I talked to my mom earlier today, right as I was leaving the gym. I was on a high after doing a workout that included 40 pull-ups. It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that many since dislocating my shoulder earlier this year in a freak putting-a-wheelchair-into-the-car episode. So when she asked what I was up to, I said “I just did 40 pull-ups!” I wanted for her to day something about how awesome that was, or how I was a beast…although she doesn’t say things like “You’re a beast!”
Instead she asked, “What does your husband think about that?” It’s not the first time she’s asked it, and it frustrates the beejeebers out of me every time that she does. (Yes, I’ve told her. Yes, she still does it anyway.”
She’s not the only one who seems to be concerned with my husband’s thoughts on how I look. An acquaintance at the pool last week said something about how muscle-y my arms and back are, immediately followed by “What does (the Computer Guy) think about how big your arms are?” For the record, I don’t think I’m freakishly built. I’m toned and pretty strong, but I’m not ready for the side-show just yet.
It’s one of the most common questions I get about my new fitter body. “What does he have to say about that?” Honestly? I don’t care.
Two and a half years ago, I went to the doctor for a whole host of health issues that boiled down to dangerously high blood pressure, crazy cholesterol levels, and shortness of breath caused by being overweight. I was 37 years old and in serious danger of having a heart attack.
It wasn’t a shocking thing to be told. Heart disease and obesity run rampant in both sides of my family. It’s not uncommon for my relatives to begin having heart issues and/or needing blood pressure meds in their late 20’s or early 30’s. To say we’re prone to it is an understatement. I was 172 lbs and an easy size 14/16. I struggled with asthma, and was always too tired to play with my children.
I looked at the list of suggested medications with their $130+ a month co-pays and told the doctor that I was going to join a gym with that money instead. He gave me a skeptical look and said everyone says that, but very few people carry it through.
I struggled with every single movement in our workouts and had nightmares about Box Jumps, but I went anyway.
Two and a half years later, I’m a size 8, my numbers are perfection, and I’ve never needed those prescriptions the doctor tried to put me on in order for me to have a normal life.
I no longer want a normal life.
I’m 40 years old and feel like a girl in my 20’s. I chase my children, wrestle ans play with them. My eldest son decided to start training for swim team try-outs and asked me to work out with him, and I can without much difficulty. I dead-lift more than my husband weighs, run an 8 minute mile, can do 40 pull-ups in a workout, and finally mastered the scary box jumps. My body is healthier and stronger than it has been at any time since I started having children, and I love the way it feels to live in this body now.
And I don’t care what my husband thinks about it, not in the way that the question is asked, and I’ve honestly never asked him. I’m not going to the gym to please my husband. I’m not there so that I can look hot. This isn’t about looks to me. This is about being healthy and wanting to live long enough to someday meet my great-grandchildren.
What is the most interesting to me is that when I was fat, nobody ever asked me what he thought about it. Nobody said, “So, I can see that you have a sizable muffin top going on there and you wheeze when you walk…what does your husband have to say about that?”
There is a great social taboo in a man saying that his wife’s weight gain is unappealing. He’s not even supposed to notice the fact that she’s a little squishier. Love isn’t supposed to notice those few extra pounds, even when there are a lot of them. But let a girl be strong, and he suddenly has all kinds of permission to find it unattractive.
What does my husband think? Honestly? I think he’s happy that I’m healthy because he loves me, and because he doesn’t want to have to raise all these kids by himself. Other than that? I have no idea. He hasn’t kicked me out of bed yet, so I assume he’s okay with the whole thing.
I’m so ready for us to get to the point that it’s okay for a woman to be strong, and for us to stop measuring her worth by how appealing a man happens to find her – even if that man is her husband.