Looking Good Naked

j0423115At this time of  year, fitness centers typically experience an increase in membership.  If you belong to a club or gym you might find that for the next eight weeks it will be tough to find an open treadmill or elliptical trainer. It seems looking good naked is on everyone’s mind after the holidays.

There is another excellent post over at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy about physical appearance vs. feeling good. She brings up a number of great talking points on the topic of body image issues, being a slave to the scale and our self-esteem and how it connects to our physical appearance.  We often say that our self concept shouldn’t be based on how we look but, for so many of us, it is.  I maintain that for many of us, how we look matters a great deal because how we care for our bodies is often indicative of deeper feelings we have toward ourselves and our value as individuals.  If we want that to change then how we go about changing our physical appearance is the first step in beginning to care about and for ourselves.

Lose the Scale

j0422209Being an ex-competitive swimmer, swim coach and cyclist, and also and ex-aerobics and fitness trainer, I know how ineffective the scale is and how it can really work against one’s efforts at getting healthy. One’s weight can fluctuate a pound or two every day and even more for some women, depending on the time of the month.  In addition, if you are enslaved to the number on the scale, but you are truly about percent body fat rather than weight you might get to a place in your fitness regimen where you actually begin to gain weight while continuing to lose inches.  Those who absolutely use the scale as the sole measuring device in their quest to look good naked run the risk of ignoring some better health indicators. They can become easily discouraged and frustrated.  This is counterproductive to the person who really has the goal in mind of becoming a healthier, more physically fit individual.

Percent of Body Fat is A Better Indicator of Fitness

I prefer to consider percent body fat or Body Mass Index  and inches lost when I work on improving my fitness level (because muscle weighs more than fat and building muscle eats fat).  One can be a size 3 and still be very fat.  I don’t want that for me.  I want the toned look and you can’t get that by merely losing weight on a scale you must transfer fat to muscle somehow.  If you are seriously overweight or out of shape or have never really done any serious training, please do two things:

First, get a physical and a physician’s okay before you begin any exercise program.  Even if you are relatively good health, this is always a smart move. 

Second, seriously consider investing in a personal trainer who will meet with you for an hour once ever two weeks for, at least, the first eight weeks of your program.  Even two sessions with a personal trainer can be incredibly valuable in helping you jumpstart your motivation and your journey back to fitness.

Toward A Healthier Lifestyle…A Personal Journey

While I know a great deal about the right things to do and the right ways to think about my body, its appearance and its health, I like many, many others have become negligent over the last decade. Sure there have been periods of good fitness, but I haven’t really stuck with them.  Of course, I have to cut myself some slack.  I’ve endured a pretty volatile decade personally, have been homeless and battled an emotionally abusive ex.  When survival is priority one, looking good naked gets much lower priority.  Even so, I’ve let go of some really great eating habits, stopped the consistent exercise and weight training program I had going and simply shifted my fitness priorities to the bottom of the list.  I don’t look horrible, but I really don’t look my best.  More importantly and more significantly I don’t feel my best. I find that it is when I don’t feel my best that I am most prone to worrying about my appearance, suffering a loss of confidence and self-esteem and I’m especially prone to really stupid questions like “How hot am I, really?”  I hate being in that place mentally and physically. 

j0402353Big Little Wolf’s post, my own personal journey to date, and experiences like these are crystallizing for me a sense of direction as I consider my own health and levels of fitness.  Note that I did not say weight loss program.  Because for me, though weight loss will inevitably be an outcome I hope to accomplish,, I am not venturing down this road with that goal in mind. In my post, two days ago, I spoke of moving toward a healthier lifestyle.  It’s true, I want to look good naked because that mirror in my bathroom is not exactly gentle in revealing the truth about my physical appearance, but I most certainly and more importantly want to feel good all of the time, not just naked.  I don’t just want to get smaller, I want to get better.  And better, might not necessarily weigh that much less, but it will look better naked.  It will walk further and faster.  It will not get winded. And, since I am the one looking at myself in the mirror, groaning daily with disappointment in myself about the extra pounds I’ve packed on and the muscle tone I’ve lost, and feeling disappointed with what I see (because the disappointment represents not beauty or lack thereof, but a deeper sense of loss) then looking good naked becomes important to no one…else…but me.  I’m the only one that matters.  It is indeed a deeply personal journey, but one with very visible results.

Getting Comfortable

But there is something even more significant at play here for me.  It is that idea of feeling comfortable in my own skin.  It is that idea that it is what it is and it is the best I can do so who cares what anyone else thinks.  Now, realistically I know, I should feel this way no matter what I weigh or what my muscle tone is, but the reality is, this is not the case for me.  Because the big reality is this, how we feel inside our own skin is largely determined by our fitness levels.  Our fitness levels often determine whether or not we look and perform at optimum levels.  All of those things conspire to impact our self image and our confidence in our abilities in other areas. True, self acceptance no matter what, is important.  I’m not suggesting we all have to be stellar examples of fitness and brawn, but when our ability to function at our best each day is implicated, then I suggest that’s the time to really rethink our health and our habits.  Feeling comfortable in our own skin is more about doing the best we can with what we’ve got under the circumstances and I, for one, am not doing the best I can right now.  Not even close.  This bothers me.  It bothers me enough to make a change.  For me, it’s what 2010 is going to be about.

Starting Measurements…The First Steps

j0321131 So, yes, yesterday, I pulled out the tape measure, hopped on the scale and took the front-back-side before pictures in my bikini.  Not because I intend to obsess over every little thing I eat or don’t eat.  Not because I intend to go on a crash starvation diet or crazy workout plan to burn that fat fast.  I’m smarter than that.  And, though I know my body will quickly respond to increased exercise and improved diet due to its past fitness, the reason I am doing it is not to get skinny…it is to change my lifestyle. It is to change my thinking.  It is to become comfortable in my own skin. Taking the measurements now, before I’ve really begun will help me gauge my progress and will motivate me to keep going.  It gives me a starting point.

Fitness is About Character Development and Personal Growth

While this is about looking good naked on one level, it is also about so much more than looking good naked because whenever one begins a journey of this nature there are mental challenges that must be faced and obstacles that must be overcome.  I’d like to suggest that the journey toward improved health for me will be less a journey of fitness than a supreme course in character development.  I will need to test my commitment.  I will be forced to persevere.  I will need to focus and stay focused and that, because I am so easily distracted, will be challenge enough. I will need to flex and adapt to a schedule that changes dramatically twice a year while still keeping up my regimen of good eating and daily activity.  I will need to make some hard choices that won’t be pleasant or instantaneously gratifying (like that second glass of wine or that extra helping of pasta or saying no when I’m just not hungry) if I am to move myself into a place that bodes well for the health and longevity of this physical thing I call my body, not to mention the mind and spirit that it contains.  It won’t “feel” good sometimes at first, at others it will feel better than anything.  It will require me to flex my discipline muscles, tone my determination, and exercise my mental fortitude and push my commitment to my own improvement to the limits. j0402666

But that’s the cost for every one who would accomplish anything of value. 

The Wild Mind

Success is often not a matter of talent, but a matter of tenacity.”  ~Nathaniel Bronner Jr.

How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?  ~Anthony Robbins

Men Are Like Dogs….

Okay, really…I did not say that.  Those are not my words.  Honestly…I am not kidding.  Those words, whatever emotions they might evoke for you, those words are not mine.  They were written by a man.  Now, before you go railing this individual as a traitor to the male gender, you have to read his comment in its entirety.  He commented on my post about Cowardice, written last summer. You can read his comment here. But for those of you who are lazy or just don’t want to open another window, I’ll paraphrase the comment.  My friend, said this:  Men are like getting a new dog…you never know what you’re going to get until you get him home”.  (my paraphrase)

This is first, a humorous comment.  It is also a frightening comment.  I think it is frightening simply because it is so true.  The implications here are significant for those wanting to consider romance, dating, shacking up, maybe even the idea of making it legal. And….hear this one…my dear male friends…it goes both ways.  By that I mean, you could say the same thing about those beautiful Venus bombshells you cannot live without or that you don’t want to live without supposedly.

You simply never can get the real picture about someone until you live up close and personal with them. 

And, if you are in the 35+ category for age, have children, a thinking mind and goals that resemble something more than I want to be rich and famous and will marry anyone to do it, then you must realize that what I’m saying here is of significance to you. 

Especially if you have children. 

You must be ultra careful about who and what you allow into your home. 

Disclaimer:  While the title of my post implies that men are the gender we are talking about, I think I’ve made it sufficiently clear that what I’m saying here applies to both genders.  My opinions definitely side with the “both genders are guilty” approach.  I just used that title because it was really cool and thought it might be a great way to entice more of you to my blog or to that article or to read Jeff’s great comment.  In any event…I am now not just picking on the guys.  I recognize that we women can be just as vile in our own ways. 

You must, must be careful about who and what you allow into your home.

I learned this lesson the hard way. 

In general all my growing up years I was the textbook firstborn eager-to-please driven kid.  I was a good little girl.  Well, so most people would have told you, but on the inside only I knew how rotten I could be at points.  But I played the “good little girl” role for so long and I did it so well for so long.  The problem was I was not dealing with and being authentically me.  So, as you might guess, this all spun out of control about 16 years into my first marriage.

I’d like to say that’s when I started making the bad choices, but the reality is, the bad choices I made started probably when I was 16.  The choice, have a boyfriend. Use him as your ticket out of the house.  Well, this thinking self-destructed down the road and after ending my first marriage…I jumped into a second one which was an absolute living nightmare. 

But it wasn’t a total loss.  It was during this marriage that I learned you must be very careful about the influences you allow into your home.  I was not careful.  I paid for it dearly during the marriage.  My children paid for it and are paying for it now.  I will not make those mistakes again…at least…I hope I won’t.

But here is the question that a statement like this raises:

I you can’t really tell what the “dog” is like till you bring him/her home, how can you be sure that he/she is the dog for you before you bring him/her home?

Because I guarantee you this…once you bring him/her home if she/he’s the wrong dog, it’s already too late and there will be damage done.  And who wants to bring a dog home with the idea that it’s okay to get rid of it if he/she “doesn’t work out”?  I mean, in spite of two failed marriages, that is sooooo not what I’m about. 

I still believe in long term commitment. I still believe in the institution of marriage.  I still believe that a good quality relationship is possible and that this deep, meaningful connection can last “till death do us part” (and not because one or the other of us hires a hit man either).

So, I’m going to ask it again and I do hope you’ll take time out of your busy schedule (I know it must be) to help me clarify my thoughts on this and to help any other lurking readers out there who might not know, but who would like to.  Here’s my question again:

I you can’t really tell what the “dog” is like till you bring him/her home, how can you be sure that he/she is the dog for you before you bring him/her home?

Inquiring Wild Minds want to know.