Monday, December 10, 2018

Forever Front-Butt

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The sun was setting outside the huge bay windows of the dining hall as I walked over to join my roommate. I loved the look and feel of the older buildings on this side of campus. Yakeley-Gilchrist Hall was the perfect place for me to spend my first year in college. As I set my tray down and sat, I struggled to get comfortable.

"I swear, I think the dryers in the dorm are too hot or something..."

"What do you mean?" my roommate asked.

"My jeans... they are so tight. They don't fit quite right anymore."

Cortney stifled a laugh and stared down at her turkey tetrazzini. 

"What?" I asked. Even though I had roomed blind at Michigan State University, I hit the jackpot with a roommate who ended up being like my sister after a few short weeks. 

"You're blaming the dryers?" Cortney looked at me incredulously.

"Well yeah.. they're crappy! Ever since I've been using them my jeans just get tighter and tighter!"

Cortney couldn't hold it in any longer. Our sisterly relationship allowed for a certain type of bluntness only reserved for family.

"Um, maybe you're just gaining weight, Sheevani."

I crinkled my face ready to pounce and defend myself, but a movie reel of trips out to the dumpster to dispose of pizza boxes and chicken wing bones flashed in my head. Oh shit, it's happening.


Welcome to the 80 billionth post about a woman struggling with her body image! This is another area where my mindset just won't budge. I have some good days, but mostly I find myself getting unreasonably frustrated with my bod no matter how many times my husband tells me I look great. And yes, I feel totally cliché writing about this and well, I guess I'm just living my truth, honoring my journey, focusing on self-care while brunching with my girls! ROSÉ ALL DAY, BITCHES!

Up until the age of 18, I was the girl who could eat anything without gaining a pound. Yup, I was the annoying jerk who couldn't relate to the girls struggling to keep slim. "Sucks to be them," I thought. My lanky figure wasn't the result of exercise and a healthy diet, just ask all the sports coaches who didn't know me and drive-thru dudes at my favorite Taco Bell (where the sauce to bean ratio was perfect in my burritos). I was just plain blessed with great metabolism. My best friend's father was once horrified/impressed when he saw me mouth-pound a family serving of Thai food just for myself without a hint of difficulty. Sigh, I was living the dream of eating anything I wanted while easily slipping into my Abercrombie jeans.

As my opening story implied, my metabolism slowed from a sprint to a spirited jog during my freshman year of college. It was still fast, but not as forgiving. After Cortney broke the case of my "shrinking" jeans wide open, I realized that, with age, comes bodily changes that really suck. It was the first time in my life I had thought about watching what I ate and maybe even... gulp, exercising. Whoa, I just heard the collective, "Shut up, bitch," from many of you.

After age 21, the frequency of drinking beer and late-night eating didn't help my situation. I remember crying in the Gap dressing room because I had to go up a pant size. The rubber really hits the road in those dressing rooms, man. Between the bad lighting and 3-way mirrors, it's a wonder there aren't more women being arrested for vandalism at your local mall. The photos from my last year in college revealed a young woman afflicted by a condition coined by my best friend; party bloat - the chubby face and mushy body caused by too much alcohol, junk food and the sloth-like lifestyle that goes along with it. Luckily, I lost a ton of that weight the following summer on a trip to India for my brother's wedding. There's no diet like a summer in India; sweating all day, drinking little to no alcohol, eating vegetarian foods made fresh daily followed by diarrhea - also made fresh daily. It was the perfect antidote to my party bloat and I came back to the United States able to slip back into my smaller clothes.

Things are VERY different today. A summer of releasing fluids through my pores and butt would not have the same body-changing affects. All those years of youthful gluttony are a faint memory since my body has been super punctual when it comes to slowing metabolism. I could swear the day after I turned 30, my abs decided to store every fat cell it could find. I mean, A&E could have filmed an episode of Hoarders in there. After I had each of my kids, other parts of my body joined in. My chin was all, "Hey, ass and thighs, pass some of that fat up here wouldya!" Today, I'm freshly 40 and bracing for the turtle-speed metabolism I've heard so much about.

Do You Know Where the Weight Room Is? I'll figure it out...

When I first got into fitness in my 20s, I was simply motivated by vanity. Please note that low-rise jeans were popular then, most likely designed to give a sexy peek at a whale tail or low-back tattoo, which were other horrifying trends at the time. So yeah, I wasn't interested in any other benefit except to keep my bod small enough to fit into those devil-spawned jeans without a hint of a muffin top. Jennifer Aniston's physique was my goal. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I'd rip out articles outlining Rachael Green's workout and obsessed over her like a pathetic gym Gunther.

Today, my motivation to exercise is a lot more diverse; risky family history, energy, setting a healthy example for my kids, keeping those blood work results positive and yes, getting a smoking hot body. I'm at the gym 5 times a week kicking my butt with yoga, cycle, weight lifting, dance, pilates, etc. Since the days of Thai food marathons are long gone, I've also adjusted my diet to include lower intakes of sugar and salt while increasing lean meats and veggies. You know, everything Jennifer Aniston does. It's all great on paper, unless that paper includes a photo of me from behind and then I wonder if it's all worth it.

Weight of Mind

My mindset challenge here is to achieve body acceptance. For as much as I work out and watch what I eat, I'm not exactly thrilled with the results in the mirror. I see a reflection that personifies what they meant by "stubborn problem areas" in those Dexatrim commercials that aired during Gilligan's Island re-runs. It's all so trivial and stupid, but alas, my mind will not budge. Perhaps it's because I came of age during the "waif era" of the 1990s. Kate Moss was the biggest... er, I mean most famous supermodel and she was the size of a guard rail. This led to many actresses looking anorexic on red carpets. Magazines would print a cover photo of Calista Flockhart peeking over her shoulder in a backless dress next to big block letters screaming, "TOO THIN?" Even my beloved Jennifer Aniston fell into the skeletal, waif shit. Just watch the transition from the season 4 finale to the season 5 premiere of Friends. She lost half an Emily Waltham over that summer! (I'm available for any Friends Trivia teams, by the way.)

Whatever the reason, I totally pressure myself into thinking I need to weigh less and take inches off those stubborn areas. For someone who has never considered herself a perfectionist, I sure do expect some unrealistic perfection from my body. I cannot help but compare myself to the fit women I see at the gym since those studios are 75% mirrors. However, I've heard those same women talk about their own "problem areas" that I do not see at all. The woman with a flat tummy hates her wide hips and sagging ass. Another woman loves her big ass and thighs, but hates her flabby arms. An instructor doesn't wear light colored leggings because her cellulite might show through. It's as if we're all programmed to self-criticize our bodies and never be satisfied.

This distorted expectation for my body own perfection is never projected upon other people. I can see beauty in all shapes and sizes as long as the person is not me. There are people in my life who struggle with their weight and when I look at them, I see many gorgeous attributes they aren't seeing themselves. It's not as easy to be forgiving to ourselves like we are to others. Just ask Chandler Bing...

I'm determined to keep chipping away at this stubborn mindset for my kids, especially my daughter.  The last thing I want is for them to see me complain about my body and how I'm not skinny enough. They know how much I go to the gym, and sometimes they even ask why. "Mama wants to be around for a long time, so I have to take care of myself in order to do that!" I tell them. I am also encouraged by the more body-positive images I'm seeing in the media. The fact that my kids aren't seeing unrealistic representations like I saw growing up gives me hope that they won't be prone to a narrow view of what a beautiful body can be, and that healthy bodies come in many varieties. Honestly, that message is just as valuable to me as it is to them.

I want to be clear that I don't hate my body. In fact, I can easily recognize that I'm in the best shape of my life. When compared to my twenties, I am so much stronger and have a ton more stamina and energy. I'm just... NOT in my twenties anymore. Letting go of the expectation that I can achieve the same measurements from 2004 is where my mind needs help. Sure, I could try some diets or supplements that are supposed to get you to your goals, but for me, I need something sustainable. You don't want to be around me if I'm not eating carbs, let's just say that. My social media algorithms have correctly calculated the ads a vulnerable 40-year-old will blindly try - anti-aging detoxes, juices that burn belly fat, Goop crap - but I know there is no magic solution. It's more about taking the weight off my mind rather than my body.


I may never stop sucking in my front-butt or cringing when my arms jiggle, but I'll also never stop trying to walk tall and proud in my Mom-bod, no matter what it looks like. I'm lucky to have this body, I'm lucky I'm able to go to the gym, I'm lucky to be healthy and dammit... I'm just lucky to be alive. I mean, like, I don't know... just dance like no one's watching, sing like no one's listening, live, laugh, love and just f*ckin' rise and grind, you guys!! After all... no one told you life was gonna be this way...

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