Next post: 39-year-old body. Here we go.
My relationship to my body has been complicated. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I spent a fair amount of time in childhood and early adolescence trying to achieve out-of-body experiences: Reading as a first and early pleasure, then television. I was, to put it mildly, an underachiever where sports and gym class were concerned. If you could skip them or hide at recess, I did.
I also was that kid who dressed in hand-me-downs and whose socks didn’t always match. But that’s a whole other post!
A lot improved after my parents sent me to Camp Ouareau. It might be a Canadian stereotype that a summer spent under the pines is an invariably wholesome and empowering experience, but in my case those summers – 7 of them – really were. The assumption was that we were there to canoe and swim and windsurf and play tennis, and so I did, and loved it. I also learned to trust my body – that practicing rescues does pay off when a swimmer needs rescuing; that when 9 counsellors-in-training are paddling against the waves and dusk is falling they will find extra stamina to get to the campsite.
I can’t say I fell in love with my body — I think one of the worst things about any form of abuse is that it can set a person at odds against herself in so many ways, and for me that was really expressed in a lot of bad habits around being tuned out and overeating and that kind of thing — but I had those experiences under my belt at least, along with the ripple chips and onion dip.
After I met my husband and married though, I started a slow weight gain that continued through my 20s. I’d like to blame his cooking but the fact was that aside from my one saving grace of loving to walk, I didn’t have any good fitness habits that didn’t revolve around showing up at camp. And since I wasn’t showing up…at 30 I found myself at a size 16 and pretty dreadfully out of shape. I hired a personal trainer named Cindy.
Cindy made me work. Free weights, lunges, step aerobics: You name it, we did it. She helped me believe in myself again as far as strength goes. I went down to a size 12 and started feeling much better about myself; I also formed a gym habit which did come and go a little bit (and I was never as close to as fit as many of the really cool women we profile at More). But it stuck well enough.
That’s the most fit and happy with my body I’ve been. Carl and I reformed our diet and bought a canoe and things were going great.
Then I had my daughter. I could not believe that an entire person came out of my body! Wow! But I also could not believe what that process did to my body. And before I really got a handle on that, I got pregnant again with my son and if I’d thought I’d seen stretch marks and sagging before, that was nothing compared to post-partum body #2. At least the one-year maternity leave gave me lots of time to walk and even brave the gym again.
Except…I never really got brave about it. I felt alien in my body again. I also felt guilty being away from my child (even though I know a healthy parent is important.) And I lost my workout mojo. Two and a half years ago. Ahem.
So I find myself turning 40 where I found myself turning 30: Out of shape! With bad health habits! A size 14 – and only in the forgiving vanity size loving stores.
And part of getting to midlife has also been to realize that it really, really does matter. One of my friends has had a cardiac event. I know, as all of you know, that the risk for many of the things that can really make aging lousy – diabetes, stroke, heart attack – can be lowered with healthy eating and physical activity. I want a healthy lifestyle, and know the only enemy is me.
So I’m getting back to the gym. I’m still suffering some laziness. (I’m going to try this workout. And lots of things I will be reporting on.)
I also have just now said “yes” to Weight Watchers here at work. I have some mixed feelings about that because I’m not a huge fan of diets, and also because I really want to stay focused on fitness and not on weight loss. But I also think that I need some motivation and to re-learn portion control and – hey, I said I would say yes this year. I said yes! I will keep you posted on my thoughts about that as I go through the process.
What’s your fitness and health journey been? Any tips or tricks? Any thoughts? I promise not all posts will be this long.