So, I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. Basically, I love to exercise, and if I don’t, people hate being around me. You can just tell when I haven’t worked out in a few days because my patience wears a little thinner, my smile tugs a little tighter and my frustration over solvable problems starts to overwhelm me. I am a bit of a bear to say the least, (not the Winne the Pooh kind either). I don’t like to be this way, especially when I haven’t worked out in two days and my husband gives me the knowing look followed by his one-sentence-speech, “So … have you worked out today?” It is pretty much his way of saying, “You’re being a beast, go work off the attitude!” but in a way that won’t get him into more trouble than a small glare. Still, he is right. I admit it. I get carried away.
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres once said, “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now and we don’t know where the heck she is.” Okay, so I’m not that obsessed. It isn’t like I am a health-nut, I just start to go a little nutty when I don’t release the excess adrenaline I’ve got pounding through my busy string of days. Taking a walk, a bike ride or doing some form of aerobics gives me the ability to breathe a little deeper and think a lot clearer. Suddenly, the word isn’t quite as oppressive as I thought it was. I agree with Gene Tunney that, “To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise.” So yeah, working out is amazing. I’m a total, total fan … but, (yup, here it comes) I think society, as a whole, has a tendency to take things too far.
Tonight my seven-year-old son was putting on his pajamas and said, “Wow, my legs look fat.” After choking on the air I was breathing in that very moment I sputtered out an, “Are you kidding me right now?” My son is tall and rail-thin, like most seven-year-old movers and shakers. He is in constant motion and, according to statisticbrain.com, 350 calories are burnt each day by fidgeting, so I guarantee this kid burns an easy 1,000. I was aghast, but more than that, I was ashamed, because there are only two people he could have heard that kind of crappy comment from … mom and dad. We are both guilty. Both of us like to work out and can’t stand to be in the skin we’re in if we don’t. That doesn’t make it right. We try to monitor our comments but let me tell you something people, kids aren’t stupid. They figure things out whether you say them aloud or they perceive your expression in a mirror, they know. The thing is, I have a lot of friends like me, and I wonder if we are setting our kids up for healthy-living, or fanaticism? It is a fine line and I try to balance, but sometimes … I think I need to look at the reflections looking up at me in the mirror instead of my own.
Did you know that according to the same stats website, there are over 45,000,000 Americans with gym memberships!?! That is a crazy big number. The news, social media and marketing prey upon the insecurities we all carry over our “imperfect” bodies, but do we ever realize that health is an INDUSTRY? It is! A big one! Again, I’m a fan. I’m a consumer. I’m a supporter. But I am also a fool, one who has bought into the, “What you see is what I’m worth,” mentality that completely ruins our self-esteem, and that of our children. A good friend of mine who has a beautiful, athletic daughter shared with me recently that they had problems with bullying in Kindergarten. Apparently her daughter was teased for being larger than the other girls and the kids went so far as to tell her what she shouldn’t wear. Does anyone else realize this is not okay? We need to find balance. I need to find balance, because the conversation I had tonight with my fifty-pound boy broke my heart. Sure he’ll forget about it tomorrow, but I won’t. He is perfect, but somehow a part of my brokenness wore off on him.
I want to realize and carry with me the truth of what Aleister Crowley said, “The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.” We reach toward airbrushed figures and warped ideals. We cling to perfection and aesthetic beauty as if it were a cure to any form of discontent … but no one, not even the “perfect people” think they are. We all have things we would change about ourselves, but I think instead of my thighs, I might focus on my perspective this time. I love to exercise, but I hate to think I’ve become a slave to some “ideal” version of what I could look like. I want to be a healthy, positive example for my kids, not another societal statistic.
Be real. Be you. Let that be enough.