Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Work-Out Rant

As soon as I was in my mid-30s, women everywhere started randomly looking me up and down and warning me that as soon as I hit 40, I'd have a much harder time with my weight.  It didn't happen at 40, but now, at 48, I see what they mean.  In part.

My body's shifted.  I weigh about the same, but it's all in different places.  My butt's flatter, my hips wider, and my belly rounder.  I've become much more square-shaped.  It's a big biological call-out to the world that I'm no longer baby-making material.  Thank god!  The biggest problem is that my jeans don't fit anymore.  I went up two sizes in a year.

But the part I don't get, is some people's insistence (men and women's) that this is a huge, foreboding problem.  I jumped on my bike, head down to the local Talize, and bought some bigger clothes.

Problem solved.

It's curious how many women my age tell me that now I really have to work out.  I can't put it off any longer.  Weird.  I'll start working out when I can no longer run up a flight of stairs easily, thank-you very much.    And then I'll just start running up stairs more often.   I've always seen working-out as necessary to healthy living only if there's no other means of moving throughout the day - like if I need physiotherapy -  and I think a lot of people could save a lot of money by getting rid of their gym membership and their car at the same time.   I understand that some people really enjoy working out.  That's cool.  But I don't understand why people who love working-out think everyone they know has to do it or else.  A woman I know actually asked me, "Aren't you worried about being left behind?"  Where in the world is everyone stationary biking to that I could possibly be deserted?

I see that mentality as due to a marketing ploy to get people to spend more cash on their old bags of bones and that brainwashes them to the extent that people will actually fear for their friends that don't get with the program.  But it's all nonsense.  What's really healthy is getting off that manufactured consent treadmill.

When people lament the poor self-esteem of the average teenager, and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of media and, specifically, teen magazines, I wonder how many of their moms and dads count calories at the dinner table.  If mom thinks it's a problem to be missing a gap between her thighs, then that's going to affect all the kids watching her hate on herself.   Maybe mom and dad have been adversely affected by magazines for decades, but at some point you have to get over yourself.

Too harsh?

I grew up with a beautiful, roly-poly mom who was passionately loved by my dad.  And I credit them with giving me the strength to stand up the immense mid-life peer-pressure to work-out.  Any talk about body fat was met with, "If you want to burn some calories, then go shovel the neighbour's sidewalk!"  Life is about much more than whether or not you've got a gap between your thighs.  As teens, it's understandable to be a bit self-absorbed.  But as adults, it's embarrassing.  Time to grow up kids.

Refusing to sculpt my body is not giving up, as some suggest, but clarifying a firm priority of other over self.  As beautiful as we are, our value in this world is not primarily ornamental - aesthetic objects to delight in - but as useful creatures with the time and energy to get fired up and join the fight about pipelines and fracking, or sexual abuses and harassment, or marriage rights worldwide, or our eroding democracy.

And I wonder about the fervour of demanding I join in on the exercise regiments.  I can only see it as a punishment such that it enrages people when I refuse to partake.  It's not because they care about my health, but because they hate that I'm getting away without all that pain and gain they feel obligated to do.  

It's also a matter of being uncomfortable around fat - or even having an unhealthy aversion to fat.  Fat has been demonized to the extent that, it's not about health, but about not wanting to be subjected to people who aren't firm.  That's something that's seems to have changed dramatically in that last few years, and it makes me want to wear a bikini all summer even more!  I'm not sure the precise mechanisms that have made fat so repulsive or even what made it an insult instead of just a description, but maybe we can undo it a bit with some Rubens hanging up around town.

I keep telling my 8-year-old that it's okay to eat a butter, but she has too many friends at school or elsewhere telling her differently.  She gets upset with her thighs being big and having "rolls" when she sits down and leans forward.  It's heartbreaking that normal kid sizes are now seen as obscene.  And fat is a vital nutrient necessary to healthy skin, growth, vitamin-absorption, and helping us feel satiated after a meal.  More than that, fats give food flavour.  If we're going to demonize an entire food category, it should be HFCS, sugar, or salt.  Being healthy is all a matter of eating low on the food chain - something nutritionists and environmentalists have been saying for decades:
Avoid processed food, and walk to the store or work.  Then, with the time you saved by not going to the gym, write a letter to a local politician or CEO about changing the world.  Or at the very least, just stop bugging your friends about how "lazy" they are for prioritizing differently.  End of rant.     


CGHill said...

There's something seriously askew with a society that thinks its mature women should be built like twelve-year-old boys.

Marie Snyder said...

And men have to have hard bodies. I find a little extra padding is comfier to rest your head on.