Pinky & Skinny Me
This post is from a dear friend of mine Noelle, who I have known and adored for years. She and I both shared an obsession with exercise, but as mine faded away (after “God” forced me to quit due to a herniated disc), Noelle’s only got stronger. She was always a “workout machine,” she looked awesome, but I always knew she didn’t feel awesome. When she sent me this post, I was overjoyed to learn she too had a reality check fall in her lap, one that helped her see her real beauty which has always been so obvious to others but not to herself. I hope you enjoy this post from Noelle of Orange County, CA…not a blogger, just one hell of a writer.
I have always been into fitness; I was a competitive swimmer and long distance runner so it was an easy and natural transition to go from belonging to a health club to becoming an instructor and trainer. My entire 20s and most of my 30s were spent living in the clubs in one fashion or another. All my friends were people I met through the clubs either as employees, members or clients. It was not unusual for me to teach around 15 classes a week, train several more hours a week for a sporting activity like triathlons, sport aerobics or marathons and then actively play on the weekends skiing, biking or rollerblading.
Exercise was not just a job but a lifestyle.
But don’t think for one moment I looked like Jillian Michaels from “The Biggest Loser” because of all the exercise. I wished! I was healthy with strong muscle tone and great endurance but I was not ‘skinny me’. In my early 20s I was training and competing in sport aerobics and that required several hours daily of explosive and exhaustive drills from jumps, leaps, kicks, push ups, leaps to push ups and choreography over and over and over again. I was in the best shape and lightest weight but I was not ‘skinny me’. My knees were too fat, my arms and thighs were too thick, my calves were too meaty and my neck ugh!!! Not to mention my belly button was in the wrong place and made me look heavy. I could not lose more weight, no matter how much I exercised, I remained the same and that infuriated me. I even flirted with binging and purging only to discover binging was easy….purging, on the other hand, impossible! So back to the gym for two more hours of cardio!
My ‘skinny me’ obsession was creating a new workout obsession.
Why couldn’t I be happy with my 5’2” frame at 125 lbs? Why did I have to compare myself with someone like Pamela Anderson on Baywatch? Not a day went by that I did not obsess about ‘skinny me’. My high school year book has a section of predictions for the graduating seniors and do you know what they put down for me? That I would finally lose 10 lbs! This obsession was not private; everyone knew about it and accepted it. Why?
I had the opportunity to move from Wisconsin to California for work and I was thrilled. Warm weather, sunshine and beaches…a great place for outdoor workouts all year! So off I went to live in Orange County California in hopes to become ‘skinny me’. I thought if I was surrounded by all the skinny women in Cali and felt the pressures of bikini season that would bring about ‘skinny me’. The more I tried, the more I failed, the more miserable I became.
The only thing that brought me joy and put the pause button on my obsession was ironically teaching classes. I loved motivating the members, leading a fun class that people can enjoy. A few years ago I took over a water aerobics class and twice a week I led a group of high energy water enthusiasts. I noticed one woman, in a bright pink swimsuit, who was not giving her all and zoning out. I called out loudly, ‘Pinky, you have to move it to lose it!’ Pinky perked up, everyone laughed and she picked up her pace for the rest of the class. Pinky was a fun loving, 37 year old, 350 lbs woman I had grown very fond of. I would call Pinky out, pushing her and encouraging her to keep going and she delivered. Over time our friendship grew and she would share with me her struggles with her weight in addition to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
She was afraid she would die too young.
I invited her to workout with me and offered to help her with her goals to lose weight. Several days a week Pinky and I would meet, a few minutes on the cardio machines, a few weight baring exercises and back again to cardio machines. Every week we would go a little longer and do a little more.
There were times she was afraid she might break a piece of equipment or fall or worse yet, not be able get up because of her weight. There were days she was full of energy and happy and other days she was depressed and tired, but no matter what day it was, she was there right beside me working her butt off to lose weight. In the first month she lost 20 lbs! In just a matter of months Pinky was doing two hour workouts and getting stronger and smaller. I was overjoyed and excited for her.
Then one particular day at the gym we were doing our workout as usual when Pinky stopped, looked down and started to cry. This was not a small, weepy cry but a painful, deep and tortured cry. I quickly pulled her into the empty aerobics studio, unsure of what to say or do, so I sat next to her, put my arms around her and let her cry.
Through her tears, she slowly shared with me her private struggles and how difficult it is for her to enjoy the progress she is making with her weight loss. She wakes up every day with negative thoughts that tell her she is too fat to do anything, too fat to deserve anything and too fat to enjoy anything. And those thoughts are getting louder and meaner telling her she will fail, telling her she is and always will be a loser and that she will die. She wants to live but when her body is tired and her muscles are sore she starts to think she cannot go on.
As if that were not enough, Pinky’s friends, who are mostly obese, are not supportive of her daily workouts and healthy eating schedule. They continually encourage her to skip workouts to join them for happy hours and tempt her with food. When she refuses, she is ridiculed and teased and now feels like an outcast. And lastly, she is afraid she will disappoint her husband. She is married to a man who is fit and maintains a healthy weight. He loves her no matter her size but is equally concerned about her health and wants her to be happy. He is very supportive and tells her how proud he is but now she is feeling more pressure and afraid she cannot live up to it.
I had NO idea what my friend was going through.
I told her she is a strong and brave woman tackling heavy emotions within her head and heart, managing the physical challenges of her body, pushing through the pains in her muscles and joints and she is doing it, she is here and she is winning. Most of all, she IS deserving of this and so much more. She cried a little bit more, took a few big breaths, thanked me for letting her get it all out and wanted to get back on the stair master. I was overwhelmed. Pinky is amazing!
I am not sure when it happened but I stopped obsessing about ‘skinny me’ shortly after that.
I had to actually think about it to realize I hadn’t been thinking about it! Could it be that Pinky gave me a serious reality check? I had been so stupidly and selfishly wasting time obsessing about this mythical perfect image for so long it prevented me from appreciating what was really important. Enough is enough, ‘skinny bitch’ needed to go away so I can focus on what really matters!
It has been two years now and Pinky is still working out and has gone from an XXL to a XL. Last summer we met three times a week with some of her friends, her husband and brother to do beach boot camp! Her last physical was the best news ever! High blood pressure, high cholesterol, thing of the past for Pinky! And as for ‘Skinny me,’ she makes an appearance from time to time, but I can confidently say that even with my belly button in the wrong place I don’t need to keep her around.
Imagine if all the girls and women were free from negative and obsessive thoughts about having the perfect body….what great things we could do, see and be.
With acceptance and happiness!