I was married for the first time at the age of 21. My husband and I were both gym rats; we worked out constantly, ran, rock climbed, and rode mountain bikes.
Physical activity was a huge part of my lifestyle, and consequently, my body was in the best shape of my life.
I can make that statement now in hindsight, but at the time, I felt quite differently. I thought I was fat. My relationship may have kept me physically healthy, but emotionally, I was a wreck.
My husband was not good for my self-esteem. He often said things like:
“Your upper body is fine, but your lower body could still use some work.”
“Are you sure you should eat pasta? I think you should have the grilled salmon instead.”
“You should wear jeans when we go out tonight. Your legs are looking too jiggly for shorts.”
For the record, I’m 5’8″ and weighed 135 lbs at the time. I was nothing but lean muscle. The reason I worked out so much then was because I felt like I had to, not because I actually enjoyed it.
It took me years, but I finally woke up one day and realized I had to leave that relationship. The controlling aspect extended to many other areas of our marriage, and I eventually worked up the confidence to leave. And a veil was lifted from my eyes. I realized how much power I’d given up due to verbal abuse. I was determined to claim that power again.
Fast forward to the present.
I’ll be 43 this month, and I’ve never been happier or stronger. No, I’m not a size 6 anymore. And yes, my body jiggles way more now. But I don’t care.
I’m training for a half-marathon in November. I can run much further now than I did in my 20’s. I exercise because I like how it makes me feel, not because I feel forced to. I eat pasta whenever the heck I want and I absolutely refuse to eat salmon. (Silly or not, it’s symbolic!)
There’s just something about my 40s that has solidified my confidence.
I’m continually working towards and achieving new goals. That feels good. I own my self-esteem. My priorities and beauty ideals are different now. Sure, I could lift weights more and run more, eat less, and probably lose a few more pounds. But STRONG and HEALTHY are my goals now, not a certain dress size.
This year’s goal is 13.1 miles. Maybe next year it will be real pull-ups. Who knows? What I do know is this: my 40s so far have been spent as a celebration of my strengths, not lamenting over my weaknesses.