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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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.

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  🙂