My darling Super Girls,
The first time you said “shit!” I knew you were listening to me far more than I realized. When you raided my closet and tromped to the bathroom in my heels, helping yourself to my makeup, I realized just how closely you were watching me. Every time you snatched food from my plate. Mimicked my body language. All the ways in which you choose to be like me…
But when, a year or so ago, you climbed onto the scale and said you were fat? I knew I needed to change the dialogue. You are a mirror of me, and if I would not talk that way to you, why the hell would I speak that way to myself?
I wanted to do better by you. I want you to have healthy self images. But I wasn’t happy with myself. How was I supposed to reconcile it all?
It started with exercise. With small changes to our diets. There were mistakes and missteps. Trial and error, dropping what didn’t work and experimenting with something else. It has required me to completely reeducate myself. It’s been a learning process, understanding my own body. How to care for it properly. How to accept it. How to love my body.
And, for you, it started with me waking you. Not intentionally, but plyometrics plus laminate floors plus these thin walls aren’t conducive to a quiet workout. And then there were the eyes peeking around the edges of the doorway, watching. Then you were counting my reps, telling me to keep going. Quiet little feet padding in, unrolling the extra yoga mats. Little warriors right alongside me. Bouncing and giggling your way through burpees with me.
You’re losing weight, Mommy!
You don’t see?!
Not always. But I know I feel stronger. I feel happier when I work out.
Is that why you keep doing this?
Yes. Yes, it is. But, in all honesty, it didn’t start that way. It started out of complete vanity. A desire to “shed the baby weight!” To achieve… I didn’t really know what the goal would be, in the end. An arbitrary number? Rock hard abs? I settled on living – for you. To be here for you as long as I can. And I’ve learned some things along the way. Things I can’t really convey through tandem yoga sessions or you watching me deadlift.
Health is more important than size.
This one took the longest for me to learn. You are a product of me and your father. Given your beanpole frames right now, chances are high that you will look, physically, like us. But family genetics can and will surprise you. I have so-and-so’s hips, so-and-so’s breasts, another family member’s tiny waist… Above all else, be healthy, however that may look. Health and fitness are not and cannot be contained solely in numbers.
Fat is not a bad word.
Everyone has fat. Everyone needs fat. You don’t have a lot now, that’s for sure, but if you’re going to develop like me, it’ll happen. Like I just finished saying above: healthy looks different on everyone. Strength takes many shapes and sizes. The only thing that is your concern is your body. And you can’t and won’t be able to progress in any sort of exercise or even in life until you honor your body – jiggly fluffy squishy huggable bits and all.
Get out of your comfort zone.
I was terrified of lifting weights. I didn’t want to bulk up like a bodybuilder, I wasn’t a fan of doing much that required a whole lot of “work” in the gym, the free weight area is intimidating with all those douchebros… And guess what? I love it now. Never be afraid to try something different. It’s why I mix up my routines. It’s why I’m not afraid to walk away from something that’s just not working, or even holding my attention. Because there’s a thousand other things I could do. Try Zumba. Go swimming. Take a hike – really! Never turn down an opportunity to do something different.
But if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Maybe I’m getting a bit more metaphorical, because this applies in life as much as it applies in health and exercise. Trust your gut instincts. Like I’ve told you in yoga: if it hurts, stop. Your body will tell you when you’re doing something wrong, you just have to pay attention. Don’t be afraid to stop, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Most of your health is made in the kitchen.
I’ve revamped, tweaked, retooled, done all sorts of crazy stuff to our diets. I’ve done what I can to clean up my favorites, and to introduce new foods. We bond over large meals with friends, and most of the time? I’m trying new recipes. The meals we rotate through on a regular basis are because they’re healthy and easy. And I’m teaching you how to cook them so when you’re on your own, you have healthy fallback meals. All the exercise in the world can’t save you from the health effects of a shitty diet.
But never say no to cheesecake.
Or any kind of dessert, really. Life isn’t fun without indulging every now and again, and you should never pass up an opportunity to experience new foods. Never punish yourself for indulging, either. As every fitness expert will tell you, moderation is key.
Don’t measure your self worth by likes and hearts.
Above all else, please remember what I’m about to say. You are a mind blowing, complex, awe inspiring spirit contained inside a meatsuit. This meatsuit is an imperfectly perfect, intricate, complicated, should-probably-be-impossible piece of machinery, comprised of the same materials we find in stars. You. Are. Amazing. Don’t do something for the “likes” or the “hearts” – losing weight, dressing a certain way, acting a certain way. The things you choose to do, I hope and pray daily that you will choose to do them because they fulfill you spiritually and make you a happy, healthy woman. Embrace your full potential – in the gym, in school, in life.
Don’t measure your progress solely in pounds and inches lost, or pounds and inches gained. Don’t measure by dress and pant sizes. Don’t use airbrushed magazine covers as some sort of gold standard. Measure your success in life by the number of people you affect in a positive manner. By the number of people who are better for having known you.
I want you to be healthy. I want you to be strong. Most of all, I want you to be a good person. And that starts with loving yourself.
I love you, girls.