Flat stomach, toned arms, firmer behind, smaller hips, lean and muscular legs.
Who hasn't told themselves they wanted at least one or all of that. Now, there’s nothing wrong with striving to better our bodies but with all the media portraying people with nearly perfect bodies, it’s not hard to fall into that trap of wanting all that.
I personally struggled with my self-image for many years. Gaining weight, losing the weight and then becoming fanatical about my workouts. I wouldn’t say I was extreme about it but there were times when I got so focused and determined that I was going to look like those gorgeous, sculpted people in the fitness magazines, that I lost sight of what was realistic.
During high school, I found food as a friend. I discovered cooking - things that I discovered were so yummy. I would go to school, not eat all day, then come home and gorge. I would come home and make French toast, and afterwards be so tired from the spike of the sugar surge, I went to bed early.
Another day, it was cheesecake. Well, eating like that just doesn’t do a body good. I started gaining weight and started to become so embarrassed about the way I looked, I didn’t want the neighbors to see me. Shortly after leaving high school, I feared my former classmates would see how much weight I gained that I started to stay in more and more. I didn’t even want to walk down the street. I stayed away from the gym. I hated myself.
The stress of studying and cramming for exams in college in later years sent me into a downward spiral of eating meals in between meals, and in between snacks. I would even eat two meals, one after the other.
The pounds crept on. I felt out of control. At 5’ 6 1/2”, I went from 125 lbs up to 155 lbs, maybe even more. My pant sizes crept up and up. Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot of weight gain, but it had quite a psychological grip on me.
What made matters worse was that I grew up with several brothers who made comments about my weight – I had a “big beamer” according to one brother, another one flat out told me I was getting “fat” - My mother even called me “lard ass.” I was so full of emotions that what they said to me would only make it worse. It just fed my eating frenzy more.
Just before finishing college with my bachelor’s degree, I made a firm commitment in my mind that since I was graduating and starting a new life that a different body and a new way of eating was going to be a part of that new life. And I stuck to that commitment.
Fast forward a few more years, I got married and had my daughter. You see, I’ve always enjoyed reading fitness magazines to help me stay motivated and to stay on top of different matters in the fitness world. I will never forget telling my husband that I wished I looked like one of the women on the fitness magazine covers – this woman that was so lean, muscular, and very toned. Perfect. In my eyes.
But not to my daughter. And my husband certainly didn’t think so either. My daughter overheard our conversation and after seeing the picture, thought it was gross. That was a turning point for me. I realized at that moment that what those people look like in the magazines are not what everyone in everyday life looks like or even should look like. Those women are paid to look like that. So are celebrities. I was a mom to a little girl and all she wanted was her mom to be healthy and loved me just the way I was. And so did my husband. Sniff!
Now, I’m happy to say that I have a much better self-image of myself. I accept that I will never have small hips or perfectly shaped legs like those women of fitness do. Enjoying life, being healthy, and having fun being active, and teaching others the same IS my focus. Sure, I find myself almost falling into that trap again from time to time of wanting to look like those women in the fitness magazines. And when I do, I always think to myself about what Popeye the Sailorman would always say - “I yam what I yam.”
-- written by Dorothy Higuera, OnTrack Fitness personal trainer, Yuma AZ