Body Image and Progress Pictures

When first embarking on this fitness ride 5 years ago Facebook was still (fairly) new and smartphones had been out for a while, but I didn’t own one. I remember taking pictures on a flip phone when my 6 year old was born. People didn’t edit profile pics and use fun filters like Instagram like we all do today. None of these are bad things, but it was just a little bit different.

When losing 50 pounds, I snapped pictures all the time. It was so fun being surrounded by people on the same parallel fitness journey, we supported each other, and it was amazing to see our progress via these quick pictures. So often when we start taking our fitness journeys and our health seriously, those successes are not always reflected on the scale. The camera gives a tangible, visual affirmation that changes are happening regardless of weight. Pictures are powerful.

Lori's Before with Jen and Katy

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So powerful, in fact, that they can often send the wrong message. When we look longingly at other people’s physiques, it sets us up for all kinds of disordered thinking. “Oh, if I had her legs (or chest, or arms, or rear or whatever) then I would be happy with my body.” Or worse, it sets us up to critique others because, you know, it’s just some picture on the internet.

I came across this today:

Powerful stuff.

This is stuff that I’ve been ruminating about for a while now. Do progress pictures blasted all over social media really help anyone? On one hand, it’s INCREDIBLE to see real results when you work so hard for them! It’s great showing the progress. On the other hand, does my picture inspire someone else? That has been my intent in sharing the journey.

But not every body is the same.

Genetics, height, build, age, gender, stress levels, support systems, medical history, and so much more contribute to a body’s ability to gain muscle, maintain muscle, and/or lose weight.  If two people eat the exact same diet, exercise the exact same way – they will end up with 2 different results: they are two different people. Again, does my progress picture really help anyone but me see those changes? I suspect probably not. That is in part why this is the first time in a long time that I’ve shared body progress pictures. Who does it really help? We are so much more than just our shell. We are souls, we have minds, we have feelings – we just happen to live in a body.

As a trainer, I know the way I appear is essentially my business card. I get that. I also understand that what it takes to be a figure competitor or professional body builder is not something I am capable of, nor do I have the desire. (Not knocking those things – that’s awesome if that’s your goal. That’s just not my bag.) My niche, and where I feel I have a voice, is the everyday person looking to feel better in their skin. To not be tired before noon each day. To have the energy to lead an active and healthy life and not sit on the sidelines missing out on really living.

When we gaze at a drastic before and after photo, it gives us hope. It plants the seed of possibility. That is a good thing to some extent, provided it’s not a sales pitch and the photos are not altered. While hope is a good thing, we often fail to realize that the tiny divide between a “before” shot and an “after” is where the real story is. In that tiny line lies the sweat, the tears, the backsliding, the frustration, the joy, the camaraderie, the fist-pumping victories – all of it.

Right there.

In that tiny line. 

Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but I’m more interested in the story of the dividing line.

What brought a person from there to here? How long before they realized that they had the power to run that race? Do those pull ups unassisted? Get up the nerve to not hide behind the camera? When did they start to realize their worth?  When did they reach that seemingly unattainable goal? When did they start to feel better? When did their spouse tell them they were proud of them? When did they realize that fitness is about so much more than just bodies?

That’s the story.

That’s where life is.

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I’m the mom

I’m the mom whose garage constantly looks like it vomited a Toys R Us into the driveway.

I’m the mom whose children pick out their own clothes. (Therefore ensuring that they never match.)

I’m the mom who is passionate about fitness, so yeah, I DO wear yoga pants. A lot.

I’m the mom that goes to Target alone to sip coffee and shop. Yes, I do in fact feel like it’s a mini-vacation.

I’m the mom who loves fiercely. Who will look at my kids and get choked up thinking about what amazing people they are becoming. And what a privilege it is to witness.

I’m the mom who sometimes gets lost in the to do list of laundry, dishes, and dinner, but eventually I find my way back.

I’m the mom who is becoming ever-more comfortable with the realization that I’ve never been, nor will I ever be, one of those women who “has it all together”. I tripped and rolled my ankle this morning walking from my front door to my car door. It’s a distance of about 4 feet.

I’m the mom whose role is ever changing as the kids reach different stages of independence.

I’m the mom who chokes back tears as he walks into the big school on his first day of kindergarten.

I’m the mom who still sits and waits because she’s just not ready to let go of my hand yet.

I’m the mom.

I’m their mom.

Forever.

The Path

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Sometimes the path is rough. It’s not laid out like you may have planned.

Improvisation may be necessary.

That broken log? That’s just a way made by those who have gone before you. Be grateful.

See those rocks? They may look like stumbling blocks, but they may also be in just the right place to get you where you need to go.

Those pilings to the side? Perhaps the road not taken; for reasons we may never know.

The water may be cold, but how will you know if you don’t even try?

Can you make it to the other side? Can you take a chance? Even if the entire plan is not laid out for you to see?

Just try…

You are more capable than you believe.

Back to Real Life

Sigh.

I had a feeling this would happen. I just didn’t expect it so soon. Sitting in the airport, drinking a lovely cup of coffee I am missing my my family something fierce. I can’t wait to get back to them, to our home, and our life.

It has been a fun weekend, awesome to catch up with and meet new friends, and a much-needed reset button for me. Everyone needs a break, if anything just to step back and gain some perspective.

There’s a story that goes something like if everyone stood in a circle and put their troubles, worries and problems in a pile and trade it for someone else’s, virtually everyone takes their own right back. Perhaps it’s familiarity – we’d rather keep what we have and what we know.

I highly doubt it is reciprocal, but spending time with my single friend affords me to peek into a life I might have lived. It’s fun to wonder what I would be doing and where I might have lived given different circumstances.

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While it’s fun to travel, living out of suitcases on an on-going basis holds no appeal to me. Being in a city, eating late dinners in bustling restaurants, adult conversations and evening cocktails was a blast. But for my everyday, I really love watching a show, cuddling with my kids (or chasing them), and spending quiet evenings (after the kids go to bed) with my husband. Hotel fitness centers get the job done, but I much prefer a trail off the beaten path to get my sweat on. Having access to museums, restaurants, spas and quality shopping are wonderful, but I just don’t think I am built for a life lived in a city. After a while it feels like I can’t breathe. It just gets too people-y out.

I love a place where I can look at the stars in the evening. I love having access to the ocean. I love running in a wide open space, on a trail in the woods, or hiking in the mountains. I like being outside in a space not man made.

I cherish my dear friend and always smile as I ask her about her life, her work and her travels. It’s always fun and exciting to hear about her adventures and her take on random “talent”. I can appreciate how hard she works. After my mind wanders in that direction, playing “What If?” for a while, I find myself immediately in that circle grabbing my life right back.

Visions

Like most people, I love the weekend. I look forward to lazy days, getting stuff done around the house days, help with minion patrol, sleeping in (I wish!) not having to get dressed unless I really want to, long runs, eating breakfast and having slow sips of coffee. Those no agenda days are simply bliss in a week filled with schedules, homework, and early bed times.

Routine has its place, to be sure, but so do big pots of simmering soup, fluffy sweaters, porch sitting and time to just be. I love the idea of Saturdays, the promise of them. Sadly, my vision of a great lazy weekend morning is never the same as my family’s.

Case in point: my son.

IMG_8041.JPG Clearly, giving a muddy bike a wash down is top priority. At 8am.

That sleeping in idea?! Pffft! Sleep is overrated if you ask my daughter whose sole mission in life is to ensure no one sleeps past 5:45 a.m. This little gem was at 7 a.m.:

Then of course after all that muddy fun, we had to clean up!

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Hosing her down, I realize it’s now time to do laundry, throw her in a bath and possibly the dog, too. So much for that comfy sweater and a warm cup of coffee…that cup has long since gone cold!

I Had No Idea

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

This prompt from a few weeks ago made me laugh out loud. My vision was WAY off! My son recently exclaimed that when he becomes a grown-up, he will do whatever he wants to do, (like play iPad all day, everyday)! Didn’t we all think that being an adult was going to be the best? That we would have freedom and no one would tell us what to eat, when to go to bed, make us do homework and chores? That is the irony, I suppose, that when we have freedom, we don’t necessarily recognize it for what it is because at every stage of life, we have our worries. We are in our “big time” right then. Only in hindsight can we fully understand how we grow over time. Only then can we fully comprehend what freedom really looks like.

Recently, I wrote about what I do all day as a stay-at-home-parent. I, in no way, pictured this sort of life as a kid. I planned to work. Kids weren’t really on the horizon. I’ve worked since I was about 14, so it was always just a given. I think as a kid, I figured I would have kids and family life, but I never really considered it. I never contemplated should I stay home or work. Growing up my own mom worked, and it just was the way it was.

There is a picture of me as a 4-year-old at my parents’ house. It’s of me with four band-aids on my knees with a microphone in my hand singing with headphones over my ears. Not only did I want to be a singer (which would never happen as anyone who has heard me sing will attest.) I was pretending to “fly” like Super Grover and “flew” down the driveway, thus sustaining my scraped-knee injuries. I literally thought I could fly, that I could be like Super Grover. I wanted to be an actress on a soap opera. I wanted to live in New York. I wanted to be a dancer. I wanted to be a linguist or an interpreter. I wanted to ride horses. I wanted to be a vet (until I accompanied my cat to her check up and discovered how temperatures are taken.) I changed vocational passions every week or two.

Flash forward to 37, two kids, a dog and a hubby and it is not at all what I would have thought my life would be like. When you have little-to-no life experience, you don’t know what’s out there. I had no idea I would marry a man in the military. I had no idea I would stay home full time to raise a family. I had no idea. About anything.

I had no idea that I would love my kids so fiercely. And be willing to fight for them like nothing else.

I had no idea that I could be so dang tired.

I had no idea that living in different places would grow me as a person, stretch my comfort zones, but most of all, lead me to all sorts of wonderful people I am lucky enough to call friends.

I had no idea that unloading the dishwasher, stepping on a misplaced Lego, or repeating myself fifty thousand times would make me want to tear my hair out.

I had no clue about noise. How much of it kids make, and how much I would bask in silence when it occurs.

I had no idea that having children would drastically change the way I saw my husband, how watching him become a parent with me would deepen our relationship in ways I couldn’t imagine.

I had no idea that I would fall in love with a dog. That I wouldn’t mind scooping poop.

I had no idea that I would actually hold out my hands to “catch” when my children show signs of vomiting. (And it wouldn’t make me sympathy-vomit.)

I had no idea how much I would value my alone time. Time to just think, pray, reflect and just be me, outside of my role in the family.

I had no idea how much I would come to crave really good chocolate. And wine.

I always thought of myself as a suburban girl, preferring a city with lots of things to do and places to go. I had no idea how much I would crave living in wide open spaces.

I had no idea that motherhood would be simultaneously the hardest, and best, thing I’ve ever done.

I just had no idea.

This life is not anything I could have dreamt, but in so many ways it’s more than I deserve, more than I could’ve asked for, and far richer than I could’ve imagined.

Perhaps my son is on to something. This being a grown-up thing is pretty darn cool.

What a PCS Move Feels Like

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A PCS move, or military transfer, is a common thread for us active duty folks. Moving every 2-3 years for many of us, is simply part of the deal. There are those few lucky ones that may get to stay in one place for a couple of tours consecutively, but that isn’t how it goes all the time. We’ve bounced around the country for over a decade and are just about to move into our 8th home. (I still hope for orders to Italy or England, but by the sound of my husband’s laughter, it’s not a very likely possibility!)

This particular move has been drawn out the longest. All together, we’ll have lived out of our suitcases for 50 days. It’s quite a time to be nomads, particularly if you are a natural homebody like myself. We of course market the journey as an adventure to our minions, and in some ways, it really is. All the “life is what you make it”, “bloom where you’re planted”, and “home is where the navy sends us” platitudes apply. I believe these things about 95% of the time. I consider ourselves fortunate to have lived in the places we have and have met incredible friends along the way.

That remaining 5%? Yeah, that’s where I’m at now. The anticipation, the waiting for the household goods to arrive, the dream of sleeping in my own bed again (in sheets washed in my own washer) are the thoughts currently occupying my mind. That 5% is the yuckiness, the blahs. The sick of eating out. The “I can’t wait for our first home cooked meal!” and bringing back the familiar routines. The limbo phase. The vacation is over, the novelty has run it’s course. I’m ready.

So what does a PCS transfer feel like? It’s like holding your breath as you travel place to place, keeping it all together, making it an adventure, until it’s time to set up the new nest. And finally, finally being able to exhale.

I’m ready to put away the suitcases. I’m ready to breathe again.