Weight. A concept that women regularly struggle with and I am no exception to this rule despite what people may believe. While I am a fairly small woman and do not usually weigh more than 120lbs on average, I, too struggle (don't decide that you hate me yet - give it a minute).
I am only 5'2 and have a very small bone structure. My ring fInger is a size 4 1/2 on most days less Tennesse humidity and swelling. And even with all of this, I like most women, hate my body. Being small has never changed the mind set of being a woman and living up to the high expectations of a perfect figure. I, too, stare at the models in the magazines and long to have flat abs and a nice derriere just like they do. Because while small, I am far from model perfect and I struggle with my weight just like anyone else.
As a smaller person it frustrates me when people tell me things like, "eat a cheeseburger" because you can. No. I can't. If I did, I would no longer be the small person I am. I work diligently to keep my weight down and there have been times in my life when I've slacked significantly in this process.
After I married in 2000 I gained a standard 20lbs for the first year of our union; reminiscent of the freshman 15 I gained in college. You develop a sedentary lifestyle during those first few months of dinner at home and snuggling on the couch. Along with that lifestyle comes the pounds with it. We married in July and by Christmas I couldn't fit into my jeans. There were tears, many tears and promises from my husband that I was still beautiful. But I did not feel beautiful. I topped out the scale at 128 lbs, the heaviest I'd ever been in my life. And I got busy working out. I started taking dance again and teaching it. I mapped a route around my small neighborhood where we rented our first house and started walking everyday and I quit eating nothing but mashed potatoes and fried chicken, a meal I absolutely adore! Slowly the weight came off and I started to feel like myself again, until....we moved to Alabama.
In Alabama, I could not land a job in my field-teaching. The state seems to stay under proration and jobs are few and far between. Teachers receive pink slips in record numbers there and if you weren't already tenured in the system, let it go because you weren't getting a job and that was a certainty. With this knowledge, I returned to the studios to teach dance in the private sector again. It was an awakening. In Georgia, the studios were rinky-dink renditions of real dance studios I was used to in Austin, TX. I often giggled at how much the GA based dance schools complimented my technique or form. Yes, I was a dancer, but a ballerina I was NOT! My dear friend Tisha can attest to the atrocity of my arms and center when she plucked me up out of the Southwest Texas Dance Department and asked me to audition for her newly formed Jazz Co. I had a few strong points to my talent, mostly my leaps and jumps, and arms she said she could fix, and she did, but I was still no Baryshnikov. I wandered into what I thought was a small studio in Dothan, AL and my jaw literally hit the ground with what I saw. It was amazing, impressive, overwhelming and full of thin, beautiful, perfect dancers; and I left in tears crying to my husband - they are out of my league...way out of my league. Taught me a thing or two about assumptions of small town life. But, he sent me right back in and I did get the job teaching Modern, Lyrical, Hip-Hop, and Jazz. Now, the weight started to shed quickly and I smiled about my body for the first time in a long time. Regular exercise never held me, but dance, dance I could do all day.
Dancing was always my form of exercise. It was what made me sweat, made me work, and made me thin. When I danced, I had abs and an ass that made others jealous, but dancing came to an end again when I left L.A. (lower Alabama) and we arrived in Tennessee. We decided to have a baby and dancing, among other things in life, got put on hold while I incubated a tiny little human in my once 6-pack stomach. I gained 55lbs while I was pregnant, some of it water weight albeit, but 55 whopping pounds! My mother weighed what I did this past spring, 121lbs, on the day she had me...talk about a confidence shot!
But, my son is beautiful and healthy and an amazing child. He was a big boy, 8lbs 9oz, and every inch of him was worth every pound I gained. Yet, as the glow of new motherhood wears off and you start wearing your hair in a ponytail every day lucky to get just one lone shower, the weight starts to creep back in to your mind. For awhile you tell yourself, 'it's just baby weight', I'll get it off and then 6 months later you still can't fit back in to your jeans. I bought a girdle, we'll just say that - yes, girdle. Feel free to laugh, I am!
And with that girdle I shoved myself back in to clothes that were impossible to breath in because I wanted to capture the body I once had. I didn't appreciate the one I was currently using, even though it gave me life and my son life everyday, I wanted the dancer's body back, and it took time to understand that things change, and this is o.k.
My son is 6-years-old now. He is a bright and beautiful healthy child who is so active I burn most of my calories just watching him run circles around me (I wish...wouldn't it be nice if it really worked that way?). And now, here I sit, 34-years-old and I want my body back all over again. Don't misunderstand me - this isn't the first time in six years I've yearned to be thin again, but it is the first time since my days of dance that I've gotten serious about losing weight and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
This past year I joined Weight Watchers to help me shed an unwanted 10lbs. It works. In case you were wondering, it does. And it's hard. You watch everything you eat and write it down everyday. You would be amazed how much you put in your mouth that you don't even realize you've consumed until you're looking at a list a mile long of nothing but crap. I went from 121lbs to 110lbs at my lightest. And then, I started eating again. Dieting is hard, really hard. You get bored and tired and annoyed and the next thing you know you've scarfed down a Big Mac, super-size fries, and a Dr. Pepper. And then, much like buyer's remorse, eater's remorse sets in. Watching what you eat isn't enough, you have to get moving - I know...the reality of this sucks, but it is true.
I've bought many workout programs in the past - Turbo Jam, Hip-Hop Abs, Jazzercise, Crunchless Abs (this does not work at all, by the way). I've tried walking everyday, joining a gym, and even bought a giant elliptical machine that is collecting dust in my living room. Granted, these programs did help me shed the unwanted 10lbs, but then I was bored with them and the weight came back because I had only focused on cardio health, I hadn't rebuilt a shred of muscle I had when I was twirling on my toes. I was finding excuses not to exercise and feeling the rut many feel when their routine has become too predictable for their body and their body hits a plateau. I am on a plateau, well a 4lb heavier plateau than I want to be, but nonetheless, I was bored with the workout options I have and wasn't losing any weight anymore, in fact I was gaining back. It starts with just a pound or two and you mention it to someone and they say "oh no! Not one pound!" (note major sarcasm). But, you see, this is how it starts. It's just one pound, then it's five, then it's ten and then your clothes don't fit and you're wearing moo-moo's and have a Sonic happy hour addiction and a love affair with the pizza boy. No - it's not just one pound - it's worth noting.
So, I have called upon the great P90X workout system. What is this you say? (You must live under a rock). It's a 90-day program with varied workout videos that challenge you in ways I was unaware were possible. There are three options in the program: Classic for strength and muscle building, Doubles for completely INSANE people or mega-athletes, and the Lean system which focuses more on fat burning and toning - really geared towards women. I am doing program #3 - Lean. Will this one work? I don't know. I know that after 2-days I can't feel my arms, my abs are tight, and there are places in my chest and back that are sore that I didn't even know existed even with all my years of dance and gymnastics. Will I stick with it for the full 90-days? I think yes and here's why...I've not met any women that have other than the ones on the video so now it's a challenge. Not of them, but of me - a personal vendetta against myself and I must win! And my future goal - if I can make it through the Lean program, I'm going to attempt the Classic. Time won't let me ever attempt the doubles, but I think if I alternate the Lean and the Classic over time, I'll be proud of myself. Do I expect to look like the guy on the picture with ripped abs and next to NO body fat - no I don't. Because my body bears the signs of child birth, my belly is blessed with the slight roundness of a little boy currently sound asleep. But, will I work as hard as I can to get there? You bet! But, there will be no tears this time as I've learned after many years of doing this, everyone's body is different and responds differently to exercise and food. My goal is healthy and trim, if I get the abs, that's just a bonus.
Now, the entire reason for the rambling of weight and exercise is this: Not every small woman you meet is naturally that way. Many of us work just as hard to stay 110lbs as some of you are working to lose 30, 40 or even 50lbs of weight. We are little because we work to be little and that isn't a reason to tell us to 'eat' just because you want to, and we don't (well, we do - but we won't). Granted, there are some tiny, naturally thin women out there, but they are few and far between. I distinctly remember a conversation my aforementioned friend Tisha had with a heavy co-worker once, "Wow, you're so thin, how do you do it?" says the overweight co-worker whilst shoving a donut into her wide open mouth. "Look at what I eat (holds up granola breakfast bar)...look at what you eat, really - there's a question?" says the svelte dance teacher Tisha. C'mon. Admit it. When you see those women you hate, you see them on exercise videos, in magazines, and at the gym. Common sense should tell you, hmmm...that must be why they look so good, they try. It is not your job to hate them, although it's hard and I do, too, sometimes; it's your job to work at what's best for you. We can't all be a size 2, but we can all be healthy and that is what matters.
So the next time a small women opens up about struggling with her weight, all you need to do is understand. Chances are, you're both in the same boat because when you look in the mirror, neither of you like what you see. And while this isn't all about being thin, it is about being healthy: If you don't do what's best for your body, you're the one who comes up on the short end.
Eat well, eat clean, exercise, drink plenty of water, and every now and then - go ahead and have that cheeseburger! Just weight and see, you may like who you become and maybe, just maybe, you won't hate the other girl that's trying just as hard as you.
If you want to follow along with my P90X progress (for some reason), I've created a short page on the menu tab for daily updates of my progress: My journey through P90X - Lean Program. I'll be putting out my weight and measurements, so a bit of a vulnerable step for me...remember, small does NOT equal love for your body!