We had a great Moms Health Class on Thursday about practical weight loss and fitness.
As I prepped my slides, a friend joked I should call it “The Hot Homeschool Mom” or “A Guide to Mom Hotness”.
But do moms want that? It got me thinking about the ambivalence I feel - we feel - about our appearance and the words we use. No matter how fit and toned I am, would I want to hear that word? From my husband? From a close friend? I have found myself uncomfortable when people use words like that, and deciding not to wear that item of clothing out of the house again. Years ago, a friend said she didn’t like even her husband using this word, because it was like he wanted to get into bed right then. She WAS hot by any definition, but she wanted to be told, even by her husband, that she was elegant, graceful, or beautiful. For me, a close friend, or my husband, could lean over and tell me I look “so hot”, as a teasing kind of compliment, but from an acquaintance, I’d want a less loaded word.
What words would YOU want to use or hear? Or do you want no words at all about your looks, from you or anyone else? It's one of the topics we touch on in the video.
Perhaps we need to pull from another language, because words like pretty, elegant, slender, fit…. Don’t have the same oomph as “hot”. We don’t want to be objects, but we do want to be desirable on some level. We’re women, not little girls in princess dresses, and we know that sexuality is an undeniable aspect of looking good. We know when we still have that something that catches our husband’s eye. Perhaps it isn’t primarily about weight, skin, or muscle tone. It’s mostly about attitude - how bright is your smile? How warm and welcoming are you? Your demeanor is for sure #1, and outfits that suit you are # 2. But how are your smile and demeanor, really, when your body feels off?
And then, practically speaking, it’s almost summer and time to look for a swimsuit. You might have a wedding, a school reunion, a visit from family, and you want to feel put together. You want to wear that awesome dress you have from 5 years ago and belt the waist. You want the jeans to look good. You’re still a person in addition to a mom. You’d rather not shop for hours and stand in fluorescent-lit rooms to find the dress that hides 15 pounds better than the others, that gives the right optical illusions over your waist or thighs. I have loved it when I could pick something pretty and flowy off the rack and simply confirm I’d gotten the right size before checking out..
One of the moms in Health Club said her goal was to feel strong, take care of her muscles and bones, and age well. She lifts most days for her exercise, walks some days for relaxation, and makes sure to hit her protein target. That’s been her routine for several years and she looks terrific. But even though it wasn’t her goal to look a certain way… she decided to live it up it by rocking a modest bikini at the beach. At 47. She knows she’ll look great in whatever dress she picks for her daughter’s wedding. Nice, right?
Was it her goal to get that body? Not exactly. She wasn’t chasing a certain size. She found that weightlifting helped her feel calm and strong and suited her better than running. But when she found that she was looking great, she didn’t hide it. How would you feel if you could rock a bikini? If not a bikini, what would you buy? If you could pick anything, what colors and styles of dresses and pants would you pick out?
Would you feel comfortable celebrating, drawing any attention to your looks? If not in public, at home? I’m so in the habit of "comfort over fashion" that even when I’ve been at my most slender, the majority of my clothes don’t highlight it in any way. I end up with a few cute dresses and everything else is whatever I had from 10 pounds or 10 years ago. I have mixed feelings, no matter what weight I’m at, not wanting to be an “object.” So it’s been easier for me to focus on energy, clothes, posture, fitness, skincare - and skirt the issue of "How do I actually look? and if I want to look better, why haven’t I put in the time?"
I didn’t want to work out a ton and be super hot in college because I thought if a guy married me thinking I would always look like that, it would be snagging him under false pretenses. Perhaps I would have become a fitness person if I’d put in several dedicated years, or perhaps not. It seemed at the time that I would always love reading more than exercising, and I didn’t think that would get great results as I got older. (Ironically, it’s played out better than I expected. Reading about nutrition does give a lot of ideas to try.) Another mom said that she didn’t pluck her eyebrows until she was prepping for her wedding photos. She wanted to know that the guy was clear on what she was likely to look like long-term. Those of us who hoped to have many children were very aware that managing weight and fitness postpartum might be a challenge. I knew moms who seemed to effortlessly drop the weight, moms who worked for it, and moms who never dropped it at all. Where would I land? Even with a system that has worked 5 times, my laziness can take the upper hand if I feel like pregnancy is just around the corner. And I tend to frame efforts towards being more fit and slender as partly vanity, even in my own mind. It's far easier for me to sell it to myself as discipline, setting an example for my daughters, being a fun mom who can jog with teens, and later an energetic grandma who can hike with toddlers, etc,.... than to simply admit that I like looking attractive.
What exercise helps you feel good in your body? Calm, relaxed? What helps you stand up straighter and breathe more deeply? What helps your clothes fit better? For me, it’s sleep first and foremost. Then, hitting the sweet spot with carbs, for however active I am at that point. Then stretching, squats, lunges, reaching up to trim branches, walking, sometimes hiking - a general variety of movement. Resting mid-day - not every day but a few times a week.
If your ambivalence about what the goals are, not just how to find the time and energy to make fitness happen, is part of the question, I hope this helps your thinking. One way or another I've sidestepped the question for so long, and now I feel challenged to think about it again and perhaps differently.
Let me know what you think and what is helpful for you to focus on!