When I was just an awkward pre-teen, I read an article in a women’s magazine that said that women shouldn’t expect to look like Sophia Loren at 40 if they hadn’t looked like Brooke Shields at 14, Farrah Fawcett at 20, and so forth. (Of course, at the time Sophia Loren was in her 40’s. I have to say, even though that was many years ago, she’s still someone to look at and say “Damn, I hope I look that good at her age!”) The point of the article was that your bones are what they are. Your frame is your frame. Your shape is your shape. You aren’t going to suddenly get taller, or grow longer legs, or have a smaller pelvis. You can’t give yourself more prominent cheek bones or an entirely different shape than you ever had through some fad diet or exercise program, but you can sure as hell be the best that YOU can be at any age.
As time passed and I developed into a teenager and then into a “woman”… I was pretty smoking hot if I do say so myself. I was blessed with good genes and I was pretty darn happy with what I saw in the mirror. I never felt jealous of other women. I was perfectly happy being ME. Maybe that sounds conceited or arrogant… and maybe it is… but it’s the truth. I really did like my body, and I really was happy with my looks.
Around the age of 25, I crossed that line we all cross where I realized that I wasn’t 17 anymore and actually had to watch what I ate or I would begin to gain weight. Even at that, it was only my 20’s and I was still easily able to drop a few pounds. Barely an effort and the extra weight would just drop away. (Oh, to be young!) I was pretty active, working retail and not sitting on my butt all day. I could just add a simple walk to the end of my day and drop five or ten pounds in no time.
Then, I met my ex-husband and we settled into a comfortable routine. Before long, bills piled up and I left retail to find a higher paying office job. I also stopped taking those walks, and stopped going out dancing with girlfriends on weekend nights. I stopped doing lots of things that burned calories and swapped that “single” lifestyle for cooking big dinners for my husband and his daughter. Meals which contained things I never ate on a regular basis before. Tons of red meat, Pillsbury biscuits, and “side dishes” smothered in heavy sauces. It was what wives did, wasn’t it? Cook meals for their families? Bring home their share of the bacon and fry it up in the pan? Maybe, but before I knew it I had packed on over 50 pounds.
I say “over 50 pounds” because that was the point at which I stopped weighing myself. I mean, what was the point? Every time I stepped on the scale it just went up a few more pounds. It didn’t happen overnight, but the torture of watching the number creep up every time I got onto one was enough to make me stop stepping on. It didn’t really stop me from eating, though. I mean, those meals were DELICIOUS to me at the time.
Anyway, by the time I was ready to get divorced ten years later, I was so over-weight, out of shape, and unhealthy that I didn’t think I could ever feel good or look good again. I thought maybe I could lose weight, but I didn’t think it was going to make a difference other than maybe making it easier to climb a flight of stairs or carry the groceries into the house. I was dead wrong.
For completely unrelated reasons I ended my marriage. The first thing I did after that was toss the high calorie, low nutrient foods. I literally tossed everything in the kitchen out and went shopping to replace it all with REAL food. You know, fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins, etc, and as much of it organic as I could get my hands on. Within a matter of weeks the heavy meals I’d been making for my ex now seemed repulsive to me, and the “back to healthy” regimen renewed my love for “real food.” (Is it wrong to say that I LOVE my own cooking?)
I also started working out and putting my health first. It was a lot of really hard work, but I managed to lose 35 pounds. Thank God muscles have a memory, and within less than a year I had a feminine shape again. I wasn’t perfect, but I had a waist and I could see my feet. Aside from pounds coming off, the healthier eating and the exercise also cleared up my skin, solved a bunch of digestive issues, and made me feel human and happy again. Thank goodness for endorphins!
As fate would have it, though, the economy crashed out and in order to make ends meet I had to give up a few things. One thing I gave up in order to save cash was Martial Arts classes, which I had become hopelessly addicted to. I also had to cut back on the organics and eventually I had to stop buying multi-vitamins, and pick and choose one or two produce items per shopping trip rather than buying a wide variety of fresh produce. Money was so tight, in fact, that there were weeks when I couldn’t grocery shop at all. Then, to frost the burnt cupcake, I went through a horrible break up with someone I was hopelessly in love with and became almost irretrievably depressed.
Slowly the pounds started creeping back on. A pound here, a pound there… until I speak to you today having gained back 15 pounds. It doesn’t sound like much, but considering I had only lost 35 and really probably needed to lose close to 60 to begin with, those 15 are a huge setback. I have nobody to blame but myself, and I know this. Sure, there are factors outside of my lack of effort that contributed to the pounds finding their way back onto me, but ultimately, I am the master of my body and my destiny, and I allowed myself to give in when the going got tough.
Now I look at myself in the mirror and think: “What happened to you? Where did all your energy and drive disappear to? Why are you not doing everything in your power to maintain your health and happiness?” Well, for several reasons, but none of them are good enough to warrant the fifteen pounds. And certainly none of them are good enough to warrant my feeling like complete crap. Now there is the prospect of taking my clothes off in front of someone new in my future, and the thought of it has motivated me to head back into the gym and turn from the dessert tray. But, even that has not been enough to truly give me back the mental edge I used to have when working out.
As luck would have it, I found myself staying at a friend’s house for a week recently to do some pet-sitting. Now, I don’t have cable television at home, so I was happy to park my unmotivated behind on her sofa for a week and watch movies and shows I usually don’t get to see. One of the movies I caught was The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. If you’ve never seen it, you should, especially if you’re 40-ish and thought you were hot shit in the 80’s. It’s very humbling. Anyway…
I’m not one to be put off by nudity, and back in the day I was never very shy or modest… I loved my body and would have dropped my laundry in front of anyone. I mean, why not? I had nothing to be ashamed of; I was SMOKING hot. But those days are gone, and now I see only a shadow of myself when I’m in my birthday suit. Maybe seeing this film was fate? In The Wrestler, Miss Tomei plays a stripper past her prime. Now, when My Cousin Vinny was in theatres, Marisa and I had pretty much the same body, except I had bigger boobs. Now, I found myself looking at this woman, many years later, and she was so beautiful; still slender, toned, and sexy as hell despite her age.
I looked her up on imdb.com and discovered that she’s actually six years OLDER than me. Which means, at the time of filming, she was 45. Here I am at 40 feeling like I’m not capable of looking as good, or at least close to as good as I did when I watched My Cousin Vinny. Well guess what, baby? You ain’t dead yet… and according to that ridiculous article I read when I was 11, if I was once a show-stopping hottie then I have no reason on earth not to be again. After all, your bones are what they are. Your frame is your frame. Your shape is your shape. You may gain and you may expand, but when you lose, if you are healthy about it and if you’re sensible and take proper care of your body – guess what? Your body is going to be the body it always has been underneath all that blubber. I mean, I don’t expect to look 17 years old again, but dammit, why should I settle for looking… well… quite frankly… anything less than “stunning for my age?” Why should any of us?
Obesity has been called an epidemic in this country over and over. We’ve all got high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and tons of other health issues due to the fact that we’re not taking good enough care of ourselves. Well, that stops here for this chick. 40 isn’t fatal. It’s a lack of taking care of yourself that can be. So, I say we get off our butts, drop the laundry in front of the mirror, take a good, long, sobering look at ourselves and decide we’re not going to settle for just “ok.”
Health first, people. And for the record, when you’re healthy on the inside, you’re smoking hot on the outside – NO MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. Confidence, energy, and happiness are sexy as hell. Get to it! I’ll see you at the gym.