This morning on Facebook my writer buddy Cyn posted a photo of herself — tiny, fit, arms in a strong (wo)man pose — smiling ear to beautiful ear because she had just completed her first-ever 5K.
I stared at the photo long and hard. I took in the muscles popping out of her 50-year-old arms, her tone legs, the smile that said ‘I did this and am proud as proud can be of myself.’
I was so inspired by this photo that I downloaded it and may even use it as wallpaper on my iphone.
Now I don’t know an unfit Cyn — I’ve only known her about three years — but if memory serves, I think she was once fluffier, or at least fluffier than she wanted to be.
This photo, then, doesn’t capture a woman who just accomplished serious weight loss. What it does capture is gritty determination — that if you put your mind to something, you can surely get it done. It shows a woman who doesn’t make excuses, who doesn’t let age define what she can and can’t do. A woman who loves and cares for her body.
Yesterday I spent most of the day with two friends who I hadn’t seen in years. I’m 52 and they’re younger, though I no longer remember how much younger. But, like Cyn, they’re small, fit, firecrackers who take care of themselves. They run. They eat good stuff, but they’re also women who don’t deprive themselves of things like bagels and cream cheese, beer and French fries.
Healthy living is a way of life — not a punishment.
God I admire that.
I go in and out of eating well, in and out of exercising, in and out of caring.
About a week ago, I was at the bookstore at Unity Village, Mo., one of my favorite spots on the planet. I was contemplating a book on Zentangle, which involves drawing unstructured patterns to make art just for the fun of it. I put that book back, but another one refused to go back on the shelf: “Loving Yourself to Great Health: Thoughts & Food–the Ultimate Diet.” (I’m linking you to Amazon but please buy it locally…).
I messaged my wife and asked her if she would clobber me if I bought one more book with the word “diet” in the title. She reminded me that I was a grown woman and if I wanted another book like that I should go for it.
So I parted with 25-ish dollars.
Why? Because I want to understand why I go in and out of caring for my body, in and out of treating my body as a temple… Why I open a bag of chips (albeit blue chips that are unsalted and gluten-free) instead of a bag of organic lettuce. Why I buy the fixings for smoothies and allow the produce to rot in our refrigerator.
It might be laziness, that’s quite possible, but I think it’s deeper than that.
I admire people like my friends Nina and Carl. They each make — and eat — salads that look like they could feed a family of four. Carl packs fruit and other good stuff to take to work. They snack on nuts. They avoid gluten and have watched their already slender bodies morph into even slenderer bodies because of that decision.
I want to be like these pals of mine. They’re not dieting. They don’t have a goal weight in mind. They’re not “watching” what they eat — and yet that’s exactly what they’re doing.
I admire how they look, for sure, but mostly I admire how they love and respect their bodies.
This new book I bought (written by three women, including Louise Hay, who I deeply admire) reminds me to take baby steps — to pick one small thing to do and get started. To keep it simple and gentle. To be consistent and positive. To have fun — and to celebrate small successes.
“Sometimes the best way to change is to just do it, just take that first step of knowing that your health and happiness are important. You are important,” they write.
That’s what my pal Cyn did back in January when she took her first run and thought her legs might explode.
While I’d love to have Cyn’s killer biceps, today I’ll be content to make a salad that I actually eat.
There. That’s my first step.