If you are an athlete, a person in peak physical condition, who works out at least 2 hours every day without fail, this is not the post for you. You have my admiration and a bit of my jealousy. But today I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the majority of us Real Women who have that daily/weekly struggle to keep pounds off and muscle tone on.
This week while standing in the check-out line at the grocery store, I was scanning the covers of the week’s magazines. Since we are in the summer season, at least one of them trumpeted “The best bodies inHollywood” and displayed unbelievable, unrealistic near-naked men and women, the beautiful people with flawlessly fit bodies. And the overwhelming feeling I had in looking at the cover was one of mild depression. What good, really, does it do to show us Real Women these images? My guess is that 98% of us never did look like that, and never will. So why taunt and flaunt unrealistic images to just make us feel bad? And with the Olympics just around the corner, we soon will have astoundingly fit extreme athletes flying across our TV screens every night, making us feel both proud and inferior at the same time.
Growing up as a child, I was not athletic. But I was active. In those days “play time” meant being busy outdoors most of the day, making up games, running around, shooting hoops in the driveway, playing four-square, hopscotch, etc. As I got older, if I wanted to go see a friend, most of the time I hopped on my bike and pedaled 5 miles or so to my nearest friend’s house. I would often take long walks either by myself or with my dog, just for something to do. Yet even with this activity, I was not sports-minded or athletic. I was usually one of the last chosen to be on a team. This was primarily because I was one of those girls who was about 90 pounds soaking wet, wore glasses, and looked like I’d snap like a toothpick in a strong wind. Yes, I was nerdy. In those days, a student rarely did both music and sports, you picked one or the other. For me, it was music. Although, I am proud to say that my best friend and I were on my school’s very first women’s soccer team. But for me, team sports were short-lived.
It wasn’t until after college that I became more fitness-minded. And for a period of time, basically through my 20’s and early 30’s, I was in very good condition. I had a bit of a love affair with aerobics and bicycling. I am one of those lucky ones who still to this day actually enjoys, for the most part, exercising. I just love how it feels, especially when I’m done with a good workout. I am well aware that not all Real Women feel the way I do. Many of us claim to “hate” exercise. Sure, taking a nap, or sitting down to a big ol’ piece of cake often sounds more appealing than a 60-minute strength-training workout, but it feels great when it is over – not always the case after that big piece of cake. Hence the love-hate relationship. We all run a wide range on the fitness/exercise schedule. Some of us don’t do any form of exercise, at least not regularly. Some of us force ourselves to do at least something minor a couple times a week. And others of us try to fit in some form of activity daily, including some fairly substantial workouts. We all have our reasons, and our goals. Some of us want to shed weight. Some of us just want to feel better. Some of us need to build a stronger heart. Some of us just want to lose a few pounds, and tone up. Many of us are just battling our aging, changing bodies.
And therein lies the hardest truth to all of this. The older we get, the harder it is to maintain a so-called “hard body.” Or, who am I kidding, even a “slightly soft body.” In my teen years, my girlfriend and I would think nothing of sitting down regularly to a gigantic sundae at Friendly’s, knowing well that it would have seemingly no effect on our body weight, with no need to go run a mile to work it off. We apparently had the metabolism of hummingbirds. Then in my early adulthood, all I had to do was cut out some snacks, add about an hour of exercise to my weekly routine, and ta-da, I dropped 5 pounds and toned up.
Not so anymore. Eating fairly healthy and working out regularly only seems to help in avoiding gaining pounds. It does nothing for losing, and the effects of aging apparently are far stronger in this battle of good vs. evil. Gravity pulls all my parts south, no matter how hard I try to tone them back upwards. My legs have less tone and more spider veins. My tummy bulge seems to be a permanent addition, no matter how many miles I bike and abdominal exercises I add in. Fess up, how many of you do the same thing I do in front of the mirror when no one else is around – sucking it in, and lifting your skin up to remember what it used to be like 20 years ago?
Granted, I know that there are women my age out there who still look amazing. They have far more willpower than I when it comes to eating right, and they are at the gym far more hours than I am. I have to admit some very basic things: I have a busy life with my family and my job, and I love chocolate. Neither of those facts lend themselves to me eating just lettuce and living at the gym. We Real Women with real bodies are the majority. We should get extra points and kudos for any steps we make towards being healthy, and we should find joy in how we look and feel, when we are doing the best we can do.
I’m all for encouraging exercise and eating right. I’m all for each of us rooting each other on to be healthier, make good changes to live longer and stronger, and not be sloths. But in that vain, I hope that someday I can create a magazine cover, or encourage another publisher to do so, that shows Real Women, with real bodies, in real outfits, looking great and….well, realistic. No 102-pound celebs in string bikini’s. Why not for a change show a working mom, who’s working hard to whittle away at her 20 extra pounds, in a cute one-piece swimsuit and sarong? Why not show a middle-aged woman hiding her flaws in a pretty sundress and flip-flops? Isn’t it time to share real images and real tips on how to look good and be happy the way we are?
We deserve our own cover shots that will make us say “See? THIS is how real women look. And you know what? We look pretty darn hot.”