Category Archives: dating

Body Image: Circles and Puzzles

On Monday, as I was getting ready to leave work, I stopped to chat with our office manager (Hi, Ali!).  As I somehow always do with other women, I got onto the topic of body image and weight. I find this happens so easily because most women I know have had some bad blood with their bodies in the past.  But it’s so easy to talk about it now because so many smart women are getting wise to the fact that no, this isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy, and we want to talk about it.  Because we want to resolve it, and just be OK with our bodies and use the time we spend worrying about our butt and abs to, I don’t know, fix the economy or reverse global warming.  But I digress.

Anyway, we started talking about how, while we’d like to improve upon our figures now, it’s not the most important thing in our lives.  Yes, we might want to lose a little weight or tighten up our rear ends, but these things aren’t our focus as they once were.  We both have our stories of the times in our lives when focus turned to obsession, and examples of when our quests for health became the antithesis of health itself.  But we’re realizing now that creating a good life doesn’t swirl around that one goal of ‘getting skinny.’ We’re understanding that this singular objective won’t make the other ones fall into place.  Getting healthy, losing weight, toning up… all nice things, but not the key to happiness.

“I realized recently,” Ali told me, “that losing weight or getting the body I want is one little part of that circle that is my life.  Whereas before, those things were the circle itself.” When she said this, I knew she had summed up how I had been feeling lately.  In college, everything centered around sticking to my plan and staying small, meaning I let social events or enjoyable company with delicious food pass me by because it wasn’t what I had laid out for the day.  ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t go running yet, I can’t.’  Damn, I bet I’m going to hear all about how fun that was tomorrow. ‘Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.‘ Plus that doesn’t fit into my calorie count for the day.

That circle had me spinning around and around, but I never got anywhere in life outside of my body.  I stayed the same, and my goal never changed.  I never progressed beyond, ‘Stay small and fit into that dress.’ It was like my life was a wheel of calories and miles and pounds and jeans sizes, and occasionally, the other stuff –my life – would happen because it accidentally got trapped in the spokes, and I would roll with it until I would snap out of it and get back to the plan.  Lately, though, the circle of my life has involved so much more.  Instead of those life experiences getting stuck to my tires, they ARE the tires. And I’ve decided that I can go ahead and let losing weight be a part of those rolling circles, but I won’t let it steer.

“In the same sense, I used to think that losing weight was the key, was the piece of the puzzle I needed to find before all of the others would fall into place, ” Ali said. “But now, I’m finding that I’ve got this beautiful puzzle, and there’s only one piece missing, but I’m working on it.” And again, it was as if she had read my mind, because this is truly the way I’m feeling about my life.  Am I entirely happy with my body?  No, but I’m working on accepting where it is and improving on it as best I can daily.  But the puzzle pieces I thought would fall into place when I was skinny or toned enough? I have so many of them now that I never had when I was thinner.

Career?  When I first moved to Chicago, I thought life would just be easier and I would like my 9to5 if only I could get skinny again.  But then I decided that I needed to be happy before I could get healthy, and the desk job wasn’t going to do it for me.  So I quit, became a personal trainer, and I’ve been calmer and more content with my life (not to mention healthier!) ever since, no matter that my size 4 jeans are a long way from fitting.

Love life? I had boyfriend and a few little crushes and flings in college, but you know what?  Even at my smallest, I never felt like myself around them.  I had been working so much on my ass that I let the work I had to do on my head pile up to the point where I didn’t even know who I was.  Now I’m dating someone who makes me feel more comfortable and happier in my own skin than I have in a long time, with or without makeup, “bikini-ready” or not.

Friends?  I seemed to have some friends in college who liked to hang out with me because I looked a certain way and because I was the ‘how can I make this healthier aka lower-calorie’ guru.  I was told that I was ‘inspiring’ more than once, and while this might sound flattering, it was also a lot of pressure, and it meant that they didn’t see the personality part of me.  They liked hanging out with me because I made them want to go running or make a salad, not because I was quirky or a good writer or because I lived for awkward stories and always had one to tell.  But my friends now are the friends I’ve chosen, because I’m confident in who I am as a whole, and I know that I can afford to be picky.  I can choose the friends whom I love for their never-ending optimism or no-nonsense logic, and who love me for the things I always wanted people to notice when all they paid attention to was what I was putting on my plate at dinner in the sorority house.

So you know what?  Between my job and my friends and my dating life and my family and everything I have to be thankful for, I’ve got so many puzzle pieces in place, that while I would love to be perfectly fit and trim again, I’m not obsessing over that tricky middle piece that finishes the puzzle but doesn’t necessarily hold it together. That one piece didn’t make the others fall into place — it actually did quite the opposite.  I was missing so many wonderful pieces when I did have a death grip on that elusive piece, because I let all of the others fall away.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

But, as always, dear readers, I want to hear from you!  Does body image or weight play (or has it in the past) a huge role in your happiness?  Is it the puzzle or the circle itself, or is that something you’re working for, but not feeling incomplete without?  Have you learned that, while it can be important, it didn’t make or break your life?  Spill!

Owning It: A Few More Confessions

So I’ve posted a couple times already about how I’m not a foodie, and on multiple occasions I’ve let you in on the not-so-secret secret that I still have body image/food issues. Then a few weeks ago, I posted myconfessions as a personal trainer.  And I’m going to post a few more here today. But unlike the confessions of my Catholic school days, I’m not going to ask for forgiveness or justify myself.  And I am most certainly not going to do penance for them.

These are a few of the things I’ve realized I need to own up to — things about myself that I need to lay out there because they are who I am and what I do, and, well, sorry I’m not sorry about them.  So what inspired this sudden show of bravado, you ask?  What made me decide to own up to all things Heather without feeling the need to explain myself?  Well my good real-life friend (we go wayyyy back, which is what I’m going to say when she becomes a ridic famous author) and blog buddy, Rachel, started the ‘Own It’ challenge, encouraging other bloggers to come out and state what they’re about, no apologies necessary.  Hmm, I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that I am constantly apologizing for that I really shouldn’t be.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed that my happiness factor has gone up exponentially since I stopped asking for permission so much.  And I actually remember having a conversation about this with Rachel on one of our many Starbucks dates back home in Michigan.  Last year, I told people that I was quitting my salaried desk job to become a trainer.  This year, Rachel told people she was up and moving to Texas.  We didn’t ask if these actions were OK, and we didn’t give a laundry list of reasons for why we were doing them.  And because people in general are so used to everyone (especially young women) asking if what they’re doing is right, this confused them.  You mean you don’t care what I think? Nope, or at least not enough to change my mind.  I’m forging on either way.  Anyway, inspired by that conversation and by her post on it, here are some more confessions that don’t bother my conscience one bit.  My opening declaration:

Since I’m a trainer, let’s start with something fitness related.  I hate running in the summer.  HATE. I do not like it at all.  Running in 90 degrees with 80% humidity just so I can tell people I’m a real runner?  No thanks.  I’ve been one, and maybe someday I’ll be one again, but not right now.  I like to breathe and not feel like I’m wading through the soup that is a Midwest summer.  If I run at all during the months of June, July, and August, it is at the gym or at night, and I do it because I know how many calories it burns, or sometimes because I need a change.  But you know what I would rather do for hours at a time in the summer? Bike or swim or dance or anything besides run.

Here’s another one: I am not a morning person.  Props to all of you that are, but I get pissed off when people make it seem like you are a lazy, slothful person if your internal alarm clock doesn’t have you springing out of bed at 6am.  Stop acting so damn self-righteous about it.  I get just as much accomplished as you do, but I just do it later in the day.  Give me a project to work on at 8pm and I’m way more inspired than I would be at 8am.  I like my workouts later in the day too.  I’m programmed this way, and I’m owning it.

For as much as I talk about loving the skin you’re in, I’m with Rachel on the fact that I would still like to lose weight, even if I do think I’m beautiful right now.  And as much as I talk about how unhealthy I was when I was at my skinniest (not having a period is usually a bad sign, folks), I sometimes still look at pictures and remember how much control I had and how good it felt to slide that XS or S on without a snag.  I will own that I feel that way, and I will also own that I still have some work to do, mentally and physically.

I also own that when fat talk starts with my girlfriends, I shut down.  I do not respond, or I get quite curt, all of my response being two words or less — if that.  I mostly do it because nothing about that conversation is healthy for any party involved.  We don’t need to perpetuate the cycle of caring more about our jeans size than our actual mental wellbeing.  But another part of it is that for the first time in my life, I’m not one of the skinny friends.  And that sounds catty, I know, but I know I didn’t fish for compliments even when I was the skinny friend.  It also hurts my feelings when my size-4 friends comment on how they need to ‘get rid of this flab’ because they are just ‘soooo disgusting.’ Gee thanks.  By the way, thanks for being a bitch and not thinking about anyone else’s feelings before you opened your mouth.

I also jump up on my feminist and body image champion soap boxes pretty quickly, much to the chagrin of any males in my life.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

I did a total 180 as far as careers go and quit my secure corporate job to become a trainer (with an unstable hourly wage) and a freelancer, and I put myself in a lot of debt doing so.  I also freaked my parents out and made them wonder why they paid for a bachelors degree in English and Women’s Studies (take a guess at how many times I heard, ‘So what are you going to do with that degree?’) from a good school for their eldest daughter.  I switched jobs again about a year into my gym job because it was so sales focused, and I refused to force people to buy training when they could hardly make their rent.  Sometimes I worried that I had made the wrong decision going into training.  But now I don’t regret it because I found a better fit that reminded me why I love what I do, and I love the freedom I have working at two smaller studios who really want the best for the clients.  I stumbled along the way, and I still don’t know what I’ll ultimately end up doing, but at 25, I don’t need to yet.

Even though I’m a trainer, I do not live at the gym.  And I won’t tell my clients that they have to either.  I won’t tell them they aren’t allowed to drink, because I do it, too (give me whiskey or beer, and I’m ready to go!).  I refuse to be a complete hypocrite with my clients, and I’m usually honest with them about how much I’m working out at any given time.  Also, lately, some of my workouts have taken a backseat to seeing friends or a boy.  But I’m good with this, because for a long time, it was the other way around.  I still work out, but I don’t let it take it over my life. I like this, and I own this.

So now it’s your turn — what are you owning, what have you owned, and what are you going to start owning that maybe you were afraid to before?

New Year, New Me

(toothpastefordinner.com)

So I know we usually hear those words around January 1st, but this is a different kind of ‘new year’ for me. 

I’m turning 25. 

Yeah, I know. 

I can no longer claim to be in my early 20s, and I’ve officially hit my mid-20s.  I can’t blame my age as much when I do ridiculous things, and I’m expected to be a little more responsible.  On Sunday I will have officially been on Earth for a quarter of a century.

But I’m actually kind of excited about it.  I know there aren’t many new perks to turning 25 (I can now rent a car. That’s something, right?) like there were when I hit 18 and 21, but I feel that up until this point I’ve sort of been teetering on the edge of adulthood, waiting for that certain something to tip me over.  And although it’s just a date, I feel that June 20th is going to shove me out of feeling like such a kid.  And that’s a very good thing. 

That’s not to say that I won’t still be a complete goofball — afterall, that’s part of who I am. But I think that, to me, 25 will leave me feeling a little more sure of myself.  A little less hesitant to take life by the horns.   A little better prepared to run with whatever life throws at me.  I’m no sage just yet, but I do feel that I’ve learned a lot –about myself and life in general — in the past year. 

I quit my nice secure office job to try my hand at a completely new career path that I knew I would be much more passionate about.  From this I learned that doing what you love can be hard, but if it makes you happy, it’s more than worth it.  I started actually dating again, and I remembered what it was to open myself up, leaving myself vulnerable to heartbreak.  I discovered I’m a lot more fragile than I ever knew, but also more resilient than I had imagined I could be.  I made a lot of decisions on my own this year, and instead of asking people if I should do something, I told them.  This meant dealing with the consequences alone as well, but I slept better knowing my choices were solely mine.    Overall, with the many changes I’ve gone through in the past year, I found out I still have enough glue to patch myself back up when I start to crack.  And that I have so much to be thankful for and happy about, no matter that I’m not exactly where I want to be in life just yet.

So what about this ‘new year, new me’ business?  Well, I’ve changed so much in the past year, that I think it’s worth trying to continue with the education and evolution of Heather.  I’ve got a lot I want to do this year, so there are things I’m going work on with me:

Be gentler with myself. 

Sometimes I berate myself and tell myself that I haven’t done enough.  But the thing is, I usually do try my hardest.  And when I don’t I need to go a little easier on myself.  If I wouldn’t speak to a good friend a certain way, then I shouldn’t speak to or treat myself that way.

Be more realistic with myself. 

This means being honest with myself at all times.  And if I haven’t done enough and I know it, then I need to admit that too.  I know this sounds like the opposite of the previous statement, but I can apply the friend philosophy to this one as well.  If my friend is being ridiculous and making excuses for herself, it’s my job to tactfully snap her out of it.  So it’s all about finding balance.  Being nice, but also not letting myself get away with silly things.

Aim higher.

This actually goes with both of the above statements.  I need to remind myself that I am capable of a whole lot.  So I need to give myself pep talks here and there, being kinder to myself and building up my own confidence.  I also need to be realistic when I think I can’t do something.  When I’m being honest, I realize I’ve been through things a lot more difficult than things I’m doubting myself on.  The scary talks, the job risks, the potential of falling on my face.  I’ve already done them all and survived.  I can do whatever I put my mind to because I’ve probably done it before.

Love myself for who I am right now.

Not for what I was in college or who I want to be by next year.  But for every quirk, flaw, strength, and bit of potential I have this very second.  I have to love me. For me.  Right. Now. 

Have any of you reached milestone ages recently? Are you approaching one?  How did it or does it make you feel? Anyone else turning the big 2-5 soon?!

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Soooo let’s talk about good old, February 14th, shall we? Some years I’ve hated it, others I’ve loved it, and somewhat more recently, I’ve just pretended it wasn’t happening. But this year, I think Valentine’s Day and I will be able to peacefully coexist. It’s not like I’m dating anyone, and my mom is most definitely still my Valentine, so I don’t know what has changed, but I just don’t loathe it the way I have in years past. Maybe I really, truly, finally am understanding the whole “you’ve got to love yourself before anyone else can” thing. And for real, I’m starting to love who I am and the decisions I’m making. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, and I’m not looking for approval (at least as much as I used to) from every single person in my life. I’m treating myself better, I’m more confident in making goals and plans for achieving them, and I’m really happy with the people I’m surrounding myself with. Maybe I don’t have a boyfriend or a Valentine per se, I do have a whole lot of people in my life that I love to death.
So let’s make today all about loving everyone around us, and most importantly, ourselves! Name something you love about you and show the people in your life how much you care about them. As for me, I love that I am able to embrace awkwardness in life and that I’ve learned how to be direct when I communicate with people when dealing with whatever issues may arise. I also love how strong I am getting physically and how confident I am becoming in my abilities. Physically, I like my eyes and the fact that this white girl has little bit of a booty. As for the people in my life that I adore so much, I love that they support me and help me believe that I can do anything, even when my faith in myself wavers. And I love that they are all unique and bring so many amazing things to the table. My family, my roommates, my friends, my coworkers – a post on all of their fabulous traits would take allll day.
What are you doing for Vday? Do you have a special someone to celebrate with? Or are you celebrating a lot of special someones in your life, including you? And continuing with the self-love theme, include something you love about YOU in your comment!

Thursday Thoughts

Can I just take a quick second to mention how much this cover pisses me off? First of all, I am a huge Jen Aniston fan, and I feel like she has been painted as this lonely, crazy, desperate woman ever since she and Brad Pitt split. And even though People is apparently trying to make her look good with this article, it only feeds into this whole Brad, Angelina, Jen triangle gossip. And it makes Jen look pathetic, plain and simple.

And just a few things about the cover’s tag line: “Five Years After Brad”

a) Why are we commemorating this? Was Brad a natural disaster? A national tragedy? Any important moment in history at all? Not in my book. Yes, they were Hollywood’s ‘It’ couple, and no, I really do not like Angelina, but really? It was a divorce caused by an affair. It happens. It’s sad, of course, but it does happen. To regular people every single day. I realize they’re in the spotlight, but come ON. It’s time to get over it. In fact, it was time to get over it about four years ago.

b) Why isn’t it, “Five Years After Jen?” Because Brad seems to have it all together with his family? Because he left her? So what? Her career has been doing pretty well, and it’s not like she’s been sitting at home every day and night. She’s shown out and about with different people all the time, so I think she might be doing OK. Having that one person in her life doesn’t make her unfulfilled, and I really wish the media would stop suggesting that. Also, have you SEEN Brad Pitt lately? He’s looking slightly homeless, and apparently “sources close to” him are saying that his odor is getting slightly offensive. Soo, I think she’s got it together enough to shower at the very least.

c) I love how tabloids (whatevs, People, you are SO a tabloid) make it seem like every time a woman steps out looking better than before that it’s a breakup revenge. What if she just wants to feel good about herself? There’s a novel idea.

I realize that had nothing to do with health or fitness or any sort of tuning into your body, but it just had to be said. And you know what? Maybe she looks so fabulous these days because she stopped being so concerned with listening to all the static from other people, and just started turning the dial to Jen FM. How about we put THAT on the cover?

Together Again

So listen guys, Running and I may have gotten back together. I know, I know. It was a short break. But I thought about it a lot. And we are going to take things slow this time. Not dive into it like last time and tell ourselves that 6 to 8 miles at a fast clip every single day is good for us.
Running and I have talked about it, and we’re going to keep things casual for a while. I think I’m still going to do other activities, and we’ll just spend a little time together every week. It will be kind of like when you break up with your boyfriend but miss him terribly because you know you can be so good together, so you decide that you guys will still talk sometimes and just meet up for coffee and maybe dinner, until you have it all figured out. Keep it friendly and without commitment, you know? (I need to stop comparing running to boyfriends and actually start dating, I think, because this is getting ridiculous.)
But instead of coffee (which I miss terribly right now because I am trying to give it up for a whole week!), we are doing short jogs a few times per week. Wednesday I did 20 minutes on the treadmill, and today I did 23. This weekend, if I’m really feeling it, I might take Running out for a spin by the lake. But an easy spin. I’m running when I feel like it and not forcing myself to do it when my shins are screaming or I’m drained after a long day at work. Because I believe that with Running, as with any other good relationship, my heart should actually be in it.
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