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.

Why?

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Blue skies and sunny weather. Perfect for a stroller jog. But instead I stand here with Zane strapped into the Ergo snuggled on my chest and smelling faintly of vomit while I keep an eye on Cade systematically hosing down the entire backyard. Black wrap encases my ankle and allows me to rock Zane back and forth without too much pain.

God is good.

Having Zane get the stomach bug the morning after I wrenched my ankle may not sound convenient, but basically I only have one energetic boy to worry about- the other stays somnolent. Earlier, as I pondered how to look on the bright side while mopping up the explosion in Zane’s crib, I mused over last night’s deep felt chagrin after spraining my ankle doing nothing more strenuous than walking. I was even wearing athletic shoes.

Every time I get injured (which has thankfully happened less frequently over the past few years) I view it as a personal affront and betrayal. How dare my body succumb to such a thing! Triple the embarrassment now as I tout the benefits of balanced eating and consistent exercise and here I am falling over in my backyard. Last time I sprained my ankle-the left one I think- it had been going down ONE STEP onto a sidewalk while I was pregnant with Cade. One step. I could, and did, blame that heavily on the pregnancy hormone relaxin that make everything stretchy and loose in preparation for childbirth-but the truth is I’m a clumsy person with weak ankles.

It is easy, for me at least, to fall into the trap that leading an intentionally healthy lifestyle makes you immune to injury and disease. That eating clean will prevent me from getting the flu, that lifting weights will keep all back injuries at bay, that cardio will ward off a heart attack, that enough fruits and veggies will prevent cancer. But the truth is-the world is fallen.

All good things come from God. The design of my body is perfect, the reality in this world is not. Adam and Eve brought death, disease, and sprained ankles into the world, and no amount of clean eating is going to change that.

But.

BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. As I chafe at being housebound with a limp, as the dishes pile up while I wipe up more diarrhea, as I ungraciously cope with the physical reality of sin I am strengthened in my resolve to combat it.

In the midst of the mess, my “why” solidified. I do this-the exercise, the nutrition, the coaching-I do this because our bodies are gifts that we have been blessed with, and taking good care of them is a form of fighting the world. I love a fight with clearly defined lines of good and evil-but those battles just don’t exist much outside of fiction. THIS, however, is a fight I can throw myself into wholeheartedly, with no worry for my combatants. I am fighting disease and injury, the consequences of sin. I am maintaining and loving the body God gave me, and fighting the long lasting effects of Adam and Eve’s decision. One day He will make my body perfect in His presence, until then I’ll invest in the reflection I have.

Melodramatic, I know, haha, but it’s the truth. No matter what words I choose it still sounds fanciful or cheesy, but all the other “whys” I could give (like “to be an example for my children”) are just small motivators in a much larger perspective. So, I apologize for the grandiose “why”, I can’t help it, it’s how my mind works.

Now excuse me, I’ve got to go strip one more diaper of runny poo and take a hot epsom salt bath for my ankle. Fight the good fight!

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.

We Interrupt Your Scheduled Program…

Sundays are my rest days. I don’t exercise, I don’t cook much-it’s pancakes for dinner, and I generally relax, recoup, and spend time with my family. We’ve been trying different churches here in El Paso in the mornings, and I’m going to attempt another OCF meeting tonight. I’m mentioning this because it’s something I haven’t yet talked about on here but that is inextricable from healthy living. Not just rest, but wholeness. I focus a lot on physical health on this blog, but emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health are equally as important, and in my opinion Spiritual wellness trumps all the others. So today’s blog isn’t about food relationships (we’ll get back to that tomorrow) it’s gonna be a bit rambling and not quite as organized, but I need to throw it out there. Much like I was nervous about posting that I am a Beachbody coach and I’m enjoying their trademark drink Shakeology, I need to make it clear to any readers that I am a Christian and my faith is a driving force behind what I do. I can’t separate it out. Exercise, for me, is also a worship experience. Loving my body is directly inline with loving the God who created it for me.

I’m ADHD (see, told you this post would be scattered) and the hardest thing for me to do is shut down my brain. As a child I remembered trying a watch under my pillow (I ended up counting the ticks and was in the 3000’s before I finally chucked it across the room), praying, reading, shadow puppets, ANYTHING to get my brain to SHUT UP. I’d stay awake well over an hour past bedtime listening to my little sister snore away and I’d get increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t fall asleep. I finally figured out what worked best-absolutely zero light, going to bed about an hour before I wanted to fall asleep, and creating an elaborate story in my mind that I would replay, rearrange, and continue scenes of in my head every night. I began to look forward to bedtime just so I could work on my mind story. Now, I still have a hard time falling asleep, but the mind numbing exhaustion that comes with having children helps a lot and I can fall asleep in under half an hour most nights.

But when I exercise-my mind relaxes. It is the most addicting part of exercise for me. For 30 minutes a day I focus singly on exercising my body, so-since that paradoxically takes up all my focus and allows me to UNfocus-I get 30 minutes of relaxation while doing squats, and planks, and whatever. Running is the best. Sometimes when I’m running I can almost think of nothing. Just the typical sensory input of the where I am running, what it looks like, how my feet feel, etc. etc. So while I’m exercising, I often pray. Not generally articulate words-although sometimes I do when I’m running-but more of just a constant dialogue of gratitude and amazement for the strength in my muscles and the feel of a stretch and the wonders of a warm and loving home with beautiful children who are active and healthy and just, thanks. Over and over again thanks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have grumpy workouts, too. But workouts where I start grumpy and END grumpy are very, very, seldom. I am struck anew again and again by how complex the human body is, and am re-fascinated by how everything works to give me motion and balance and strength, how everything feels-from the pounding of my heart to the mat squished beneath my toes to the flush I feel creep up my skin as my body temp rises. Exercise for me is sensual, and things sensual for me are always spiritual. Many people really appreciate music, they feel it body and soul. I feel body and soul when I exercise. My God, My God, how You have created me!

This is why the scale has no power over me (I quite honestly don’t know where ours is currently, haha). I like progress, sure, but who I am and my self-worth is not based on my appearance or weight. I want to be healthy, to feed my body the food it needs, to build my muscles, to keep my skeletal system strong, to fortify my immune system, to be kind to my digestive system, to essentially care for this earthly body that was given into my care. It all circles back to that. And I experience such joy in this. There are days where I don’t want to, there are days where it is hard to turn the TV on and start warming up. I have two small boys who are nonstop from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep again. I. Am. Tired. But the discipline of an exercise program is part and parcel of where I find my joy. I suck at the “typical” daily devotionals- I usually read theology books in chunks and then digest them over a week or two-but if I exercise I get that chance to pray, and doing it faithfully is, for me, a tiny way to faithfully worship Christ.

SO there you have it, my drive and motivation for staying healthy is one of complete wellness, not for a number on a scale or a certain dress size. I am not trying to say all Christians should worship when they sweat (Here I am to workout, Here I am to burpee, Here I am to pushup for you’re my God…) or that every time I sweat I am having a stellar communique with the divine. But this IS the biggest single motivation/reward/drive for why I strive to lead a healthy lifestyle. Until I get my heavenly body, I will do my best to treasure the earthly one.

Just thought you should know. 🙂