So, some random thoughts on what is normal… or at least, what is healthy. You may take the two interchangeably throughout.
It is normal to have thighs that touch at the top when you stand.
Look: here is an airbrushed photo of under fit mega-fitness model Jamie Eason (whom I have lil’ bit of a girl crush on):
Her dedication is such that when she goes on holiday she packs a cooler full of healthy food, and eats out of it! Yet, in this posed, touched up picture her thighs almost touch. ‘Nuff said
It is normal to be able to ‘pinch an inch’ (approximately) of loose skin in your abdomen.
Remember when you used to cover books with wallpaper / wrapping paper for school, and if you did it while the book was open, the paper would rip when you shut it? Well… if your skin were 100% taught it would rip when you stood up. Blood and guts everywhere. Love that inch a little more now?
It is normal to have some cellulite – however thin you are, however ‘clean’ you eat, however far you run.
It is normal to look terrible in some photos, without it being an accurate reflection of your body shape / size.
It’s normal to be 3D
Some magazines, airbrush out the evidence that women are not as flat as a pancake (or a crepe for all those Americans used to delicious, fluffy, buttermilk nuggets of deliciousness… dripping in syrup… I digress). In real life, our lumps and bumps stick out. We’re not a 2D image.
It is normal to look your age, which is not the age you were 3 years ago.
Your shape, your proportions, your skin tone and tightness changes as you get older. Sure, it is all relative, but *you* will look different to how you did at 18, when you are 22, and how you did at 22 when you are 25 and so on. Much as Disney would like us all to believe we look like Miley Cyrus until our 32nd birthday when we wake up having morphed overnight into Amy Adams in Enchanted, which we will remain like until our first-born has their first-born, when we will suddenly look like Fa (Mulan’s grandmother) – sadly it isn’t so.
We slowly change bit by bit with age, and we can look beautiful at each age. So we might as well enjoy it while we can. You’ll probably look back and wish you had otherwise.
I am not saying that these things can’t be minimized, or even negated (some of them), but they are all normal, healthy and beautiful facts of life.
Having said that, I would also add:
It is normal to go hungry sometimes
Yup. It is. If you are close to a meal time, and hungry, it is OK not to eat. You probably won’t overstuff yourself, if you exercise some control. You’ll deal with the hunger just fine; modern diets are full of promises that ‘you’ll never go hungry’ or they are full of ‘free’ foods you can eat unlimited amounts of. There is no need to graze 24/7, and a little hunger might do you some good: shrink your stomach, increase your insulin sensitivity, mobilize some stored fat. If you are confronted with only unhealthy / undesirable eating options, sometimes it’s OK not to eat anything, and just wait.
It is normal to hate cardio.
Sorry, but this is not an excuse not to do it. If you have a sedentary life you need some exercise. It would be great if we all had a sport that we were passionate about and wanted to do all the time. But it won’t happen for some of us. Walking, biking, swimming endless lengths, the dreaded treadmill / elliptical, they get dull. Fast. You can minimise the boredom by varying the type of workout, but ultimately, if you are skipping your regular step class again because it is boring or unmotivating (like the Tae Bo video you bought, like the treadmill routine you started, like the walking to work thing that slipped by the wayside) that’s probably just a fact of life you need to suck up for your health. Heck, I LOVE Zumba, but 80% of the time, when I am hungry after a long day at work: the sofa is so much of a better option. I make a commitment to do it and do it anyway
It is normal to feel deprived
Most readers are probably surrounded by a cornucopia of delicious food options at every meal. If you are in the US the cheapest food is possibly some easiest to get and some of the most immediately palatable. You probably find it acceptable to drink a few glasses of wine / bottles of beer every night. You probably end up at some 3 / 4 semi-social work engagements where you are offered highly calorific, but tasty food. Salads can be boring. Grilled meat / fish and steamed veg can get boring. I love Atkins as a lifestyle, but believe me, I love cupcakes and gelato. We are taught now that we shouldn’t feel deprived. That the world is our oyster and we can and should, achieve everything we want. Every so often, if you want to be slimmer and more healthy, you are probably going to have to watch your colleagues eat pizza, and tuck into lettuce and grilled chicken. Sometimes, you’ll say no to the 20th slice of birthday cake you’ve been offered this month. And you’ll be the DD. Again, you won’t die. And you don’t have to do it all the time. Just, if a few pesky pounds are hanging around, if those lipids are not quite as you’d like them to be, this may help. And it is a lifetime decision.
It is normal to feel too busy / tired to cook and / or exercise.
But it is possible to find time. You may have to re-prioritise. I watch maybe 1 TV show a week. I don’t read as much as I’d like. Sundays I do a big shop and prepare some of the week’s food. Work around what you have to work with. Rope in friends / partners / children. Rope in short cuts (pre chopped veggies, fresh pasta sauce). Think about how you spend your time and what is most important to you.
Ultimately, I guess I have brought together two things I am have been thinking. I feel for people who hate their bodies, who wish they could change them, who are bombarded with media ideals of unrealistic (or highly demanding to achieve) body images to aspire to. But, I also see people who say ‘you’re so lucky you love the gym’ (I don’t) or who order the tastiest thing on the menu every time they eat out, but really want to lose weight. There is a halfway house: some discomfort, some deprivation, some missing out. Occasional indulgence. But then also, loving who you are as a result.