This morning, I put on a bikini. Yes, it was snowing outside. No, I’m not crazy.
I’m going to be in California next weekend and I will be taking my bikini. This morning, I put the bikini on and looked at myself in the mirror. What I expected to see was my gut, my lumpy hips, and my cellulite. What I actually saw was quite surprising.
What actually happened was that I looked good. Not model perfect. Not fitness instructor toned. But for a woman with a full-time job who spends 8+ hours a day sitting and staring at a computer, I didn’t look half bad.
This was a shock to me, because, like most women, I face a constant battle with my body. My hips are too big, my butt is saggy, I tend to bloat easily. But you know what? I can run marathons. I can lift heavier weights than I ever have before. I am strong, I am fit, I am healthy. And thinking about it, isn’t that more important than looking like society expects women to look?
I started thinking about this in more detail. Over the last couple of weeks I have read some inspiring articles about women’s health. Most notably, this article on Sophieologie.me. Every day, women are faced with magazines, television, and the internet telling them they need to be thinner, more toned, and healthier. And sure, I could eat carrots all day and never allow myself dessert, but what kind of life is that? Is it better to be strict with your diet and exercise plan and become a size 2, or should we each just be doing what’s best for us personally?
I can give you a good example. A few years ago, I lost about 25 lbs. At my lightest, I weighed 137 lbs. I’m 5 feet 9, so I was definitely in the healthy range. But I was eating 1,500 calories a day, and doing cardio 4-5 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, and no strength. Two years later, I am 150 lbs. I don’t count calories, but I know I eat more than 1,500. I’m currently training for a marathon, and ran about 33 miles this week. And I took two 45-minute total body classes, one 30-minute upper body class, and one 45-minute yogalates class. In reality, even though I am about 13 lbs heavier now, my clothes still fit, and I look better in them. So which is better–weighing less, or weighing more? I pick weighing more.
I’d rather weigh 150 lbs and be able to endure a two- or three-hour run than weigh 137 lbs and struggle to run five miles without stopping. Now, I have muscle definition in my upper body, which I never had before. I feel more confident wearing tank tops now than I did when I weighed less. And I look good in a bikini, which, if you think about it, is just a bonus. I eat well, I don’t deprive myself. I eat dessert. Yesterday I split a Jeni’s ice cream cookie with Ben for dessert AND had two scoops of brambleberry crisp ice cream. And I survived. Granted, I wouldn’t eat that every day, but after a long run it was well-deserved. My body allowed me to run 16 miles yesterday. Who am I to deprive it of ice cream once a week or less?
From now on, my focus will be on eating healthful foods when I am hungry, and nourishing my body rather than punishing it. My habit of binge-snacking is a thing of the past. My body is not a garbage can. If I am hungry after dinner, I’ll have some fruit, some oatmeal, or a yogurt instead of depriving myself and eventually succumbing to whatever I can scavenge in the kitchen cupboards.
Women need to stop counting calories and obsessing over that number on the scale. It’s difficult to do when we’re surrounded by people and media telling us how we need to look, and who we need to be. But it’s time to move on. It’s time for healthy to be the new skinny.