My five year old and I were lounging on the couch after school one day, snacking and snuggling. An ad promoting a new fitness guru’s workout routine popped up in between her regular animated favorite.
Fiona, knowing my penchant for exercise, eyed the ad cautiously, like a liberal might eye any of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks. “Mama?” she said, “Do you want to do that?”
Oh, baby girl, I thought to myself. That’s a loaded question.
I have wanted a bikini body before just to have a bikini body…I will admit to that. I wanted once to have chiseled abs and a super low BMI. Because when you look at someone like that, you look at someone who has no perceived flaws. Someone who is perfect and probably has no problems and thinks everything is great. So if I had that, I would be happy then, when I got to that perfectly chiseled point, just like that perfect woman on the television.
OK, I still want that on some days.
But on my healthy days, I know I looked like this when I wanted a bikini body:
And when I use exercise and food for the right reasons, I look like this:
So, it’s reversed for me. When I’m doing well and healthy, I don’t get compliments for “looking great”. My stomach bulges a bit, and my pants fit more snug than they did before. But I can also run 4 miles with no fatigue, do 30 minutes straight of lunges and squats, and I can lift whole couches by myself. And typically, I’m doing better in my career, and accomplishing internal goals rather than external ones.
So do I love exercise and all the reps that foster a bikini body? Absolutely. But more often these days, I move for the powerful feeling I get after a run; that feeling can carry me through eight tough client sessions. I do it to wake my thirty-something muscles up so I can be a good enough mother to my energetic, unstoppable daughter. And I do it to remind her and myself that woman’s bodies are capable of very strong things, and that they are not just to be looked at.
So yes, I enjoy being fit. I want to be fit. But I want so much more than that these days.
I want to make sure my daughter is fulfilled and does things that make her happy. I want to enjoy and develop my relationship with my husband. I want to make sure my mother, who lives with us, has what she needs and I want to thrive in my career. I want to be connected. I want to have hobbies and hang out with friends and do things I believe in, and sometimes, all those things that I want don’t leave time for perfectly chiseled abs or arms. They leave time for a fit, happy woman…a woman who doesn’t necessarily have men gawking at her or a thousand facebook likes. And that’s totally OK.
I turned to Fiona and smiled. “Yeah, that’d be ok! As long as it made me happy. Mama works out to stay happy.”
Fiona nodded, continued munching on her snack, and turned her attention back to her show.
And may you always seek what makes you happy, I echoed to her in my head.