Body Image

body image
1. an intellectual or idealized image of what one's body is or should be like that is sometimes misconceived...

I love my work.  I teach fitness and wellness to help people improve their lives.  There is one down side to my field: body image issues. Everyone has given some degree of thought about his body image.  Sadly, some folks have more severely misconceived ideas than others.

I have had countless conversations about nutrition, weight loss, strength building, endurance training, and supplements.  I have talked with people who are physically fit, unfit, and everywhere in between.  I have talked with people who are incredibly sad and those who use exercise to remain incredibly happy.  Helping people work through an issue, develop a plan, and create a more positive body image is the best part of my job.  I believe much of it can be done within our own mind.

There are two types of body images: negative and positive.  People who struggle with a negative body image are not comfortable in their body for a variety of reasons.  They feel their body is unattractive or inadequate; but, this is a perception.  People with a positive body image have a more realistic appreciation for their unique figure.

Negative body image is deeply ingrained in us: from the images we have seen all of our lives, to the conversations we have participated in, the social perceptions we have been raised with, and the expectations we've crafted - body image runs deep.  

How can you conquer your negative body image?  I think the first place to start is trying, hard as it may be at times, to focus on what you do well.  I give a mean hug, for instance.  I also knock out a mile in 10 minutes.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I am not a runner for speed - I am runner for sanity.  It clears my head.  I am not great at it. Regardless, I do it because I think better when I'm moving.  When I start running, I am so angry because everything hurts.  I want to quit.  My legs. Ouch.  I conjure up my POSITIVE MENTAL SPACE - and I tell myself, "This is why God gave you the muscles on your legs.  Keep using them."  

Thing is, nearly all of my life, the muscles of my legs have been a source of my negative body image.  Most girls do not have manly legs.  People have asked me all of my life about what I do to have "those legs".  Very little, in fact, genetics.  I envied the legs of other girls, long and lanky.  I envied the way their jeans fit, the way their inner thighs didn't rub together driving their shorts upward.  Shorts were always the worst part of summer.  Loose, baggy pants were my friend.  Skirts and I were chummy.

Just a few years ago I actually accepted these legs as they are when I met HIIT.  HIIT workouts, or High Intensity Interval Training, are very quick, very hard workouts.  My legs got me through them every time.  Even when I thought I would puke.  Truthfully, though, that is when it happened - my mind changed because I focused on what I could do.  Not what I looked like.  

These negative perceptions of ourselves are just that, perceptions. These perceptions have been created by so many things that you have had no control of at all - all of your life.  These ideas were planted by media, friends, neighbors, or family.  Making the shift to a positive body image is POSSIBLE.  There is some work involved.  Introspection.  

This shift is within the scope of your ability - what can I do to help you?


It is OK

When someone says "we have to go," I understand that to mean I should ready myself with a pair of shoes and coat and head toward the exit.  My children understand it to mean: "I should get Legos out and begin building a complex aircraft" or "maybe my American Girl doll needs a new outfit for her soccer practice this afternoon."

FYI: Your American Girl doll does not have soccer practice after school because she is made of plastic. LET'S GOOOOOO!!!!!

When I go to that place, it's called morning, in my head to summon the ideas to write this post, my temples begin to throb, my jaws clench, and my heart races.  If there was ever a time a film director needed to get his actress to act angry he should simply say, "Imagine you are trying to get your children out the door."  BLAMO! She could pretend pissed on demand.

Wednesday I felt sick.  I told the kids, "I am sick. I can't talk."  They hugged me and did the "oh sorry mom" and then went about the business of ignoring me and the morning routine.  After repeating myself twelve thousand times I finally stopped.  I stood in the hallway and threw a terrific temper tantrum.

It felt so good.  I let the water works fly, I sobbed, I moaned.  I mean I came totally unglued.  I put myself in the bathroom for a time out and tried to get it together.  When I came out everyone was ready for school.


I thought all day about how it had happened.  The self-reflection lead me to this conclusion: I'm beating myself up for nothing.  I'm human, it's OK.  Humans fall apart.  Humans have bad days.  It happens.  There is no such thing as a "mother of the year" award.  98% of the time I am trying my hardest in every hat that I wear.

When my children came home, I talked with them about it.  I apologized for my temper tantrum, I explained I needed more effort from them in the morning, and I gave them a new system to stay on track.  I think this one will be easier to stick with and create a happier morning for us all.

I write to tell you all: it is OK, you are doing a good job.


Because Sugar

The Happy Critter had a visitor at preschool: the dentist.  He has seen our dentist twice so he is familiar with the rules of dental care.  This visitor, however, made quite an impression on the little guy.  As soon as I picked him up from school Tuesday he explained the situation, "Mom, did you know candy has sugar? Pop,  sugar. Ice cream, sugar.  Cake, sugar!"  The list was long and plenty.  We dropped his friend at home and his lecture on the dangerous foods of sugar continued.  "You know Mom, we really shouldn't eat donuts because sugar.  I gotta tell Dad he can't buy us donuts because sugar."  Because sugar.  That is the reason.  All week, we should not eat any foods with sugar, because sugar.

I've been buying individual bags of fudge stripe cookies; he lovingly calls them Fun Stripe cookies because they are "delish".  The Happy Critter loves Fun Stripes.  I love the individual bag concept because then I don't need to monitor how many cookies everyone is eating.  Though someone my husband has been sneaking more than one bag per evening.  Yes, I know it's you.

Wednesday the dentist visited school again.  At this lesson he learned that sugar makes you cry.  How he came to this conclusion I do not know.  Because sugar has never made me, nor anyone I know, cry.  Maybe the dental work involved post excessive sugar intake or the bloat?  I don't know.  After  lunch on Wednesday he climbed on the counter and pulled a bag of Fun Stripes out of the cabinet.  He ate them with milk.  When he was done he announced, "Delish!"  His older brother walked in the room and said, "You do know that those cookies are made with sugar."

The Happy Critter said, "WHAAAAT? You gotta be kidding me!"  We both looked at him, smiling.  "Afraid not, sir, you just ate sugar."  He screamed, "Oh noooo!  I have to brush my teeth right away before I cry because sugar!"  He ran, double time, to the bathroom and slammed the door.  Moments later we heard the hum of his toothbrush, all because sugar.


Anniversary of an Oops

Today is the anniversary of the first time I messed up at motherhood.  It was a cold Thursday afternoon, nine years ago, and I was pregnant with my first child.  I worked as a high school teacher and it was my final day before my maternity leave started.  I was very pregnant, swollen, and insanely excited to meet my daughter the next Monday.

I waddled to the parking lot and cried on the way home.  I was so incredibly happy.  When I pulled onto our street I saw my husband's truck.  He was also taking the next day and following week off to be home with me and our new bundle of Goose.  I parked the car in the garage and opened the door to the house.

He was standing there with his hands on his head.  I said, "Hi."  He said, "We missed the appointment!"  I said, "What appointment?"  He told me the hospital had called and was looking for me because I was scheduled for a c-section at 8 a.m. and had never shown up.  The nurse told him they called the house repeatedly that day but no one answered.  Then they called the doctor's office who suggested I was at work.  The nurse told my husband to tell me to please call the hospital at my earliest convenience.

Wait.  What?  I missed my first real date with motherhood?  How can that be?

I called the nurse back and she said, "Did you know you were supposed to have your baby today?"  I said, "No, I'm supposed to have my baby Monday.  My husband and I have the whole weekend planned for just 'me time' things like going to the movies and sleeping."  She said, "We called you all day and then we called the doctor's office and they said you were at work!"  I said, "Yes, that's where I was." She replied,  "How early can you be here tomorrow?"  I said, "You tell me."  She said, "8 a.m, don't eat after midnight and nothing in the morning."  I hung up the phone and my stomach flipped.  Tomorrow.  I turned to my husband and said, "Looks like we're having her tomorrow."

Turns out my OB/GYN told me February 19 but told the hospital February 15.  Hello?  My husband asked, "Well what should we do?"  I replied, "Portillos."  We went, barely spoke to each other as we processed the new turn of events, but occasionally laughed at what dummies we looked like.  Who misses their c-section?

When the world of motherhood starts on an oops, you have no where to go but up!  I look back at the nine years of getting to know this incredible Goose of a girl and I think - wait, what day was she born again?  I basically have a mental celebration of her life from February 15 through February 19.  The week of the Goose.  


Worry Wart

I was never a worrier until I had the Goose - I was calm.  Upon conception life is forever altered because it isn't just me anymore.  I remember when I was pregnant with the Goose I went to the fire station to have the car seat properly fit.  In my twenties I'd seen a movie that terrified me; it was the opening scene of Dead Calm (1989), with Nicole Kidman, she was driving, hit the brakes, and her daughter flew out the front window of the car.  That is how a mother's mind works:  I once saw that movie, I was pregnant, and then I began to worry about my own child's car safety.  When it comes to my children, my thoughts and worries aren't tied together in pretty, neat packages.  It is more like a pin ball game - my mind races from here to there, back there, over there, up there, and around to the start again.  Then just when I've decided on a position, relaxed around an idea, and the ball is settled - BOING!  Off it goes again - spinning thoughts that swirl, race, and spin.  

All that crazy mom mind applies to everything.  I over think the weekly meal plan, the work call I'm about to make, the work call I just made, the training session I am heading to, the training session I just left, the class plan for Monday, the schedule for the children, the birthday party plan, what to serve for the Super bowl, the entire day.  If I let it - thinking about the action of every day would consume me.  The thinking would take control and lead to inaction.

How do I quiet this storm?  Simple. I pray.  I practice a daily habit of reading Jesus Calling and having a little quiet talk with God to start my day.  I have to give him my worries and pin-ball thinking so that I can take the day by storm, with patience, and calm.  My kids know where to find me when they wake up in the morning, they come down one by one and climb onto my chair.  I know I'm not alone in how I handle and manage motherhood.  I also journal about my thoughts and the things I'm thankful for to keep my mind in a positive place.

My daughter, however, is a worry wart.  She can work herself into sickness with worry.  She and I talk very often about what to do with the worry of life.  For the past week she has worried about her loose tooth. Two nights ago she was in a panic about swallowing the tooth in her sleep.  We joked about pulling the tooth, as parents do, even though I have no intention of ever doing it.  My mantra for the past week has been: "The fact is the tooth will come out on it's own.  That is what teeth are designed to do.  Have you ever seen an adult with their baby teeth?  Huge mouth and tiny teeth? Nope."  I encouraged her to give the worry away.  She told me she doesn't understand what I mean when I say that.  I told her it's a simple practice - when the worried thoughts creep into your mind interrupt them with your inner voice and ask God to take them.

This morning she went to the bathroom before breakfast and she screamed at us, "MOM DAD THE TOOTH JUST CAME OUT!"  She ran into the kitchen and she said, "it just came out and it didn't even hurt!"  That's what I said would happen from the start, I told you so.You should listen to your mother more often and forever.  We put the tooth in a baggie and she placed it under her pillow so we're all set for tonight. All that worry - for nothing!  

When I think about the life she will live and the worry she will have --- I worry.  It is so big and heavy to worry about the kids.  It can be crushing.  It can send me into a tail spin.  I fear that her nature to worry will create agony and anguish.  I can't help her every time.  I can't ease her worry.  But I can teach her how to cope with worry and anxiety.  I can guide her in a positive direction to handle and manage her spinning mind. Modeling the tools that work for me to cope with worry is the first step to help her; I pray it works!