Several years ago, a client of mine was meeting with me for the first time. As I went through all of the basic questions to try to help determine how we could reach her fitness goals she stopped me and said, “I need to be honest with you. The reason I am hiring a personal trainer is because I really need to look like this!” As she said this she began to dig through her purse to pull out a folded piece of paper which she handed to me. As I opened the folded paper I realized that it was a cut out of a fashion magazine, a size 00 model in next to nothing clothing. “What do you think?” she asked in all seriousness. This essay is for her…
My first memories of exercise come from high school. My junior prom was coming and I really thought that it was important for me to look my best. Every day after school I would go to the community gym at our local pool and workout for 2 hours. I remember stepping on the scale after several months of working out and dieting, the number read 117 lb. I was happy.
My next exercise memory came when I graduated from high school and went into the working world. The pressure to be thin and beautiful at that age came at me from all angles. I remember comparing myself to every woman that crossed my path. “What size does she wear?” I would silently ask myself. “Does she put dressing on her salad?” At that time of my life I walked one hour every morning before work, worked a physical job for 8 hours a day, went to college, and somehow managed to get to the gym 5 days a week. Size 0, my pants said. I was happy.
Time went on and another chapter in the exercise novel was written, the day I discovered running. At the time I thought that I had stumbled across a breakthrough to keep me at my hard to maintain size zero. I would run and I would stay thin, “easy”, I thought! What I found is that running wanted to save me from the destruction I had created in my body. The more I ran, the more my body craved fuel. Training for a marathon on less than 1000 calories a day did not compute! My pencil thin legs rebelled and became muscular columns of locomotion. It was impossible for me to be both a runner, and a starved woman looking for perfection. The stronger I became, the less important it was for me to be model thin, and for the first time in my life I could say I was actually happy!
So to the woman I met years ago with the picture of perfection in her purse, I ask, what is a tiny pair of jeans worth? Is it worth depriving yourself of everything good in life? Is it worth basing the mood of your day by what the scale says in the morning? Or do we stop worrying about what society says is the ideal and start letting our bodies decide what it the best for us? Challenge yourself to let go of unrealistic expectations and focus on being healthy. Give your body what it requires and it will reward you in surprising ways! And for God sakes, don’t be afraid to buy bigger jeans!