Friday, August 19, 2016

On being happy


I'm finding with age comes wisdom. I had to get older to develop my IDGAF attitude. I had to step away to realize the energy I was putting towards a baby could be better spent in other ways. It's not always easy, but while I'm always looking for opportunity, I am also learning to be content with life as it stands. I have self-awareness and confidence I never had as a young girl, but I still struggle with loving myself when it comes to my appearance.

I can't imagine what it is like for girls today with more media than ever bombarding society with perfection. I am lucky enough to have grown up mostly without photoshop, no internet, so smartphones, limited television and media outlets, and certainly no social media, no comments from the peanut gallery of society either.

For me, 35 or so years ago, it felt simpler. I don't think I really started worrying about my appearance until I was about 9. I moved from my local school with kids who were in mostly my same socioeconomic level, and went to a magnet school with smart kids bussed in from all over the city. Interesting enough, most of these kids came from upper class neighborhoods (I still wonder if that was because they sought out the upper class kids for the program or if the lower income families just didn't have time to worry about learning) and all of a sudden I was being ridiculed for my clothes, my lunch, my haircut, etc. It's no wonder I started worrying about my appearance at a young age. I started to worry if my nose was too big, and if I had the right shoes or had capri sun and doritos in my lunch. Fortunately, I was thin at the time, so nobody could make fun of my weight.

We eventually moved to a different area, and when I started 7th grade, I was new with a clean slate. Since I was now more concerned with my appearance (and I had more control over my clothes) I fit in as well as anyone could. I was certainly not the most popular kid, but I was not an outcast. And yet, my confidence wavered. One day, in art class, we were cutting out magazine photos and I came across a Shape magazine. At that point, I became fairly obsessed with exercise and losing weight. I was practically my full height by 7th grade, and was creeping up to above 120 pounds. Oh the horror! I would count out my breakfast and my lunch to make sure I had only eaten 1000 calories before dinner because I decided that my family dinners couldn't be more than 500 calories and that would allow me to hit my goal of 1500 calories a day. Thank goodness I was not adept at counting calories at that time! I did aerobics in my bedroom, and ab exercises every day after school.

I already mentioned that I started lifting weights in high school, and I do remember not counting calories but going to the gym every day after school. I was not in any way, shape or form fat, but I wasn't really excited with my abs (I'm an apple shape for sure and carry most of my fat in my belly). I can remember trying to chase that 120 pounds for so long, thinking if I could get to 120 pounds, I would look great (and I could exercise racehorses, especially if I could get my weight even a few pounds lower). So much information on how to get fit and lose weight, as well as no comparisons for anyone my height. I remember 120 being the "ideal" weight - yeah, maybe for someone 5'5" with no muscle mass!

Fast forward over the years - higher weight, lower weight, higher, lower, higher. I never did get back to 120 pounds, thank goodness, but I still have not been happy. Fortunately, I never developed a serious eating disorder, but I do have a crap relationship with food. I could blame my body for a lot of things, including failing to get pregnant. But now I'm actually happy with my strong, incredible body. I do think some of it comes from age and accompanying wisdom, and it helps that I no longer have a single fuck to spare. I'm not 100% satisfied, I know I have a long way to go, but building muscle has helped my body image more than anything else, including being bombarded with "love your body" messages. Having real scientific information on how to eat and work out helps too - knowledge is power and I feel capable, which also helps.

I am now on a journey. The journey is most important because there is no finish line! When I get to a lower body fat, I won't be done - that is the time to lift heavy and try to build muscle. An athlete never stops trying to get better, and I don't want to stop either. And now that I have found happiness,  I have also found flexibility and freedom. As early as a a few months ago, I had set my time limit on getting to my "goal weight" at the end of October, but no later than the end of November. Well, shit happens, and I am not losing fast enough for any of that.

But in struggle, also comes opportunity. After my years of stupid dieting, I do not lose the way I probably should based on my activity and calories. I should probably spend some time looking for my maintenance calories, and at least giving myself a bit of a diet break. I am not willing to do that yet, however. I do want to give myself a chance to lose a bit more. I also don't want to be dieting over the holidays. I've always heard that maintenance is the best plan over the holidays, and I want to give that a shot. So, no matter what weight I am, I will start maintenance on Thanksgiving day, focusing on moderation, eating like a normal person (rather than a binger or a dieter), and continuing to count my calories and weighing daily to find my maintenance level. Because I've already found happiness in my strength, my confidence won't take a hit, and if anything, I will be able to hit weight loss better than ever in January because of my refreshed metabolism and any extra muscle mass I have been able to gain over those six weeks or so. I'm super happy and confident with this plan. Here's to future, as well as the present!

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