Tag Archives: body image

Bikini Season Is Coming! Bikini Season Is Coming!

A quick message today.  

Bikini season is coming!  Or so I hear–the last one I participated in was around 1989.  I got my license renewed a few months ago and it still lists the weight that I was in 1989.  But I digress.  

Every other sponsored post on Facebook these days contains four cartoons of women shaped like fruit or admonitions against the evil fruit that causes belly fat.  Please keep scrolling past all that shit.  Here’s the real message:

 

bikini season is coming!

You are beautiful.  I hope you enjoy some sun on your face this weekend (after a liberal application of sunscreen, of course).    

 

The Wind In My Hair

I learned a new word today:  psithurism.  That’s the sound of wind in the trees.  Beautiful, right?  I had to smile when I read the definition because I experienced my own kind of psithurism tonight at boot camp.

We met in the park behind the hospital because the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Eighty degrees.  A clear blue sky.  Juicy green grass scattered with violets. A soft breeze moving through the tops of the trees.  Twelve women getting stronger and cheering each other on.

I missed last week because we were celebrating G’s birthday.  And today, I thought about skipping.  Even though I felt exhausted after a busy day, I forced myself to get up from my desk at 5:20 p.m. to change clothes.  I even thought about quitting while I was getting dressed–there’s nothing like trying to wrestle on a size G sports bra in a narrow bathroom stall to tear down your spirit.  But I managed.  Then I pulled out the shorts that I had packed this morning, only to realize that my leg shaving schedule is…a bit behind.  Again, I almost gave up on the work out.  We’re not talking about a fine stubble here–this was more of a Sasquatch type scene.

There in that yellow bathroom stall, I had a good laugh at myself.  Really?  All those years of therapy and I’m worried that I can’t go out in public with some hair on my legs?  I’m 45 years old, for goodness sake.  My body is mine and I have rejected many of the “beauty shoulds” that I lived with for decades.  For two weeks, I’ve been sporting gaudy manicures done by my six-year-old daughter because they are important to her.  Her opinion is more valuable to me than anyone who might judge me for having fluorescent pink nails with hibiscus stickers on them!  I haven’t worn makeup in months.  I quit dying my hair after Carlos was born and people assumed I was his grandmother, even after the Miss Clairol.  And now I was going to let a little hair on my legs stop me from enjoying my afternoon in the sun?

No way.

It felt so good to be out in the fresh air, under the wide blue sky.  While we were warming up, I resisted the urge to make a joke about my hairy legs or make some apology for their state.  I got the hell OVER IT.  We did some dancey moves, stretching and swaying.  During the part of the warm up where we balance on one foot and swing the other knee back and forth, I felt something crawling on my leg and swatted my shin to shoo it away. No luck.  Every time I swung my leg forward then backward, I felt the little creepy sensation but couldn’t see any insect.

Finally, it dawned on me.

There wasn’t anything crawling on my leg.  It was the feel of the wind in my hair.

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."  Kahlil Gibran

These Hips Will Never Be 15 Again

roller bookWhen I stood up after a one-hour meeting this morning, my hips popped and cracked so loudly that my coworker and I had to laugh about it. But I’ll take the creaking bones and sore muscles in exchange for the two hours of roller skating joy I felt yesterday afternoon.  Those sounds were just one more reminder that these hips will never be 15 years old again.  For that, I am grateful.

Back in middle and high school, roller skating was a thing.  It was The Eighties, so we skated in Gloria Vanderbilt jeans with a plastic comb sticking out of the back pocket, sequined leg warmers twinkling in the disco lights.  On a Friday night at the Skate Inn, the air hung thick with Aqua Net, Love’s Baby Soft and Polo.  I didn’t live close enough to The Big City to get to go skating every weekend–only about 3-4 times a year for birthday parties and such–so I never got really good at it.  Not like Amy Sarsfield, who had her own white skates with yarn pompoms tied into the laces.  She could skate backwards.  When it was time for Couples’ Skate, she and her boyfriend slipped around the oval in a waltz, not just holding hands and tottering along side by side.

In those days, my main concern while skating was looking cool…which didn’t simply mean staying upright.  I had to fight gravity and inertia, keep my hair combed, bounce in time to “Freak Out” by Chic, look around for my friends and any cute boys without looking like I was looking around.  My hips were busy keeping me looking cool while all of that was going on.  Because skating for me was all in the hips.  Maybe my legs were too long or my center of gravity was too high or the legs of my Gloria Vanderbilts were too tight to allow the right movement, but I never felt safe and graceful while up on skates.  Some primordial fear of falling kept me from completely lifting my feet off the rink surface to push.  And don’t even try to do that crossover step on the corners!  So I wiggled and glided and slammed into the carpeted wall to stop (ever so gracefully).  If I really lost momentum in the middle of “Brick House,” I might summon the courage to lift my left foot an inch and give a push/wobble/recover but every one of them made my breath catch in my throat.  My whole body vibrated with teenage tension, waiting for the BOOM!

Well.  That was thirty years ago.  After a looooooong hiatus (um, 30 years), I’ve been roller skating three times in the last month!  Vivi likes to go and I like to take her on any and all adventures…and if you’re going to the skating rink with a six year old, you’re gonna skate.  This is not the kind of coaching you can do from a distance.

roller skatesEach time we go, we get a little more comfortable.  Vivi falls fearlessly and often, like a game of Pick Up Sticks.  She’s tall for her age so she resembles a rolling flamingo sporting a look of dogged determination.  I look more like a turkey leg from the Renn Faire, up on skates.  At least my jeans these days have a little more give to them, so there is some blood getting to my feet.

My hips are faaaaaar more experienced at 45.  They’re wider, but wiser.  As I was gliding around the rink yesterday, smiling openly at the middle aged men hot-dogging around, I thought about that 15 yr old girl I once was and it hit me–I’m not the woman I used to be.  And that’s a good thing.

I’m not that girl anymore.  I’m three times older than she was.  My hips know how to shift weight from balancing a baby.  My toes know how to press for a corner because I learned that snowboarding in Utah–heel side J’s and toe side J’s.  The gliding along, moving weight from side to side, well that’s like skiing.  I still look around, but now it’s to find my kid and give her a wave.  I still can’t lift my feet all the way off the floor for fear of toppling over.  But I can still feel the music in my hips and I don’t care if I look goofy as I bounce along.    Especially if it’s the Harlem Shake or the Cupid Shuffle.  That stuff’s right up there with the Commodores.

Skating still makes me wobble, but it’s FUN.

It’s one of those things I would have denied myself if I had spent too long thinking about it.  I can’t go roller skating because I’m too old, too fat, too clumsy, too tired, too fragile, too impatient…too afraid.  But when you’re the mom of a girl and you never want to hear her say that she’s too clumsy or fat or fragile to try something fun, you have to shut up, lace up, and show her how we roll.

fixedskate

Fourth Trimester Bodies

Fourth Trimester Bodies

Allison Prejna and her child photographed by Ashlee Wells Jackson

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you look at this photograph?  

Softness?  Nourish?  Mother?  Comfort?  Completion?  Beautiful?  Joy?  

Flab?  Fat?  Cellulite?  Dimples?  Ripples?  Sag?  

This picture makes me ache for the days when I nursed my babies, when they fit so exactly into the curves of my body and the curves of my body were made for sheltering and nourishing them.  For forty weeks, my body gave itself over to the making of another person.  Every cell, every breath, every bite was dedicated to their creation. My body transformed itself–twice–into a ship that carried my two favorite people to this world.  For the first six months after they arrived, my body and not a drop of anything else kept them alive and caused them to flourish.  Even after they began to eat other foods, my daughter and my son returned to me and my body for over a year for nourishment and comfort.  My soft body was and still is their safe harbor.  

This ship, this harbor is a holy place to my children.  Now it is my ship alone, the only vessel I have to navigate the rest of my life.  How can I find its holiness again?  How can I honor it for the work it has done and the adventure that is yet to be had?  

I can look at this picture of a mother and hear the words “softness,” “beautiful,” “completion.”  But were I to pose the same way and fit my toddler in my lap, I am afraid that I would look at the image of my miraculous body and hear the biting words “fat,” “sag,” and “flabby.”  When I walk by a mirror naked, I don’t stop and say, “Wow, this body has done some incredible things!  Thank you!”  Instead, I turn to the side and suck in, poke and prod and sigh.  Or I don’t even stop at the mirror to say hello.  

Today a friend who has recently had a baby confided that she is feeling these “fat” words and fighting with her image of herself.  I knew just what to say to her and meant every word, but if I try to say the same things to myself….well.  So I knew it was a serendipitous gift when another friend posted a link to this wonderful article on Huffington Post about Ashlee Wells Jackson and her Fourth Trimester Bodies Project, “a photo series that embraces the changes brought to women’s bodies by motherhood.  By showcasing moms, Jackson hopes to shine a light on cultural interpretations of female beauty and change women’s expectations for themselves and those around them.” Please click through that link to see a gallery of 27 images of mother bodies.  Jackson is raising funds for her project and hopes to publish a book of images next summer.  She also calls for models!  

There are people who survive to adulthood with intact healthy body images–hooray for them–but many of us have been brainwashed by the Photoshopped, hypersexualised glossy magazine ideal that we hardly know what to think about a lumpy body that bears the marks of life.  I am practicing accepting this body, honoring it for the favors it has done me, and strengthening it for the journey ahead.  

Today’s challenge:  stop by a mirror and say hello.  Look yourself right in the eye for 10 seconds.  Then smile.  Say “Hello, Gorgeous!”   

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Shut Yer Pie Hole, Scale…

pie-chart-20090811-123901If my talking bathroom scale talked to me like a sassy girlfriend…

Dang, Girl!  Are you holding the baby?

No.  

Are you HAVING a baby?

I ate a lot of salt.

You ate a lot of something.

Salt makes me retain water.

It sure does.  But what makes you retain CAKE?

Cake, I guess.  Cake makes me retain cake.  

Want to hear the formula I use to calculate your weight?  I take the square root of your previous weight and multiply by PIE.

Your Permission Slip

you are a runner

Back in 2008, I signed myself up for boot camp with a single goal:  I wanted to be able to do a military style REAL push-up by my 40th birthday.  Three weeks later, I did three!

Three months in, after running and working out three days a week in the company of my compatriots at WoW! Boot Camp, I felt better than I had ever felt about my body.  Not that it was getting thin–but I was getting STRONG.  I decided to jump on the bandwagon and sign myself up for a 5K.  

But to train for a 5K, I needed to increase my cardio training, which meant I would need to do some work on my own.  In the daylight.  Without my coach.  And someone who wasn’t also a member of the group might see me…exercising.  So my coach came up to me one morning (at 5:WTH30 in the morning) and asked if I had a training plan.  I stuttered, “Um, well, I thought I would start using the elliptical in my basement until I can do about 45 minutes worth because that will equate to about the same amount of effort…”  She looked at me sideways and said, “Nobody ever ran a 5K on an elliptical.  Why don’t you go outside and run?”  The immediate answer in my head was “Because someone might see me and laugh,” but I knew better than to say that to April.  I didn’t have an answer for her.  She suggested that I map out a 1.5 mile route from my house and go out and back, running as much as I could and walking the rest until I could work up to running the whole thing.  Easy Peasy.  

I was terrified to run in public because I felt like I needed a permission slip.  Wouldn’t “real” runners laugh at me if they saw in my $124 New Balance shoes and my double reinforced titanium running bra, size 40G (the G is for GOTDAMMM!)?  I took my dog with me so I could use him as an excuse to be out in public, taking up sidewalk, breathing the fresh air and pretending I was an athlete.  I started to run.  Just run.  I went at night so no one would see me, or on Sunday mornings when the mean people might be busy at church or still in jail.  

No test to pass.  No license to earn.  No membership card.  Just run.  

I finished my first 5K on a rainy Saturday morning.  I had to walk some.  Everyone there was nice to me.  I was scared to look over my shoulder during the race because I thought the only thing still behind me was the police car bringing up the rear.  But I did it and I was so proud of myself that I wore my number straight to a Weight Watchers meeting.  

So let this quote from John Bingham be your permission slip.  It doesn’t even have to be about running.  Replace the word “run” with sing, zip line, act, date, write, blog, swim, whatever you wish you had permission to do.  

Changing the Way I See Things

flipped glasses

Totally not me because I never could get my Dorothy Hamill haircut. But those are the sweet, sweet spectacles that I loved.

When I was in third grade, my mom took me over to Dr. Hammett’s office in LaGrange.  He was “the eye doctor” and I loved going there because the front desk had a bowl of Kraft caramels on it and every now and then one of those fudge ones would show up…SCORE.

That’s exactly how I felt when Dr. Hammett told my mom that I would need glasses.  I knew that I was not supposed to want glasses but I really did want them.  I thought they would make me interesting.  And I would be able to read and read and read and read.  So I tried not to smile while I heard the news.  I picked out a pair from the kids’ rack–they were called “Cherry Swirl” and they were AWESOME.

Glasses didn’t stay awesome for long, for all the usual reasons.  Blind at the pool.  Contacts are itchy.  Fingerprints.  Four eyes.  Sweat.  They slide down, get knocked off, scratch too easily.

I loved my Cherry Swirl glasses for about a year then I tolerated glasses for another 33 years.

Then one magical day, my car was paid off and I saw an email about $1000 off laser vision correction and I decided that it was time.  I went to the seminar and found out that it could work for me.  I had the money for it.  I got over my concerns about the slim slim chance of ending up with worse vision.  Last April, I did it.  I signed the papers, paid the bill, swallowed a Valium (#18!) and lay down on a table.  Srrrrrrrt.  One laser made my vision blurry.  Then they walked me two steps to the next table and Srrrrtttt blip blip blip runk runk ruuuunk…and I could see.  Seriously.  I stood up and read the time off the clock across the room.  It was 11:40.  Thirty four years of not being able to see then I could see.  Just like that.

The day after the procedure, I gathered up all my old glasses and prescription sunglasses and stuffed them in the donation box for charity.  It felt so liberating!  I could lie on my side and read a book.  I felt safer around the pool because I could see my kids clearly.  We went to the beach and I saw fish jumping out in the distance.  I could wear regular old sunglasses from Target.  Even working out was better because I could sweat all I liked without my glasses slipping down my nose during push-ups.

But this isn’t an extended testimonial about the powers of laser vision correction.  It’s about changing habits and changing situations in life. With the speed of a laser and a few thousands dollars, I changed my situation.  But this morning, I did what I always do–I turned off the alarm, swung my legs over the side of the bed, then reached for my glasses.  It’s been a year, but my body still follows that habit of 34 years.  It happens when I am sleepy and running on my lizard brain.  Habits are like that–they are grooves that my body has gotten used to.  They once served a purpose, but now I might still be doing them without the need to.  Habits don’t always recognize when a situation has changed.  Think about an alcoholic–the minute they decide to stop drinking, the situation has changed.  The habit of wanting to drink takes longer to retrain.  

The week after the laser eye surgery, I started ripping down the ugly fruit wallpaper in the kitchen that I had resented for eight years.  In a couple of days, we redid the kitchen counters, the appliances, the walls.  FINALLY.  It felt like I had shaken something loose.  The eye surgery had inspired me to change other situations.  Some things really can be fixed just. like. that.  It only requires making the decision to change.

There was a time when running was a habit for me and I want to get back to that.  I simply need to do it.  I could spend eight years or thirty years to think about it and plan for it and worry over it, or I could put on my shoes tomorrow and run.  Well, probably walk and then run down a hill.  I can change the situation quickly, even though the habit will take longer to recover.

Sound familiar?  What's got you scared to change?

Sound familiar? What’s got you scared to change?

Do you have something that’s been nagging at you?  What are you tired of?  What part of it is a habit and what is a situation?  Can the situation be changed?  How can you retrain the habit?

Now I’m going to bed and I bet you a dollar I reach for the phantom glasses in the morning.  And I’ll smile.