A Fitness Lament

I’m skinny, so I’m happy, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m healthy, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m good at sports, right?

I’m skinny, so I can run fast, right?

I’m skinny, so I should wear a bikini, right?

I’m skinny, so I should flaunt my assets, right?

I’m skinny, so I’m a bitch, right?

 

You don’t know the struggle, you don’t see the tipping of MY scales,

I’ve been bombarded with images of media since I was a girl,

telling me to be hotter, thinner, sexier. Telling me my body belongs to the highest bidder or the best con

-but not myself.

Telling me my worth is on the auction block based on the length of my thighs and the hollows in my cheeks.

I should be thankful for my genetics and flaunt what I’ve got.

 

It doesn’t matter that Docs told me I risked being infertile when I was 12 because I couldn’t gain weight

and now I’m thirty- hoping, praying, desperate for another child. Realizing what a miracle the conception of my babies were.

It doesn’t matter that I stand up in the middle of the night to answer their cries and pass out from blood pressure dropping to the floor.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been on pills, supplements, diet changes (the works!) to fix the anemia that weighs me down like lead in my bones.

If I’m cold I’m just told I should put on some insulation, there is no way that it’s my thyroid since I’m too skinny for problems.

Problems dismissed, sorrow invalidated, frustration ignored-nothing’s wrong since I’m skinny and just complaining makes me bitchy, so shut up and be happy I’m so lucky.

 

Why do you work out? You don’t need to. Why don’t you eat pizza? You could use it.

Since when is cardiovascular exercise reserved for only the obese, like my heart will keep on pumping forever just fine since I’m skinny.

And my hormones will balance out just fine since I’m skinny.

And my muscles will just magically appear since I’m skinny.

And my bones won’t ever be brittle and fragile even though osteoporosis runs in my family-since I’m already skinny.

 

Stupid LIES health is important no matter the circumference of your waist,

whether there is fat on my muscles or not they need to be worked,

my bones need to be strengthened so I pick up my weights.

And as for food- am I the only one who sees that poor nutrition doesn’t just hurt your joints with extra weight but poisons your system and effects your entire life?

My body is a temple and a gift from the Lord, just look at the detail in scripture for the creation of the Tabernacle

-am I to treat the dwelling of the Holy Spirit with anything less than my best?

What is it to YOU that I care about the health of my gut or the strength of my back? Get off mine.

Fit and Fancy

I have arrived, y’all. I made it. I’m there. From here on out I just aim to maintain. My scale sits collecting dust on the floor and I’m considering getting rid of it entirely. I love where I am right now on my fitness “journey”. And I know “journey” sounds hokey, but I don’t know what else to call it. The truth is that we are all on one-whatever word we use to describe it. I know some people object strongly to even having the word, “exercise” in their vocabulary, but whether are you a self made couch potato or a triathlon finisher-you’re still on a fitness journey. Your underlying routine-what you typically eat, what you typically do-that is either building you up or breaking you down. There is no escaping that. I’m not talking about wanting to lose some weight, or feeling guilty about donuts. Ditch the scale and your guilt (but keep the donuts, yum!). I’m talking simply about the fact that we can’t escape our bodies. We can’t escape their needs. We can’t escape how they function. We can’t escape eating.

We continue to focus SO much on appearance that we are missing the bigger picture. Your health allows you to do more. Your health allows you to BE more. And if you’ve decided that there are a million other things that are more important than your health-well, you’re wrong. There are a FEW things that may be more important than your health-but not as many as you may think. How are you going to enjoy your kids if you are constantly run down? How are you going to keep up with your coworkers if you get devastatingly sick multiple times a year? Or even just struggle with fatigue? Or pain? Headaches? Digestive issues? And how are you going to RECOVER from any of the illnesses/injuries that life will throw at you if you don’t have a good foundation for the doctors to work with? Who cares what weight you are, how ARE you? Really?

I am not anti modern medicine by any means. If anything I am pro-doc! (Is that a movement? Can I make it one?) But the truth is, our health system is overrun with basic health issues. BASIC health issues that then become more and more complicated. Nobody is winning-the docs are fighting to keep an already unhealthy body alive with some semblance of “quality of living” and the patient is drowning in prescriptions and feels like this is “normal”, or “part of aging”, or “there’s nothing I can really do about it”.

It’s hard being sick, y’all. It’s hard living with chronic pain, with chronic fatigue, with chronic stomach issues, with chronic ANYthing. And it’s hard to exercise daily, to eat balanced, to make conscious decisions about your health. No one said anything about life NOT being hard. But this idea that living healthy is “hardER“? I call BS.

Loving your body does not mean just dressing it well and refusing to take crap from people about it. Loving your body means CARING for it. Feeding it well, strengthening it daily, and when it gets run down-by all means get help for it! I am not saying that living healthily will cure all disease (um, that’s ridiculous) but why is it so crazy to want to arm my body with the best health I can give it so if and when disease does strike I have something to work with?

And I know it’s tough, but we need to be aware of the excuses we feed ourselves when it comes to living physically healthy lives. There is enough time for it-it may mean you have to reorganize your priority list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time. You don’t need to enjoy exercise to need to do it. You hate exercise? Ok. You should still do around 30 minutes a day. I HATE meal prep. But I should still do it to keep me eating balanced. You hate salad? Ok. Your body still needs multiple servings of vegetables a day. You’re body isn’t excused because you hate salad. Find some other veggies. You need protein. You need vegetables. You need fruit. You need fats. You need carbs. Whether you “want to” or “like” or “have time” doesn’t matter, your body still NEEDS those things to function.

Arrogance is king in our society, to the point where we just assume that however we “feel” justifies whatever we want it to. And I am not against feeling-total wellness is dependent on a healthy emotional state-but we can’t just change the basic premise of how our bodies function just because we “feel” like it’s beneath us/not who we are/not part of our makeup/not our thing/that’s fine for you but not me. Your health is absolutely a part of you. You don’t need to become a certified trainer, health nut, gym junkie, or whatever, to be healthy. But you DO need to make an effort. I’m a child of God, a wife, a mom of two, an avid reader, an adult with ADHD, an aspiring writer, absolutely a couch potato whenever I get the chance…the list continues. And even though I have goals to pursue in the nutrition field-I didn’t start there, and nothing says to be “healthy” I have to continue along that path.

So, in a nutshell, you are on a fitness journey whether you like it or not. Be honest with yourself about whether you are heading where you’d prefer, it doesn’t take much to change in either direction.

Loving Self

Did you know that there are mountains in Texas? Seriously, mountains. It’s flat for days (literally) and then right before you hit the Mexicos (the country and the New) the Franklin Mountains pop up like forgotten geographical zits. My reference to acne aside-I actually think they’re beautiful. They aren’t as grand and imposing as the Rockies, nor as graceful and undulating as the densely forested Appalachian, but they have their own rugged beauty sculpted from the bare, jagged rocks that ripple with a variety of hues in the desert sun. My first sight of them brought joy and excitement-I knew vaguely that there was a mountain range supposedly dividing this new city we were moving to, but in the chaos of orchestrating the three day cross country move I hadn’t given them much thought. Mountains! Our last two duty stations had been flat (Ft. Bragg) and flatter (Ft. Rucker) so the presence of actual elevation more than made up for the lack of trees. Mountains! I can currently look out the window above my sink and MOUNTAINS! Right there. I love to watch the weather roll in over top and I get spectacular sunsets nightly (when the wind isn’t blowing enough dust to impact visibility, ha).

So, naturally, this being the world of social media-I tried to take a picture with my phone to share my excitement. ….womp womp. Every picture I took I felt like the mountains looked dull and tiny and uninspiring. The pictures just didn’t do the mountains justice! It was frustrating. So I stopped taking pictures and just soaked up the view in the moment.

Now we’ve all seen or done this. How many times have we tried to take a picture of something and the picture just didn’t really capture what was going on? Conversely, how many times have we seen photographs that take our breath away? This. This is exactly what we do with our bodies and our selves.

I don’t like all the marketing campaigns aimed at women and beauty, even some of the “self love” ones irritate me-because they focus so much on appearance. Appearance is only a snapshot of life. It’s only one lens. It’s not even smart phone camera quality, it’s an outdated flip phone camera picture. When I mention loving my body, I mean NOW and ALL OF IT. I don’t mean “loving how far it’s come” or “loving the pretty parts” or “loving the strength it has” I mean in this moment, wherever you are in the journey of life, loving the intricate complexities of your physical-ness. Our bodies are incredible, each and every one is a work of art-even those who are, by the world’s standards, disabled or diseased. How extraordinary that our organs work in concert to fight disease, to find ways to adapt to disability, to struggle through this life still pumping, still going, still doing. We have amazing capabilities of healing, of strengthening, of endurance and stamina, of sensation and interaction, of delicate manipulation, of shaping and creating. We should nurture them, care for them, rejoice in them, stand in awe of them, and ultimately- love them. And yet the biggest pressure society puts on all of us is how this deeply complex organism appears on the surface.

By whose standard of beauty are we measuring ourselves? I’ll tell you flat out-there isn’t one. Artists have struggled with the concept of beauty for decades-is it symmetry, a certain pattern, a specific asymmetry? Is it a hind-brain driven grab at fertility, or a survival mechanism? What makes things beautiful? What makes certain people beautiful and others, not? How come the standards of beauty change so dramatically across the decades? A better question-why are we all still so obsessed with just one measure of a person?

I am thirty years old (yesterday!), and I can just now assert with confidence that I am more than my appearance. I have dreams, goals, emotions, ideas, quirks, idiosyncrasies, talents, gifts, a soul…-all swirling together inside this body to make a complex person. My body is a part of my person, make no mistake, it is the part through which I am able to realize those same goals, dreams, interests, etc.  But it is only a part of a greater whole, and my appearance is even a smaller aspect of that part. When I look at my boys, I have to take a huge mental step back to evaluate their appearance objectively. To try and see them through the eyes of a stranger-it’s almost impossible. When I see them, I don’t just see the formation of their limbs, or the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, the stance of their skeletal system-I see the energy leaking out the pores of my three year old as he runs down the sidewalk, the pleasure in the eyes of my toddler as he successfully recaps a marker, I see their spunk, their quirks, even their thoughts seem to be etched clearly in their movements. And all I feel is love for who they are. The lens through which I view the boys is super high quality and focused, and I’m sure rose tinted. But when I take a picture and put it on Instagram-you don’t see all that. I look at that picture and see THEM, a stranger looks at that picture and sees two boys.

Why are we believing the picture a stranger has of us? Why are we focused on making that shallow, one level representation of who we are (our appearance) matter SO MUCH? Why are we so reluctant to believe that those who love us don’t view us the same? They can’t view us the same, because they see more of us than just a snapshot. So let’s stop placing more importance on how we are seen compared to the always shifting standard of beauty, than on cultivating all of our selves. Because when strangers become less than strangers, what we look like is rapidly buried under how we connect, and that connection is not based on the shape of our cheekbones. Y’all, we can’t escape our society from judging us, that will happen-we are not responsible or in control over the actions of others. But we absolutely can, and should, remove ourselves from the equation. Because the lens by which someone is judging you may be from the camera of a flip phone. It doesn’t even come close to capturing who you really are.

Thoughts on Body Image from a Skinny Christian Woman

After my workout on Tuesday I went to take a shower-boy did I need it-and did the customary “look over” in the mirror before hopping in. You know the one I’m talking about. You kinda just take quick check on your appearance while the water heats up, maybe pluck a few stray chin hairs (don’t judge! You know it happens…) suck in your stomach and turn sideways, and then shrug and jump in to get clean. I’ve been feeling convicted a lot recently about body image. As I dive deeper into the Beachbody coach thing, I know I need to find places to draw my boundaries, and I know I want to promote a HEALTHY lifestyle-not necessarily a skinny one. But a lot of times I feel like a hypocrite, because I AM skinny. And that led me to dig even deeper and here are some things that surfaced.

I am ashamed of being thin. It’s not just the feeling like my boniness is ugly, or the wondering whether I’d be more attractive heavier (both things I thought a lot during high school and college). It’s this feeling that my size is a problem. My appearance is hurtful to others. Somehow, my being thin makes it harder on others who aren’t thin. My pant’s size is responsible for other people’s lust, envy, bitterness, and disgust. My tall, lean frame pretty much causes people to have eating disorders. Being skinny is my fault. And being skinny is wrong. If I were a super-villain, my power would be driving by and zapping people into anorexia.

Some of these points were driven home in college where appearance was everything and yet my body was apparently “up for grabs”. I often felt isolated from people I wanted to connect with because of how I looked. I managed to worm my way into a great group of friends-most of whom would be considered geeks or nerds to the rest of the world-but in the early stages one of them (bless him for his honesty) flat out asked me why I was hanging out with them, to not take it the wrong way, but I looked more like the sorority type. I despised my body during college. I was constantly slammed with the mentality that to be pretty was everything, and if I measured up to the mark I was a slut, but if I didn’t measure up I was worthless. This was all hateful, hurtful nonsense.

Through much prayer, and growth, and the confidence that comes from being in a supportive, loving marriage the hurt and disgust faded away. BUT, I’ve realized that there is still lingering shame I’ve been masking. I don’t like working out with people because I am very body conscious. I’m conscious that in many athletic settings I am usually one of the thinnest people in the room. I feel like that means I should be fitter than I am. I feel like this also means woman hate me for being thin and working out (both MY perceptions, coming from me, not grounded in reality). I make excuses for my size-good genetics, I love working out, don’t really have much of a sweet tooth to fight, etc, etc, etc. I focus on my weaknesses to try and put people at their ease-for example, I really am a SLOW runner. Like, sure, I finished two ultras, but I was second or third to LAST. I focus so much on the health benefits of eating well and exercising to try and write off my appearance as inconsequential. In fact, I may sabotage my own efforts at becoming fit because I am worried about the impact on others. None of that is emotionally or psychologically healthy-in fact, it is all rather self centered. Seriously, my body type is causing all these problems in others? Well aren’t I a celebrity. PUH-lease!

Downplaying my appearance gets frustrating, and eventually it boils over into almost furious diatribes of how I AM healthy and people SHOULD lose weight and they can just STICK MY PANT’S SIZE IN THEIR PIPE AND SMOKE IT. Which results in me then feeling guilty for being angry and bitter, and I’m back to being ashamed. Because secretly, guilty, oh so secretly- I like what I look like. I’m proud of my body and how it works. I like my appearance. There are parts I don’t like as much, sure, but overall, I feel like a good looking woman. But I shouldn’t, right? Because me LIKING being thin and fit means I’m giving other people body image issues.

Bottom line: body image isn’t easy, it’s a mess in my head, and I don’t have it all straight. But here is where I am in this journey-

First and foremost, we are made in the image of God. Our physical appearance matters, because it reflects our creator. He did not make our bodies for us to despise. Our physical bodies are the conduit for Christ on earth. The local church is made up of believers physically present together. I should not downplay my body, I should not despise it. I should NOT abuse it. I should love it, and care for it, and use it on this earth for the glory of God. Learning how-and implementing-a healthy lifestyle so that I can care for my body in all ways includes physically. This is not the same as worshiping my body. It does not mean I should put my physical needs over others. It does not mean I should be enamored with my own appearance or judgmental of others’. It means it’s ok to like how I look, it’s ok to appreciate how my body works, it’s ok to work at being healthy. It is ok to find joy-and pleasure- in this earthly form.

It’s true, my genetics mean my skeletal frame is taller and narrower than others-but that is how I’m made. It’s also true that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and if people look at my shape and become embittered or envious-that is their struggle, not mine. It is also true that I have my own issues-like anemia-so eating balanced and maintaining muscle are things I need to constantly do. Spiritual health takes continual, committed development. Emotional health takes continual, committed development. The health of your mind takes continual, committed development. The health of your body requires no more and no less.

So, I’m working on it. I am working on resolving the shame and being proud of the beautiful, strong body I have been given. I am learning to embrace my size as healthy for ME, and let go of the idea that my appearance is personally responsible for the issues of others. I do not advocate that everyone has to be thin to be healthy, but for my frame thin IS healthy and I am praying for help to remove the unwarranted guilt. I don’t have aspirations to be a competitor in any fitness arena-that just isn’t me-but I am going to keep building and strengthening and taking pleasure in the physical changes that occur as a result. I believe balance in all areas of life can be attained within a healthy lifestyle, and fear of something becoming an obsession is already an unhealthy way of filtering the world. I want to be fit. I want to have muscle definition. I want to look good-for myself and for my husband. But what I want most is to enjoy this earthly body; to take care of it and to take pride in it because it is a much appreciated gift.
The hard boundary, the line I will strive to never cross, is to turn the intentional habits of eating well and exercise into something I worship. It will be a vital part of my life, but it will not be the most important thing in it. Balance is key.

**I am aware that this topic goes much deeper than I have chosen to, and I have done just that-chosen-to not take it farther. Partially because I am not a theologian, partially because this is already a long post, and mostly because I’m still plunging the depths myself. This is a tiny segment of a continuous mental dialogue.**

I’ll leave you with these photos: the first taken my last year before graduating from Penn State. The second taken 6 months after the birth of my oldest. The first one makes me cringe- I am cynical, bitter, and sarcastic, wanting to some how take control of the body image mess by tossing it in people’s faces. I am silly, joyful, and free in the second. I would not go back to that point in college for all the money in the world. You are so much more than your appearance-but it’s fine to like what you look like. Balance.

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*credit for the second photo goes to Georgina who took some amazing photos of me, my husband, and Cade that day.