Fit Five: Laurie

Today’s Fit Five Friday features Laurie from Massachusetts. Let’s see what she has to say about health, fitness, and her body.

1. What do you love about your body?

I love my extremities – my feet and my hands. At the risk of sounding like a deviant, I’ve always been fascinated by feet. I make it a point to notice other people’s feet whenever possible, and I always thought mine were pretty nice. I will spend hours (maybe not all at once, but still) staring at my feet and toes whenever I get a pedicure. I find them irresistible.

My hands are a different story. I have chubby hands, fat little stubby fingers, and fingernails that have a tendency to curve inward like claws. But I love my hands because they’re exactly like my grandmother’s. When I look at my hands, I see hers. They might not be perfect, but they’re one of my favorite parts of me, because they’re so much a part of her.

2. What would you like to change about your body?

Well, I’d like to say “Nothing! I love every imperfect part of me because it’s who I am!” But let’s be real…even “perfect” people have things they’d like to change about their bodies, so I guess I’m in good company.

There’s the usual stuff (thinner, taller, better complexion, blah blah blah) of course, but I think what I would be most happy with is being more proportionate. I carry most of my weight around my mid-section (AKA, my Buddha Belly) and I would love it if I could spread things out a bit more. I wouldn’t mind being overweight if I could have a kickin’ hourglass figure with some nasty curves. I’m thinking Christina Hendricks, plus about a hundred pounds. I’d be ok with that.

3. Have you ever been or are you currently on a diet?

I remember reading Seventeen magazine (published and distributed by Satan himself, I believe) when I was about ten years old. I still remember the photo shoot – it was a collection of “Back-to-School” outfits inspired by rock stars. David Bowie, The Clash, Billy Idol, Cindy Lauper (hey, it was the 80’s). The model had to have been about 15 or 16, and she must have weighed about 50 pounds soaking wet. I was instantly enchanted by the clothes – I wanted a ripped Clash t-shirt and a Union Jack skirt covered in safety pins. I wanted to be that girl so badly it hurt. I must have looked at those pictures for most of that afternoon, obsessing about every inch of that tiny little model. Then I stood in front of my bedroom mirror (which someone should have kept out of my room until I was at least 18) and looked at my chubby thighs (*gasp!* they touch!!), my short little stubby calves and thick ankles, my round face and doughy cheeks, my soft little paunch of a belly…

I went on my first diet the next day, and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve had the most success with Weight Watchers in recent years – discovering how much easier it is to diet when you have other people to cook for was a revelation. For years before I got married, I found it very difficult to plan and cook my own meals. It was hard to find healthy recipes for one (at least in the pre-internet days) and if I prepared something that served more than one, I would inevitably eat it all. I did have some success with Jenny Craig, but it’s almost prohibitively expensive, and they don’t prepare you at all for cooking on your own when you leave the program. You’re stuck with them, or you’re screwed.

Going through the Weight Watchers program has been good for me for a lot of reasons. I’ve been learning to eat smarter (better choices = more food!!) and to be more mindful when I eat. I had a moment during a meeting a while back when I realized that I am The Queen of Rationalization, and should be crowned as such. Yikes. We wrote down some of the most common rationalizations people make for eating/not dieting/not exercising, and it was a horrible, horrible moment when I realized that I say every one of those things on a fairly regular basis. I think that was a real turning point for me – being forced to face all of the lies I tell myself (and others) time and time again. I think of all of those things now, every time it’s easier to find an excuse for something than to actually do it. I think that, more than anything, is going to have a lasting impact on my “dieting future”.

Funny that a lifetime of dieting started by putting myself in front of a mirror, and that the moment that’s affected the most positive change has been a result of someone putting the mirror in front of me.

4. Have you ever or do you currently belong to a gym? 

I am about two and a half seconds from the gym at my office. It’s actually just occurring to me now that there are no other employees in the entire building closer to the gym than I am. And yet…

Before we had the gym at work, my company offered a discount membership to a local gym about 10 minutes away. I joined up – I had a friend who went with me, and she and I were regulars for a good year, year and a half. I enjoyed it, too. It was nice to have company, and I liked the atmosphere of that particular gym. It wasn’t fancy, and most of the people there were serious about their own fitness – they didn’t give a shit about anybody else and their issues, everybody just left everybody else alone, and we were all free to do our own thing without judgment. It was kind of awesome, actually. But the gym went under, and closed down for good. My company worked out a deal with a new gym, but it was further away and a lot more expensive, so I didn’t sign up again. Then we relocated to a new building, and suddenly we had our own gym to play in! Just a few things – nothing big or fancy, but free, clean, and very easily accessible. My friend and I went there almost every day for a while longer, but then…I don’t know what happened, but we both kind of pooped out and stopped going.

It’s funny – everyone tells you that if you do something long enough, eventually it becomes habit. I tell you, though, when I was going to the gym every day, there wasn’t one day that I wouldn’t have gladly latched on to any excuse not to go. I’m just…not a gym person, I guess. I enjoyed the experience, I saw the results…but it just never became a habit. I’m not sure why. I’ll go back – I have BIG PLANS to start doing the gym on my lunch breaks again – but I don’t think it will ever become a habit for me.

5. What does fitness mean to you?

I tell you, it’s starting to mean a whole lot more to me than it did before I started getting old. I used to think fitness was going to the gym and running marathons and being super athletic and…basically all the things I never saw myself doing or being. Fit people were runners and hikers and crazy aerobics instructors and those annoying cyclists with the skin-tight shirts and shorts taking up half the lane on narrow Massachusetts back roads. I watched TV and saw “fitness” everywhere – football players sweating green and skinny women excited about getting their periods because YAY! My tampon is so comfortable, I can still do jumping jacks and cartwheels and fencing and jousting and karate!!

Yeah. I think that’s part of what kept me away from any kind of healthy lifestyle for so long. I would NEVER be one of those people – it wasn’t in me, and I didn’t want it to be – so therefore I would NEVER be fit. So what changed that? I don’t know if it was any one thing, really. Time. Age. Infinite wisdom. Oh, and having a boy. Maybe that more than anything else, I guess. I have a very active three-year old right now, and chasing him around has helped to re-define what I consider fitness. Fitness to me now is playing a game of “catch”, where the “catching” isn’t followed by “my breath” every two minutes. It’s running upstairs to retrieve a toy or a change of clothes, or running downstairs to throw everything in the laundry. Fitness is more about being active – any kind of active – than being an athlete.

Bonus: What is your current fitness goal?

I just got a bike. I haven’t had my own bicycle since I was in high school, and I just got a new bike.

The first time I travelled to Germany to visit my boyfriend-now-husband and his family, I noticed that, as much as Germans love their cars, they also love their bikes. Everybody rode a bike, everywhere. The part of Germany he’s from is very rural, and sometimes there’s maybe three or four miles of farmland between towns. They think nothing of hopping on their bikes and riding the distance, so much so that there is a separate bike road (Not path, mind you. A road.) that runs parallel to the regular road, and goes everywhere the regular road goes. So instead of zipping along the road at knuckle-whitening speeds in a car, you can enjoy a leisurely bike ride through stunningly beautiful countryside (he lives near the Black Forest – beautiful country). Ever since the first moment I laid eyes on this phenomenon, I was enchanted. Someday, I would like to be fit and healthy enough to ride my bike with my family from Goldscheuer to Marlin, and finally get to slow down and really appreciate just how beautiful and unique the German countryside is.

In the meantime, I will be supremely thrilled when I’m able to lug my carcass from my house to the end of the street without having a stroke.

Baby steps.