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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Redefine yourself

One of the challenges of transforming your body and life is that it takes some time for your mental image and perception of yourself to catch up with your physical reality. Just like it took looking at myself in a picture, instead of in the mirror, to see how fat and out of shape I'd become, it's taking time for me to see myself positively in the mirror now that I'm fit. Likewise, it's taking time for me to think of myself positively.

I still find myself in front of the mirror, turning and spinning, pushing on my belly and wondering if it should be flatter, and wishing I could see some more muscle definition in my legs. When I see other people who work out, I can appreciate the positive changes in their bodies, but it's hard for me to notice it in my own. Even when I'm achieving a new personal record on an exercise, I wonder whether that's actually a "good number," even if it's a good number for me. I think women, especially, can be so hard on ourselves in this way.

I was reminded of this the other evening. My daughter was sick, and I'd taken her in to be seen by a doctor. As the nurse checked her pulse, I asked what the normal range was for a child her age. The nurse answered, "well it's a bit elevated because of her fever." I agreed that would be the case and then said, "but what's the normal range? I mean, my resting heart rate is around 62." The nurse looked at me and said, "well, you're athletic."

Me? Athletic? Let me assure you that no one has ever referred to me as athletic in my entire life. I'm the girl who played right field in little league and batted 9th, because I could do the least amount of damage that way. I'm the one who was always picked last for teams, and who never played field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, or soccer. I'm the girl who took weightlifting two out of every four marking periods in gym, because I would not be expected to run and no one would hit me on the head with a basketball.

So while I was pleased by her offhand comment, I was also confused. Was she right? WAS I now athletic? It had never occurred to me to think of myself this way. But at the same time, perhaps she was had a point. After all, doesn't it take an athletic woman to do four chin-ups, two sets of thirty push-ups, and complete 170 16kg kettlebell swings in five minutes?

I thought I'd share this experience as a good reminder that as we change our lives, people who have never met us will perceive us differently than the way we see ourselves. And that should be a clue that we HAVE changed, and old labels may no longer apply. So as you change your body, your health, and your life, don't forget to redefine the kind of person you are, and what things are important to you.

Athletic? Let me look in this mirror a little longer and maybe...just maybe...I'll be able to see myself that way too.


  1. Oh man, Liz, I could have written this post verbatim. I am still struggling with changing my perception of my body. Pictures really are a wonder. I still sometimes fool myself and think, "Who is that thin girl?"

  2. Jen, I think I've come to the realization that I will always struggle with body image, no matter how great I look. That's why it's sometimes really helpful to hear other people's reactions to the way I look or to my pictures. And so with that in mind, let me share that when you post your pictures, I don't think "thin," I think "sexy." You look fantastic. Wrap your brain around that!

  3. Love this post, Liz. It's soooo true! I had the exact same experience a few months ago and my mind is still reeling from it! I was the girl who was told by her volleyball coach that maybe I should try out for individual sports so that I could actually participate!! LOL! Look at me now! Running and lifting and doing all sorts of fun stuff!

  4. I so-o-o-o appreciate you Liz, your vulnerability and honesty are refreshing. I, and I'm sure a lot of other women, feel precisely as you do. A new girlfriend commented on how "hot" I was when I'd only been training for 4 months. All I could think of was how far I have to go until I'm not ashamed of my body any longer.

    Math over emotions: I've completed 21% of what I originally estimated as a 3 year (156 weeks) journey in only 5 months (21 weeks). After a slower than average start, my pace is steady at about a loss of 3 lbs. per week. [Got to love Kettlebells and Z-Health.] At this pace, I will reach my goals in 56-60 additional weeks for an entire journey elapsed time of 77-81 weeks. In HALF the time I planned, I'll be living in a body that will be stronger and healthier than any shape I've ever known, both internally and externally. Like you, I will one day have a resting heart rate below 65.

    Trying to see myself as the woman I have the potential to be is difficult if not impossible. I wish I had that special software they use to show what a person will look like if they lose over 200 pounds, build up appropriate amounts of functional muscle and change their lifestyle habits. Lacking that I'll keep reading your blog and those of other women who've made it further down the road than I who are shining the light of healthy living to light my path.

  5. Crystal and Anonymous (Illyeanna?), thanks so much for your comments. It's really good to know that other women are going through the same thing.

    What I think is amazing about all of us is that, unlike so many other people who let their bodies define them, we've all decided that we will define our bodies instead. It's just that it takes a while for our brains to catch up.

    One thing I will say is that this stood out to me, "I have a long way to go until I'm not ashamed of my body any longer." You are already strong and making great progress. So be proud of your body. Be proud of what it can do, and how it can move, and it will, in turn, make you proud of your mental and psychological strength, which made your physical advances possible. Maybe you're a long way from goal yet, but celebrate your progress, because you deserve it.