At the start of last week I hurt my back exercising. For five days—under strict orders from my physiotherapist—I didn’t do anything more taxing than a gentle walk around the block.
Instead, I enjoyed sleep-ins, extra special care from Kate, and spending time on things I don’t always get a chance to do. It was a good week. But 18 months ago (the last time I was forced to take a break from exercising) my experience couldn’t have been more different.
Back then I was obsessed with working out, driven by a belief that I was never quite where I should be aesthetically. I had always been a skinny guy and I was determined to lose that label. I did all the ‘right’ exercises, ate all the ‘right’ foods, yet my body refused to look the way I wanted it to.
Encouraged by health magazines and websites I began to track my progress, believing my body would continue to betray me unless I could outsmart it with enough data, facts and figures. I spent hours each week scrolling through Google Images searching for fitspiration. My phone was filled with shirtless selfies. It got so bad that Kate and I couldn’t even go for a walk without me comparing myself to random guys, asking: “Am I as big as that?” or “Is he skinnier than me?”
I was an addict, and my health was under serious threat. But it wasn’t until I learned how much my actions and attitude towards food and fitness were impacting Kate’s recovery that I got the motivation I desperately needed to make a change.
I understand now that my body is not a stubborn adversary that needs to be punished or beaten into submission, but a miraculous tool designed to help me do the things I love. I’ve learned that true contentment will never be found in the size of our biceps, the firmness of our abs or the space between our thighs (though I have to admit this one was never my top concern). And I’ve realised despite what we’re told, the relentless pursuit of the perfect body will never satisfy us; it only leaves us empty, exhausted and unfulfilled.
I’m good enough the way I am. And you’re good enough the way you are. If you don’t believe that then it’s time you questioned who it is you’re looking to for affirmation. For a long time I was looking in all the wrong places and it made it hard for me to be a good support for Kate. But now I know my worth’s not determined by the size of my body or the opinions of strangers I can give her the care she needs. And that’s why I’ll never go back.
This post is part of an ongoing series in which Matt shares his experience caring for Kate. Stay tuned for more confessions of a clueless carer.