Like many women my age (44), I grew up with very slender supermodels as role models of female beauty. In middle school, I was bullied terribly about my weight and at some point internalized a core belief that the only thing standing between me and true love, happiness, and a successful life was the size of my thighs. One year I went a whole summer eating nothing but carrots and dry popcorn in the hopes I’d finally achieve the ever-elusive ‘skinny’. This led to years of angst, withholding food from myself and using exercise as a means to run from ‘fat’.
In my early thirties, I would spend at least 90 minutes in the gym, every day, punishing my body into as small a size as I could. Looking back over pictures, I probably varied no more than 10-15 pounds from skinniest to biggest. Thanks to genetics, and years of yo-yo dieting, my body’s ideal weight is not the same as my mind’s, which can be very frustrating when for most of my life I could accomplish anything by trying hard enough. As hard as I was on myself, it was always my passion to help other women accept themselves as they were. When I met my husband, we were equally yoked in many ways, and fortunately, a desire to be as fit as possible was one of them.
Finally in a safe and healthy relationship, I began to focus less on what I looked like, and more on what my body could do. I let go of my obsession to spend a set amount of time in the gym or burn a set amount of calories (I was also married to my heart rate monitor) and focus more on lifting more or running faster. As Tony (and I) become more and more knowledgeable about the human body, and the science of fitness, I began to trust the process and actually follow his recommendations. Because of our (okay my) ‘unique’ personalities, we found it less effective to work out together, and I became Tony’s first ‘virtual’ client. He’d prepare the workouts, and I’d do them on my own, with him occasionally checking in on my form.
Then, contrary to all medical opinion, I became pregnant with my daughter, Grace. Because of a massive fibroid tumor, I’d been told this wasn’t possible and also that I would likely miscarry early in the pregnancy. For the first time in maybe my life, I began to think of my body solely based on what it needed to DO (grow a perfect healthy baby) and not what it looked like. I decided I wanted a completely natural birth and after consulting with a doctor, began training for the most grueling physical challenge of my life. I exercised regularly during my pregnancy, enduring increasingly more comments and well-meaning advice as I advanced. I still went to a big box gym at this time and got my share of stares once I hit month 9!
Not only did I NOT miscarry, Grace was 10 days OVERDUE. I didn’t get my natural birth due to a family history of not going into effective labor, resulting in an emergency C-Section, but one interesting thing is that when they delivered Grace, the fibroid that had tormented us the entire pregnancy was completely gone! My recovery was incredibly fast. I am convinced that it was my high level of fitness that allowed for such a complication-free pregnancy and recovery.
Fast forward two years later and I was pregnant again. This time with TWINS (no they don’t run in either family and no, I was not taking fertility treatments despite my advanced age). Again, I followed a very strict fitness routine and against most odds, carried my twins to 37 weeks 5 days and Aiden and Benjamin came home with me after 2 days (7 lbs 2 0z and 6 lbs 15 oz). I didn’t even need any bed rest!
As you can see in the pictures, my body stretched beyond the limits of what I thought was possible! During my pregnancies, I was focused only on creating the best environment for my growing babies, but after they were born, I started feeling the pressure to get back down to pre-baby weight, and lose my poochy belly. My recovery took a bit longer, as the C-section was a bit more traumatic and I was in considerably more pain this time around, but I was able to resume my ‘virtual workouts’ after 6 weeks.
Throughout the next three years, I have focused on becoming the best me I can be physically and emotionally. With an almost-five-year-old daughter this means something different than it used to. It means talking about how strong I am, and how important it is to make our bodies healthy. It means I let the kids squish my still-squishy belly and tell them I got all stretched out from growing all the babies and isn’t that cool? It means NEVER using fat as a derogatory term or a 4-letter word (which is harder than I thought) and not beating myself up for not looking like pre-baby, semi-anorexic me.
I work out 6 days a week and eat as healthy as I’m willing to and am about 10 pounds over my original post baby bod and am happier with myself today than I ever have been. Instagram and society tell me that I should be more worried about losing those 10 pounds, but I’ve been running from them my whole life and I’m not much happier when they’re gone, only a bit hungrier and therefore angrier.
Real People, Real Bodies is about doing your best and loving yourself for where you’re at. I suspect some day I’ll become more willing to stay off the sugar and carb wagon completely because of how it makes me feel and I’ll look a bit different, but it won’t change how much the people who matter love me. Including me.
Physical Fitness means more to me now than ever, for much different reasons. Being mid-forties with three kids under five means I need more energy and stamina now than ever. Being Limitless is the only option for me…and it’s my dream come true to be able to share that.
WE ARE Limitless!