I started my first year of middle school on prescription diet pills.
My pediatrician deemed me “morbidly obese”, so after I looked up “morbid” and felt horribly embarrassed, I agreed to start taking appetite suppressants. For two months, the medicine worked, but after I was weaned off of the pills, I spent the following year gaining back double the weight I lost. By ninth grade, I was a size 20. The next year, I joined Weight Watchers. The best thing I took away from the group was the idea of lowering my portion sizes. The worst part was my obsession with the number on the scale every week. I came back to a size 16, and stayed there for about 9 years.
Now, I’ve never been athletic. It doesn’t run in my genetics, and the closest I came to sports was as a statistician for high school teams. I was forced to play softball briefly in my youth, where the coaches stuck me in a made-up, outfield position called “Rover”. I’m not competitive by nature, and I’m used to finishing last. The point of my backstory is to setup my mindset when I walked into my first CrossFit introductory class.
Saying I was terrified is an understatement.
After barely making it through a set of 10 squats (all 10 way above parallel, and I needed a water break), and other various CrossFit movements, I left the gym with a feeling that is still difficult for me to explain: basically, despite the awkwardness and pain of the new movements, I could not wait to come back. What I’ve realized since is that my body is begging me to work out. My muscles love to be stretched, and my heart enjoys pumping blood rapidly through my system. However, like most humans, my mind controls my body, and my mind was not immediately convinced that working out was such a great idea. “We flee from pain,” my mind would cry. “Stop torturing us!” it would plead. “You are not an athlete!” My mind flipped out. But the voices of the coaches began to silence my basic mental doubts. I had complete strangers cheering for me the first time I finished a modified WOD, and for each workout after that.
Slowly, I learned tricks from the CrossFitters about how to make it through a workout: “Just hit the ground and get up” (burpees); “Count down from big numbers” (sit-ups); “Swing your arms and JUMP” (box jumps). I learned how to focus on the small moments of success, like the first time I ran 200m without stopping, then 400m; or when I went from box-jump pull-ups to using the black band.
As the year went on, and certain workouts were repeated, I saw greater strides in progress. This week I went on a 5k run (with the future goal of running a 5k without stopping) and did a total of 2 miles in a sprinting WOD. For the girl who used to get panic attacks a week before the required run of the mile once a semester in P.E., the fact that I’ve run 5.2 miles in the last four days is insane to me. I tell my mind whatever tricks I need to in order to finish a WOD: “Focus on round one”; “The length of this WOD is less time than it takes to make dinner”; “This is just a bar that needs to be picked up”.
My mind has trouble comprehending what my body has done, and can do. Sure, it’s nice to be a size 10 and about 50 lbs. lighter. But CrossFit has taught me that the goal above all else is to be healthy, and it has given me the tools and methods to stay consistently in a healthy zone.
Currently, my body is incredibly excited about exercise in a way that makes no sense to my mind. As long as I make it through the door and see the white board, I know that I’m in for an incredible workout. And, albeit begrudgingly, my mind is just as pumped when I leave the gym, because I know I’m leaving as a stronger, healthier woman. That’s a feeling not found in any diet pills.
– by Molly Wilson