I don’t know if it’s because I turned 39 last month or the fact that I spent the majority of the second half of 2018 lying supine, eating candy, but one thing is clear: my body is changing. My hips have gotten wider, there’s a permanent roll on my tummy when I’m sitting down, and my cellulite is starting to spread to the front of my thighs. I also recently noticed that I seem to have a tiny roll/skin fold/third bum cheek? under my right buttock, which feels very strange but also kinda hilarious.
I’m still (mostly) wearing the same clothes as always, but they fit differently now. A bit tighter in the hips, a bit more tummy spillage above the waistband. I finally understand why mothers like high-waisted pants so much – no spillage! I recently bought two pairs myself, and wear them almost exclusively. While my limbs are unchanged (front-of-the-thighs cellulite notwithstanding) my middle is slowly expanding. Yes, it’s happening: the middle-age spread has started to set in.
To be honest, I smugly thought it wouldn’t happen to me. ‘I’m fit and healthy,’ I assured myself. ‘I’m too hyper to sit still for long.’
I thought I would be one of those ageless women who yogas and walks #everydamnday, and who could eat whatever she wants without gaining weight.
But I didn’t factor in that life can knock you down, and that there comes a time in every life where you’ll be on the ground, struggling to get back up.
Imagine my surprise when I, who had plenty of energy all her life, found myself struggling to get out of bed last summer. The thought of exercise would have made me laugh, but I was too exhausted for laughing. I went from an endless supply of spoons to only a handful, and I had to use them wisely. Work, basic hygiene, keeping the house from sinking into squalor, preparing food (sometimes) and writing (to keep my sanity) were all I had energy for. Eating healthy? Working out? There was no way.
As a result I gained 10 pounds and got softer and squishier.
While this would have sent me into a full-blown crisis ten years ago, this time around I didn’t care.
I continued to love my body. It got me up every day even if my mind didn’t want to.
It was pain free, something my husband hadn’t experienced for months.
It was still strong, even though I didn’t do any exercises to keep it that way.
My body was wonderful, and it was there for me as I was going through something hard.
Did it really matter if I lost some muscle tone and gained some extra squish?
Of course not.
I often talk about the seasons of life, comparing them to the seasons of nature. Nothing stays the same, and we go through different cycles just like nature goes through its seasons. I believe in resting and in listening to your body’s needs. If it needs to hibernate for a while and you give your body the rest it craves, your energy will come back.
My hibernation lasted for six months. Six months where I was the least physically active I have ever been in my life. I just waited it out. I went for short little walks, sometimes I stretched, but mostly I did nothing active. And you know what? Little by little, my old energy started to come back. I’ve always had decent upper body strength, but I lost much of it during that time. I started with three push-ups before my arms felt like pudding and slowly worked my way back up to 30.
I craved yoga again. I started to handstand again. I also still rested a lot. And through it all, I was so very grateful for my body.
The other day my husband and I were looking at a slideshow from 2014. We came across this photo (from this post):
We both gazed at it for a while, and then my husband said: “you look so young there!” My initial reaction was to be insulted – did he mean that I looked old now?! How dare he! But once my ego calmed down I realized that he was right. I did look young in that picture! I was 34, I had a few less bumps and bruises from life, and I hadn’t entered the next stage of my life yet: middle-age.
But now I have. And instead of buying into what the beauty industry is trying to sell us, which is that we have to feel bad about looking our age, I’m doing something rebellious: I continue to feel good about myself. The girl hanging from the tree still didn’t know who she was. She was still so insecure. She still craved the approval from others in order to feel okay about herself.
I may have gained a few pounds and inches, but I also gained self-confidence, patience, love for myself and an inner peace that I didn’t have at 34. Middle age is almost a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. It’s a golden age where you leave the ‘who the hell am I?’- confusion of your younger years behind before entering the stage where the aches and pains begin.
It’s having the best of both worlds: confidence and energy without the ailments of old age. It’s the time where we don’t give a shit anymore about the opinion of other people, where we don’t care about trends and wear what we want, where we have found our voice and are not afraid to use it.
And in my opinion, that far outweighs a bit of middle-age spread.