Your Body Perfectly Imperfect

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The perfect body. The right look. The best abs. The right “booty”. Sculpted arms.

The perfect “everything”.

Men and women are bombarded today with images and news stories that the media or fitness world tries to convince us that we should look like.

It might bring you down before you even get started. The seemingly overwhelming and impossible task to look “perfect” without living a restrictive diet and hours in the gym.

Does the average person even have time for it, if perhaps, that was their goal?

And let’s be honest, what’s perfect to one, will not always be perfect to another. It’s a very illusive pursuit.

Let’s also not forget how much genetics will play into our bodies and how we can shape them. If you have your moms  wide hips you might be able to slim them down or tone them up, but you most likely will never have a small round bottom like you admire on your fit friend.

You might want long lean cut abs, but again, depending on your body type and structure the look you want might be harder, if not impossible to achieve.

Besides a good disciplined exercise program, your nutrition needs to be on point the majority of the time to lose the fat and build some muscle.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I thought I wanted the past few years I’ve been on my health and fitness journey. I’ve learned more about what matters, or what is important to me.

Learning what I wanted

In the beginning, I thought just being “thin” was the goal. Just get “thin”.  I really had no goal beyond that and looking back now I wonder what seemed so desirable to me about just being thin ( as a goal) Of course I needed to lose some fat.. that was important. And I did get thin.

But I was still learning…

Once I had lost weight ( I was exercising along the way too) I started to see how exercise and some weights were shaping me differently. I had picked up running and it was during the time of really cutting calories and more exercise I realized I had abs.

Ok…so… that’s cool… well at least to a middle aged woman who had never really had defined abs or a strong hard core before. Age is not a limiting factor to changing your body composition, by the way.

When I got injured and couldn’t run for over a year, I picked up cycling and did a lot more weight training. Not running 55-60 miles a week, it allowed a little weight back on me that was being reshaped into a stronger more powerful body.

Embracing my body. This is where I got it.

This is where I started to appreciate exactly what my body could do even if I wasn’t a perfect fitness model for a magazine or even if my body parts never shaped up like the articles I saw in magazines.

It didn’t matter and I didn’t care.

The important part?

In all my training and various activities, my body performed for me. It was strong. It was powerful. It adapted to my training to allow me to do more. It made more blood, grew more vessels, learned to deliver oxygen in a more efficient manner during my strongest workout sessions, it grew new cells and more mitochondria ( the literal powerhouse of the cells) it grew my heart and also made it more efficient by giving me a super low resting heart rate so it doesn’t have to work as hard. The other side of that is having a faster recovery heart rate. My muscles grew and got stronger. I was able to run longer, faster and with more ease. I could lift more weight and do more reps.

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Do we ever stop and ponder how totally adaptable and changeable our bodies are? What amazing machines they can be with the proper care and fuel?  The glorious things you can do with them with some investment of time and proper nutrition  to train them to be stronger?

Do we value them as they are, where we are, at this moment in time?

We live surrounded by media and the world that would constantly convince us we are not there yet, that we are lacking, that we aren’t “enough”.

If you’re on a weight loss journey, be patient with yourself and embrace what your body can do now. Know that as you lose weight and exercise you’ll become more fit and definitely more healthy.

If you’re already working out, stay the course, appreciate where you’ve come from and that if you want continued change, it’s possible for you.

But no matter where you are on your journey, never lose sight of the amazing, adaptable gift your body is and all it’s capable of doing for you.

As you move into this year with new goals and plans remember this: Love and value your body, it’s the only one you’ve got. Remember you are “enough” and don’t shrink from all you’re capable of being and all you’re capable of doing.

Have you learned to embrace yourself ? Do you appreciate your body for all it can do for you even if you may not have achieved certain goals?

 

 

 

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Fit, Fluffy, And Frail

The alarm brought me to life and I did what I do every morning. I began to slowly stretch out my muscles from the nights sleep… it’s a nice way to wake up… stretching things out while I’m still laying down 😛

I’m kinda used to waking up with some kind of tight muscle somewhere on my body.

No, I don’t mean that comment I hear from people about having random and various aches and pains, the “it’s what happens when you get old” aches and pains complaint ( I have my thoughts on that too).

I wiggled my shoulders feeling the tightness in my chest and across my back.

Ahhhh, yes. Yesterday I had finally gotten back to do some boxing. I had taken weeks away from it while my new tattoo healed ( more on that later;) I launched into it with gusto and spent some time as well lifting heavy things.

Hello deadlift, weighted shoulder squats and chest presses.

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My body was reminding me that’s what we did yesterday.

Some mornings… it’s the legs… or the glutes.. or…. yeah… you get it….

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Fun you’re thinking.

No, seriously, I don’t mind.

You see when you exercise your body adapts to the demands put on it. In the beginning you do feel that tightness or ache or whatever (that, unfortunately, is when many people give up and quit) but as you keep at it your body wonderfully adapts to those demands.

After awhile you might not really “feel” that activity anymore. It seemingly becomes easier but the reality is, you, are getting stronger =)

Therefore, I like pushing myself a bit more to where I “feel” it. I don’t want to become complacent in doing the same old thing over and over.

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I want to challenge myself, to do a little more, to continue to build my strength and endurance.

I shared with hubby recently that I had been thinking of some things ( he gets a troubled look on his face when I say that haha;)

But I was thinking how there are things in life we cannot control. Things we have no control over…. no matter how we try….

And then…. there are some things we have a level of control over…. for instance….

I can control whether or not I’m fluffy or frail…. neither of which I have any desire to be… and I do have control over that.

I want to move ahead in my life being strong, fit, and healthy.

I can control what I eat, how I eat, and maintain a lean, strong fighting weight.

I can engage in activities that make me stronger for daily living and the tasks I take on. That time spent working out is the “pre-game” for real life that goes down way beyond my scheduled workout time.

I was chatting with a doctor the other day and we were discussing the benefits of being active and staying fit.  As we age we don’t have to become weak, many do because they don’t actively use their bodies. I love reading stories about people who are definitely in their “senior” years…. 70,80’s….. and they are strong and fit.

Why? They have stayed active. They run, power walk, cycle, do yoga, weight lift etc. they do things that they enjoy and have stuck with it. They know the benefits of eating well combined with purposeful exercise.

The results? they are strong… not frail or weak. They are at a healthy body weight.

Lifting heavy things keeps our muscles strong… that old saying … use it or lose it.. is pretty true.

Cardio work keeps our insides strong and healthy.

We become weak when we don’t work our bodies. But… that is something we have control over.

I don’t care how young you are… or how old… you have the power to make changes in yourself that are positive and that can impact your life in great ways.

We are always capable of making changes in ourselves.

How do you do that ?

Make a commitment to yourself that you really are worth it. This isn’t the time to be a martyr and say other things need you more, you don’t have the time to do it, you can’t take the time away etc.

Start small.

Add or increase your activities slowly to avoid injury.

Know some discomfort comes with the process!

Be realistic with your goals. Expect progress, not perfection.

Finally, don’t quit or give up! Even with a bad day, pressing on will get you steadily to your goals.

Taking Up Space

This post is for every woman who has ever thought she has to move through this world shrinking, and not taking up space. For every woman who has thought if she were somehow some perfect small size her worth and value would increase.

Society pushes it at us.

Smaller this. Lesser that.  Just ….be….less…..

I guess for years I chased that ideal.

In my youth, I had hit my height of 6’0 sometime in middle school. Not cool. Boys were a long way from appreciating long and leggy at that point in time.

I was as tall or taller than boys pretty much through high school. Did I mention how awkward and difficult that was at times ??

I longed to be like some of my friends who were 5ft something and 110lbs soaking wet. My mom would constantly remind me to stand up straight… keep my shoulders back… I wasn’t overweight by any stretch….

I just wanted to take up less space.

Once out of school in the real world I realized being tall wasn’t a liability. As I got older I appreciated it more and more.

After settling into life, marriage, and having babies I had gotten “comfortable”  (which is my nice way of saying I had put on extra weight I didn’t need to have).

I was definitely… soft and fluffy.

Eight years ago I started on my health and fitness journey.

My goal at that point? Smaller. Take up less space. Shrink. Be less.

Being less meant being more, right ?

Now hear me… I knew for my health I needed to drop some pounds. I trust that you, my reading friend, know if you need to take those same steps…for your health.

And I did… I lost weight.. dropped sizes… lost inches. I got smaller. After all, isn’t that what the world tells us we should strive for ?

The scale, my judge and jury, applauded my efforts.

However, along the way, after I had lost the weight I desired and started building muscle I realized I liked having a strong, solid, powerful body and taking up some space.

I stopped thinking about numbers and what the scale said ( if you haven’t, be sure and check out my Scale Experiment post on that topic)

Until recently…. I had to start thinking about numbers and sizes and all things related as I prepared for my sons wedding.

I had found the “perfect” dress.

Seriously. Perfect.

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At the wedding with hubby on left and my brother on right… and “the dress” 😉
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A peek at the back during our mother son dance. Such a sweet moment that almost killed me.

If I wanted to make sure it was an absolute “fit like a glove dress”, I could send them my measurements and have a dress custom made for me.

That seemed like a plan.  So there I was after ( forever long) of not thinking of sizes or numbers, getting my measurements for the dress.

Ok this isn’t a blog on the perfect mother of the groom dress ( although…. 😉 I might not give any thought to what my current pant size is ( ha what is it??) or my measurements,  but more about  what numbers do matter to me now…..

How many miles can I run ? What pace can I push and for how long ? Riding my bike, how many miles can I get into a ride? How fast can I keep my speed? Lifting weight… what’s the heaviest dead lift I can do? How many squats will my body handle before it says “enough!” ? How many reps can I do working my core with several different exercises? How many push ups? How long can I plank ?

Those numbers matter to me now.

Ironically, so many of the exercises I’ve been doing are building me and pushing me out of certain clothes… but I’m really ok with that.

I can take up my space in this world and don’t have to make a single apology for it.

Neither do you.

Be healthy. Be strong. Take up your own space.

What do you think? Have you ever felt like you needed to be “less” to be “more”? Have you had any struggles with that? Or have you moved through a point where you comfortable with taking up your own space in the world?

Share with me.

Swimsuit Season Is Upon Us

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It happens every year as stealth as a SWAT team going down on a crack house.

Swimsuit season arrives. You wake up one morning and it’s just….here.

Oh, you know it’s coming and you ponder it and you think of the mission of heading out to buy one. You wait for a note to be secretly delivered to you as in Mission Impossible kinda note…. this is your mission if you choose to accept it….

You set a date. You go armed feeling your best. You troll through endless arrays of swim wear. You immediately mentally discard the mass amount of pre-pubescent garments. You keep walking by the  screaming “I’m a floral arrangement” ones. You eyeball the barely there string cut ones and ponder if even a Victoria Secret model could pull it off.  I personally, keep moving right past the skirted ones and ones that offer more bra than I even wear on a daily basis.

Guys….sometimes I’m jealous that you just wander in and buy some board shorts and scamper on your way 😉

My selection levels drop greatly and from that point I begin my process of searching out a style I like, and locating the proper sizes.

Ok… the reality is this. I love bikinis. I do. No apologies whatsoever for that.

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First, I’m rather long and those one piece things never quite fit just right. And really, having a wet clammy swimsuit on my belly just isn’t where it’s at for me.

I like having my tummy tanned… maybe it’s shallow but I don’t really care. I love how free it feels to be in one.

This is my personal view point. What I’m comfy with. What I like.

That being done… it’s time… time to head to the dressing room. You know the dressing rooms I’m talking about, right? The ones with carnival house mirrors that distort you ( at least…you think…it’s the mirror;) and ghastly lighting that makes you look all white and pasty ?

This is where you find yourself pondering… “do I look this horrible in real life?”  and you have to resist the urge to bolt and run out the door…..

You… when you go on your hunting expedition should have in mind… what defines you…what you like….Obviously, you will pick something you feel comfy in ( as you should) and I hope you pick something that you can go out and rock in confidence.

That is key to anything you venture out in.

Own it. Nothing works better than confidence.

I know you’ve seen an overused slogan by fitness pages and diet machines asking “are you bikini ready?”  “do you have a bikini body?”

Here’s my take on this…. I don’t think a bikini or some fun suit should be relegated to a select group and that is all. However, please, no matter what style, bikini or otherwise, make sure you get a suit that fits well… that covers the right areas in a flattering way.

Meaning not to small. I always size up when I buy swimwear… and really…who knows…or cares…. if you did? What is more noticeable is if it doesn’t fit properly.

But let’s be honest… it’s hard to slip into something barely there and then wander out for public display. We are more than conscious of our body than anyone else and that’s a really vulnerable place to be.

Remember my post on body image? I, like all of you, have worked to embrace who I am in my own skin. The reality is, I’ve given birth to three beautiful sons. The reality is, I wasn’t blessed with skin that looked like I was never pregnant ( mad props to the few of you who got genetically blessed with that) I have some stretch marks and some loose skin no matter how much I’ve worked out or how good my eating, still remain. Honestly, being transparent with you, there are times it can bug me.

What I try and focus on is the positive… how my body has changed in such positive ways, how strong it is, the muscle I’ve built, the fact I have better abs now than when I was in my 20’s, and let’s not forget that my body can run for miles…. lots of positives to focus on.

And with those things in mind and a crazy dose of confidence, I bought a new one today.

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Mine is styled much like this, just with colored polka dots 😉

I saw it last year but it had sold out before I could get my hands on it. It’s mine now. It’s cute. And fun. And I don’t really care what anyone else will think.

I’m gonna rock that sucker for all it’s worth.

Let me remind you, summer fun and pools and beaches aren’t just for the cute, seemingly “perfect” group.

Life is meant to be embraced and enjoyed no matter what size or shape you are…. you don’t need some random person or idea to tell you that you can’t go enjoy your life. Get out there and do it.

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Obviously, girl on left is what society/media pushes today. Girl on right is definitely more mainstream….. yet she’s rocking a 2 piece 😉

Now tell me. Do you have a swimsuit horror story ? Do you struggle with buying swimwear? Is it something you enjoy or dread ?

Love Yourself And That Whole Self Esteem Thing

Love yourself.

Yes, I went there with that.

And no, I’m not talking about it in a narcissistic way, but a healthy value of who you are and what you bring to the world.  Confident in your skin and loving yourself, warts and all. However, we can often be our own worst enemies when it comes to valuing who we are.

You don’t have to look far today to be inundated with magazines and the internet showing you pictures of “how” you should look and what the “ideal” image is. Media seems to scream at us from all angles.

It largely seems directed towards women, but I know you guys get it too.

Almost seemingly, perfect, flawless, toned and non-defective bodies glare back at us.

No stretch marks. No loose skin. No scars, blemishes or imperfections. Thighs with space big enough to drive a truck through. Large breasts, tiny waist and equally balanced hips are offered up on the body buffet challenging us to up our game to reach that goal.

Guys, you might deal with the perfect 6 pack abs,  (big) strong arms and shoulders all the while being challenged to not have an ounce of extra flesh around your waist… you have your own challenges too… I get that…. and don’t leave you out of this equation.

Honestly, it can mess with those of us who have the best self-esteem and confidence levels.

How does one achieve such standards of perfection? More importantly, does it even exist ? And bigger question yet, do we want it ?

A few things that are obvious and clear but I’ll go ahead and state. These people often make a living by their bodies and what they look like, they have been in fitness/health industry awhile so it’s important to maintain a standard. They have to absolutely live a particular lifestyle to maintain their bodies and what they’ve achieved.

Nothing wrong with that, it’s just a higher calling than most of us will ever embrace.

Ok, and then, let’s not forget, photo shop does a pretty good job at shaping things up too before our eyes view it.

Whatever…. we see it. And it can leave us feeling defeated before we leave the starting gate.

Getting comfy in your own skin really does let you appreciate others beauty without crippling your own self-esteem. That is a process that takes time and certainly not learned over night.

I think in life lessons learned it’s important to get ok with who you are. Your flaws (real or perceived) imperfections, or other things that make you feel “less than” valuable or worthy.

Please pay attention: none of those things make you broken…. or lacking…. or flawed.

It does reflect your life and what you’ve lived and gone through.

Your story. Your own one of a kind story.

Every mark or scratch, scar, birthmark, the way your body is shaped, the angle of your jaw and set of your eyes…. all those things make you uniquely you.

Yet… we can struggle in it.

Watching my teenage daughter grow up is vastly different from having teenage sons. Body image is obviously huge among these young girls trying to grow into their own confidence and budding self-esteem which is often at an all time low.

If there is one thing I want for her is to teach her to love and embrace herself and not fall into the comparison trap, the trap that leaves us feeling like we aren’t good enough, adequate or whatever, although I know it just goes with the teenage years, heavily.

Opportunities can abound in daily life for teaching…for instance…. one day we are driving along and she says…

“Do you think my thighs are big ?”

It is the moment in life when you think… “OMG do I have to answer this?” and for a brief moment I feel pain for all the dudes who have ever had the female in their life ask them “do these pants make my butt look big?” and they get that deer in the headlights look about them….seeking escape….

But I’m driving…and can’t escape….

I take the easier way out…. and say… “How do you feel about them? And why would you say that?”

She launches into how her friends have thinner ones and one had commented on hers…. the reason now for the question… the question that has caused her to view herself in a different light.

I ask her if her legs let her dance, kick and jump? run? walk? Were they strong for the things she did in her life?

She answered yes….

I reminded her I didn’t have “skinny” legs but I was ok with that…. they were strong and muscled and had carried me many miles running and done several long distance races. They were big, but powerful, and I liked the strength they had. She has always been proud of my running accomplishments and immediately got what I was saying.

I told her she needed to be proud of her strong legs and know that all of her life she’d be seeing women who would be shaped in different ways and that she couldn’t compare herself and decide she was “lacking” in some way. She needed to love herself and appreciate her own unique beauty of who she is.

I can admire another woman’s beauty, without compromising my own self esteem or feel like I’m inadequate.  I can appreciate the gifts she’s been given while not devaluing my own.

I want my daughter to be able to do the same. To  know her own beauty and worth because when she does she will be able to build other women up and not tear them down. To love herself means she will be able to love more fully.

The same goes for you, my faithful reader.

I personally believe I have a Creator.

I love a particular verse in the Bible that says “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”

I take that to mean…. I’m just rather cool and awesome how I’ve been put together….. and so are you.

Be comfy in your skin…. love yourself. Maybe you’re on a journey with some specific goals…it’s ok… love who you are  and where you are right now as you travel along.

Have you ever struggled with these issues? Do you now ? How do you deal with it ?

That Whole Body Image Thing

Ok, I’ve had this idea rolling through my head for a couple weeks on body image. All kinds of topics spring to my mind… can I say sometimes it’s a very busy place in there ??? 😉

Lots of times, those ideas come from all of you. You ask questions, you have concerns, you want to learn, and it gives me opportunities to share and hopefully encourage you.

Now onto the most recent thing taking up space in my head…. body image.

I’m gonna straight talk here, as I always do.

I was flipping through a fitness magazine at the store one day while waiting to check out ( I know, this comes as a total surprise to you;) and one of the titles on the cover really grabbed me… and not in a positive way…more like…it bugged me sorta way….

The title said “Banish Your Thunder Thighs Forever”.

First of all, what I thought was…. “OMG, that sounds like something a middle school boy would say”

I mean, really ? Thunder thighs ? On a major magazine cover ? Is that how you’re teaching women to talk to themselves ?

I did flip to the article which promised if you did all these moves you could have slimmer, leaner thighs. Now hear me out …. why is a girl who’s all about fitness bothered over this ?

Perhaps it’s that whole body image thing.

Having these ideas thrust at us that can affect how we feel overall about ourselves…. “you must look like this, be like that” to be happy with yourself.

First let me say, we all know when we are…well….fat.  Yes, I said that.  We know when our bodies have more on them than needed. We really do. As women, this is definitely an area where it can hang out (thighs).

I know, personally, for my entire life I’ve never had “skinny/thin” thighs. Never had the elusive “thigh gap” ( and unless you are built a specific way, you never will either, as if… that matters…. )

If you asked me a few years ago I would’ve had that on my list of what I hoped to achieve someday for myself…. glorious skinny thighs…. in todays terms… “fat-free” thighs 😉

But lets be honest…as women…. we are wired by God to carry a little extra fat through our lower body cause we have the privilege of carrying children. It tends to land anywhere from our waist/lower belly/hips/thighs…. we are all different in how it may be carried on us.

So what troubled me ? Maybe the title ? Maybe the implication that if you don’t have skinny thighs you have a perceived issue ? You’re flawed… lacking some value? You’ll somehow be better WITH less thighs ?

Let’s face it….you don’t have to look to long or hard at magazines to see “ideals” of what someone thinks you should be… ( and guys, I’m pretty sure you struggle with this stuff too… arms not big enough? want your chest/abs more ripped? less belly? it just seems to not be as shoved in your face. Please give me your male opinion if you feel so inclined;)

But if you are a woman….
breasts…. the bigger the better…. ( I’m just gonna be outspoken here and say…. they are over rated ….one benefit of losing body fat 😉  … I don’t mind not worrying about them exercising 😛

So you need large breasts, skinny thighs, curvy hips but not TOO curvy…. chiseled abs… ok you follow me….you’ve seen the covers… and if you don’t have that… you might be inadequate in some way. These “ideals” can subtlety make us unhappy.

When I started my fitness journey a few years ago I was like a lot of you……mad/annoyed/frustrated/irritated that I was in the place I was. I wanted to be thinner, overnight. I remember one day, looking in the mirror and talking some trash to myself (Please…don’t do this!) and God sorta brought me up short by reminding me that, yes, I might have some extra weight, but I did have a healthy body and should give thanks for it every day….love it… even if it needed to slim down.

It was convicting. I immediately did a head to toe “thank you” for how each part had/did faithfully serve me. I didn’t need to beat myself up. I needed to love and appreciate what I had been given, right where I was at and then, get on track to take care of it. That was a huge turning point for me. God loved me. I needed to love myself. And that meant honoring what he had given me by loving it and taking care of it.

Now, about those thunder thighs…….. Somewhere along this journey, my perspective changed… my perception of body image started to change….

Being strong and healthy began to take importance over being “skinny/thin”. Having muscle was more appealing than the ideal of just being “thin”.

You know what? My thighs have gotten thinner and leaner. Fat has been replaced with muscle. But get this…. I still don’t have “thin” thighs…

Leg pic My legs have gotten heavily muscled…..which makes some of my jeans fit really tight through that area now….I love my big strong muscles…. they have come from miles of pounding the road and running hills and hours of work with weights. Those legs continue to allow me to run long distances, and hopefully, they will for a long time. They let me tirelessly run after a 2 year old grandson 😉

Shhh…. you wanna know something ? I still have fat on my upper thighs…..and I might always….and it’s ok…..perhaps some might even think “thunder thighs”….. I don’t really care… ’cause I just want to be the best “me” that I can…. and at this point in my journey, I’m more concerned about how everything works and performs.

***pay attention here ***

the journey is about getting comfy, content, and confident in your skin…not living into societies “ideal”…. being happy with who you are… not trying to live up to someone else’s ideals. Know what YOU want, know your own personal goals and things you want to achieve…. and go for it.

Don’t worry about others …tend to you… love yourself….focus on being the best “you” that you can achieve.

Don’t be in denial over your reality….if you need to drop a few pounds… get real with it… take care of business. Seriously, foremost, for your health, do it and then anything else is a bonus.

But… while you are on your journey…love and appreciate the body God has given you… warts and all…… after all… there is no one else quite like you  🙂