But, here’s the truth. The “it” that most of them want cannot be attained by clocking time at the gym.
I spent the majority of my life as an average weight girl. The number on the scale increased and decreased but, no matter what the read out, I knew the truth: My thighs were too big. So, over the course of two decades, I tried every diet and exercise plan you could name to see if I could get those tree trunks extending from my waist to look slimmer, leaner.
A thigh gap… (*sigh*) Now, that would have been a dream come true.
I had to have it. So, I worked my tail off (literally). At the age of 29, I got the body I had always wanted. As a single woman, I had the liberty to spend hours at the gym working towards my “dream.” I even became an aerobics instructor–because everyone knows that fitness professionals don’t have to worry about their weight. (Or, so I falsely assumed!)
I had what I thought would make me happy: a toned, thin body. But, it wasn’t enough. It didn’t satisfy me. My “must change my body” thoughts remained. I still thought my thighs were too big.
I got married and pregnant within a year of achieving that “ideal” body size. My struggle remained constant as I morphed from a svelte 129 pounds into a 185 pound pregnant-from-every-angle woman.
Same insecurities. Same negative thoughts about my body. Completely different number on that scale.
Don’t get me wrong. The benefits of physical exercise are numerous. But, most of the women I encounter inside the gym (and out) want something more than what exercise, diet, or even surgery can give them. They want happiness. They want freedom. And, they think that having a better body will help them get what they desire.
The secret: it doesn’t work.
I’ve helped clients tone their legs and lose the baby weight. I’ve watched them transform from a size 14 to a size 8. I’ve seen their smiles broaden as the challenging parts of the workouts get easier and easier with experience. Fitness can help you feel better…
But, smaller numbers on scales and tags offer a type of contentment that doesn’t last. Beauty is like a drug, once you start indulging you need more and more to get your buzz. Suddenly, 140 pounds isn’t small enough. You thought wearing a single digit size would offer liberation from body worry, yet it doesn’t. You still have to keep working and striving either to maintain that size or to drop down to the next one.
We chase physical beauty but we can’t catch it. The problem is, like fame or wealth; it’s hard to arrive at a place where you have enough. I have never encountered a woman who said, “I’ve arrived. I’m fit enough. I’m beautiful enough. I’ll relax now.”
It just doesn’t work that way.
The secret your fitness instructor won’t tell you is: Losing those 15 pounds, flattening those abs, toning those thighs, or even getting that cool little muscle curve on the top of your arm, will not fulfill you. Just ask any model, any celebrity hot body, and woman you know that you believe never has to worry about not eating dessert or what her bottom looks like in a pair of jeans. Those women we think have it all together in the beauty arena struggle just as much (if not more) than those of us who never have to pose for a magazine cover.
So, what’s a girl to do? In this culture that tells us that if we could just be a little thinner, a little prettier, or look better in our social media selfies, then we’d be happy…how do we respond?
We don’t believe it.
I want to start a rebellion. I want women everywhere to know that their value is not defined by their swimsuit size or the scale. I want women to know that we are more than the firmness of our stomach muscles or our bra sizes. We have more to offer, more to contribute to society, and more to do than to spend our short time on this earth consumed in a fight to look better!
Don’t we, Moms?
I don’t know if I’ll ever “love” my physical body like the “just love yourself” experts recommend. I think this is bad advice because it keeps the focus on “me” and “my” body.
But, I do know that I have found freedom from my battle to be beautiful by deciding to not allow my quest for a better body, prettier face, or smaller weigh-in number to consume me. I don’t want my tombstone to read: “She looked great in a tankini.” I want my life to mean more.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still exercise, paint my nails, and try to look cute in a maxi dress and wedge heels. But, this summer I’m changing my focus…off of my body and on to other things that have even greater value: my faith, my family, and our future.
Maybe you’ll want to join me?
Heather is passionate about helping women who struggle with their body image and has recently completed her first book on the topic. She’s a group fitness instructor, speaker, mother of four, wife to Eric (a Marine fighter pilot-turned-pastor), and public relations representative for the Dallas Moms Blog. During her single years, Heather spent more than a decade working in politics and non-profit management. She much prefers being a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom (but thinks it’s more difficult!). Follow her blog about body image, motherhood, and faith “Working Out Love” or connect with her via Facebook or Twitter.