I turn 40 this year. In fact, as I write this, I’m less than a month from stepping out of my 30s. I’m a pretty happy person. I feel accomplished in many areas of my life – I have an amazing daughter that I’ve raised largely on my own, I work in a career advocating for kids that inspires and challenges me everyday, I have an incredible partner who loves and supports me. I am surrounded by inspiring friends and family who I genuinely enjoy.
Internally, I struggle. I have an insatiable drive to create and succeed, and this is intertwined with the high standards I set for myself. I want to be accomplished in all areas of my life because I know my potential and have witnessed my ability to do and achieve. I have always been my own biggest critic.
When I was a teenager, I played a lot of sports but struggled with disordered eating and feeling out of control of my body. In my twenties, I rediscovered being active and got back into training. In my thirties I learned about clean eating and how it connects so closely to outcomes in so many areas of my life. I met people who inspired me to train hard and eat well, and I went to the extreme of training to compete in figure shows for two years. Then I became a mom and for the last six years I’ve actively tried to set a healthy example for my daughter about good food and regular training.
In many ways I feel successful and well-grounded. I believe it is more important to be flexible and strong than pretty and poised. Working out at home has meant I get to get my workouts in and also avoid the hassle of driving to a gym, training on old grimy equipment, or arranging childcare for my daughter. She hangs out with me while I lift weights or cheers me on when I’m dripping sweat in a cardio session. I love the days when she gets out her mini 2-pound weights and joins in saying, “Mama, we’re healthy girls, right?”
And yet, in the quiet moments with myself, or when I step out of the shower, I can’t help but assess the skin I’m in. I look over my body and notice the softness of my belly, the ripple on my legs and its hard for me to not be self-critical. I like how strong my shoulders and arms look and I like the definition in my quads, but while appreciating what I see, I catch myself thinking back to the days when I was competing and I miss seeing a super-defined rack of abs.
I know I could get back there again. It’s just the straight-forward science of consuming less calories than I expend. Consistently doing that while continuing to train would shed more body fat and I’d see those abs popping again. Sometimes I think about getting back into competition shape because it is indeed an incredible motivator to be staring down the days to a show, knowing that at the end of it you’ll be up on stage, illuminated by unforgiving lighting, in the tiniest bikini ever constructed, and being inspected inch-by-inch by a panel of judges and 1500 strangers. A mix of anxiety about if the performance peak will be perfectly timed, and the hunger to keep pushing the body to see where it can go can really help get a girl out of bed at 4 am to get to the gym.
But then I remember how unhappy I was so often during those years – how consistently tired the training schedule made me, how singularly focused I had to become to feel confident and successful in that world populated by other hungry, dehydrated athletes who also understand it’s necessary to narrowly focus in on themselves in order to be a serious competitor. The competition world often left me asking myself if I was prioritizing how I appeared over how I occurred. I didn’t always like the answer.
I look at my daughter’s face these days and I try to remember why I train. Although it felt pretty cool to be so ripped and hard for a time, that state isn’t a healthy thing to maintain for a long run. As a woman, I am meant to have fat deposits on my body. I am supposed to be strong but I want to feel soft too. I want to feel active and in shape, but I need to remember that I don’t want to give up making amazing dinners and sipping wine with friends on a Friday night. I want to still be able to make amazing dinners that have creamy sauces and interesting cheeses.
There are remnants in my life from the days I spent training for the stage. I love power smoothies in the morning, eating salad with grilled chicken for lunch, and I still drink about 3 litres of water every day. I graze throughout the day rather than eating 2 or 3 big meals. But I also want to love my life and that means I need to make sure I never stop cooking ridiculous meals and searching for the perfect chardonnay.
As I dive headlong into my forties, I make this declaration:
Our MANIFESTO! Challenge To You:
At PowHERhouse, we challenge you to write your own PowHERhouse MANIFESTO! Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with three of your favourite photos (jpeg files 200 dpi or less), and we’ll post it and share it back to you. We’ll also send you a designed pdf file so you can print and laminate it, and keep it somewhere highly visible to help you stay in your daily Practice.