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When working out doesn't mean weighing less

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More To Love teaches plus size women how to learn body-acceptance and end dieting for good. 

When working out doesn't mean weighing less

Rachel Estapa

Me doing the yoga pose "Warrior III"

I fell in love the moment I opened the doors to Healthworks Fitness Center for Women in Cambridge and was greeted by the scent of tea tree oil whirlpool water. It was another world, like no other gym I had ever been to and it made me feel excited and proud to be waltzing in with my Groupon Coupon for a trial month-long membership.

For 30 days, I pretended I deserved a fantastic gym, equipped with top-line machines, exceptional classes, spa-esque locker room and amenities that beat out most 4 star hotels. As my month of luxury-fitness winded down I thought to myself “If I had a gym like this...I would be so thin! So healthy! I’d be one of THOSE women!”

“Wait, HOW much a month??....Oh uhh..ok...actually, let me think it over, I’ll call you tomorrow!”

I never called.

Saying farewell to my out-of-reach gym, I joined instead the bargain one in the basement of a building next door, though while fine, was not anything close to the feeling I had at Healthworks.

As the years passed, and as I swapped out other local gyms trying to replicate the feeling of community, pride and enjoyment, I would look fondly to Healthworks as some kind of city on the hill - a place where someday I’d allow myself to be.

Money didn’t have anything to do with it now that I look back. I was spending WAY more on frivolous things each month which didn’t matter to me. My mindset was if I was paying that much for a gym, I’d be only disappointing myself because deep down I knew I never was going to be a thin girl. I didn’t think I deserved a place so wonderful if I was just going to squander it.

I believed to have the right gym, I’d needed to have right body.

All of this was 4 years ago, when I still believed I was just another Weight Watchers attempt at “solving my weight problem” or just hadn't quite figured out yet the right body-chemistry nutrition wise to lose weight.

You can read my major body-breakthrough story here to see exactly how I solved my "weight problem." In short, nothing was wrong with me at all, I wasn’t something broken that needed repairing - my body wasn’t a series of disappointments to be shameful of.

Last year, I quit ALL gyms and did my own thing including running outside, taking yoga more regularly at my local studio, and attending day-long fitness retreats. I focused on activity without a goal in mind, but as an expression of being alive and healthy. I wanted to break the idea that my health and fitness had to come from a place of forced-participation.

And something began to sink in: that despite my size, I’m very active, impressively flexible, strong, and courageous to try new activities. I’m athletic, agile and even graceful sometimes (especially in yoga). I have always been this way, but did so in the shadows -- I wasn’t appreciating how fantastic my natural body is and what I can already do.

Therefore...If my body is able to be fit right now; if I am on cloud-nine after a great workout, feel more grounded and balanced, and am full of enthusiasm and daring to try new things...why the hell does weight loss even need to factor in?

And that was a lightning bolt moment: why do I need to workout to weigh less?

This month I joined Healthworks Fitness Center Women because I deserve to provide my body, mind, and spirit happiness and health. My goal is not to lose weight, but to be present in my body, explore its' possibilities and expand my own fitness level.

And I won't lie -- a goal in my life is to feel as much as possible like I’m on a wellness retreat day-to-day and this supports that goal. Call me a snob for that, but I love how it feels to be restful, balanced and even a bit pampered. I take care of myself because it's worth it to me. 

During my intro-session with a fabulous personal trainer named Hannah, I spoke honestly: 

“I’m not here to lose weight -- I’m here because I love being active, love having a spa-feel to my life, and I want to build upon my natural strength and flexibility. Oh, and be able to do 20 full push-ups without stopping.”  

And you know what she said? “Absolutely - this is YOUR gym and honestly, I wish more women thought that way because you seem so happy and excited - everything else follows that.”

Hannah is right - health follows happiness. And I can't tell you HOW amazing it feels to belong to a gym without any pressure to change myself. 

Hallelujah.

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Make sure you also get a free e-copy of my workbook "CURVY HAPPY HEALTHY"!