Looking at my reflection in the floor-length mirror at Victoria’s Secret, I was wowed by my own body. I was trying on a pink and black sports bra, which made my boobs look amazing and gave me a surfer girl look. For a minute, I felt like one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, only curvier and a little shorter. That wasn’t always the case.
Shopping used to bring up body issues. I often thought that those three-way mirrors (a staple at H&M) were put in fitting rooms not to give a better look at a garment, but rather to destroy my self-esteem.
I have never been fat, but since I developed hips and breasts, I’ve never been skinny either. I am a rather tall (for a girl), slim, athletic and curvy woman in my mid-twenties, but the athletic part wasn’t so visible before. And that is precisely what makes me feel so confident now.
In my late teens and early twenties, I cared about being active and made a point of moving every day, but I mostly just biked, walked… and partied. Dancing while going out would be counted as exercise. I definitely had a beer belly, so much that one of my ex-boyfriends used to tease me and call me baby whale, which was simultaneously insulting and endearing.
Being active was something that I had to teach myself because I don’t come from a sporty family.
Even if my parents enrolled me in swimming lessons and dance classes for years, having to discipline to be (and to stay) active was something that I had to learn over time.
Knowing that something is bad for you is one thing, but stopping doing it (or starting a healthier habit) is where the real change happens. As much as I hate to admit it, I briefly smoked socially, mainly when I lived in London, England because it was the norm (and the only way to get a break at work).
Stopping smoking socially was an easy decision to make because I would barely smoke anyway, it made me feel sick, but also because I knew that I didn’t need that shit in my life. It was causing me more harm than good, which is something that I was fully aware of before I started. Over the years, I stopped many bad habits and got into healthy new ones.
It helps that in recent years, there has been an increased enthusiasm about healthy living. Some of the things that I started eating (like kale) were the result of friends’ influence but also of the trends going around. The same can be said for the fitness crazes or other healthy habits.
I started eating organic food, doing yoga, going to the gym regularly and eating a wide array of foods that include hemp seeds, kombucha and sprouts.
I stopped smoking tobacco, taking hard drugs (which barely happened anyway) and getting drunk every weekend.
I refrained from eating meat, dairy and gluten.
I took a piece of advice mentioned in many magazines: I bought quality athletic outfits, which made me perform better. It is way more motivating to train with a cute gym outfit. Nowadays, on any given day, there is at least one sports outfit drying on top of my staircase.
At the same time, I know that I should not freak out too much. I work very hard, both with my head and with my body, and I need to find balance.
The hard work pays off and I do realize when my health craze gets too obsessive. I still enjoy a pizza slice sometimes and the odd day happens when I really can’t make it to the gym or to yoga.
Still, I’m pretty good at taking care of what I do with my body and what I put into it. This ethic of care has helped me to stay balanced, happy, confident and healthy.
My close friends and family tend to tell me quite often to calm down. I’m constantly in movement because my ambition knows no bounds, and so I end up constantly doing something.
That’s where exercise comes in. Yes, it might tire me out but it also calms me down. It helps me to put things back into perspective and to unwind. It’s an occasion to calm my never-ending train of thought and to let go of the 24-7 business that is my life.
Besides the mental benefits, exercise helps me to feel better physically. It’s kind of silly: when I didn’t exercise as much, I realized that I wasn’t as fit as I could be, but at the same time, it was comfortable and I didn’t know where to start.
But as my fitness fascination got more serious, I realized that once you start, you can’t stop.
I don’t want to go back to having a beer belly anymore, and I take the steps necessary in order not to. Nobody can call me baby whale anymore.
That’s where the balance and the discipline come in. Without fail, I need to set up high standards onto myself in order to stay disciplined. At the same time, I know that I need to give myself some slack when I’m overworked.
Focusing on health and fitness makes me feel good happens every day, like last Saturday while admiring my reflection in the mirror.
In that moment, I was grateful to be healthy, fit and beautiful because I knew that I didn’t always feel that way.
Being fit makes me more vain but also enables me to be more confident in other areas of my life.
My clothes suit me better when I’m fitter. I feel hotter when I’m having sex. I feel ready for any physical challenge that comes my way, whether it is helping a friend move out or carrying groceries.
Ultimately, I’m learning not to envy other women’s bodies, but to be perfectly happy with my own. And while I’m at it, I smile at my reflection in the mirror.
Lili Monette is a journalist, artist and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently finishing the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.