You're More Than a Number (ep. 7)

by Helen M. Ryan
Street art woman

Instead of seeing your flaws, asking yourself this one question changes your life and how you see the world.

Episode 7A with background walking music

Episode 7B voice only

EPISODE SUMMARY: Grab your sneakers and come out for a 30-minute coached walk/podcast. You can walk inside, too.

WE TALK ABOUT:

  • Why society doesn't want us to be happy with our looks, no matter what we look like (fitness influencers included).
  • Why we feel we are never thin enough, curvy enough, fit enough, young enough, or pretty enough.
  • How to make friends with your body. There's a reason body positivity is coming out from hiding.
  • How to answer the question that will change how you see things.
  • PLUS - for some reason bunnies, squirrels, and my cat in a backpack come up.

Photo: Street art, Krakow, Poland

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TRANSCRIPT

“Oh, my God, Becky, look at her butt. I mean, her butt is just so big. I can't believe it's just so round. It's like out there.”

Do you know what song that's from? "I like big butts and I cannot lie." What we're going to talk about today is body positivity and appreciating your body for what it can do. Because if you’ve got a big butt, you've got to shake it.

Why is it that society does not want us to be happy with our bodies? Why is it that if you've got extra curves or are on the thinner side, that's not OK?

So even though my blog is called Real World Weightloss, it's not really about losing weight. It's about becoming healthier, trying to fit exercise into your life, and being the best version of you that you can be. You don't have to be a size two. You don't have to have a six pack.

I do not have a six-pack. I have way too much skin after I lost over 80 pounds. But I'm also fine with it because I really like to eat chocolate and dessert now and then, and I just don't want to put in the effort it takes to be super lean. Having a six pack is just not my thing. And it's okay. It's okay if it is your thing. It's okay if it's not your thing.

We just want to be happy in our own skin. And we just want to be comfortable where we are, wear the clothes that we want to wear, do the things that we want to do. And just be happy.  That's what life is about. And that's what it should be about.

The most important thing is fitting in exercise where you can and that's for health reasons. Sitting all day is not good. Even if you work out, let's say 20 minutes one time a day, it's still not enough to compensate for the amount of sitting that we do. And they're not kidding when they say sitting is the new diabetes.

Because sitting is really bad for us. Our bodies are not meant to sit all the time and they're not meant to not move... we're supposed to move. And so that's why I'm always pushing you to try to walk 10 minutes here, walk 15 minutes there, do some abs, do some stretching, do some yoga, even in 5-, 10-, 15-minute blocks, because you do need to move your body.

You want to be healthy, you want to be strong, and the most important thing is you want to do the things that you want to do. If you want to hike, play tennis, run or kayak — and all those things — you have to build up to that. 

Not being able to do the things you want to do.... that's the problem. It doesn't matter what you weigh. One of my strongest clients ever was what society would consider to be fairly overweight. She was so strong. She could do everything that I asked of her, and it was really fun to train her because she did amazing things. She could do everything she wanted to do. so her weight is absolutely fine.

Because she was healthy and she was strong and that's what we want to strive for. We want to be healthy. We want to be strong and it doesn't matter what we weigh. It doesn't matter if we have a six pack or not. We want to feel good in our own skin.

And that takes quite a bit of work to get there because we're so influenced by all these people on Instagram and these different social media outlets. They show us an unrealistic expectation of what we should look like.

After I first lost weight I was a little discouraged because I looked fairly decent in clothes, but I was discouraged because of all the extra skin, especially on my stomach. And I have extra skin on the back of my arms.  I do have extra skin there, but I also have not been working out with weights as consistently. So when I was working out with weights more, obviously my arms looked better.

But I was discouraged for a long time and I would do pushups and look down and see my skin hanging, and it just made me feel sad. Now I'm used to my body. Now we're friends. I don't care anymore. I want to be strong and I want to be fit. And I do want to start working out more again, because I've been lazy. I'm going to tell you that right now.

I have been lazy. I haven't been doing the things I should be doing, because exercise makes me feel good. But since the pandemic started, I'm no longer teaching spinning classes. It's hard for me to get active and do things because I like to work really hard. I can't run because of my back. I've had a bad back since I was 14 (no matter how strong my core was).

And so I miss that, and I miss working out hard because I like that. Some people don't like it. Everybody has to do what's best for them. Work out as hard or not hard as you want. If you don't want to work out so hard, just try to do it more frequently. It doesn't matter. Just do what's best for you.

What makes you happy? Think about that. What makes you happy? Ask "Self. What makes me happy? To work out really hard and to feel accomplished? To not work out as hard but more often, and also feel accomplished?"

It did take me a long time to make peace with my body. The more I travel around the world, the more I realize how unimportant weight really is.

I've seen the leftovers of so many horrors.  I've seen entire populations that don't have enough food. So it seems to me like it just becomes so unimportant exactly how much we weigh.

Are we healthy? Are we happy? Are our families healthy?

That's the important thing. You just want to make sure that your body can do what you need it to do and what you want to do. It doesn't matter what size we are.

(Remember to breathe. Remember to breathe, remember to breathe. I think the magic is saying it three times and then suddenly it becomes true. Or maybe if I say it three times people will listen to me more?)

How do you make peace with your body?

If you take that notebook I keep nagging you to have, you can write some things in there that you've done and that your body has accomplished. Your body has probably accomplished a lot of really awesome things. And sometimes we do not take the time to reflect on that and think about how awesome our bodies really are.

They've done so many things. Has your body given birth to children? Has your body ridden horses? Has your body done ice skating? Has your body gone for long walks? Has your body played with your kids or fur babies? Has your body traveled around the world? Has your body played sports? There are so many things your body has done. And every day your body makes you money. It gets up out of bed — if you're working — and it makes you money because it helps you do whatever you do at work.

If you're raising kids, your body is raising your family. So really think about what your body can do. And we're not focused so much on what it looks like and what we think it's lacking, because it's really not lacking.

In my relationships, I think I've been really lucky. My relationships haven't been great, but I have had two long-term relationships. I'm going to give my ex-husband some props here because no matter how my weight fluctuated, no matter what my weight was, he never brought it up.

He never really said anything negative about it. And that's really, to me, important and that's really to be commended. We get along good now. Really good now. And I think we're better friends than we were husband and wife, and we probably weren't meant to be married, but I'm going to tell you now that I appreciate a lot of what he brings to the table.

And I really appreciate the fact that he really didn't ride me about my weight. I mean there were a few things like, “Should you be eating that?" But that's because I said it was on a diet. And he was more practical. "If you're on a diet and then why are you eating that?"

Now recently I had a relationship that ended. I actually thought he was joking when he told me, "If you got fat again I would leave you." I truly thought he was joking. But he said it several times. And I realized later that he was actually telling me the truth. Like he wouldn't care about me and want me in his life if I gained weight. And that of course set off alarm bells in my head because that is not okay.

I used to always think, if you didn't like me when I was heavier, you're not entitled to like me now. And I think I made a mistake with that because I thought it was a joke. I didn't realize that that superficiality was very important to him. I had no idea, and that's not the kind of person I want to be around.

I want to be around people who like you for who you are. People who like you for your personality. Who care about you for other things that you bring to the table. Not just, are you eye candy on their arm?

So back to your notebook. Write down some things in your notebook that you are grateful for with your body.

Because that really helps us think about where we are, where we've come from, and where we're going, and also changes the way you talk to yourself about yourself. If you try on pants and they're tight, don't say, "Oh, you're so fat. Oh, you're so unattractive. Oh, look at that. You have no willpower," because that's not what it's about.

Our weights fluctuate throughout our lives, depending on what season we are in with our lives. Sometimes when we're younger, we're thinner or a fitter because that's part of what we do. We play sports in school. We do activities outside of school.

When you're a mom, your body changes. When you're a dad, your body changes.

Your life and your time is no longer what it used to be. The focus is not on you and your health. And of course, we need to pull back a little bit and take some more time for us and take time for our health because we do tend to give too much to our families.

As we get older we hit menopause. With men, their testosterone goes down a bit. And so we will see changes in our bodies and that's part of life. That's part of who we are.

When I travel I'm naturally slimmer even though I'm not working out as much. I'm always walking a lot more and when I'm in Thailand I swim more.

But I'm also happier. I just feel like when I'm traveling I'm learning and my brain is on fire, and there's so much I'm seeing every day. I don't feel the need to eat as much, and I don't feel the need for sweets as much.

 I can go out to a really cool little bakery and just have a piece of something with my coffee.  And I'm happy because I'm just watching people and hearing new languages. New currency, new customs, and boy... have I made some mistakes in my life with this.  Sometimes I am the ugly American, even though I don't want to be the ugly American.

I think if our minds are not stimulated that's when we turn to food. Because we just feel like… I remember when my kids were little — I was going to say when I was a mom but I'm still a mom — my kids are older now. But when they were little, it was very hard because I felt overwhelmed and nobody prepares you to be a parent.

Just like nobody prepares you to run your own business, or nobody prepares you for a lot of things that happen in life. And so I just felt overwhelmed and I handled it by eating as I did most of the things in my life. I think when our brains are on fire, when we're learning, when we're just absorbing new things. I think that takes the space of food. So we use food for comfort or use food for stimulation

It's important in our lives that we do things that are different and we shake things up, not just with our food and not just with our exercise. I have more information on that on my blog (realworldweightloss.com) but we have to shake up how we handle life, we have to shake up what we do. We have to give ourselves new challenges.

Our bodies and our minds want to take the path of least resistance. And we have to fight that. Because we need to shake things up. We need to change things in our lives and we need to be challenged. We need to be stimulated. Both physically and mentally.

When you do something physically that you're really not used to — and maybe it's a little more than you normally do — that really stimulates your mind as addition to your body. You're using muscles you're not used to using, but your brain is like, "Hey, this is new. I like it. I don't like it. I like it. I don't like it."

Now there's nothing wrong with liking some routine and there's nothing wrong with having some basic things you do every day, because you do want some predictability, but you want to insert things in your life that are not expected. Try a new class. There are so many videos on YouTube that you can do.

Try something different, like dancing, or some weight training, or something to just get your body moving and you feel accomplished. Feeling accomplished with something difficult gives you more confidence. Giving you more confidence gives you also more body confidence and you learn to think, "Wow. My body can really do that."

Why not just do it? I think that should be your new motto for this year. "Why not?"

Challenging yourself gives you confidence and confidence makes you feel better about your body. Writing in your notebook about the things that your body has done and the things that you want to do is really helpful.

We want to start feeling better about ourselves. And I think as we get older, we naturally do because we don't give a fuck about what people think about us. "I don't care. You like me as I am. If you don't like me, whatever. I don't care."

And that is the beauty of growing older. If you're younger, you have that to look forward to.

After I lost weight — it was probably about two years later and I was certified as a personal trainer — I had to take some continuing education classes. My boss at the time and I went to Las Vegas together and we took some classes. I was on a Bosu — which is like a half ball on a platform — and it was really hard.

And I was taking the class with a bunch of other people and I was doing all these things that were really hard. And I started crying. People around me probably thought, "Why is she crying? Is she crying because this is so hard? Is she crying because she hates it?" No.

I was crying (of happiness) because of what my body suddenly could do.

My body could stand on one leg on a Bosu. My body could jump over the Bosu. It just hit me at that time. "Oh my God, I can do this." And it wasn't about the weight. It was about what my body could physically do.

When you put challenges on your body and you feel more confident about it.... that transfers over into other parts of your life. And you will feel confident in your skin and confident enough to stand up and say, "This is me. This is who I am. This is what I look like."

If you're on the thinner side, society also says this is bad because they want you to have big boobs, be curvy, but also thin. What? I don't know.

Or if you're on a little bit heavier side and you don't fit to their standards... IT DOES NOT MATTER.

You be you. But you be you the healthiest way that you can be you. You wear whatever clothes you want. You can put on makeup or not. You can identify as a female, identify as a male. It doesn't matter. You need to be who you are at your core.

And being who you are is so freeing because you can get rid of the people around you who don't like you for who you are, and you'll attract those people who like you for who you are. It does not matter what you look like.

So one of the things when I was traveling is that I learned how many people in the world were killed for who they were, or what they believed in. There was so much I did not even know. I've been to Cambodia where there was genocide. I've been to Bosnia where there was genocide.

I've been all over central Europe and eastern Europe, where in World War II, 6 million Jewish people were exterminated. I've been to Auschwitz. I walked through concentration camps and the horror of what you'll learn really makes you understand that kindness and being a good person far trumps appearances. It doesn't matter.

Every day I am grateful. I have food on the table. And my body can do what I ask it to do. I don't care that I have extra skin. I don't care that the back of my arms are a little bit flabby. I don't care that my butt is not as perky.

I'm doing things because I'm grateful. And I'm grateful that my body works. I'm grateful for what it does.

And I'm grateful that I'm healthy.

And I'm grateful for my body.

On another note, do you know what I did today? Oh my gosh. This is so embarrassing. I have a backpack for my cat. This is the first time I put her in it. And I just took her out for a little bit because eventually she's going to be out podcasting with me, but she doesn't know it yet, but...

She was not exactly sure what was going on. But it's an experience for her and she's growing. I don't think she wants to grow though, poor thing.

Whenever you're out walking by yourself, if you're not walking with me, go ahead and throw some intervals in there because they're really good for you. And you can walk longer intervals, shorter intervals. It doesn't really matter. Just whatever you can find. If you can only go 10 seconds fast, go 10 seconds. If you can go 20 seconds, go 20. If you can go 30, even better.

What do I always say? Mix it up.

It's funny when I teach spin — I taught at one place for 12 years. Some people had been with me all 12 years. Isn't that crazy? They'd been with me when I was married, been with me when I was divorced, had been with me through everything. I've moved a thousand times in between.

But I always used to say when we spin and we climb these hills… I used to say "Climbing equals..." and then some people in my class would say "Love!" Because I used to always say, "Climbing = love."

So hills equal love, stairs equal love... whatever you can do to push your body.

Remember to stop by my blog, my Facebook page, or even join my Facebook group. It's not about the six pack and it's really about just getting healthier overall and feeling good about yourself.

And it's about having your body do what you need it to do. 

If anybody says anything, or if somebody makes you feel uncomfortable, just say, "Fuck you. Fuck you. I don't care. I do not care what you think. This is me." And it feels really good. Or you can say it in your head. You don't have to say it out loud.

But maybe you want to say it out loud. I don't know.

Just do it. Just say it.

Feel good in your skin. Remember that you are beautiful inside and out. And when your personality is amazing, when you're loving, when you're warm, and when you're kind, and you do things for people… that shines through over everything else.

Being a good person is the most important thing. Not being a doormat, but just being a person people can count on when it's important. Being there. Loving your fur babies if you have any.

An interesting thing to do is to actually talk to people in your family or your friends and ask them what they think about you. What are your best qualities? You will be surprised. You'll be blown away.

But ask people what they see so that you can learn to appreciate what they see. Because we often just only look at our bad sides, but we all have good physical attributes. And we need to just show those and feel proud of those and feel happy about those.

Find the things that make you unique.

Published February 11, 2021