So, I turned 40 recently (I know, you all still hate me for having to do that many birthday burpees). And as luck would have it (ha!), a new member at the gym asked to take fitness pictures of Josh and I to work on lighting and help build her portfolio in the same week. Now let’s be clear…I was not training for these, did not do anything different with my diet, didn’t “shrink wrap” my muscles to look more toned, or anything else that would have made me look any different than I do every day (except for the light spray tan so my whiteness didn’t mess with her lighting). But yet I didn’t hesitate to say, “sure!” And thanks to good lighting, her photography skills, and I’m sure a shit ton of filtering and editing, they turned out really cool. But the whole thing got me thinking about my body, aging, perspective, and what makes women confident in their own skin. It’s such a fine line for women to be confident about how they look. They don’t want to seem conceited or self-absorbed and if they make progress or are proud of what they’ve done. They always say thank you, but then feel the need to further mention “but I still have a long way to go” or “I mean I’ll never look like so-and-so”.
If I think about my own evolution of acceptance of my body, there are some interesting things that come into play. You have to remember that I went to middle school and high school in the 90’s. That was when “anorexic chic” was the in-look and being skinny was what all girls strived for. We had entire groups of girls in our school that prided themselves on only consuming Diet Coke for days at a time. Genetically speaking, I have always been fairly muscular and athletically built. Needless to say, I never felt beautiful by societal standards in those formative years. I was surprisingly pretty ok with it, but was always referred to as “the big girl”, “husky”, “built like a brick shit-house”, or more recently, simply “shoulders”. I learned to be self-deprecating about it and make jokes about it before others would. Sports were pretty much my world, and luckily, a lot of girls were more similar to me in that realm, so early on I focused more on what my body could do
than how it looked. I worked out, but definitely bought into the classic myth that girls are told about how lifting heavy weights will bulk you up even more, so I tried to do mostly cardio and light dumbbell weights. I played college volleyball and continued to compete in sports and workout in that same way into adulthood.
When I was in my mid-thirties, I had my first major injury - I tore my ACL and meniscus playing city league basketball. I was devastated. I was humbled. I was mad. Sports and fitness had defined who I was my whole life. I was on crutches for six weeks and couldn’t do any lateral movement for 18 months. I’m not really prone to depression, but I was depressed. The interesting part was that for once…I was skinny! My muscles atrophied so much, so quickly, and my clothes were falling off of me. One would think I would have been ecstatic. But it was by far the opposite and I couldn’t wait to get back to moving and being strong. I joined CrossFit the day my 18 months was up and I was cleared by my physical therapist for all types of movement. It has been a milestone that has done more for my self-acceptance than anything else. Being around a group of people that values performance, strong women, health, gains, supporting each other, fun, and community is like coming home. There has also been a bigger societal shift that recognizes the beauty of a strong female, both physically and mentally. I am thankful that my daughters are growing up in this mindset and around the people at our gym, and really don’t know any different.
aSo, when I got these pictures done, I was actually really grateful for the perspective. I have worked hard to stay in shape as I age, but I also drink beer, have lazy days where I don’t get off the couch, eat lots of cake, and know full well that I’m a happier person when I enjoy life and balance work and play. I look at my body in the mirror (and in the pictures) and have my own insecurities about my skin, my gray hair, my stretch marks, my abs that will never be the same after two giant babies (but on the flipside, how cool is it that my body was able to grow two giant, healthy, amazing babies!?), etc., but I live by the “it could be worse” motto and focus on what I can do physically that most 40 year old women cannot. I hope all the women in our gym see their improvements instead of their setbacks, their strength and not their weaknesses, and their body for what it can do instead of what it looks like. It is most definitely unnecessary to compare bodies to others’. There are so many factors (genetics, age, stress, diet, environment, etc.) that make our bodies all different shapes and sizes, and what a wonderful thing that is. I admire all the ways other women are strong where I am not, and appreciate being influenced by all you beautiful women at CFL.