Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A New Perspective

During day 1 of traveling home, 14 hours of pure joy let me tell you, I decided to go through my “Notes” app on my phone and clean up old notes I’ve left for myself. It’s amazing what you can find when you look through a couple of years of memories.

I found old messages with data about treadmill runs, notes from podcasts, body measurements and most interesting of all was my “ARC” card from when I read Dr. Judith Beck’s “Beck Diet Solution”. Dr. Beck is a cognitive behavioral therapist who has a number of suggestions or steps to follow to change your cognitive responses to food and your food behaviors. I found her book interesting and decided to implement some of her suggestions.

One suggestion was to create a “Advantages Response Card” (ARC) in order to help you stay motivated  and stick to your diet. I created my first ARC after my mom passed away in 2004. I was determined not to follow in her footsteps and find my way to an early grave due to complications of diabetes, which I didn’t think I had to worry about until my 60s or so. Yes, let’s laugh now. In the fall of 2011, I was planning my 2012 race season. I knew in order to be at my best I needed to lose a few more pounds so I went back to Dr. Beck’s Diet Solution and updated my ARC.  While I had 14 reasons why I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, the one that struck me the most this weekend was #10:

I may not do it, but I would like to feel as if I could wear a bikini.

When I wrote that in October of 2011, I never thought it would become a reality. In January 2012, I registered for IMLOU and began the long months of training. In June 2012, we went to Vero Beach, FL with Jeff’s entire family.  My suitcase was packed with 2 new tankini bathing suits I had purchased from Athleta. When we got home from vacation, my darling husband said, “You know you really could have worn a bikini.” I thought how sweet of you, dear, but no. These abs are never going to see the light of day again.

By the time IMLOU rolled around, I was down to my college weight, the weight when I thought I was in the best shape of my life and I still could not imagine wearing a bikini.

When I was in high school, I owned a bikini - one. I wore it rarely, and only at a friend’s private pool. Seriously. At the age of 17? 18? What did I have to be self-conscious about? Absolutely nothing. I had a serious lack of understanding of my own body as well as self esteem issues which most teenage girls go through, only at the time I did not realize that every teenage girl felt the same way that I did. Even though I was young and in good shape, I still did not feel I could compare myself to the models we all see in magazines. You know…the 108 pound waif of a woman-child who could be blown away in the wind.

In comparison, I was about 130 pounds with shoulders like a linebacker and calves the size of Mt. Everest, at least in my mind. In my youth, my strength and athleticism was something I had to learn to control. My strong body was something I needed to hide.

Fast forward through the years of marriage and giving birth to three children via c-section and suddenly now I had a reason to say I’d never wear a bikini again. When I was pregnant with our 2nd child, I had a dear friend come over and ask if her teenage daughter could feel my belly. I believe the quote was “The skin is tight. It’s like a balloon and if you touch it, it will pop.” Yes, giving birth to a 10 pound 9 ounce baby will definitely stretch the skin as it’s never been stretched before. Between the road map of stretch marks and c-section scars which create a fold in the abdominal skin, I was convinced you would never see me in a bikini again.

And then as vacation approached, I started to consider it. I mean why not? I am 44 years, in relatively good shape and I really do feel good in my skin. So, why not? Remember that road map of stretch marks? The skin which was stretched to the max and will never return to a flat state? Those were still two good reasons why I should not wear a bikini.

In good humor, I went bikini shopping. The first few I tried on were quite laughable, actually quite horrifying. Note to self, you are not 17 anymore.  The top needs to be the size of the Bermuda triangle to hide all that you’ve got going on up there, you know what I mean? I started to think it was not going to happen. Shopping for a bikini in the junior department does not work for a 44-year old mother of three; however, low and behold, I found a bikini which provided coverage for the major problem areas and still allowed me to feel like I was not trying to relive my teenage years.

Now to find the nerves of steel to wear it on the beach.

But again, why not? For the first time since 2007, we were going on a beach vacation completely by ourselves. No one else had to see my flaws with the exception of my family and you know what? They can just deal with it. I called a family meeting and announced to everyone that there would be no published photos of this momma in her bikini without permission first. I reserved the right to review and delete any and all pictures which may reveal parts of my body I was not quite comfortable with.
Day 1 on the beach, you know what? No one laughed. No one said, “Look at that old hag wearing a bikini. What was she thinking?” OK, so maybe they thought it, but by that time I didn’t really care. My linebacker shoulders? They are defined and sleek. A symbol of my strength and the result of years of tumbling. My Mt. Everest Calves? They are strong muscles which helped push me through 140.6 miles on a hot, humid day in Louisville. My stretch marks? Those are the ones I am most proud of. I have given birth to three wonderful and yet extremely different daughters. They are the road map to the story of my children and their start in life.

You don’t want to see my stretched out skin? Don’t look. I don’t care. Get over it. It’s taken 44 years to get to this point. To realize all of flaws I see in myself are just that. I am not perfect and neither is my body. Those “flaws”, they are just that. Flaws, but they also tell the story of my life, the things that make me ME.

So will you see me flouncing around the Tremont pool in my new bikini? Probably not. But will you see me stand a little taller? Will you see me embrace my “Flaws”? Yes. They are now the things that I am most proud of. All of these things add up to me and I like me. What’s not to like? 

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