You don’t have to hate who you are to want to change

You can want to be stronger, more fit, slimmer, heavier (yes, those women exist) without telling yourself that you hate the woman you are now.

I don’t think you have to shame the body you have to want to change it in some way.

But for some of us it’s very hard. The weekly weigh-ins that inspire some, trigger anxiety and stress in others.  The “Fitspiration” images that cover Pinterest walls (including mine) motivate some while indicting others. The carbs that fuel runners before a race can send those with gluten sensitivity and other issues into a downward spiral.

And if you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder, the simplest news story, blog post or image can trigger a cascade of negative emotions and self flagellation. But it doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this. Our bodies are our blessings and we should treat them that way regardless of their shape or size. It takes practice to be kind to ourselves – to replace negative thought with positive, shame with appreciation.

I found this great infographic, from The National Eating Disorder Association, that helps us practice. I printed it out, laminated it, and stuck it to my wall. If you struggle with an eating disorder (or even if you don’t), you should too…

I fell off the wagon. It involved a talking brick pizza oven.

I fell off the wagon.

And then it fell on me.

And it wasn’t so much a wagon as it was a brick pizza oven.

And it took me two three four days to get it off me.

To make matters worse, somewhere along the second day, the wagon brought in back-up in the form of a brownie, a piece of chocolate cake and maybe curly fries, but by that time I was so delirious, I may have been hallucinating. (I was not.)

What’s the backstory?

On my fit-at forty quest to become the healthiest and best me yet, a few months ago I cut out simple carbs and sugar.  I’m not a dessert person by nature so giving up sugar wasn’t hard. The pasta and the bread though…not so much. But after a few weeks I didn’t miss it.

So we’re clear, I’m not suggesting that the only way to get or stay fit at 40 is to completely give up bread, pasta and dessert. Millions of people eat those things every day and are healthy, in good shape, yadayadayada. I am not one of those people. I never will be. I have come to a place where I’m ok with that.

So last Wednesday when I met some friends at an Italian Restaurant, I went with the best of intentions. Salads are always on the menu, and lucky for me, I love salad.

But the Italian restaurant had an authentic brick oven whose fiery pits roared seductively, “Grace…Grace…andiamo, andiamo!”

Never able to resist anything with an Italian accent, I relented, and ate.

And ate.

And then, in case I had forgotten, ate some more.

The thing I know about me and simple carbs is this: I just can’t do them. We don’t work well together. Not even a little. We’re sorta like this pre-k ballerina throw-down, except the teachers don’t step in in time to break us up. The signal that turns itself on to let me know to STOP EATING, is apparently also easily seduced by an Italian accent.

The wagon and I fought a vicious battle for the next 72 96 hours, with the wagon having a particularly strong Friday night.

But, the battle isn’t always to the swift, or the strong, and victory belongs to the last woman standing, which I was finally able to do on Saturday Sunday morning.

I make light about my battle with compulsive eating and carb-addiction, because frankly, after nearly 30 years of dealing with it, if I don’t make light of it, it will defeat me. If there’s one thing I’d caution anyone involved in the care, treatment and loving of young girls, it would be this – guard intensely, the messages she gets about her self-worth as it relates to her body and beauty. Don’t allow her to define herself by her measurements, her weight, her skin color, her hair length, and on and on and on – and DON’T add to the chorus of voices from the media, other family, society etc. that tell her that that’s exactly how she should define herself. Because as she gets older, it will be very hard for her to quiet those voices in her head, no matter how smart or strong she is. I know because 30 years later I’m still battling those demons.

The beauty of doing all this in my 40s is that while my body is still (relatively) forgiving if I give it time, it remembers. Our bodies forgive, but they no longer forget. Gone are the days that I could plow through the mystery meat at the college food truck at 1:00am, and hop out of bed the next day as if nothing had happened. And that’s a good thing.  My body won’t let me continue to treat it badly. It’s had enough, and so have I.

Fallen off any wagons lately? Share your thoughts in the comment section or email me at grace(@) womenatforty (dot) com.

The devil is a liar and so is that scale I stepped on this morning…

In my fantasy world, at 40+ I wouldn’t still be having this conversation/battle/issue.  My MIND knows that the scale is not the only indicator of health, what I did or didn’t do right last week, or how great a human being I am. My mind knows this. My HEART though, sinks, every time I get on that *&!#@ scale and it hasn’t budged, a bit. Or worse, displays a number that is mind bogglingly higher than it was the day, week or month before. Sinks. Every time.

I’ve been journaling since I can remember. I have years worth of cute little journals dating back from when all I longed for was for so-and-so to do such-and-such or my heart would shatter. As I got older the heartfelt pining  evolved into writing about my faith, the world around me, gratitude – you name it. The one constant? Writing about my weight – how much I weighed. How much I didn’t weigh. How much weight I would lose this week and the week after that. When I got computer savvy I even started including charts and graphs detailing goal weight vs. actual weight, calories, carbs, proteins… I may have even included some algorithms and theorems. No.

All of this plotting, planning and predicting served to place the emphasis on the numbers on the scale and not what I was putting into my body. Ironically (or not) the time in my life when I was at my healthiest – when I was taking Karate classes (yes, I am, in fact, a yellow belt), playing tennis a couple of times a week, going out bowling with friends and eating a mainly vegetarian diet, I didn’t own a scale. I had no idea how much I weighed, and I couldn’t have cared less.  I also couldn’t have been happier. I miss being in that place. My mind misses that place, and so does my body.

So, why do otherwise intelligent women beat themselves up about that number? Why do we abuse ourselves mentally (and sometimes physically) in a manner we wouldn’t allow anyone else to treat us? Is it about health? For many of us yes, but it goes beyond a quest for health for many others and borders on the edge of self-acceptance and self-worth.

As I was reviewing the draft of this post I came across this post from a blogger I follow. It talks about the vicious cycle of daily weighing and why we shouldn’t do it. I couldn’t agree more. Yet, I still find myself wanting to check the scale more mornings than not.

What’s your relationship with your scale? Is it different now than it was when you were younger? Please share your thoughts in the comment section or on the Facebook page.

Born to run…or walk at a relatively fast pace

As a sheltered kid growing up on the mean streets (not really) of Teaneck, New Jersey, my overprotective mother would allow very few activities where she couldn’t keep a vigilant eye on us. That left us with precisely two play areas – the backyard and the short stretch of pavement at the end of our dead-end street.

Back when kids still played in the street, my sisters, cousins and I spent hours racing down to the end of that dead-end. In my memory, I was fast. Really fast. I would also say I won all the races. And while my memory of my win/loss record is sure to be called into question, (see I’d forgotten about that for more on my awful memory), one thing I do know for sure is that I loved the way I felt when I was running.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t confident enough at the time to transform that love into joining the track team or even taking running up as a hobby.

Fast forward 25 plus years and I still love the feeling of running.

When I imagine doing it.

In my mind.

Because when I’ve actually tried to do it, the feeling I get is not the same as the one I got years ago.

Running down that dead end street as a kid I felt fast, carefree and like I could run like that forever.

Now when I run I feel…my right hip, my left knee and the chafing of my construction grade sports bra against my back. *Sighs*

A younger cousin ran for a while and wrote about the hip pain she felt that led her to give up running. I now understand. And the truth is, no matter how much I want to run, me, on all fours (crying) on the corner of “bless her heart” and “she just wouldn’t listen” is not a good look. And not good to look at.  And hollering at the local hotties while sweating in the fetal position on the sidewalk is no way to meet a man.  Not one with teeth anyway. Trust me.

This is not to say that women runners in their 40s and beyond aren’t tearing it up on the side streets of America. I know they are – the bright light of their fitness glory blinds me each and every time they whiz by me on my WALKS. Kudos to them and those aerodynamic baby pusher things that have them navigating through the streets of Oakhurst like they’re training for decathlons.

As for me, I’ll keep watching the runners enviably from the sidelines. In the meantime I’ve got my walking and I’ve found a new workout muse – Michael Jackson The Experience. Michael Jackson and I have been tearing it up on my Wii.  If enough of you ask I’ll even video a session so you can get a good ab workout from laughing with me while you watch. No, not really.  Image: Not me running – Source:Flickr: Emanuel Leanza “Eleanza”

What’s your fit-at-forty story? Share in the comment section or on our Facebook page.


My $25-a-week clean eating experiment a year later

Over a year ago when I was a blogging neophyte, not quite 40, and determined to do something about my weight and health, I set out on a mission – an experiment really. It was my $25-a-week-good-food experiment, and I was determined to reshape the way I looked at food, health and weight loss. Here’s some of what I had to say about it back then…

For weeks now I’ve been seriously rethinking this obsession I have with food and my weight. Specifically it’s occurred to me that for almost all of the past decade, my obsession with controlling (unsuccessfully I might add) what I eat and don’t eat has centered primarily on weight loss. This focus on weight and not on health has caused me to become unhealthier. Yo-yo dieting, pre-packaged diet meals, low carb, low fat, sugarless…you get the idea. My quest to lose weight devolved into me eating man made substitutes for food and came at the expense of eating food the way it was intended to be eaten.

It’s time for a change, a real change – an “I’m about to turn forty so I’ve got to start taking this seriously” change. I’ve been heading in this direction for years now, but eating for health was far down on the list, somewhere behind carb and calorie counting and fat monitoring. And while I’ve never been a lover of junk food and have always preferred fresh fruits and vegetables over sugary desserts – when it comes to food, the choices I make every day are made unconsciously, out of habit, and with very little regard to health and where my food is coming from.

In a nutshell (pun intended), clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state or as close to it as possible. It means eliminating as much processed foods from your diet as possible, and it means being conscious of the source of your food and the impact its production has on the environment. Militaristic clean eaters might have an issue with my definition, but that’s the definition that sums it up for me.  The Gracious Pantry has a great resource page about clean eating that you can access here. The turning point for me came when I watched the documentary Food, Inc. I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone curious about the source of their food – you will not be the same after watching it.

A year after test-driving my clean eating experiment I can say that I’ve adopted clean eating as a way of life.  A way of life differs from a diet in that it’s not something you ever “get off of.” So, on the (now increasingly rare) occasions that I don’t eat clean I, 1) enjoy it a lot less and 2) don’t belittle myself or consider it a diet catastrophe.  It’s not just a healthier way to eat, it’s a healthier way to think. Really, it’s a return to to the way my parents and grandparents used to cook and eat, before advertising and big business began convincing people that they had it all wrong.

Although I haven’t stuck to the $25 budget, I have been more conscientious about how much I purchase and what I’m paying for things, and in the long run that’s helped my overall budget.

So, what’s left is the weight loss. The good news is, the number on the scale is lower. The bad news is, not by much. As a child and teen I struggled with compulsive and emotional eating, and as a 41 year old woman I still do.  Like any habit/compulsion/addiction, it’s been a hard one to shake. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor apparently 41 years. Thankfully, I am a work in progress, not regress, and as long as I’m able, I’ll approach each day with the determination to become a healthier version of the person I was the day before. Anyone care to join me?