take many--hopefully a lifetime--to fully learn my body; to see it not as a sight to be hidden, a problem to be solved, an enemy to be fought. But instead to learn what it is completely capable of doing and to honor its power every chance I get.