Writing this post makes me feel old.
It's not that I've given up.
Don't you remember the good ole days when "dieting" meant a Diet Coke for breakfast and your entire afternoon revolved around at least 20 minutes on the treadmill?
Okay, maybe that's just me. The thing is, that's how my life used to be. From before I was even old enough to drive, I was doing sit-ups on the living room floor, exercises from "Thin Thighs in Thirty Days" and eliminating entire food groups from my diet. Sure, I grew out of it, eventually played sports in high school and nearly died after every summer volleyball practice (which often included running, my favorite). I didn't have to worry about my weight then. And if you look at pictures of me, it's obvious: My smile was contagious, I looked happy and comfortable in my own skin, and I had a kicky short haircut to boot.
Fast-forward 10 years later, and the story changes drastically.
I'm not REALLY sure what happened, but I have a few guesses. And I think this is where the "stories" come in, those voices in my head that tell me I'm not good enough, sadly, the same ones that have somehow twisted this face from that glowing young smile. Here are just some of my stories, for you to share and compare at will:
- I dated, was engaged to and married an ex-body builder. I know, that still sounds just as surprising to me as it was when I first saw the pictures and for some reason TOTALLy freaked out. (Who is this guy, I found myself wondering?) From day 1, he was never the guy who you could ask, "Does this make me look fat?". He's not the kind of man who will tell you you don't need to lose weight, even if that's all you want to hear. He IS that guy who will want to share all of HIS knowledge on the subject and will flat-out tell you, "Bagels make you fat." Wow. THAT took a little getting used to.
- I moved back to my home town, which — only in part, of course — sorta made me wish things were the way they used to be. With the same people, the same fun things we used to do, my same care-free attitude. I quickly learned that what most people notice after having not seen you in a while is either "You lost weight" or "Yeah, she got fat and happy." Why we do this to ourselves as a culture beats me.
- I had 2 babies, which probably screws with your head more than anything else. Before you get pregnant, you expect "the glow," the big boobs, the foot rubs and endless hours of prenatal yoga, Mommy-and-Me yoga and for breastfeeding to just take all the weight right off. Me? I got acne, barely went up a cup size, had to supplement with formula and probably haven't exercised in 2 years. FOR SERIOUS.
I know, these are major life events we're talking about. They're bound to mess with you a little bit. But I finally realized, wise woman that I am, that, even though I know a lot about the health aspect of it all — some of it alarmist, admittedly — I was always just chasing the body. The chiseled biceps, the Madonna abs, the cute workout clothes featured on every page of SELF, SHAPE and Women's Health. I'm pretty sure at one point I subscribed to all three magazines and probably some more I'm forgetting. I poured over the pages and devoured the content, sure something would work like a magic bullet for me. I cut out pages of exercise regimens and spent thousands of dollars on meal plans and vitamins, denying my ultimate body shape, genetics and — really, deep down, I swear — beauty. But me? Trying to look like a model in a fitness magazine? Either God is waiting a really long time to show me how to look like that, or that's just not who I am.
And after all these years, I'm finally figuring this out.
So I'm not chasing skinny any more. I'm not pretending there's a chance that a few squats and whatever shoulder presses I can squeeze in while the kids are playing will turn me into Fergie. What I really want is to be healthy. What I really want is to feel good.
And even though I've known this much for long, it bears repeating: When you feel good, you look good. Even if it's just in your own eyes.
And honestly, those are the only eyes that matter.