It was dark for a while there, but then I remember that I deserved better.

By Emily Abbate
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I closed the heavy hotel door behind me and immediately started to cry.

I was attending a women's running camp in Spain-an unbelievable opportunity to do some self-exploration while logging miles in gorgeous, sunny Ibiza-but a half-hour earlier, we had a group activity where we were prompted to write an open letter to our body, and it didn't go well. Over the course of that 30-minute exercise, I let it all out. All of the frustration I had been feeling over the past two months about my body and self-image and the downward spiral I felt I couldn't control all came out on paper, and it wasn't pretty.

How I Got to This Place

From the outside-looking-in (read: Instagram), it looked like I was living my best life at the time and, to a certain extent, I was. I was about ten flights deep into 2019, traveling all over the world from Paris to Aspen to do what I love as a freelance fitness writer and content creator-interview experts, test out new products, work out, and record podcasts. There were also a few late nights out in Austin, a trip to the Super Bowl I'll remember forever, and a few rainy days in Los Angeles already under my belt in the new year.

Despite being able to maintain a constant stream of exercise while on the move, my diet was a mess. Hot chocolate with ice cream at the "must-try" spot in Paris. In-n-Out Burger upon arrival in San Francisco the day before a 10K in Pebble Beach. Italian dinners fit for a queen with one-too-many Aperol spritz cocktails.

As a result, my inner dialogue was also a mess. Already frustrated about the 10 pounds, give or take, that had joined me on my travels, this letter to my body was the last straw.

Inside that letter was a lot of anger and shame. I was ridiculing myself for letting my diet and weight get this far out of control. I was mad at the number on the scale. The negative self-talk was at a level that made me feel ashamed, and yet I felt so powerless against changing it. As someone who had previously lost 70 pounds, I recognized this toxic internal dialogue. The level of frustration I felt in Spain was exactly how I felt my freshman year of college before I lost the weight. I was overwhelmed and sad. I laid down that night, exhausted mentally and physically.

My Turning Point

When I woke up the next day, though, I knew that I had to stop telling myself "tomorrow" would be the day I turn things around. On that day, my last in Ibiza, I made a promise to myself. I committed to getting back to a place of self-love.

I knew that this positive change needed to be more than just drowning my feelings in long morning runs. So, I made a few pledges:

Pledge #1: I'd make sure to take time in the mornings to write in my gratitude journal. Just a few minutes on those pages was enough to remind me about the things in life I am thankful for, and skipping this activity made it easier for the toxic talk to creep back in.

Pledge #2: Stop drinking so much. Not only was the alcohol an easy path to empty calories, but it was also slightly depressing because I didn't have a good reason for why I found myself drinking more. So, if I knew I'd be going out with friends, I'd have a drink, and then switch to water, which allowed me to be more mindful when choosing that one drink. In the process, I became aware that saying no to my usual four glasses of Malbec didn't mean I couldn't have a good time. Discovering that helped me avoid any shame spiral the next day and feel more in control of my decisions.

Pledge #3: Lastly, I vowed to food journal. I used WW back in college (which was Weight Watchers at the time), and although I didn't always successfully follow the point system, I did find the journaling aspect to be really beneficial to both my weight loss and my perspective on food. Knowing I'd have to write down what I ate helped me make smarter choices throughout my day and look at the things I'm putting into my body as part of a bigger picture of health. For me, food journaling was also a way to track my emotions. Abnormally big breakfast? Maybe I should've gotten a bit more sleep the night before or I was in a funk. Tracking helped me stay accountable to my mood and how it affected my meals.

My Journey Back to Self- and Body-Love

Four weeks later, if I was to write that letter to my body now, it would read entirely different. A huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and, yes, I did lose some actual weight, too. But even if nothing about me had physically changed, I would still feel successful. I didn't quiet my inner critic. Rather, I transformed her into a more positive, uplifting internal support system. She appreciates me for all the choices that make me who I am and is flexible and kind to me when I veer from the healthy habits I've put in place.

She knows that the road to loving all of yourself isn't easy, but that when the going gets tough I am capable of turning it around.

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