My latest blog for skirt.com.
I love my Facebook friends, those I’ve met IRL (in real life) and those I’m still waiting to meet. The discussions are always interesting, funny and sometimes downright controversial. But what I’ve found, at least with my set of 200+ carefully chosen followers, is that we all seem to have a mutual respect for one another’s opinions regardless of what side of the political divide we choose to occupy. Recently a thread began with the simple sharing of a life affirmation. You know the ones I’m talking about? Like the “Hang in There” poster from the 80’s with the cat dangling from a ledge by two paws or the ones that populate Pinterest doling out positivity for pinners needing a pick-me-up. They are meant to inspire and motivate. The latest inspirational mantra came from one of my newest friends, a kick-ass, yoga-instructing, straight-shooting mom living in the wildly beautiful land of Alaska. She battled a heart condition and told me her only motivation to stay fit is to live healthy and love her body to keep up with her children not to be super model thin. The result, a confident, sexy woman who feels that fit is beautiful from the inside out. It bothers her greatly to see women succumb to unrealistic societal pressures to be a certain type of beautiful. And so she posted the following to Facebook: “Skinny girls look good in clothes. Fit girls look good naked.”
But what is fit? What does this statement really mean? Is this about being healthy, one’s body image or both? When I first saw it I thought, wow, how true! I run and work out six days a week, eat relatively healthy and try to take care of my aging body as I slide into 40 next year. Those heroin chic, stick thin models were the poster children of sexy and beautiful just a few short years ago. But no more! Women are embracing their curves, stretch marks and imperfect breasts and saying I’m beautiful the way I am. At least that’s the message we hope is being sent to women everywhere. I run for many reasons: my heart, my colon, my fitness level, staying trim, my children, my husband, the ability to eat real food, to drink wine, not to mention the fact that I actually enjoy running. As I get older, I know it will be harder to keep my body in shape and I will have to adapt my running accordingly. But that’s ok, I know I want to be active until my body tells me to stop. Even then I will be the crazy old lady doing hand exercises in my chair.
Being fit is more than physical. Your physical health leads to a healthy self image and overall good attitude. The mind and body are intricately connected to one another. For many of my friends and family, running and being active is a life-saver, it literally keeps them sane as they deal with their daily battle with Depression. The balance they have to strike between being physically fit and emotionally healthy is delicate. For women in general, this balance also includes having a healthy self-image. It seems that women have been dealing with body image issues since the beginning of time. Look at artists’ renderings of women throughout history; the pre-magazine cover, Vogue 6-page spread era. These paintings depicted what was considered a “beautiful” woman of the day. From the curvaceous Botticelli lovelies to Renoir’s sensually fleshy Victorian vixens to artsy photos of the waifish models of the 60s like Twiggy and Peggy Moffitt. It seems that women have been looking at themselves in the mirror for centuries striving to achieve a body that maybe they were never physically meant to have in the first place.
My friend’s thread immediately prompted a discussion on what it means to be “fit”. Someone mentioned the “thick” girls or if you’re unfamiliar with that term, full-figured gals. Are they not fit? I have been totally flamed in road races by women 10, even 20 years older than me and by women who were much larger and at first glance you would assume might not be able to run as fast or far. Just because someone isn’t a size 2 and rail thin doesn’t mean they aren’t healthy, happy or sexy. I am by NO means stick thin. I have curves, curves in the usual places, the hips for sure. My husband tells me all the time how much he loves my curves, how feminine they are. He thinks it’s beautiful, that I’m beautiful. I am not 5’10”. I am not super thin. I do not have big breasts. I do not have abs of steel. I am a 5′ tall, petite, curvy, freckled, small-chested little lady. In other words, I am a short pear. Not your “ideal” body type by society’s standards. I also know that being thin doesn’t mean healthy. My Nana is a slender 5’6” woman who can eat whatever she wants and not gain weight. You know the woman everyone hates. BUT, in the late 80’s my Nana was diagnosed with high cholesterol. She never worked out, walked or did anything to keep herself fit. She was just blessed with a fast metabolism. So is THIS the ideal body? You can eat whatever you want, never work out, be thin but become sick with preventable diseases? My Nana would tell you no.
Fitness is internal and has to do with the health of your vital organs, your attitude toward your body as well as how you feel about yourself. Confidence is sexy. Thick, skinny, fit, curvy, athletic, pear, apple are all relative terms society uses to describe women’s body types. We all fall into the trap of categorizing ourselves. For instance, if you go online to most women’s clothing stores, you can read reviews of each item by people who have already purchased and worn it. These reviews always helps me decide what to buy. Some sites have bought into body-typing with categories like athletic, slender, curvy, full-figured, tall, petite to describe a woman’s build. You then can search by body type, even height to see what other people of similar builds are saying about how these items fit them. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I mean who wants to wear clothing that doesn’t look good on them? I don’t. I want clothing that fits my curves properly and accentuates the positives. But these words permeate almost every aspect of our society now. It’s hard for women to avoid body-typing themselves. We all have things we don’t like about our body. Frankly, I’ve always wished I was 4” taller. I guess that’s why I wear platforms and pumps. Other than wearing 4” inch heels, I can’t change this aspect of my physical being. However, I can be a confident, sexy woman despite my petite stature. Between running, eating right and being confident in what God gave me, I feel taller, despite the heels. My confidence translates to the outside, and that makes me sexy, makes any woman sexy.
Taking your body into your own hands and becoming active for the most important reason, your health, is what should concern women. Not if you’re a size 2, you have a J Lo booty or the boobs of a supermodel. Walking daily, yoga, pilates, running, swimming, weight training, Zumba or running errands every day on your bike, it’s whatever works for you to keep you healthy and happy. Sure, you will probably slim down and fit into your clothing better but what will really begin to transform is how you feel about yourself. You may not get rid of the hips, the jelly in the belly, the junk in the trunk or the cottage cheese but believe me, you’re still sexy, you’re still beautiful, you’re still a woman. So I do believe the statement, “skinny girls look good in clothes but FIT girls look good naked.” Fit: body, mind and soul. I own my body, all 60 inches of freckled me with my hard-earned stretch marks, cottage cheese on the thighs and small chest. The confidence I have in myself shows. To be fit is to be: size 0 to whatever, blonde, brunette, red-head, curvy, slender, buff, soft, fleshy, boobs, no boobs, tall, petite…healthy, confident…sexy.