Saturday, 10 September 2011

It's not all about size zero, you know

‘It’s not all about being bloody size zero, you know, Jane,’ said the woman in the pub, stabbing her finger at me. ‘All this diet and exercise stuff you do; it’s not where it’s at. It doesn’t make you happy, you know.’ 
Now, admittedly she was very VERY drunk but it did rather take me aback because she sounded really angry. And it got me thinking.  Yes, I’ve lost a lot of weight over the last year – nigh on fifty pounds.  But it was never about being stick thin; it certainly wasn’t about being size zero (not that I’m anywhere close).  It was simply about not killing myself with food anymore.  I’m still not totally balanced out but I’m getting better; I’m trying.
The exercise stuff I just found I liked. I tried a lot of things and some worked for me; some didn’t. As my pal and fitness instructor Trisha always says, unless you find something you enjoy, you won’t stick with it; it won’t become part of your life.  I enjoy walking the SP cos it frees my head and gets me out in the fields or up in the woods, stroking the trees, kissing the sky, whispering to the river.  And I love yoga cos it shifts my perspective and makes me feel sooooo stretched.  Zumba, oh Zumba, I adore because it’s tough but fun and I can lose myself in the music and, shit, it’s just sexy as hell - plus I haven’t had a day’s backache since I started (cos it shimmies you out like nothing else).  When it comes to the gym, let’s be honest, I spent most of my time chatting with Trisha and when the house is cold, the gym is warm and I can scribble notes on the exercise bike.  Kettlercise?  Well, slugging kettlebells around just  makes me feel…strong.
Yeah, strong.  I love that I have well-defined muscles now – that if I flex my arm I can see those twin mythical beasts, biceps and triceps; that my quads ripple a bit when I walk.  Let’s be very clear here, I’m not talking muscle-bound Ms Universe stuff – just a bit of toned lean muscle.  I’m not entirely there yet and I’m pretty sure my stomach will never be a washboard but I’m starting to feel comfortable in my skin for the first time that I can remember.
But that word - strong.  It took me back to Israel and a woman we met at the Daniel Rowing Centre in Tel Aviv.  Her name was (and, as far I know, still is) Moran Samuel. She was an athlete (a talented basketball player) and a student.  Then, when she was 24, she had a stroke, clean out of the blue, and became paralysed from the chest down.  Suddenly her life was turned upside down and she headed into rehab. Did she give up?  Did she hell.  She went and qualified as a physical therapist, working with children with disabilities.  She returned to playing basketball (in her wheelchair) with the men’s Paralympic team and then, as if she hadn’t already achieved enough, she took up rowing and has recently won a bronze medal in the World Rowing Championship and has a ticket to the 2012 Paralympics. If you want to read her story in words far more eloquent than mine, do visit the Vibe Israel blog here where Sally Whittle tells her story. 
She was wearing a t-shirt when we met her that said simply:
Strong is the new beautiful. 
I like that message. And it struck me it’s one that might not be bad to impart to our children.  Because, while I may not be after a size zero body, a helluva lot of teenage girls are.  And boys aren’t immune either.  They’re trying to disappear, to vanish somehow. Young bodies need to grow strong, they need the nutrients a good healthy diet gives.  We ain’t gonna stop the glossy magazines and fashion designers peddling anorectic models, however much we may wish they would – so it has to come from us as parents.  How do you do it?  I dunno.  Be careful about the messages you give out maybe?  I just wish someone or other had gently nudged me into exercise when I was fourteen, instead of sticking me on a starvation diet.
So no. I know that a size zero body doesn’t bring happiness to anyone.  I know that dieting and exercise doesn’t make one happy per se either.  Happiness is a curious concept and not, to my feeling, a process so much as a glimpse - a moment, a song on the wind, a tug in the heart, a tingle in the gut.  Or maybe not even a noun but a verb – a happying.  But while I wait for my lovely happyings – and come they do – I think I’ll settle for trying strong.  When I'm not feeling weak.  :) What you reckon?

btw, if you live around Exmoor you might like to come along to a day's bootcamp I'm doing with Trisha and another local fitness instructor, Nicola.  See here for details...


Anonymous said...

Lately I've been looking a lot at my food issues... I seem to swing between binging on food, and binging on exercise with a strict diet. Somehow I need to learn a happy medium. But the exercise I do is empowering for me because I was always the last pick in PE, a totally unsporty who never thought she could enjoy any kind of sport or exercise. Learning later on in life that actually I like quite a lot of things as long, as I'm only completeing against myself, was a revelation.

Midlife Singlemum said...

I know it's not all about size zero. It's about feeling strong and healthy, which in my experience, leades to energetic, productive and, ultimately a lot happier. It's just quicker to say I'm on a diet to lose weight than to explain all the above.

I'd love to come to your exercise camp but I still don't live near Exmoor because Liz Jones didn't accept my offer of three pounds 50 for her house. #bitch

Rob-bear said...

Size zero is nothing. Literally. Not a healthy size for anyone. Deadly, in fact.
Must confess that I've not quite got the food and exercise bit totally figured out, but I'm working on it. Slowly.
Strong is beautiful!Yes. Right!
BTW, word veri is "tryin." I am that, indeed. (Don't anyone say, "very tryin"!)

Barb-Central Texas said...

I had convinced myself that putting on weight was an inevitable part of getting old, but then my knee joints went bad on me. I was faced with the choice of giving up some of my fat or installing metal knees. I hate hospitals, so my choice was easy. I was surprised at how much BETTER I feel when I eat healthy food. OK, I'll admit that, in addition to the knees, I was motivated by a particularly unflattering photo, which I kept taped to the fridge. And I DO look a lot better now that I've shed 45 pounds of fat.

Moran Samuel's story is inspiring. Whether one's perceived disability is age, injury, environment, it's worth looking for ways to work around whatever it is, rather than giving up to it.

Anonymous said...

First of all, well done on losing 50 pounds. I really wish I had your willpower.

I'm joining a gym hopefully tomorrow and will be trying hard to shed some pounds myself, not to mention tone myself up.

I'm currently a size 16 but would like to get back to a 14. I have a lot of work to do but I'm going to try!

CJ xx

Jane The Booklady said...

I have quite a plump body and I also have fibromyalgia. For years I battled with feeling that I should be different and that taking exercise and eating well would make me better and more importantly feel better, the stark truth is... it doesn't.
But what does? Becoming a life model. It still hurts like heck but when I'm in a good pose and the lines of my body are pleasing to the artists... then my body is perfect as it is. And that's a good thing to learn. And I agree, the more young people learn that their bodies are o.k. as they are the better it is for them, so thank you for this post! Jane x

Frances said...

Jane, did you say 50 pounds? If you'd written in stone-speak or metric I would have been much slower in replying.

Wow. Congratulations! I so agree that size 0 as a goal is not very healthy. Healthy is what I've continued to reach for. If strength comes into the picture, that's also just fine.

There are all sorts of books, articles, media speakers out there nowadays examining the state of various countries as our global civilization continues to go forward in time, if not truly forward by other measures.

Isn't it odd to think about how we do have conveniences that keep us from burning calories, and access to all sorts of foods that prior generations did not. Options, that's what I mean.

We do choose, if we think about it. I'm not sure that I always do think about it, but on this eve of 9/11 am so glad that I live in a city that encourages travel by foot, access to information, and chances to connect with people from all over the world.

Swerved a bit there, Jane. xo

Nora said...

As long as you are sure that you eat a healthy and balanced diet, you should be okay. I'm not sure that you always do. You can lose weight for the wrong reasons and through the wrong methods. You said yourself that you don't care much about food. Do take care of yourself properly.

T.L Tyson said...

I've lost about thirty pounds this year, well, in the last six months. It had nothing to do with being skinner and everything to do with being healthier.

Also, working out, gets my brain going. And you wouldn't believe the crap I come up with while on the treadmill!