It’s difficult to pinpoint the first time I decided I didn’t like the way my body looked. I remember friends comparing the numbers on the tags of their jeans as early as fifth grade. By junior high, I was stepping on the scale regularly, feeling confused and frustrated by the number I saw. In my early 20s, after years of dieting, I started to gain weight. I found myself trying to solve my frustrating relationship with my body through impulse splurges on fitness gear, gym memberships and new workout clothes.
For a long time, each purchase felt like a chance at a fresh start. I dropped $100 on new running shoes after my first baby, certain they’d motivate me to run a 5K. (I’d never even run more than a mile before.) I rush-shipped a $50 yoga mat and spent another $50 on dumbbells after my second daughter was born to create a rigorous at-home workout plan. (It lasted only a few weeks.)
My biggest weakness, perhaps, is “The Fitness Guru,” with their Instagram feeds of bikini-clad fitness instructors, inspirational before-and-afters, $100 e-books of meal plans and monthly workout guides — all of which I’ve spent too much time and money on.
I haven’t lost any weight.
Now, I don’t believe that buying fitness gear or gym memberships is wrong — I honestly don’t even have a problem with what I’ve spent in the grand scheme of things, which I estimate is just over $1,000 in the past five years.
But the problem behind my impulse buys is that they fuel the belief that there’s a magic fix out there to change how I feel about my body.
Moving From Fitness Splurges to Healthy Habits
In the new year, I decided to stop using my wallet to try and change my appearance — because *spending* on health alone isn’t going to make me feel better. Prioritizing my health is more complicated than following the right diet or exercise plan. It’s about recognizing what habits help make my body feel strong, and that starts with accepting the fact that change won’t come overnight.
Here’s what I’m doing:
1. Being Kind to Myself
I’ve had three kids in four years. I’ve worked two jobs, I’ve freelanced, and I’ve worked overnights to supplement my husband’s income while our family grew. I’ve lived through the heartbreak of watching brain cancer take my brother’s life. In hindsight, I can see how all of these things have hindered my ability to focus on my health. So I’m going to give my guilt a break.
2. Taking Baby Steps
I’m consciously spending less time looking at the scale and more time focusing on small goals that directly impact how I feel, both physically and mentally. I’m doing at-home bodyweight exercises — no spendy equipment necessary — to address the back pain from three back-to-back pregnancies and years of breastfeeding. I’m moving more, taking long walks and hikes with my kids, because I notice how being outside boosts our moods. I’m eating more balanced meals to fuel myself for the work of caring for my family.
3. Spending Less
I’m taking a break from fitness-related spending. I’ve kept our YMCA membership because it’s something our family consistently uses to burn off steam during the winter months — well worth the $80 monthly fee. Outside of that, unless I truly need something (like new tennis shoes after my old ones have worn out), I’m redirecting my spending elsewhere. More important than the budget changes, for me, is adopting a more consistently compassionate approach toward my health and body image.