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Through Her Eyes

I started talking with one of the women in my strength training group this morning during some diabolical plank rotation.

The jokes started with our “mom bladders” and how that one exercise would have been pee-inducing a few months ago, but now our core strength has improved and it’s better.  Only mild pee.

I have always looked at this woman and really admired her strength and her physique; she is strong and fit and just, any way you cut it, beautiful. I work harder at my workouts when she is around, because she is so inspiring to me.

She, in my mind, is the total package.

Anyway, we got to talking more, and I was shocked to find our body issues and ups and downs are exactly the same as mine, as so many of us.  Exactly.

Photo Credit: Howard Schatz, Athlete

Photo Credit: Howard Schatz, Athlete.  I’m partial to this photo, because my friend and weightlifting Olympian, Cheryl Haworth, is featured (bottom, fourth from left)… #badass

So this woman at the gym was a Fitness Competitor – so she really knows what it’s like to look “ideal” – and she mentioned how it was miserable to try and focus on just the looks, just the outward appearance. How now, her health and self-worth comes nowhere from the outside. That’s it’s been from the inside-out.

And it’s even more important now to her, raising three daughters. Three girls, who, in her own words couldn’t be more different.

I nodded, furiously, understanding exactly what she was saying.

Why do so, so many of us feel this way?

I have been trying to find a way to put into words what I’ve gone through over this past year and 1 month.  Because I am different – not just physically. But something inside of me has changed, flipped, to make my health the priority—not the way I look (or want to look).

Sure, that is still a big MOTIVATOR. But it’s not the sole motivator.

And that’s the difference.

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So much of our self worth as women is wrapped up in our reflections in the mirror. I wish it wasn’t.

When people ask me, “What changed?”

I can say a lot has changed, for sure.  But I still struggle. I do.  I really try not to just Fake Book, and act like everything is PERFECT.  Because lawdy, that’s just not the truth.

And I can point to a few things, I guess, that have changed for the better over the last year.

It did absolutely start with what I thought was food. But it turned out to be more than that.  The way that the information was presented to me was major. Nutrition suddenly became not all about a “diet” or even the food, the sugar, or the booze.  It was about ME.  How I fit into the wide world where food exists.  What I was doing to my insides, my body by eating sugar at 10:00 in the evening, by drinking that extra beer (or three).  I couldn’t “un-know” the facts.  I never considered that food was, in fact, fuel.  I had heard a rumor that it was, in fact, fuel. But I didn’t really want to believe it.  To me, food was just something that you ate, enjoyed beyond words, and then cursed in the morning.  I never sat and contemplated that food was medicine.  That food can be healthy comfort–a yummy piece of fruit, a healing green smoothie, or a comforting cup of tea when you’re heart is breaking.

But I am grateful for the small voices in my head that say nice(r) things now, instead of the years of so many mean thing I worry about raising my kids and the impact on their body image.  I never ever discuss my weight or my struggles, or even allude to it, around my children.  I mean, never (not on purpose, at least).  I almost lost mind on one of women in our neighborhood when she called her dog fat in front of my daughter… we just don’t say fat.  Even about dogs.  Which, in hindsight, is funny, I guess.  (But what if the puppy could hear?? 🙂 )

I borrowed an extra kid for the day yesterday :)

I borrowed an extra kid for the day yesterday 🙂

But funny-not-funny, to me.  I just don’t want her to struggle with all the things I did. I want to protect her as long as I can, and then by the time it’s “out there,” I pray that she has enough strength, confidence and self-worth inside herself, to not worry about those ridiculous pressures… or the mean girl in her head never even got a place to live.

While inside of my skull, I may be a giant mixed-up mess, I think I am doing the right things by my kids–working to be healthy, eat well, be strong… to be a good example.  Do as I do, type thing.

You always wonder, as a parent–am I doing the right things? Did I do the right stuff?   I guess that doesn’t ever go away.

As my daughter and I walked home from a school event on Mother’s Day weekend, we were chatting.

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked her, probably for the twelfth time this month, always getting a fanciful answer:  a “somage person” (a/k/a a massage therapist), a nail person (a/k/a, a nail technician), a cook, a soccer play.

Only this time what she said, well, it will probably stick with me forever.

“You.  I want to be you when I grow up, Momma.”

I looked to see if she was joking.

She wasn’t.  And by the time the shock wore off, she was already chattering on about something else.

Inside I cringed a little thinking, Oh, sweetheart, no you don’t. No you don’t want to be your broken, messed-up and shattered inside, momma. You don’t want to be this. You don’t want to—-

And then I stopped the rush of thoughts in my head, and realized what a compliment and honor it was.  That from where she stands, I am not any of those things. I am not broken. I am something she wants to be.

Now if I can only grow wholly into believing that myself–that I don’t need to grow into something I want to be. That I am okay, and good enough, just right now. As I am.

Every day is a struggle, a blessing and a gift–all wrapped up in one.  But I am grateful.  I am so grateful. I am grateful for the cracks, the bruises, the sadness and the struggle–because through those, I am able to see all the good.

It’s there. All the good. Even when the lines are blurred, the compartments all mixed-up and life’s messy things are out there, shouting all the wrong noises.

The good is there.

So I focus on that.  And the one little girl in the world who thinks I am worth it.

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Happy Friday, friends.

18 Comments

  • Karen

    May 20, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing the feelings of responsibility we have to be a good role model to our girls.
    We never say F. A. T. either but they hear it at school
    The pain when your 8 year old daughter says she wants a thin stomach (and she is so fit strong and sporty!) is dreadful 🙁

    #keeponmovingforwards x

    Reply
  • Linda

    May 20, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Ugh. Narcissistic much?!? No, I hope my daughter grows up to be well…..HER! This isn’t the first blog where I have thought, ” Does she not realize those are not typical thoughts or questions for children that age ?”

    And yes. I am qualified. A child physiologist for over 22 years working with children 5 to 13.

    If you hear nothing else,

    Between your body dysphormic issues, alcoholism and narcissism….set out $150 a week for future therapy.

    Reply
  • Amy Justice

    May 20, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Love love love. Tears. Ya know, why WOULDNT she want to be you?! You’re an inspiration to so so many. And yes, I always tell my daughter that strong is more beautiful than skinny and as a personal trainer, I ask my clients to focus on performance goals (10 push-ups, a faster mile, etc), rather than on the vague “weight loss”. I often refer to your book/story to give them inspiration to begin the journey–your body will change if you embrace the challenge and stick to your performance goals! Xo

    Reply
    • Robin Reyes

      May 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Wow Linda, i don’t believe she was asking for your psychological assessment. Meredith, i don’t normally comment on your posts, but i saw the mean comment and then decided i wanted to share what my experience has been. First of all, you are the one that helped motivate me when i was frustrated and upset about my health. I emailed you and you sent me a reply. second of all, i am on my second month of eating real food, and i feel amazing, and reading your struggles with has helped me not feel so alone. Every single one of us has issues that we are trying to overcome; even Linda up there. I think you are so brave and wonderful for sharing your struggles and triumphs with the rest of the world Keep being you, because you are wonderful!

      Reply
  • Stephanie

    May 20, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Whoa! Linda, that was uncalled for. I think you are MISSING THE POINT. Here’s the thing: she sees her mother as someone who is strong and capable. Her daughter wants to be THAT. Via the wonders of the internets we have the ability to read the unspoken things from Mere that so many people deal with. That doesn’t make someone weak, it makes them painfully honest- with themselves and everyone. We are all works in progress- my guess is that EVEN YOU are a work in progress. I don’t think ANY ONE (INCLUDING Mere’s little girl) wants her to grow up to be an exact replica of anyone but I would want her to pick out those things that she sees and admires and be those things. THAT is the point of this post.

    Being mean like that was just out of line.

    Oh and everyone could benefit from therapy: even you and I’m certain that for the most part you’re probably pretty well adjusted.(just being really kind of ugly)

    Therapy can be useful for a number of reason. Please don’t start shaming those who are in therapy because you can currently hold yourself up to be a pinnacle of both physical and mental health. You never know when you might find yourself in need and it does not make you weak any more than having a medical condition makes you less of a person.

    In any case, the best course of action is always compassion. How was your comment in any way compassionate?

    Reply
  • Angie

    May 20, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Seriously “Linda?” Raised in a barn much? Go troll somewhere else. You’re not being helpful or kind – just mean – and no one wants to hear it.

    Really nice blog post, Meredith.

    Reply
  • Angie

    May 20, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    So sweet! Just the other day I was getting ready to go to a meeting and tried on a dress I had purchased a while ago but never worn. It’s a great color for me, but I was feeling a little bulgy in it. My almost-5 year old son barged into my walk-in closet as I was getting ready to find something that made me feel less bulgy and said “Mommy you look so beautiful. That is a beautiful dress.” So I had to wear it…

    Reply
  • Colleen

    May 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    sigh. linda. oh linda. why are you so mean? seriously, just don’t read this anymore. you are wasting way too much anger/hate/thought on SBM.

    Meredith, love this. I always think to myself, “what do I want Julia to learn from me, and what do I want her to be stronger (than I am) about?” Daughters are amazing inspiration.

    Reply
  • Amanda

    May 20, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Since when is asking a child what they want to be when they grow up “not typical thoughts or questions?” I always asked my children what they want to be when they grow up. In fact I was just asking my 15 yr old what he wants to do when he graduates high school. I always thought it encouraged them to use their brains, to think about people around them and encouraged them to explore the world.
    Rock on SBM!

    Reply
  • cherie

    May 21, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    The best words that I ever heard from my daughter as she was growing up (I think she was about 14-15) was “Mom, I am NOT YOU!” There are so many other people who will influence your daughter’s thinking and actions besides their parents. It’s hard to wrap your head around…but we fade to the background really fast…sad but true.

    Reply
  • Liz Harding

    May 23, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, but I want to add my thoughts to balance the lack of compassion and sheer meanness from Linda. I too suffer from similar body image / self worth issues. I also have a 10 year old daughter. She isn’t rail thin (thank goodness) but that girl kicks butt on a pair of skies, owns the trails she runs on and is so strong it makes me well up. We never use the word fat in our house, never talk about calories or diets. Food is fuel which is needed to give us power to do the things we love. I wish I had grown up in that sort of environment! I applaud you Meredith for putting words to your thoughts, for being strong and for giving a voice to what so many of us struggle with. Thank you!

    Reply

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