It's Not About Projecting Poor Self Body Image...It's About Modeling Healthy Improvements


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Last night I squeezed into some running clothes, including a Nike sports bra I haven't worn in years. I hadn't washed my laundry in a few days and so I pulled out the sports bra at the bottom of the drawer. It felt OK at first, but as I ran, it was clear it was simply way, way too small. When I got home and got ready to shower, there was NO WAY I could pull it off over my head. None. I tried and tried. I ended up cutting it off myself.

It's too bad; because it was a nice wicking bra, but it was simply impossible to remove.

I'm a small woman – 5 feet tall, with a very small frame. I admit that I've gained some weight in the past year, but I'm not really sure why. My diet is pretty good, and I have been trying to walk briskly 1/2 hour per day.

It's not enough, however, to manage the ever-increasing mid-belly bulge, disappearing thigh gap and that general "squishiness" I am feeling everywhere – in my arms, upper and lower back, etc. I just don't feel comfortable, and not the like the self I would like to be.

I bought a lot of cute clothes in the past couple of years that don't fit correctly right now, and due to these increasing bulges, I can't wear them.

It's time to kick it up a notch.

But I have been warned "not to dwell" on my weight since I have still have impressionable teens at home. "Don't make the kids get too caught up in 'body image.'"

I do agree with that wisdom. However, sometimes it's worth pointing out, in a reasonable way, when we can make improvements to ourselves.

I have complained a little to my daughter when we went shopping over the weekend. I was surprised when I really looked in the full-length mirror when I really got a gander at myself. My daughter is very, very slender, but she is healthy despite her small frame - her doc just confirmed this. She is a runner, and to keep her healthy my husband and I continue our efforts at home to get her to increase calories and widen her food choices to be even healthier. She is a picky eater, and although she is truly trying to consume more variety, her favorite foods are still starchy and sugary, and she eats a lot of them. Ugh.

My son had a growth spurt in the last couple of years, leaving behind his "baby fat" (which he only carried between ages 9 and 12) and has a solid body type but is now very lean. Football, hockey, lacrosse and general activity (plus that testosterone kick) have caused some significant changes to reduce fat and increase muscle on his frame.

And that's what it's all about. Changes. I've written about that before – quoting David Bowie. Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes.

Several years ago, my typically excellent health went down the drain when I had two unexpected major surgeries on my abdomen. I was left very weak and sick after the first surgery, and my chronic health condition roiled since I couldn't treat it, leaving every joint in pain.

I wasn't being dramatic then; I just couldn't eat. I had no appetite and had a constant sensation of illness – not quite like a hangover or the flu, but eating was a chore. Everything was like sawdust in my mouth, and since my gut was operated on, I wasn't able to fit much in.

As a result, I lost 45 pounds overall. I weighed less at the time than my 100-pound daughter, and it was frightening. I've never read Stephen King's "Thinner," but I know the gist of the story. And every time I stepped on the scale for required weigh-ins, I could see I had lost more weight. It just kept going down and down. I was trying to drink Ensure, etc. - anything to gain weight. I felt corpse-like. It was not good.

Ultimately after my second surgery, I started to feel like myself in the months that followed. I actually attained a weight I really liked and kept it that way for about 2 years.

But in the past year, more changes. I am now no longer fertile. That's a lot of hormonal change right there. My diet and activity didn't change but I gained weight anyway.

I had to have my gallbladder removed this past spring, and I thought I might lose weight after that, but I didn't. I have actually gained more weight since that surgery (but that recovery went GREAT, so if all I'm doing is gaining a little weight – well, I'm OK with that).

Now, however, I have to be the one in charge of the "Changes." I need to up the ante a little bit on my aerobic workouts. I need to cut sugar out. I need to cut out white starchy carbs. I'll increase good healthy carbs, and add even a little more fruit and veggies.

It can be done, and I have a plan. And I'm implementing it now.

As a parent, I think modeling how to manage areas of improvement is a good thing. I personally believe that there is ALWAYS something we can improve within ourselves.

This is not to say that I think it's OK to speak disparagingly of ourselves. That isn't good for our own self-image, and it's not good parenting. Negative self-talk is to be quashed.

I have let my daughter know that at my recent physical, all of my health markers came back excellent. With an ongoing health issue to be aware of, I have made it clear to her that my overall self-care is excellent.

However, recognizing things one would like to improve within oneself IS healthy. At this moment, it's improving my fitness, muscle strength and being even more mindful of healthy diet choices. I'm talking about losing 10, maybe 15 pounds of fat. I'll know when I'm where I want to be when my clothes fit well again. That doesn't sound like much, but on a 5 foot tall small-boned frame, it's a lot.

I have to be gentle on my joints, but I found it exhilarating to run again. I'm taking small steps to increase activity, but found that a half hour workout of 20 minutes of running and 10 minutes of walking on either end of the run feels pretty good. I'll listen to my body and make adjustments if I need to.

Are you into what I'm saying? What is it you've been meaning to do but haven't made a priority that would be good for your teens to see? Is it getting back to painting? Joining an adult sports league? Spending time volunteering? Focusing on spirituality? Starting a business or making an employment change? Planning that vacation? Making more quality time with your kids?

It doesn't really matter how old we are or how old our kids get...modeling how to be the best version of yourself is a life-long journey. I look forward to walking that ongoing path with my kids.

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