TFS Wednesday: The Same But Smaller

I have my great-grandmother’s arms.  I never met her but I have lots of pictures.  She was a big woman with a sweet smile and proportionally larger upper arms.  I may not be the same size she was in the photos, but the shape of my arms is the same, but smaller.

I think it is important to have realistic goals when you are trying to loose weight or generally get in shape.  Most of us have images in our minds of what we would like to look like.  We see (usually airbrushed) photos of celebrities and decide that we will diet and workout till we have abs or legs like that person.  The first problem is the massive over use of airbrushing on celebrity photos.  With Photoshop, editors are doing so much more than covering over fine lines and blemishes.  They stretch and erase and create a body for the celebrity that doesn’t really exist in this world.  

The Photoshop diet and exercise program.

The second problem is that diet and exercise cannot give you what nature didn’t (or did).  As you shrink, you will get a smaller version of you and you will generally shrink at about the same rate all over your body.  So you will loose in some of the places you want to and maybe in some of the places you don’t want to.  If you have thin legs and wide hips, you will have the same hip to leg ratio when you loose weight.  

I’m pointing this out to hopefully save some people a lot of frustrating time and effort.  I have seen many clients who loose a significant amount of weight, then become hyper focused on fixing one area.  For women it is often their bellies.  After several babies and possibly menopause too, they feel like they would reach some sort of body nirvana if they could just have flat abs.  For most of them, short of surgery, it isn’t going to happen.  They will get a nice muscle layer under the soft spot or a smaller version of the soft spot, and they would be closer to a peace-of-mind nirvana if they could live with that.  

My arms are just not my favorite feature.  I’m aware that they look much flabbier and weaker than they are. (I have nice triceps somewhere under the soft stuff.)  Sometimes I consciously dress to cover them, and sometimes, I just ignore them and dress to highlight all the parts I do love. 


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Inside Out Fashion

I feel like I have finally developed my own fashion sense.  I’ve reached that fantasy I chased for years where I can put together an outfit using only what I currently have in my closet, throw my hair into a style, put my make up on in 5 min., and the end result is a look I am happy with.  I love to shop for clothes, but time has taught me that it’s what’s under the clothes that makes the most difference. 

Working from the inside out, my attitude makes a huge difference in how I present myself.  Not a perpetual smile on your face so people wonder if you are a little strange type attitude (women have emotions besides happy and perky, shocking, but true), I’m talking about your attitude about yourself.  Call it confidence, self- esteem, or moxy, it is sexy and it makes you stand out in a good way.  When you like yourself, you take better care of yourself.


Which leads to the next layer:  hair, skin and teeth.  Investing in a great haircut and good haircare products made the biggest difference in my looks.  Hair is wonderfully changeable (to a point). You can’t make thin hair thick and vice-versa, but you can tame wild curls, color away your grey and get a cut that flatters your face shape and works with your type of hair.  I know I have a great cut when I can just finger comb it into place.  

Taking care of my skin was definitely a lot of trial and error.  Every woman’s magazine is full of articles and ads for ways to deal with lines and wrinkles.  But, that’s only a small part of the picture.  I don’t need spa facials (although I love them).  I keep the products I need at home and take time out, usually once a week, to do a home facial.  I claim the tv remote, pour a glass of wine and exfoliate, tone and slather on the lotion on Friday nights.  (Now you know my big plans for tonight.)  

Finally, there’s teeth.  Not something I thought much about till a book on beauty after 40 pointed out that stains from coffee, tea, and red wine can really age you. I was sold on the idea when some friends had whitening done through their dentist (beware of the mall whitening people!  Scary idea.)  The result was just subtle enough that it didn’t jump out at you, but effective enough to leave you wondering why they looked so much better.  

My Investment in Me (and Aveda)

All of this requires an investment of money and time, but in the end, you save money and time.  When I have these basics taken care of I look better in all my clothes and it takes less time to get ready when I’m in a hurry to get going. 

My Favorite Weight

Sometimes taking the middle ground is a wussy place to be.  We don’t want to commit to one side or another of an issue because we don’t want to rock to boat or we don’t want to take the time to do the research to commit to one side.  

However, when it comes to weight, I now stand firmly in the middle.  After years of swinging from one end of the scale to the other, I’ve found my favorite weight, right in the middle; and its a strong, happy, peaceful place to be.  

Joan Price, author of “Naked at Our Age”, said that the body you have in your 20’s is the result of your genes.  The body you have after menopause is the result of the choices you make.  

My body in my 20’s definitely had some advantageous genes.  I sometimes ate like a cross-road trucker and stayed rail thin.  I would look back on that time fondly except for two things.  One, even though I was thin, I lived in fear of gaining weight, so I added heaping helpings of guilt to all the fattening foods I ate.  Second, I never learned any good habits.  I was like the student who gets A’s in high school without studying, then flunks out of college because she never learned to study.  I thought I was lucky I got to skip over learning to manage my diet. . . 

  . . .Until I got to a body built by choices.  Like many women my bad choices caught up with me after having kids.  I blamed pregnancy weight, lack of time to exercise, etcetera, etcetera.  In truth, I continued bad eating habits from my 20’s, I became more sedentary and I leaned on excuses about pregnancy weight (when my children were toddlers) and muscle loss after 30.  The result was my pudgy-mommy years.  Again, not much fun.  I would pass a mirror (never looking on purpose) and wonder who the marshmallow was in the ugly dress.  I was never happy to realize that it was me.  

Chapter three could be titled, “My Road to the Middle.”  My reaction to pudgy me was a desire to get back to rail-thin me, as quickly as possible.  Like so many others I bought and followed every diet book that had “The Last Diet You’ll Ever Need” on the cover.  I tried low/no carb and found out I don’t like meat as much as I thought I did and  I discovered the depth of my love for sugar, all things chocolate and mashed potatoes.  In truth, all the diets worked great, till I ran out of preplanned menus and had to fend for myself.  

My salvation (in so many ways) was Weight Watchers (This is not a paid endorsement).  In order to keep this post less than 10,000 words, I will save my ringing endorsement and praise for Weight Watchers for other posts (as well as lots of great tips I learned there).  I lost weight and finally learned those lessons I should have back in my 20’s.  The two biggest lessons.  First, I don’t want my life to be ruled by food rules.  I don’t want any foods or restaurants on a “no” list.  And (more importantly) second, I don’t need to be rail thin to be happy.  

I wasn’t happy when I was overweight, but being super thin didn’t make me happy either.  Happy for me now is somewhere in the middle, somewhere between 120 and 180 lbs.(my low and high), and somewhere between rigid rules and gluttony.  I have a range in the 150’s where I am  curvy and happy on my middle ground.  

What’s your favorite weight and why?  Comment.  Let’s talk weight.

Diet Coach or Lover, You Decide.

I worked at Weight Watchers for five years.  I know A LOT about eating healthy, nutrition facts and dieting tricks.  (Not that I always apply these to my life.)  Even though my husband is in good shape, I get tempted to “share” my expertise with him sometimes, though he never asks for it.  I’ll point out the calories in the butter he puts on his steak or the amount of carbs in his baked potato.  In other words, I turn into a fun sucker.  

Not only is he a grown man who can handle his own nutrition, he is my lover (I hope I didn’t shock anyone with that news) but I can kill that idea by trying to be his diet coach.  It dawned on me the other day that a diet coach and a lover are polar opposite jobs.  A diet coach’s job is to tell you your body is not OK as it is.  He/She is there to remind you that you have too much jiggle.  Diet coaches suck the fun and pleasure out of eating by breaking yummy food down into units (point, calories) to be counted and sparingly doled out.  The results of dieting may be sexy, but there is nothing sexy about the process of dieting.

Now lets look at the job of lover (so much more fun!) which is the actual job you signed up for when you got married (at least I hope you did).  A lover’s job is to tell you how much they LOVE your body, exactly the way it is.  Lovers love a little jiggle.  Being a lover is all about pleasure and nothing should be measured or counted.

  

The lover giveth pleasure the diet coach taketh away.   

So I have to make a choice.  Do I want to wow him with my calorie-counting expertise or WOW him with me?  I pass him the butter.   

The Yoga Reveal

Menopause has brought me more in touch with my body (if my husband is reading this, I know where your mind is going. . . stop. . . this is about yoga).  

For years my body kept changing.  Every week was a new mix of sleep or no sleep, lose weight or can’t, hot flashes or none.  I tell my friends who are in menopause that if they hate how things are going now, hang on, it will all change in a few weeks. I had become very attuned to all these changes, so my yoga disaster caught me off guard this morning.  

I had no idea how tense I was.  My muscles had coiled into tight balls while I was sitting in this chair, learning to blog.  Frustration pooled in my shoulders and stomach and back.  And I probably wouldn’t have really noticed had I not gone to yoga this morning.  I walk around sometimes, lost in my head, out of touch with my body, wondering why I can’t sleep or why my stomach feels off.  

When I tried down dog today, my legs trembled, my back pinched, my shoulders bunched.  Then I remembered to breathe, slowly, and to use my mind to relax each muscle group.  It took the entire hour, but I could feel the tension leaving, bit by bit.  By the end I was able to control my muscles as opposed to being controlled.  I was breathing deep, into my belly, feeling relaxed.  I started to drift into sleep during Savasna (corpse pose).  

I’m back in my chair, blogging, but with a new awareness of how to keep myself in tune;  less time in my head, more time in my body. Breathe.  

The Curvy Girl Revolution

I worked in a fancy restaurant at Disney World one summer when I was 25.  Around 10 p.m. every night huge families visiting from South America would arrive for dinner.  I remember them for two reasons.  One, since the restaurant was mostly empty this late they would request one table for the adults and another for the kids, on the other side of the restaurant.  

The second thing I remember is the women.  The mothers of these children (and possibly the grandmothers too) would dress in very sexy, revealing clothes for their evening out.  And these were not small women; there was skin spilling over hem lines, waist bands, low-cut tops.  But the thing that made my jaw drop was their attitude.  They strutted in with a walk and a look that said, “yeah, I’m sexy, I know it, you know it.  Ain’t it great?!”  (only in Portuguese)  Even at a stick-thin 122 lbs. I was jealous of them.  They ate (real food!  Not the diet plate!) they drank, they laughed, they flirted.  (OK, so they also left their kids to be baby sat by the wait staff, but hey, they were great tippers too.)

I grew up with super athletic women being the ideal.  Stunning tan goddesses who could spike a volleyball, run a 10k, and keep up with the guys.  I was a day-glo white Irish girl with long nails that prohibited volleyball, double D’s that prohibited running, and no desire to out bench press anyone I was dating.  I never associated curvy and girly girl with beauty. . . till Christina.  

In 2010 Christina Hendricks was voted the sexiest woman by the mostly male readers of Esquire magazine.  It made headlines.  This woman had CURVES, and, it turns out that many (many, many) men like them.  Who knew?  Since then I’ve discovered Kim Kardashian (weird show, but she rocks her curves), Sophia Vergara, Beyonce, and Salma Hayek, just to name a few.  Burlesque artist, Dita Von Teese, is not only curvy and sexy, but also super pale (my skin idol!).  I figure if she can rock it, so can I.  I’ve stopped apologizing for my lack of a tan (or burn, in my case).  

I hope this new love of curvy girls will let more women see that size negative 0, model-thin women are not everyone’s ideal.  You can feel sexy without six-pack abs and cut triceps.  The women having the most fun and the ones eating and drinking and laughing and flirting.  They enter a room with a walk and a look that says, “ain’t it great?!”