Love The One You’re With….Um, That’s You
You have this body. Look down, yup that one. It is yours….forever.
It is the one you need to love, right now, as is, perceived flaws and oh-I-wish-it-were-differents and all.
I know this hard for some of us, myself included. There are still those times when I hate this or that, want to cry because my metabolism is so challenging in many ways and because I was born with what are referred to as “Darlington Thighs” in my mother’s family. Genetically speaking I inherited a hard work ethic, quick witted sense of humor, sloppy mitochondria (MTHFR mutations), a predisposition for autoimmunity (diabetes, thyroid, Crohn’s), gluten intolerance, insulin resistance, colon cancer, PCOS and yes, big thighs. From the other side I get heart disease – but also living to see 100 birthday candles.
All in all this genetic hot mess is ripe with health problems and a sluggish metabolism. But his is not a post about, “Oh poor me and my PCOS and hormone problems”. This is not about making excuses or blaming my family for giving me this crappy hand to play. This is also not a post about being resigned to your genetics or your current hormonal issues. It is not about waging a war on your hormones and fighting back against them. It is instead about acceptance of the body you have, current and longstanding hormonal and metabolic issues and working WITH it to make it its very best rather than the frustration that comes with, “What can I do to look like her?”
Perhaps the best answer to “why don’t I look like her” is that I don’t have her parents. I also don’t have her particular set of life and psychological circumstances. I have mine. But damn if I don’t sometimes see another woman and think, “why can’t that be me?” I do this way less often than in the past but as of late, I noticed this old habit of inner sh*t talking about my body creep back up.
I’m no stranger to comparison and wishing I had someone else’s body as I’ve tried most of my life to have smaller thighs. Starting in college, I ran. Oh man did I run. I ran every day for six years. I always wanted to “look like a runner”. But I kinda hated running. It seemed though to be the one thing that always made my legs smaller. As I got older though (I’m talking late twenties), my body and my hormones decided to make their message about hating running a bit more clear.
Luckily, around this time I started lifting weight and I loved it. In my later twenties, I started sprinting and I loved that too. In my thirties, I started cycling and I dug that as well. You may be wondering what did this do to my thighs? It made them bigger. As of late they are really big! But I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my life despite having had two kids complete with a diastasis recti and uterine prolapse (just like is sounds, uterus falling out with any significant weight load), multiple disc herniations in my low back and neck, a bad shoulder and truly terrible knees. Ugh, my hyperextended, creaky knees, those are genetic too, I forgot that in my lonnnng list above. It’s honestly hard to keep track of all the stuff we can blame my parents for right?
Back to me and my thighs……sigh. We’ve had just the worst, most abusive relationship over the years. My story was this: I have PCOS which makes fat loss harder for me and then I inherited the Darlington big thighs and in order to be attrictive, worthy and lovable I needed to make them smaller. I felt this way as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. By the time I got to college and started running my way into exhaustion only made my hormone issues (cortisol, insulin and thyroid) worse.
It wasn’t until my late thirties that I found how much I loved heavy weight lifting. It was after my second baby and honestly I didn’t give a hoot about losing weight, I just focused on getting stronger and fixing my posture, rib flare and pelvic floor problems post-pregnancy. Part of this meant finally embracing these big strong thighs.
As I started lifting heavier yes, I put on muscle and they got bigger. But I have more energy, am sleeping better and while maybe a bit bigger, my legs are actually leaner than ever (even with a less that perfect diet and sleep schedule these days) and they have more shape. More of the shape they are probably meant to have. They were smaller when I was a runner but I was plagued with injuries, I hated doing it and I was easily wiped out from excessive cardio. And perhaps most important I am more at peace with the body I have always fought against.
This is the exercise I was built for. I am strong and short, not tall and lean. I have muscle and I have insulin resistance so I put on that muscle quite easy. This isn’t the body type I would’ve chosen had someone given me the choice – or at least that’s what I always thought.
As I started being a bit more kind to myself and quite trying to fit my genetics and hormones into a box that said “great bodies look like this”, my hormones settled which normalized my cycle, improved my sleep and sugar cravings, cleared up my skin and even made me happier. But yes, my big thighs got a bit bigger….but also leaner. While I was smaller with the running I had more body fat because it simply wasn’t what worked for me.
So here I am: bigger, leaner and happier….perfect huh? Well not so fast. The idea that a good body looks just one way is a message that is so pervasive. I’d be lying if that old voice, the one of “get smaller” didn’t speak to me still when I’m at the nail salon and catch my only exposure to People magazine. I mean, even at my very best I look nothing like that particular idea of a great body.
But strong is the new skinny right? I surrounded myself in the past ten years with more like minded women in the fitness and health industry and guess what? Most of them are bigger than your average celeb and a heck of a lot stronger, bearing way more muscle and could squat the pants of most famous fitness gurus. On one hand, I feel like I’ve found my tribe and it would be easy to pit us against them: the strong against the skinny.
But no. This is just more of the same tired crappy old problem. Its saying I’m right to look this way and she’s wrong to look that way. This is better than that. The problem with my body type vs another is not that one is better than another, one is beautiful while another is not, one is superior to the next, the problem is that we have this horribly narrow idea of what’s beautiful, what is a good body.
The problem is not that we need to all have bigger muscles and chastise the thinner women, it’s that we need to simply expand our idea of what’s beautiful, what makes a great body. Maybe there’s simply room for many body types to be beautiful?
I want to say that again: make more room, not make someone wrong. Expand the definition of a good body perhaps to include what that body can do and most importantly, what the woman in that body exudes to the world: strength, love, empathy, intelligence, health, etc.
Because at the end of the day, who defines what’s beautiful? We think its society, culture, etc. but if you look back over centuries that ideal has changed. Look at ancient Greek Goddesses? Pretty curvy and soft, huh? Now look at modern celebs. We know this as grown women right: what’s popular ebbs and flows. We also know as a grown woman worrying about being popular seems, well kinda childish right?
I mean what would we tell our daughters about embracing and loving themselves just as they are? Just do it. I teach my girls they are responsible for their feelings and their actions – and ladies we have to do the same for ourselves.
We have to own the body, genetics, life circumstances, hormone issues, phase of our lifespan, priorities and commitments and rather than try to wreck ourselves trying to look like some idea of “perfect body”. Instead we make our bodies their healthiest and strongest by doing what works for us in all areas: priorities, mental health, hormone balance and preferences. And if you want to lose weight or body fat, by all means do it in a way that works with your body and your hormones and don’t try to make your body into another woman’s body.
It sounds crazy when I say it like that right? but that’s what many of us have been trying to do, to no avail and with further hormone disarray , unhappiness and frustration to show for it.
The good news is that from all this inner turmoil I’ve had and finally making peace with my own body has led me to make my life’s work to helping women find what works for their hormones. Luckily I have figured a few things out that work for unique hormonal issues like hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, menopause and PCOS so before you rush off to the gym to manipulate your hormones and me my PCOS, I want you to remember this thing I’ve learned the very hard way: embrace the body you have. Or rather, love the one you’re with: your body, your hormones.
In order to work with and embrace the body you have, sometimes you have to tune into a hormonal signal and sometimes you have to turn into your mental chatter. More on listening to your hormone signals here.
As for your mental chatter, when you tune in ask yourself:
Is it the voice of your biggest critic or your best cheerleader?
Is it the voice of your best friend or worse enemy?
The worst enemy voice is a bit of a slave driver, it uses your insecurities to motivate and berate you. It says things like “You have to go to the gym because you’re blah blah”. Or it may sound like a bit of a whiner and try to talk you out of what’s best for you saying things like, “You don’t have to go to the gym you worked so hard yesterday” or “Go ahead and drink more wine, you’ve been so good lately…”
The best friend voice on the other hand makes no excuses, she simply tells you that you need to rest. Not because you did so much yesterday but because it makes sense for you right now, today. No justifications needed. She also tells you to get to the gym because it makes you feel strong and happy and motivated to take care of yourself, not because you’re fat and need to work off that muffin.
This post was not to bum you out that you’re simply stuck with the hand genetics dealt you. This post is about working with your circumstances and your priorities to figure out what will make you the most happy and allow you to fully be who you are. Make the definition of beautiful a little bigger and leave room for yourself in it. Work with your hormones to be the best, healthiest, most beautiful version of you. Not only embrace what you’ve got but love it even if there are some things you’re working on. This is acceptance without resignation. You can want something more for yourself without being so mean to yourself as is. And finally, what is your best may look a bit different than what is typically thought of as the best and only you can make your peace with that. But no matter what happens, if you lose another pound or not, working with your hormones instead of against them will always make you healthier and happier. Be your best friend.