Breaking Fitness Stereotypes and Finding True Health
Can we talk very honestly and frankly about health, fitness, and our cultural standards around how we look for a moment?
I decided to put a photo collage of myself together at various moments in my life. I’ve lived every side of the “weight” spectrum, and each different time in my life, I’ve had a different level of health and fitness. You may look at the four photos and conclude where I was at the time, and more importantly, you may think you understand my level of health and fitness, but I think what I share below may surprise you.
Let’s break it down because, as they say, a photo may be worth a thousand words, but I’m here to say it’s not the whole story.
Let me set the entire set of photos by giving you some additional information.
#1 – I’m 5’8
#2 – For the sake of this post, I’m talking about HEALTH, inside and out, not a look. Being fit is a lot more than being thin or muscular.
I was 25 years, engaged to my late husband, 125 pounds (maybe max), and somewhere between 27-30% bodyfat. I didn’t exercise much, although I wasn’t someone who sat around either. I ate TERRIBLY. Most of the time, I skipped meals to stay thin, and I had no muscle mass at all. I didn’t enjoy being in a bathing suit due to my lack of muscle, and I was always mentally fighting my inner demons of weight. I was a size 8 in this photo despite being so thin. I believe that’s what people call “skinny fat.” I was far from what, as a now informed professional, would consider healthy.
I was 36 years old, shortly after having two children, 206 pounds and around 40% bodyfat. I didn’t exercise at all. I was a workaholic. Everyone else and everything came first, and my food choices were downright horrific. I was also filled with a lot of self-loathing and was pretty unhappy not only physically but mentally. For the most part, I ate fast food, pizza, no veggies, lots of sugar, and white flour products and drank soda. I blamed my level of health and fitness on a busy work schedule and the price of being a new mom. I was a size 16 in this photo.
I was 38 years old, about a year after becoming a widow and 150-155 pounds. My body fat was somewhere between 10-15%, and I didn’t even have a regular female cycle because I was so lean. I was OBSESSED with exercise, and I had a crazy strict diet. While I’d love to tell you my diet was healthy, in hindsight, it wasn’t great, but in an opposite way of photo B. I ATE zero sugar of any kind, and that includes fruit. I drank protein shakes and didn’t eat many veggies. I also took a lot of supplements (all over the counter) that probably weren’t great for my liver. I overdosed on protein, and I weighed and measured every single bit of food that passed my lips. In opposition to photo A, I did eat a lot of calories because I burned so much with my insane workout schedule. My exercise was just as obsessive as my diet. I lifted 1-2 hours a day, and I ran miles and miles each week. This is also the period of my life where I decided to get breast implants, and that decision ended up causing me massive health issues later on (read my important blog on that subject – Toxic Tits). I was a size 0 in this photo, and even that was sometimes big because I was all muscle. *Please note that I weighed 25 pounds more than in photo A but was eight sizes smaller. This is why I always preach that the scale does not matter. At the time, I would have told you I was the healthiest I had ever been, but as I look back, my entire life was about a “look” and not about the health of what I was eating or doing long term to my body. Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t consider myself that much healthier than in photos A or B, even though any passing person would have believed me to be the picture of health and fitness.
A few months ago and just after my surgery to remove my breast implants. I am currently 47 and somewhere between 160-170 (I don’t weigh myself often) and 20-25% bodyfat. I eat healthy most of the time, and I don’t measure or weigh anything. I drink a gallon plus of water daily; I drink spinach and vegetable smoothies with FRUIT almost every single day. I eat a ton of veggies, good fats like avocado, and I enjoy my food and my life. I don’t obsess, and while I realize I’m not as “lean” or “ripped” as I was in photo C, I can assure you I’m almost nearly as strong, and I have given myself the grace to enjoy my life without being obsessed with perfection. I workout 4-5x a week for no more than an hour, and I enjoy long walks with my dogs, hiking, and necessities like yoga, TRE, and meditation. At 47, my doctor is always blown away by my bloodwork, and I know I can go out right now and club just about any mountain and enjoy doing it. I’m not perfect by a long shot, I’m not a fitness model, but I’m strong, able to live a wonderful life and so delighted with my direction.
So what’s my point with this blog?
Well, for starters, this is YOUR life and YOUR body.
You don’t have to fit into some defined set of guidelines set up by society, and the obsession it has with younger and thinner.
More importantly, the bigger point is this….
Evaluate what is truly healthy for your life and your body.
Healthy doesn’t always mean thin, nor does extremely fit always mean emotionally or even physically healthy. The healthiest I have ever been, mentally, emotionally, and even physically is right now. I LOVE fitness, that’s why I left my job to become a trainer, but I also love balance for myself and my family. I love fruit, good whole foods, the occasional slice of dairy-free pizza (I’m allergic to dairy, but I love pizza). Yes, I could be smaller in stature, but one thing I’ve learned is I don’t have to spend my life making my body smaller…I’d rather work on making my life BIGGER!
That’s not to say other people and their choices are wrong; I just found what is healthy for me, and that is emotionally and mentally freeing in a new way.
Culturally we need to stop assuming.
We should probably stop judging.
Most of all, we should allow women to look and feel the way that speaks to them and the lifestyle they wish to create.
At 47, I don’t have to chase some idealist cultural view of perfection; age has allowed me the wisdom and grace to chase happiness only what matters and on my terms.
I wish the same freedom for you; it’s a beautiful thing.
Michelle and her team have spent a year plus creating the ultimate Five Pillars of Wellness Program that gives you everything you need to live a healthy life in one spot. Workouts, healthy and balanced nutrition, yoga, meditation, TRE, and so much more. Come find out why our Quest members stay for life. Seven coaches in every area of health including Psychology. Join Quest Now