The very idea of showing the middle of my body, to anyone, at any time, did not occur to me before the age of 36. Like, not once. I was so filled with self-hatred for that very specific region of my body, that is was basically a foreign realm to me. My tummy/stomach/abs; whatever you want to call it, that area was basically outer space and as foreign as a hypothetical, alternate universe. I just didn't consider my middle area as part of me. In fact, in writing about it now, I don't even think I called it my stomach or abs in my mind. I think I just thought, "that area," that isn't worthy of being exposed to fresh air.
I've been a personal trainer since I was 28 years old. Having been an athlete in high school, one might think that I had the self-awareness to know that I was "in shape." Yet, looking back at photos, it is obvious that all of my 1980's clothing was strategically baggy around my middle. Cute outfits: yes. Clothing that was body-conscious: no. Absolutely no.
The whole idea of clothing was to cover myself up. The very nature of clothing, in my mind, was to hide myself. Even if I had clothing that I was proud of (and yes, I loved my rugby shirt in college, complete with rubber buttons) that didn't mean that I wasn't hiding my body. My whole goal was to "look good," and in my mind, my middle was just plain unacceptable, & that meant that the goal was to hide myself. Little did I know at that time, that included how I communicated verbally with people, as well.
Around the age of 36, perhaps because of my dedication to honesty and therapy, perhaps because of the transparent conversations that I was having with my clients; I started to internalize the notion (and it was only the tender bud of an idea) that I was "fit." I was willing to accept compliments. Through talking openly about my self-image, I was beginning to feel less secretive... less hidden.
When my father passed away, I had doubled down on going to a nutritionist. I resorted back to bulimia in grieving his death. From age 19 to 29, there were many attempts to kick my eating disorder in the butt, so many, many times: on my own. I read books. I became a personal trainer. None of this self-help was working. When I was grieving I just wanted relief so badly, that I chose to go a nutritionist twice a week, and a therapist once a week. I needed to be able to talk.
I told the nutritionist, "I just want to eat like a normal person. I want to be able to have "kid food" in the house as an adult, and not be plagued by it. I don't want to binge anymore. I just want to feel like food is normal, and eat like a regular person." She asked me to draw my self-image on a piece of paper. I drew a little pin head and a big body. She asked me to counteract my negative thoughts of self-loathing, when I looked in the mirror, with positive thoughts. I felt ready to consider these ideas.
As I developed the ability to speak openly about myself, and to look at my body without criticizing it, something else happened. I started to get more interested in other people's bodies too. As time marched on, and relief of my mental burden settled into my being; I was able to trust myself more, and to trust other people. My old coping mechanism of bolstering my self image, coping mechanisms that consisted of secrets, lies, and sneak-eating, subsided.
I realized that my body isn't the enemy. And one day, lying on a beach somewhere, looking around I realized that no matter what shape, size, or "type," I was more interested in looking at bodies that weren't hidden. Clothing was like a curtain, and I could look at the clothing. Too, I was genuinely interested in people. Everyone has a body! I started to enjoy myself and people; enjoyment in the form of genuine curiosity about life and about being alive.
"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly"
Finally, one warm day in the summer I realized, I had never worn a bikini. I was 36 years old, and I had only worn one-piece bathing suits. I don't actually remember my very first bikini but I do remember my 2nd: I found it on a stoop in Park Slope. About 10 days after my revelation that I could just expose the middle area of my body, and that in fact, no one actually was judging me, I found a bikini. I brought it home and tried it on. It fit. I wore it to the beach that weekend (after washing it) and yes, I felt pretty naked. But I also enjoyed the feeling of sunshine on my skin, fresh air, and above all: freedom. The phrase "free to be you and me," came alive for me. I could use my words and tell people I felt exposed. The sharing of my experience, and the transformation in my mental outlook came in the sharing. The feeling of being alive was the direct result of being able to share, rather than being secretive, hidden and self-conscious.
Do you know how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly? The caterpillar actually dissolves itself, into a metabolic fluid. It digests itself. Then, it builds itself back into a butterfly which has higher cognitive function, and emerges from the cocoon. Human beings are constantly metamorphosing, mentally and physically, only we don't always choose to celebrate ourselves, and acknowledge our radical transformation and growth as we go through the aging process. Being healthy, open, honest, and in communication created the mental space for me to consider exposing myself. At Pongo Power, we believe in not only addressing your physical goals; we'll also work with you through Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) so that you can find the courage and freedom you need to transform you life.
This spring, we here at Pongo Power invite you to celebrate and join in your very own metamorphosis and be in action. You can be vital, and choose to eat what you need to eat to fuel your body, and transform. Come on in for a FREE movement analysis, and let's get you started right away, on your journey. It is time for us to be emerging from the winter time cocoon of winter clothing and layers, and to use all of our stored energy, to build health and strong bodies. You can do it! Join us.