Toning your body versus losing body weight- You decide.

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Spring is here in Adelaide and the pressure is on to look good, again! Winter fashion is very forgiving for the less than ideal body type, which is about 95% of the world. By ideal I mean what the fashion industry defines as ideal, super slim or what the fitness industry defines as ideal, super muscled. For the less than super, myself included, spring and summer can dampen that yippee ya yee jingle  you feel like doing when you see the almond blossoms and smell the sweet jasmine scent in the air.

While I am all for a healthy lifestyle I am not buying that perfect body hype. As my hubby very vocally puts it, “A woman’s gotta have curves!” Yes ladies, I am blessed. As I wolf down my quinoa and roasted chicken salad and eye my yoga mat, I strive for a well-balanced outlook on physical beauty. Sparkling eyes, shinny hair, smooth skin, gorgeous smile and an infectious personality represent beauty for me. As opposed to a gaunt frame, hollowed cheeks, spindly arms and skinny legs.

I do yoga to tone myself, as I believe that a toned body is way sexier than a skinny one. You can be a size zero and still have jiggly arms, but a size 12 with a firm body is amazing! You need food to provide you with the nutrition for strong bones, healthy organs, muscles and stamina; you can’t get all of that with just iceberg lettuce. My fitness parameter? If I can run for an hour with my kids in the park before getting tired, I consider myself fit.

A positive body image is so important and not just for physical health. Your outlook on life needs to be positive and healthy, a negative self-image can destroy not just your mojo but also your life. An energetic outlook makes you want to accomplish more, achieve more and in turn makes you feel great, the opposite can lead to depression that can ruin marriages, friendships and even careers.

I consider myself lucky as I grew up with very positive role models and a very healthy affirmation of beautiful. Strong confidant women with fulfilling lives who made an impact on society were the hallmark of an ideal woman. Marie Curie, Bertha Von Suttner, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Martina Navratilova, Mother Teresa and the list goes on.

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Today most young women when asked whom they admire fervidly exclaim, ‘Kim Kardashian.’ While I can appreciate the business ingenuity and drive of Kim Kardashian and hold no grievance against her, a role model?

Perhaps my outlook on life is different because I grew up under the wings of a very intelligent and independent woman, my mother. She was the daughter of a wealthy businessman who was also an aspiring inventor and a village beauty who hailed from a prominent religious family. The untimely death of her father led to their fortunes being stolen by malicious relatives who took advantage of her mother’s illiteracy. She thumb printed away their home, land and business to her husband’s conniving nephew. Scared for life, granny made sure all her children, nine of them would be educated.

My mother grew up with an innate distrust of people and made it her life ambition to learn all that she could, after all knowledge was power. As children she forbade us from watching cartoons or movies, it was just documentaries and books for us. We never had cable and there were no magazine subscriptions, except for the odd National geographic and readers digest.

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For entertainment we would sit together in the living room and hear stories about my parent’s lives, funny anecdotes about our ancestors, family history and family legends. My father had books from his travels and I grew up in the company of Dale Carnegie, Napoleon hill, Edward De Bono, Ben Sweetland, and offcourse encyclopaedias.

Our childhood mentors determine not only our outlook on life but also our perception of self. As I hear the music from my children’s playroom I realise that soon my little girls will need more than fluffy unicorns to help them develop a sense of self. Their positive affirmations will need to come from real heroes, everyday men and women who live fulfilling lives with purpose.

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Makeup is a woman’s right not a gender privilege.

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Applying makeup is more than just a fashion trend it’s part of being a woman. For far too long women who love makeup have been labelled as superficial and by a fanatical few as dissolute. As a girl I grew up with a mother who shied away from makeup and was the ultimate ‘au naturale’. A devout catholic prayer warrior she was more like a nun than a woman of the world.
I on the other hand loved to paint my nails, face, dolls and once even attempted to beautify a calf in my granny’s farm! My mother unlike all the other religious stoics who tend to shame girls like me, encouraged me saying, “If you’re gonna paint yourself try to do it right!’
Yes, my mother had an extremely unique modus, a sincere matter of fact style that didn’t involve any sugar coated nonsense. For me she was the ultimate woman, she did whatever she liked out of choice, no fear propaganda or social norms that she felt obliged to adhere to. There was only one person to please and that was God, if her actions would shame her in front of her creator then that was all the deterrent she needed.
Which isn’t to say she wasn’t flawed, a lot more than others because she was transparent, she never felt the need to hide or pretend and so was always pointed at. A great learning model for me because it taught me that there is no pleasing anyone and there is only one who truly matters and he is on my side. Armed with that knowledge and conviction I can proudly inform you that I have battled some of the worst traumas one can possibly face in life and you know what? I’m still standing strong, bat ready to face whatever life can possibly throw at me and I do it in style! Fingernails painted and makeup on, I am ready.
So you have a colicky baby that doesn’t let you sleep through the night, an illness that drains the colour out of your face, personal crisis that makes you crawl into a corner and bawl your eyes out, who says you need to look the part. I know I don’t and if you want to it’s ok, I respect that.
I grew up loathing pity; I hated if anyone felt sorry for me, and did all I could to look strong and confidant even if I was falling apart inside. Makeup empowers me, I may not be able to make my baby sleep through the night but I can sure hide those dark circles. Life doesn’t have to win all the rounds.
According to research people have been painting themselves since the beginning of time, it’s a way of establishing control and reinforcing one’s identity. No wonder the first thing most religious dictatorships do is to ban cosmetics. Strip a woman of her right to celebrate her individuality and establish her identity and you have a broken, lost soul ready for manipulation. Allow only women in the sex trade access to cosmetics and you subconsciously reinforce the idea that a woman’s beauty is only for male pleasure.
A research by Dr. Richard Russell, a psychology professor at Gettysburg College, sates that the only way a face gets classified as male or female is by facial contrasts. Women tend to have lighter skin, darker eyes and lips than men. No wonder that the basic elements of makeup consists of foundation, mascara and lipstick. All we are trying to do is stress our identity, we are female and we are beautiful.
For all the opponents of cosmetics I ask, “Who are you?” 9 times out of 10 we all reply with reference to our gender. This is who I am, a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a writer. I don’t love makeup or fashion but they are an integral part of my life, I brush my teeth and I apply make up. I am a woman, why shouldn’t I do what I want and look how I feel inside, which is beautiful? There are days when I want to look plain and ordinary, and many, many more days when I want to look gorgeous, why shouldn’t I?

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Is it superficial to enhance your feminine attributes? Do you do courses to enhance your trade? Do you eat right and exercise to look fit and healthy? Do you dress well because you feel good about it? Do you get a haircut and groom yourself to look polished? Most importantly do you smile when you look at a beautiful person? I do and I like to be that beautiful person too.

 

Beauty, is it really in the eyes of the beholder?

As I step onto my bathroom scale, exhale and tense up for, I dunno, the 1000th time, it hits me. I’m obsessed with my weight; yeah it’s a no brainer, more so for the acknowledgment of it than the actual fact.

You see, I am this aged wild child who believes in the individual, an ardent admirer of the human spirit and this obsession is a crack in the wall. As a connoisseur of life and all things idiosyncratic, it’s my fall from grace.

Idiosyncratic, I find it such ain harsh sounding word but I couldn’t think of another that conveyed what I wanted, peculiar to an individual; no, quirk and peculiar is what I would use to describe Frankenstein not something to revel about, coming back to topic.

So why am I, a person who so passionately defends the right to be different, falling into a classic society mind trap? So I sat down for my morning cuppa (that’s a term for coffee down under) and I pondered. I wrote down two lists one for all the reasons why I wanted to loose weight and one for all the feelings I associated with being over weight.

Background story, I am a mother of three and my youngest is 15 months old and I am exactly 10 kilos above my ideal weight. My husband hates skinny women and loves me the way I am. My family is known to be “healthy with big bones” so no pressure from them to loose weight.

I have always been athletic, used to do yoga, and walk for hours. I was never really skinny except when I first started flying (I used to fly with Emirates) and then slowly bounced back to my normal weight. I did have a slight weight issue when I finished college and took up a sedentary job that bound me to my desk for 10 hours with an endless supply of junk food. However, my weight has remained fairly constant after I quit.

Now for my lists, the one where I jotted down why I wanted to loose weight was ‘classically vain’ but it was the list where I wrote down how I felt being over weight that shocked me.

  1. I feel like I have lost all control or say over my life, like I’m a football being kicked around by life and situations.
  2. I am my body and I have no control over it.
  3. I feel like a spectator not a doer.
  4. I look into the mirror and I can’t recognise the person looking back. Where am I?
  5. Earlier I had a sense of style, a personality, now it’s Mrs Frumpy mother of three.

 

There were a couple more but these are worth talking about. It made me realise my inner struggles and who I was as a person. Obviously the ‘mum’ thing has got me all rattled up, personally responsible for 3 innocent lives, no wonder I wanted my old life back. As a conscientious person I am obviously quite blown over by the responsibility.

 

That is a topic for another day; today it’s about how I relate my body shape and size with control over life. I am quite insane to think that anyone can claim to have control over life; it is the one thing that mystifies even the wisest.

The thought, a drowning man clutches to a straw comes to mind. A sheer act of desperation, it’s my mind’s way of relating and making sense of my life. Loosing weight given that I work from home and have 3 kids all under 5 to take care of and have to schedule time to even shower is impossible in the time frame I want.

I know I will get there, eventually, but by fretting over it today, I am distracting myself from a more pertinent issue, my identity crisis.

I know myself, even if I were my ideal weight today, I’d find something to vex over tomorrow. Where does this need to ‘control’ come from? I mentioned it twice, as a celebrator of life, when did I develop the need to control it? What happened to live life and let God show you his great plan?

Am I a hypocrite? Do I publicly support all that is different in others but demand a very stereotyped image from myself? Looking back, yes I did hang out with the wild ones but I never did the things they did, I never smoked (cigarettes or pot), never drank (not even beer) and no, I never took risks. Every ‘impulse’ was carefully planed out and all the worst scenarios had fallbacks.

I don’t know what is worse being a control freak masquerading as a free spirit or craving to be that person? Becoming a mother has forced me to shed a lot of the facades that I had accumulated and it has unnerved me. I had been looking at life through a guarded window and now without my masks I feel vulnerable.

Naked, since I have been stripped of all the layers of lies and deception, I am now forced to live the life I have always professed to living. How ironic is that? Here I thought I had life all figured but turns out life had me figured from day one.

I salute you God, you are wiser, kinder, stronger and most importantly patient. What can I say? You got me, but do me a favour and don’t ever let go!