Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dreaming about arms and defining beauty

Last night I had a dream about my arms. I didn't have these chunky arms until the middle of college. Before then, I never worried about wearing a sleeveless shirt or fear that my "bat wings" wouldn't fit in a blood pressure cuff. But now I have these flabby, overweight old woman arms. I didn't realize exactly how much it bothered me until last night I had a dream about having toned, lean arms. This pathetic awakening was motivation #347 to start being really active.

Notice I am using the word "active" instead of "exercise". The word exercise sounds like work, but being active sounds fun. It's like telling a kid to play a game to see how fast he can make his bed versus telling him making his bed is a chore. Play or chore? I think I'll pick "play." 

I realized this yesterday when Chris and I went to the pool to swim laps. I find that physical activity like running or swimming is so mental. When I jog, my mental mantra is "I hate this I hate this I hate this." Inevitably, I get overcome by side cramps and muscle pain. When I swam laps yesterday, I made sure that my mindset was more positive. With each lap I told myself something along these lines "You're going to be so lean if you keep doing this. Think of all of the things you can fit into! If you don't make it to the end of this lap, you won't have kept your heart rate up enough. Keep going so you can wear a cuter bathing suit than this!"
When I stopped mid-lap, breathing in big gulps of pool water, my legs sore and cramping, I realized that even this more positive mental dialogue wasn't sufficient motivation to push me through the hardest parts of my work out. I dog-paddled to the side of the pool, where I clung on for dear life, and thought about why I'm really doing this. It turns out fitting in cute clothes was just a side benefit and then mental babble I was feeding myself was insufficient. 

When I think about what I want for my life, I see myself being strong, uninhibited, not being held back by anything. And I'm no where close to that. The way I see it, I've got two huge things holding me back, shaping my attitude into something less than positive:
Discipline  - my mind isn't strong enough to persevere through tasks and hard times. I need this to get through nursing school, raise a family, etc.
Strength - there are so many things I hold back from because I'm not in shape. I just realized how often I think of something I really really want to do, but think "I can't do that because of my weight/size/lack of endurance and strength. 

I took off from the side of the pool again, clearing my mind of everything. Just me and the water - stroke 1, 2, 3..breathe. Repeat. I focused on the way I felt in the water. Free. Strong. Relaxed. I kept my mind clear, enjoyed the feel of the water and the steadiness of my strokes. I started to feel my strength wane, my breathes get more shallow. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the pool though, I pushed harder, swam faster, made it to the side of the pool. And then I did another lap.

Originally I was exercising because that's what fat people should do. But it's time for a change. It's time to be active because that's what every person should do to feel physically and mentally strong and to show appreciation and care for the marvelous body they have been given.

I watched a documentary on beauty called America the Beautiful (it's on netflix instant watch right now if you're interested). My favorite part of the documentary is when a woman talks about her visit to Africa to interview women about beauty. When the interviewer asks the African woman if she thinks she is beautiful, the African woman looks astounded and says (paraphrased): "I love my body. I love my hands look at my finger, look at my arms so strong they carry me along...how can you not think you are beautiful? Look at the trees. Look at that tree over there. Do you think that it is beautiful? Look at that other tree over there. Do you think that one's beautiful? Do you say this tree isn't beautiful because it doesn't look like that tree? See you're a tree and I'm a tree."


  1. Good for you, Nicole! I'm SO proud of you, mainly because I have trouble with motivating myself to be more healthy and active too! Keep it up!!

  2. I think my favorite part of the documentary is the African woman interview too. And I haven't seen it it yet. Beautiful quote. Posted on her blog by a beautiful friend :)

  3. Nicole, thank you for motivating me today. Wonderful post :) Let's keep up these lifestyle changes that we've started!!!

  4. Nicole, this post is so awesome! I love it.

    Sarah Miller