Facing Forty (Anonymous)

Age: 39
Children: 2, ages 10 and 5

I have had a love/hate relationship with my body for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a fairly volatile home – my bio dad passed away when I was very young and my mother remarried when I was six. My step dad and I always had a tenuous relationship – we fought a lot and he was quite verbally abusive – physical as well. I grew up hearing about how ugly, stupid, rotten, ungrateful and horrible I was. I believed every word. As I got older, I felt out of control and unloved in my own home. However, I learned early on that I could control one thing – my food and my body. I became obsessed with staying thin. I am a small person (only 5’2″) and have never thought I was thin (or good) enough. When I was in junior high I started dieting (though to be honest I remember watching my weight as early as 4th grade) and by high school I pretty much stopped eating. I would subsist on gum. I realized that I was only hungry if I actually ATE something – so I avoided food and tried to make it on as little as possible. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder per se – but then again no one really knew the extent that I was avoiding food. On the flip side – when I finally did eat – I would binge. Entire boxes of cookies, or bags of candy – falling into a cycle of fast food and junk. Eventually I would begin to gain weight and I would start the process all over again. When I reached college age and moved out of the unhealthy environment of my parent’s home – I started to eat A LOT and gained quite a bit more then the freshman fifteen. I was traumatized and decided things were going to be different. So I cut back on the junk and began to exercise. Exercising changed my life. Unfortunately, I become obsessed with that too. If I thought I was going to miss an day of exercise I would become depressed. I restricted my food and increased my exercise. I was very thin – but it was never thin enough. I followed this pattern well into my twenties. Then I got pregnant. I gained quite a bit of weight quickly only to miscarry around 9 weeks. I was devastated – the loss of the pregnancy coupled with the weight gain completely set me off. I spent several weeks working out like crazy and eating little to regain control. I then got pregnant for a second time about 3 months later – and this one stuck. I gained almost 50 pounds with my son and it took me many many months to lose it. As soon as I could I started exercising again and making terrible food choices – lots of junk with salt and sugar. I finally lost the weight and got back to my pre-baby size – I felt really good about myself. While I was never able to truly kick my food/exercise cycle I was able to go about my life without constantly worrying about my appearance and what others thought. Five years later I had my second child and went through the same process as the first. I returned to the gym and took my first exercise class when my daughter was exactly 8 weeks old. I only felt in control at the gym – the rest of my life was a disaster with two kiddos, a husband that worked constantly and a touch of postpartum depression. Despite all of this, I quickly lost the 40lbs I gained with my daughter. I was so proud to put on my bikini that summer (i was 35) and show that I still had it. That was until I received an email from a girlfriend that said “women our age shouldn’t wear bikini’s – they look good on NO ONE.” I was immediately chastened and from that moment on never wore a bikini again. It was like someone had taken every insecurity I had and put it on display for the world to see. “I am fat, ugly and have been making a fool out of myself at the pool for the past 5 years.”

I wish I could say I walked away from that email and followed my own path – but I didn’t. I actually lost hope – stopped exercising – and decided she was right. I was old, fat and ugly – why bother. I gained 10lbs (which is a lot when you are short) and just felt discouraged. I spent a summer lounging at the pool in my tankini wishing I hadn’t spent the 10 years prior looking a fool in my bikini. However, this was not me. I went back to the gym, got healthy and lost the extra 10lbs and a few more. I felt better about myself. I felt almost (which is huge) in control of my eating and exercise. I felt like I could be thin, be healthy and NOT be obsessed. I will be 40 in July and feel like I am finally reaching a place where food and exercise do not control me. Don’t get me wrong – I still work out 5 times a week and watch what I eat – but I don’t let those things run my life. If I miss an exercise class or eat too much food I don’t spend days obsessing over it – I move on and realize that tomorrow is another day to make better choices. I recently traveled to Mexico with my family to celebrate some big milestones – my upcoming 40th birthday included. I felt happy and at ease with myself and my body – and purchased a new bikini for the trip. Maybe my girlfriend was right – and a women of my age shouldn’t be showing what two kids and a lifetime of gravity does to a body – but then again – maybe she was wrong. I had my husband take some pics of me just so I could remember what I looked like on this trip – and see the fruits of my labor – the Zumba, the Kickboxing, the Toning – and most importantly to realize that no – I’m not 20 – but I still look pretty darn good. I’m proud of myself – of my body – and the steps I’ve taken along way to minimize my bad choices and not let food or exercise (or really – what anyone else thinks) run my life. So – here I am – in my bikini at almost 40 – ready to share with the world my journey. Thanks for giving me a voice – even if I’m not quite ready to show my face. :-)

8 thoughts on “Facing Forty (Anonymous)

  • Monday, April 28, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Your friend was an idiot. You look great and anyone who is comfortable in a bikini SHOULD wear one! My mom is in her 57 and still wears one and looks great! I got in great shape after my 1st and rocked a bikini even with my stretch marks! My 3rd just turned 1 and I’m working on getting my “bikini body” back :)

  • Monday, April 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    you look better than many women half your age. Im much younger than you and cant wear a bikini!

  • Monday, April 28, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Girl, I think your friend is just projecting HER insecurities onto you! You look great. I’d honestly never guess 40. :) I’m a firm believer that whomever WANTS to wear a bikini, SHOULD, to hell with what anybody else thinks. I’m glad you’ve finally come around to that way of thinking.

    For most of my young life my mother was quite overweight (I truly did not realize this until later). I was a teenager before she got back down to the weight she’d been prior to having my sister, who is three years older than I. But when I was in college, she worked her butt off–literally–and lost a ton of weight. When I was 21 my sister got married in the Caribbean, and my mom totally rocked a bikini. There were probably some people who thought an 50-year-old woman with three adult children and stretchmarks shouldn’t have been in a bikini, but I was so amazingly proud of her. (a few years after that her thyroid issues took a turn and she gained some weight back, and she keeps a pictures from that trip on her fridge as incentive. :) )

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I love this post and agree that bikinis have NO age limit! I am so happy that you have finally overcome the body image issues that have plagued you for so long! I have also had some serious body image issues for far too long and at age 35 (and 4 kids), I am finally starting to shed that extra “weight” of insecurity I carry around! You don’t “look good for 39” or “look good for having 2 children…” you just plain LOOK GOOOOOD without limit and should be proud to put all your hard work on display!!! Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. IT tuched me deeply because of the pain that follows when you dont feel good enough in you roen skin. And, you look fab in your bikini!

  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 9:42 am

    I’m 41, my body is not perfect, and I still wear a bikini. One of the beautiful things I’ve discovered in getting older is really being able to slowly let go more and more each year of giving a rat’s ass what other people think. I’ve not reached total enlightenment yet, but it’s quite freeing to enjoy that lack of concern of the opinion of others on things like this :) It makes a whole lot of room in the brain for things that bring me more joy than worrying about others.

    Enjoy 40!

  • Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Your friend is dead wrong. Age doesn’t dictate swimwear.

  • Friday, May 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I agree with everyone else… your friend is very, very wrong… and in my opinion, jealous. You look great!

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