What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. – Ecclesiastes 3: 9-13

I was talking a few days ago with my girlfriend and we were talking about exercise, as many of our conversations sometimes end up.  I had stated that I’m back in my saddle but I’m doing things quite differently this time.  I haven’t stepped on a scale or done body measurements in over a month, and I honestly don’t plan to.  When I go jogging I don’t sweat about my pace, I just jog until my heart rate is up too high for my taste, then I walk fast until it gets too low and keep repeating for at least 40 minutes.  While I am finally back on a healthy eating regimen, I’m on one that allows for my beloved bacon and even fruit.

She reminded me of a blog post I did nine months ago where I said the following:

During my hitchfit transformation I became completely enamored with the WBFF fitness models. I know, in my heart of hearts, I will never have a fitness model body or get on stage – not because I don’t think I can because I do believe all things are possible (with God, of course. He’s proven this to me.) but because I CHOOSE not to invest the kind of time, money and effort into that. It takes all three in order to achieve that level of fitness perfection, one that I do not believe a full time working mom has available to sacrifice. The fitness models I’ve been following (on Instagram and Facebook) are also trainers. Their entire life is devoted to clean and healthy living, 24/7. I’d say only 25% of them have children. Also, more than 50% of them have spouses in the fitness business as well.

While I like to think that I have a pretty decent self esteem about my body image (I think it’s better than most), it still isn’t as great as it should be.  I think about the Europeans and the “falsa magra” (European men are said to be attracted to skinny fat girls – girls who look thin from far away but are completely soft and squishy) and I wonder why us American women are so damn hard on ourselves!  Meals in Europe are for the gathering of friends and family – they are social events, not for the drive thru window and something to pull out of the freezer and feed our children quickly at night.  I would imagine the view of health in Europe in nil, however, with the cigarette smoking still being “in fashion.”  Foods are what they are and exercise is what you do when you walk to your job or to the market or around the museum.

In my lifetime it has always been so that ladies have graced the covers of magazines, scantily clad, selling what we women think men will find attractive.  Even before my time and even my Grandmother’s time, even though the women were covered up more, there were curves they were promoting.

So I’m trying to make a final stance on this issue.  If you are drawn to exercise, it should be fun.  It should be something you like to do.  Science has proven health benefits and emotional ones as well.  In my short weeks of getting on board with doing SOMETHING (even though it’s not training for a half marathon or with the end goal of losing a certain amount of fat) I just all around feel better and I feel better about myself.  I enjoy the quiet time on the road with my thoughts and with my music.  I also enjoy a fantabulously great night’s sleep and the satisfaction of setting a goal and accomplishing it.

We, as women, should not sabotage ourselves by staring at girls on the covers or insides of magazines (ANY magazines, fitness ones included) and aim to look like them.  Those women are paid to look like that.  They were paid to pose for those specific pictures, many of which are photoshop’d anyway.  They also spend a tremendous amount of effort, and maybe even money themselves, to look the way they do.  There is absolutely zero reason why a mother in a middle class family needs to hold herself on the same playing field… throw in WORKING mother and we’ve got a whole new set of issues.

Our priorities, first and foremost, should not lay with our body image.  Yes, it is VITALLY important for our families that we be healthy and that we put our health and fitness somewhere in the mix of our life but we needn’t beat ourselves up about maintaining a crazy workout schedule in the midst of rearing children.  We shouldn’t look at celebrities or models, even those with children, and think “Why shouldn’t I be able to look like her?”  Let’s face it, you SHOULDN’T because you work 40 hours a week, raise a family, and maintain a relationship with your spouse.  Just because you COULD doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

I pray that all of us women, especially all those women in my life who suffer from body image issues or this balance in our lives, can find ways to live a more healthful life without it feeling burdensome.  I pray that we see our health as a benefit to our families.  I pray that we seek those choices in front of us that allow for the greater good for our entire family, not just ourselves…  only He knows what is best for us and only He can help us balance.