Arguing Semantics With Myself: What Shape Did You Mean?

There’s something I’ve been struggling with lately–struggling to live with and struggling to put into words.


It wasn’t until I started reading Caroline Knapp’s Appetite: Why Women Want that I started to formulate a way to express it:


She writes: “[a]ppetites for sex, for beautiful things, for physical pleasure–all of these can be baffling, and all of them can leave a woman confused about the most ordinary daily decisions. Are you eating that second helping because you’re hungry or because you’re sad? If you work out for an extra thirty minutes, are you heeding the call of health and well-being or engaging in a bout of self-punishment?[…] Where are the lines between satisfaction and excess, between restraint and indulgence, between pleasure and self-destruction? And why are they so hard to find…?”


I’ve been trying to navigate the borderline of the narrow crevasse between pleasure and self-destruction, and it is a particularly fraught balancing act because I am so invested in health and nutrition from an aspiration-ally professional perspective.


When I posted a picture of my National Academy of Sports Medicine personal trainer recertification on instagram, I had at least two people ask me if wanting to be a personal trainer was a good idea for someone like me.

NASM, National Academy of Sports Medicine, Personal Trainer, Certification, Recertification

I’ve had multiple people ask if this blog isn’t just another way of trying to justify disordered behavior, as well as if my current way of eating isn’t just as restrictive or disordered as any I’ve tried before.


As friends, family, and concerned licensed mental health professionals, they’re not wrong to ask those questions. But I don’t think they need to worry.


This morning, I had a thought: I can’t wait to get my cast off so I can get back in shape. 


And then I stopped myself and asked myself, what shape are you talking about? Because I realized that I don’t really care about what shape I’m in. I care about being fit and healthy. The terminology I’ve been using is wrong. I want to be able to squat and deadlift or finally do some pull ups again. While fitting into my old jeans is nice, I’m not particularly freaked out about the size of my thighs or if my abs are visible anymore.


But it occurred to me, while I was arguing semantics with myself, that even though I know where the line is, won’t I always run the risk of crossing it? Will I ever be able to fully disengage from the voices of ED all around me–including the parts of my own vocabulary that I have yet to change?


I really do want, more than anything, to be involved in the health and fitness community. I really do want to be able to go to the gym and train clients–but not because I want to help them reach some aesthetic goal. I want to help people learn how to love their bodies and make them stronger. I want to help people understand nutrition from a scientific, individualized perspective–so that they can make choices that keep them alive and disease-free for as long as possible. And while I think that fitness models are beautiful, I know that the way they live isn’t sustainable for real people. And I’m a real person.


I know that I’m very new to this journey toward self-love and acceptance, and I know that ED and I have only been separated for a relatively short time. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to go back to how I was. That doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to put in the work and learn a new vocabulary.


That doesn’t mean that I’m going to go back to “trying to get in shape.”


Library Book, Cast, Ankle Injury

The only chronic overexercise I’m doing these days is for my mind…

I think that I can make a difference as a fitness professional because, even though I may be surrounded by people who live in their own personal disorders, surrounded by broscience and eating clean and low-fat high-protein supplement-and-protein-shake nonsense, I think I’m becoming fluent in the true meaning of fitness and health.


It’s going to be hard, yes, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. Especially because I have this forum here, and all of you out there who will keep me honest.


It’s a challenge, but I think I’m up to it. My outlook, my mindset…they’re already starting to get in shape. And I think that’s pretty damn beautiful.


– K.

9 thoughts on “Arguing Semantics With Myself: What Shape Did You Mean?

  1. First, I have been following this blog for a few weeks now, and it has really helped me to stay grounded, and know that there are other people going through the same things I am.
    Second, I think being a personal trainer, nutritionist, or anything to do with mental and physical well-being is a perfect occupation for “someone like you.” Personally, I owe my life, or at least my current state of health and happiness, to my nutritionist. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her, and am considering pursuing that occupation so I can help people be and feel their best, inside and out, no matter what. I feel like a personal trainer would aim to achieve those same goals. Also, pursuing such occupations could help “people like us” learn something new about ourselves and our habits. I applaud you for following your dream, and doing what you love no matter what other people say.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Jamie!! I really, really do appreciate it. You’re right–being in a position to help other people learn how to love and appreciate their bodies–by teaching them the skills to treat them right–is so important. I’m glad that you were able to find a nutritionist who could help set you on that path…and I only hope to make that kind of a difference in as many people’s lives as I can…

  2. I know of a dietician who is still pretty obviously in the throes of anorexia. She couldn’t be a nicer person and I have no doubt that she is knowledgable. However. Yeah, it’s hard to not LOOK at her “that way”. So I hope that she recovers and that you also are able to put that training to great use.

    • I hope she recovers, too! I know how hard it can be to try to keep a healthy mindset while working with “triggers” all day. Actually, I’m in the middle of Marya Hornbacher’s “Wasted: a Memoir of Anorexia & Bulimia,” and she talks about how many of the nurses and professionals who oversaw her recovery were disordered or recovered themselves–and sometimes that made it harder for her to get past her own dysfunction (anorectics, in my own experience anyway, can get pretty competitive and prideful about being the most disordered)….

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