After my now-husband proposed, wedding dress shopping was one of the first tasks I was eager to tackle. I didn't care if it was dipping into a thrift shop to try on some amazingly tacky '80s taffeta concoction, I had the ring and was eager to play the bride. The only things that gave me pause, besides the fact that I had no concept of what the budget should be, was a fear of having to wear a dress that was larger than I had wanted.
Notoriously restrictive with their sizes, wedding dresses are often two sizes larger than the ones you'll find at clothing retailers, and this sent me spiraling. Yes, I wanted to be fit and look good on my wedding day, but there was no way I was going to feel comfortable in a dress with a size on a label that made me feel anxious.
While I've always been fixated on weight, a few years prior to my engagement it escalated into unhealthy territory. Things like exercising four hours a day while restricting my caloric intake to a paltry amount meant that I was the skinniest I've ever been. However, it was impossible to keep up, but the residual behaviors lasted much longer than I would care to admit. Fixating on dress sizes and the weight on my scale was still present when I realized that I would have to go dress shopping.
Not wanting to slip into a destructive path again, but also wanting to tone up for my wedding, I needed to find a routine that let me be healthy while at the same time retaining control over the desire to do even more. Running, thankfully, was my path to a healthier approach to life.
During my previous bout with unhealthy diet and exercise I used the elliptical machine, which allowed me to carefully monitor my calories burned as I would watch the little red dots dart around the screen in a never-ending loop. From my speed, incline, and how long I would ride, to even whether or not I wanted an autonomic fan giving me a false sense of being outdoors, I could control everything. This, in and of itself, was addicting, and I knew that when I was planning my exercise routine for my wedding I should avoid these machines at all costs.
Running couldn't have been more different from those calculated and controlled elliptical machines. Every run, even if it was my old tried-and-true route, was different. A pebble in the street could make me stumble, forcing me to pay attention to my surroundings, as opposed to looking only at a moving red dot. I had to take into account the weather, strangers walking, distance, speed, and most importantly my diet; in short, its unpredictability was something I needed. I could account for a lot of things, but nothing I did could accurately predict perfection.
With elliptical machines it was easy to exercise on a lack of food, but with running, I needed to take into consideration what I ate in a different way. I felt better on a run if I drank more water throughout the day and if I ate something before. Running allowed me to see and feel a connection between being healthy and exercise.
I may not have lost as much weight running as I had when I was elliptical obsessed, but I felt good and was no longer focused on what number was on my dress. Under my dress I was strong and in control in a different way, and even long after my wedding, still to this day, I run as much as I can make time for. It is a balanced part of my life that lets me live a healthfully, without getting caught up in a game of how much can I lose.