05 April 2010

What I'm Doing - Fit by Forty: Background

In August I will turn forty.

I'm not freaked out about the number. Forty. Four-tee. 40. Four-oh. Whatever. Doesn't faze me.

Thirty was much harder. Somehow leaving my twenties behind had far more emotional impact on me - in terms of the milestones by which we measure our lives, it was a much bigger deal. There was a lot more taking stock, comparing where I was with where I thought I'd be, thinking about what I'd accomplished and what I'd let slip by. But my thirties have been great. Better than great: I got married, I had a baby, I started writing again. (I have a half-completed BFA in Creative Writing I really must finish one of these days.) In the last year, I started my own business.

As I creep up on forty, I have a much stronger identification of who I am, and what I am about than I ever have before. I am much stronger in my convictions. I feel more confident that the life experiences that have shaped me - the difficult: overcoming alcoholism, recovering from a abusive relationship, and the wonderful: meeting my soulmate, becoming a parent - have made me who I am, and that what I've learned, what I have to share is of value to others. After the insecurities of my twenties and the whirlwind of my thirties, this is a good way to feel. So forty, in and of itself, is not scary; it's just what comes next.

What IS freaking me out, however, is the physical aspect of being firmly ensconced in the land of middle age. (The first person who says the word "cougar" gets a punch to the throat. Just sayin'.) I am 5' 5". When I was thirty, soaking wet I weighed 120 pounds. When I got married, I weighed 115. I looked like this:

And now, well now I don't. Let's just leave it at that.

Let me be clear: this is not just about how I look, although it certainly plays a big role. I haven't been in very good shape for quite a while now. I get winded going up a simple flight of stairs. I don't like that I struggle with the physical demands of parenting a very busy little boy, that my back hurts after carrying him any real distance, and that other minor aches and pains prevent me from being the kind of parent I want to be.

Granted, I'm ten years older. Granted, I had a baby. And my work now is nowhere near as physically demanding as being on my feet on a film set for 90 hours a week. Still, I'm not pleased with my physical condition. I've crept up from a size 2-4, to a 4-6, then an 8. And then into the double digits: a 10. And I can't blame it all on having a baby. I started to gain weight long before The Imp was born. Just a few pounds a year, but it added up. By the time I got pregnant at 37, I was hovering around 135-140. I was the cliche - get married, gain weight. I was literally the person sitting in front of the tv watching The Biggest Loser with a bowl of ice cream on my lap.

The weight I gained during the pregnancy was right in the middle of the healthy range. I stopped looking at the scale the week my weight was higher than the winning female contestant on The Biggest Loser (I was eight months along), but my doctor assured me she would let me know if there was any cause for concern. I struggled a bit with gestational diabetes toward the end of my pregnancy, but easily controlled it with careful eating. And when I was breastfeeding, the weight melted away pretty quickly. My husband said, "Wow, that little boy is LITERALLY sucking the fat right out of you!" By the time The Imp weaned at 13 months, I was down to 140 pounds, right around my pre-pregnancy weight.

But I wasn't very physically active, and I kept eating as if I was still breastfeeding, and slowly over the next eight months I started to put on weight. Five weeks ago, I stepped on the scale and was 149 pounds.

That was just a little too close to 150 for me. I know numbers are supposed to mean nothing, but let's be honest. We all have an ideal number in our heads, and a number that horrifies us. Or spurs us into action. And 150, combined with the upcoming 40, is that number for me.

So Fit by Forty (or for those of you who'd like to follow along on twitter, #fitbyforty) was born.

That's some of the background. Tomorrow I'll post more about the process so far.


  1. Love this post, Alex! I can totally relate. I, too, have come to terms with my body but see signs for improving my health. When my son turned three, I noticed that I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I even got back into my yardstick jeans (see how old I am -- I said YARDstick!) I am also proud to say that I can fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes again, however, I have to admit that like you, parts within have shifted somewhat. You go, girl! Looking forward to your #fitbyforty epic journey.

  2. I love this - partially because I'm on a mega fitness kick right now and its nice to know others are doing battle too. Mine's also spurred on by age (35 scares me more than 30 or 40! Halfway to 70 is scary!)

    Although I have to admit your scary number is my good number which is kinda depressing!

    Bring on August I say!

  3. I hear you on the being out of shape. I rode a bike around a largish block this weekend, which included a smallish hill. It took me 5 minutes, tops. And my legs were wobbling when I got off. Not good. I would really like some of my physical fitness back, more than anything. Right now you're totally my inspiration!

  4. I'm 5'11 so your scary number is one I likely will never see. But I know it's not just numbers. I've been exercising a lot lately too. It's great. It really lifts my mood. According to my doctor I will never be skinny due to metabolic issues cause by my diabetes but I can feel better inside and that's a great thing.

  5. Emily & Marilyn: I really hesitated to put actual numbers in this post - knowing that everyone is so different, and not wanting in any way to come across as judgmental about numbers and goals for other people. My sister, for example, was terrifyingly thin at 140 pounds - but she's six inches taller than me.

    But I did use specific numbers because it seemed to me that updates about amount of weight lost etc were useless if I didn't include where I started from and where I wanted to get to. And the numbers aren't the main thing for me either - I plan to focus most on other positive changes - more energy, better sleep, more clarity of mind. But the numbers ARE part of the story, and the easiest way to measure tangible progress. So I took a deep breath and shared them. It wasn't easy! It was easier to post that picture of me in a bikini, actually.

    Thanks for your comments!