This article originally appeared in “Chicago Tribune”
Confession: I sometimes cheat when doing push-ups. I pretend I’m super busty and stop when my imaginary chest would have hit the floor. The truth is, I’m flat-chested and have really long arms, which makes doing legitimate push-ups more challenging than for some people.
But there are other exercises where my long limbs give me an advantage: Have me run through a field or lunge across a room, and I look like a gazelle (and I don’t even need a sports bra).
A few days ago, a client referred to me as “twiggy.” As someone who spends a lot of time lifting heavy stuff and trying to build muscle, I immediately felt insecure and wondered if I should have strength-trained instead of running that morning. But she followed her words with, “I wish I had your figure,” so I know she meant it as a compliment.
Have you ever found yourself wishing you were built differently? Maybe you’ve even tried to “fix” yourself to get the body you wish you had – the body of a friend or celebrity or woman at the gym. And maybe you’ve been cutting calories or busting your butt in the gym, but you’ve still got the same curvy hips or skinny arms or apple belly that you’ve had your entire life. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Here’s one thing I’ve learned from being a trainer: We all are built so differently. We all respond differently to the exercise we do and the foods we eat. And while you can put on muscle or lose body fat, you’re not a blank canvas. You were already a work of art from the day you were created.
You’re a unique human being with your very own dimensions, muscle fiber types and innate strengths and weaknesses. No one runs or jumps or lifts the way you do. No one else inherited your mother’s hips or your father’s long legs. No one looks the same as you do in a racerback tank or knee-length skirt or bright orange sundress.
We need to stop erasing and start embracing.
This time of year is the worst. Spring break, for many of us in the Chicago suburbs, is next week. Summer is right around the corner. And I admit it’s crossed my mind more than a few times that soon I’ll be wearing a swimsuit.
I have a choice. I can compare my “twiggy,” flat-chested, soft-bellied body to some model in a magazine, and spend the next few months taking supplements, eating salads and looking for padded bikini tops. Or, I can be me. I can continue running because I enjoy it. I can buy the unpadded, sporty two-piece I love because I can actually move in it. I can go out for ice cream with my boys and choose dark chocolate instead of lemon sorbet because I don’t need a flat stomach to feel sexy (and because that stuff tastes like crap).
Just remember, you’re already one helluva masterpiece, mama.
Nicole Radziszewski is a freelance columnist. She lives in River Forest and is a certified personal trainer and mother of two. Check Nicole out on Facebook at Facebook.com/mamasgottamove.