When it comes to food, I’ve had the same guidelines since I was in college.
I eat when I’m hungry.
I stop when I’m full.
I only eat food I enjoy.
When it comes to exercise, I’ve had the same routine for the last six years or so: I do something that makes me sweat every single day.
But as of late, I’ve become pretty tired of the industry surrounding fitness and nutrition. It’s too confusing. The messages are mixed, and inconsistent.
Some say deadlifts are the core of all strength moves.
And others will tell you deadlifts are the worst movement you can ever do.
Cardio burns the most fat!
Muscle improves metabolism.
You must drink almond milk.
No wait, soy milk.
Cashew milk! Cashew milk is the answer!
Paleo. Low-carb. No fruit. Only fruit. A little fruit but no nightshades.
I once belonged to a gym that had a bunch of trainers, and one of them suggested I try this new protein bar, so like a total moron I raced to the health food store and bought a huge box.
The following week I bragged to a different trainer—who worked at the same gym as the first trainer—about my new healthy protein bar and he literally snatched it out of my hand, read over the label, and announced it was a giant piece of crap and I’d wasted my money.
Another time, during some awful evaluation of my body composition, the kind where they weigh you and pinch you all over with a weird metal thing, the trainer—a short, muscular guy with a handlebar moustache—looked me directly in the eye and told me solemnly that I was something he likes to call skinny-fat.
And I signed up for all of this! I signed up for the evaluations and the training sessions and the classes. I bought the nutrition bars. I read the articles about soy versus almonds. I tried the Paleo diet.
Diet, diet diet. Cripes, with the amount of articles and media and television shows dedicated to weight loss, even a toddler knows how to drop those last stubborn pounds and create a healthy lifestyle.
I am tired of it all. And frankly, I’m too old for this crap. It’s like a constant, dull noise in my brain.
I am forty-one years, five months, and twelve days old, and over the course of my life, I bet I’ve spent a cumulative total of three years worrying about whether or not I looked good in my jeans.
Three years! Three years of my life scrutinizing every picture of myself to see what my butt looks like, or if my arms are fleshy, or my legs look chubby.
I am better than this.
See, I have a daughter. And I don’t congratulate myself on much, but at least once a week I congratulate myself on choosing the most perfect-est name for my tender, funny, sweet little girl Rose.
She is eight. I remember being eight. When I was eight, I wore terry cloth rompers with white trim. They were shorts, and they had big loopy ties that tied over my shoulders.
For my birthday I chose my favorite flavor—strawberry—for my cake. We ate it at the picnic table at our big front porch. I took big huge bite after bite and it tasted like the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
When I was eight I ran as fast as my legs could run me. I ran off the bus, through the woods, and down the path alongside of a meadow behind my house.
While I was running, I never once thought about whether or not my thighs had dimples, or if my stomach was round.
But at some point, it all changed. Maybe when I was twelve or thirteen, I began to notice my body in a much different light. I started to ask everyone around me what I looked like; my friends, my sister, my unsuspecting brother. As I got older, I petitioned my boyfriends, my roommate, and eventually, my husband.
Do I look fat?
Does this skirt make me look wide?
I know, but I just feel gross today.
I want more for Rose. At age eight, I want my beautiful pink girl to understand what it took me forty-one years to learn; we are so much more than our bodies.
We are courage and kindness and wisdom.
We are mistakes and redemption and forgiveness.
We are our very own kind of magnificent, the kind that cannot be measured, or pinched with metal things, or weighed. Our worth cannot be calculated.
And if a guy with a handlebar moustache ever turns to her and calls her skinny-fat, I want her to be able to look him right in the face, and laugh out loud.
I want her to be her own mirror, and when she looks deep inside the shiny glass, I want her to remember exactly who she is.
She is a sister, daughter, niece, and friend.
She is her father’s smile and her grandmother’s eyes and my long fingers.
She is lightness and laughter and free throws from the foul line.
She is an autism-whisperer.
Come on, Jack, let’s get your bunny. Bunny makes you feel calm, remember?
I am going to teach her this if it’s the last thing on the Good Lord’s green earth I ever do. I am. I just don’t know how yet.
While I figure it out, I am going to put my hands over my ears and drown out the industrial noise. I am going to run my own race, and pick my own flavor.
Last Sunday morning, Jack woke me up at exactly 6:02 to announce he was making crepes.
When my 11-year old son with autism tells me he’s making crepes, I put on my robe and glasses and I stumble down the stairs, no matter how tired I am. One, because he could burn the house right down around us, and two, because, well, autism. And crepes.
I sat at the counter in our quiet kitchen and I watched as he pulled a white sheet of paper from behind all of the cookbooks we keep tucked in the corner. He’d written the recipe out in pencil. I didn’t know he did this.
“Hey, Jack! When did—“
“QUIET. No talking.”
Carefully, he measured the sugar. He unwrapped the butter. I sat on my hands to keep from wiping up the flour he spilled. I pursed my lips to keep from telling him not to wipe his greasy hands on his pajama pants.
He got out the frying pan.
He turned on the stove.
He poured in the batter and waited until the oval turned a golden brown, and he flipped it with his favorite spatula—the one with the red handle. Then he slid it onto a paper plate and handed it to me. He kept his eyes down the entire time.
I didn’t shriek, “I’m sorry! These aren’t Paleo!”
I didn’t ask if he used the organic butter.
I didn’t tell him I couldn’t eat them because I was planning to go to yoga in a few hours.
It was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I ate two of them.