Today is Throwback Thursday, right? I would not have figured this out at all if it weren’t for www.thebloggess.com explaining it in one of her tweets. That’s how online savvy I am.
So here is my Throwback pic from about 7 years ago – it is a promotional pic from my former career as a personal trainer. Note the muscles – and shocking lack of tattoos! I did personal training and group class instruction off and on for 20 years and most of the time really loved it. When did I not love it? When I was getting up at 4:30am to go work out for 2 hours and all (I mean ALL) of my thoughts revolved around carbohydrates. Where to find them. How to eat them. Why I shouldn’t eat them. etc. etc. ad nauseum. If you have ever attempted to remove all carbs from your diet (not just gluten) then you may know how psychotic and pissy it can make you. ( I’m looking at you Atkins).
I am a big believer in moderation when it comes to diet and exercise but when this pic was taken I was in the midst of a big push to do a fitness competition which was way out of my comfort zone on every level (hello, clear plastic high heels anyone?) and required me to double way the fuck down on my exercise and eating. The results were impressive but a funny thing happened to me on the way to finally (finally) having a small butt and ripped abs. I didn’t like myself all that much. I spent so much time and energy worrying about every morsel of food and every lunge and squat at the gym that I found myself becoming hyper-critical of my body and it was no fun.
I was also no fun. Just ask my husband who remarked that I had never looked fitter but had also never been so … we’ll use the word “crabby”. And I was…crabby. Very. Your brain and body need carbs -at least mine did- and without them I was like Vesuvius looking for a reason to blow. Cat litter on the carpet? FUCK!!! Green light turns red? AAAHHHHH!!! My poor family.
A few years ago I retired from personal training for a bunch of personal reasons. I was also pretty burnt out and knew my clients deserved more than I had to offer at the time. It was the right decision and I don’t miss it – just the people I worked with. But it’s been kinda funny going from super-fit and ripped to more, ahh…
I live in a small town so I see the same folks all the time and frequently run into old clients and class-goers. I can see the pause and discrete (or not so discrete) body scan as they take in my new robust figure and can hear the mental configuring, “did she gain a bunch of weight?” To which I always reply – yes, yes I did,. I even tell exactly how much weight I gained – 25lbs – which is a solid amount. ( I say own your “numbers” – your age, your weight, your income and celebrate them – you have nothing to hide.)
But after years and years of working with mainly women I have learned something really important – having a perfect figure does not mean having a wonderful life. And having an average (read “not camera ready”) body does not mean you lack value or attractiveness. Some of the most physically beautiful women I worked with were the most racked with insecurities and self loathing issues. Who tells us that if our thighs touch we lack value? Who decided that if you can’t do a chalk rubbing on your stomach muscles you are not attractive?
When my body was at its most fit I was the most critical of my appearance – and the most obsessed with it as well. And there are few things less attractive than an individual obsessed with their own appearance . That is one of the reasons I love my growing tattoo collection. Not only are they beautiful to me (the only pair of eyes that truly matter? Your own.) but I feel beautiful wearing them. That’s right. I allow myself to feel beautiful even though I will never in this life ever again wear those size 2 (!!!) jeans I bought for the approx. 15 minutes that they fit. I feel beautiful even though as I’ve mentioned I have these…
I feel beautiful even though many people find heavy ink on a woman off-putting or even disgusting. That is ok. I got the tattoos for me, not them. I feel beautiful in a way that is self-celebrating without self-obsessing. I feel beautiful even though I had surgery that was supposed to take away what made me womanly. I honestly feel more feminine and happy with my body now than I did when that picture was taken – which was also taken before my double mastectomy.
That is the joy of tattoos for me and for other people who feel called to join this strange tribe of inked folks. There is an alchemy in getting inked – a transmutation and even sometimes a transcendence of your physical self. Yes, it can feel that important. And also tattoos can just look cool and NOT have “Big Meaning” and that is great too. Tattoos really are “One Size Fits All” – every body type , every size, no judgement, all are welcome.
So today on Throwback Thursday I look back and salute the ropy, muscled woman I was and embrace the curvier more colorful woman I am becoming. Exercise and healthy eating and taking good care of your body is important and necessary – you are worth the effort and your loved ones want you to live a long healthy life. But fer chrissakes take it easy on yourself! Accept your body as it is now and take daily small steps to improve your health. Do NOT put off loving and admiring yourself until you are the “right” pants/dress size. Love yourself today.