Today I celebrate an inconsequential birthday. 34. It’s not 30. Or 40. It’s not even 35. It’s not a memorable birthday like hitting double digits at 10 or arriving at sweet sixteen. And yet this could be a birthday that forever changes me.
Is it because our family is 27 days away from quitting our jobs, selling everything we own, and leaving to travel the world? No, it’s not that.
Is it because my twin sons have reached an amazing age of awareness which has led to a deeper and more rewarding relationship with them? Nope, that’s not it either.
What about the fact that our marriage, which was once at the brink of divorce and disaster, will celebrate 15 years this summer? Awesome, for sure, but even that is not the catalyst to 34 being monumental.
So what’s the big deal about?
I will start by saying that the past few years have been brutal on my body. I’ve had adrenal fatigue, tears in my esophagus lining, an enlarged liver, a high-speed car accident, infertility and multiple miscarriages due to PCOS, and total gastrointestinal upset due to Leaky Gut Syndrome — just to name a few. At times, I have felt like my body is simply falling apart. After seeing my ovaries covered in cysts, analyzing the results of my cortisol tests, or reviewing the plethora of medical procedures I’ve had done over the past few years, doctor after doctor would say the same thing: “the fact that you’re not having major symptoms is a testament to your incredibly healthy lifestyle”. Which perhaps should comfort me but honestly, only frustrates me even more knowing that my extreme healthy eating, regular exercise habits, and near-obsessive concern for not exposing myself to toxic chemicals isn’t resulting in me being truly healthy — it is simply resulting in me being healthy-ish.
While all that has been transpiring, my svelte and taut 18% body fat physique started changing. In 2013, healing from the injuries I sustained in the car accident had me on near bedrest for weeks and not fully recovered for months. I couldn’t even sweep the floor never mind do a push-up. And soon, my 18% body fat was 22%.
In 2014, adrenal fatigue meant I simply didn’t have the energy to exercise like I used to. On top of that, until I found a solution for healing those adrenals, it had me craving sugar and carbs as a way of self-medicating my energy levels. And 22% became 24%.
In 2015, I learned that high intensity exercise was exacerbating my leaky gut syndrome, leaving me in pain and unable to digest my food properly. I swapped it out for low-intensity exercise and while my digestion improved greatly, 24% body fat turned into 28%.
With every percent that crept upward, I felt like more and more of a failure. Size 2 turned into 4 which turned into 6 and then 8. Where I once enjoyed trying on clothes and buying a new outfit, now I left the shops disappointed and discouraged — hating myself even more than when I walked in. Despite all my certifications, personal experiences, and past successes, nothing seemed to motivate me. It was as if there was a break in the chain somewhere but I just couldn’t figure out where.
So when I woke up this morning, at 34 years old, I just wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted to wallow in the fact that I’m stuck in this rut of health mediocrity and there’s no hope for me.
As if on cue, my sons barreled into my room with a plate full of expertly made eggs, handmade cards and the demands of extra birthday cuddles. Soon after, I was reminded of how deeply loved I am by my incredible husband in his very public Facebook tribute. Of course, these are the people who remind me that I need to get over myself and enjoy every moment — regardless of my body fat percentage.
After extra cuddles and breakfast in bed, I got ready for my weekly walk with a good friend, a 66 year old woman whom I’ve had the privilege of training over the past few years. As we walked around my neighborhood, I found myself, yet again, encouraging her to see the best in herself. After a lifetime of not feeling good enough, I often find myself saddened by the disparity between how she sees herself and how the rest of us see her. I see killer legs and a cute butt; she only sees a flabby stomach and a saggy bottom. I see a beautiful woman with wisdom and maturity; she sees an old lady with wrinkles.
And I thought to myself, where is the break in her chain?
For how long has she lived under the crushing weight of these negative beliefs? When, if not at 66, will she ever love herself?
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed a dose of my own medicine. If I don’t change something, I will be 66 years old and still complaining. If I keep condemning every failure and pointing out every flaw, in the end, I will have never truly loved my current self. Always looking to what should be or even what could be. Worse yet, I may even convince myself of flaws that don’t exist.
So this year is going to be especially amazing. Not because there’s anything special about 34. Not because we’re traveling the world or will get to spend precious time with our growing sons. And not even because I’ll celebrate 15 years of marriage to an amazing man who cherishes and adores me.
This year will be especially amazing because for the first time in 34 years, I will finally cherish and adore myself.