Friday, October 23, 2009

What Does "Fitness" Mean?

Hello out there in bloggerland!

I got a wonderful bunch of comments on my latest blog post about my laziness, lack of work-out motivation, and the fitness journey I've had.

Sasha, the Breakup Coach, left me a great, brain squeezing question. I'd expect nothing less from her brilliant ass, 'cause she's a psychologist. I love this. Blogging is like free therapy.

Here is the comment she left me:

Thanks for another wonderfully honest and thought-provoking post.

Asking yourself "why can't I get motivated?" is kind of a dead end question guaranteed to make you frustrated. I'm really curious as to what "fitness" actually means to you. It means so many different things to different people. How do you define it for yourself?
I also got a whopper of a comment from my buddy Christy in Seattle:
I read this post with mixed emotions. You are so beautiful and seem to have a really positive spirit. If you are otherwise healthy (unlike me, who has high blood pressure and scoliosis and a family history of diabetes and near-constant illnesses for two years) then does a little extra weight really matter?

If it's self-discipline that you're craving, great. I'm sure there are many small changes you could make to get a little more active. Being active will benefit your body, your mind, and your spirit in a myriad ways ... but there are so many fun ways to exercise! Sex and dancing are two of my favorites ... with walking and Pilates catching up quickly.

At some point, I think all of us who are on the diet train should ask ourselves -- what are our weight-loss goals? If there are none besides "looking good" or "fitting into cute clothes" is that an adequate motivation truly to change our lives and the way we eat ... forever? Or, will that diet train turn into a rollercoaster, careering out of control, our self-esteem crashing with each little rise in weight?

I'd love to be in a size 6 again. When I started this diet, that was my goal.

Then I wondered ... why?

I mean, what's so great about a size six really? Sure, I loved the shape that I was in as a size 6 ... but even at an 8 and a 10, I kicked butt at cardio. I hiked and roamed just about any old where I wanted. My body was a good body, able to answer the demands I put on it with energy to spare.

Is size six okay, but every thing above it not okay? What about if you or I got into a size 8 or 10 or, yes, even a 12 and maintained it forever? Would we be happy with that (assuming, again, we were otherwise healthy)?

I'm not trying to tell you that you shouldn't lose weight. That's a personal decision that everyone has to make for herself. I'm here to support you in any way I can. Sometimes, though, the best support can come from a reality check.

Be kind to yourself. You've already come a long way on this journey. It's okay that you're not perfect! You'd be pretty freaking dull if you were.


SO, wow! It's clear that THIS should be the blog topic for the day. Let's see if I can answer these questions honestly and concisely. (Ha-ha! Good luck to me.)

What does "Fitness" mean to me?

I hear that word and I think of someone with a low body fat percentage, who can run a mile in 7 minutes. Someone who can lift a good amount of weights. Someone who is flexible, with kick butt muscle tone, who likes to participate in sports. Someone who maybe likes to go rock climbing or skiing or can run a marathon. Triathlon people. And honestly? I've never had any of those goals. Now, actually, that's SORT of a lie, 'cause I wouldn't mind being super flexible, but that's purely for non-working-out reasons. I also wanted to be able to run a 5K.

But here's the thing. I think each time I decide I'm gonna start working out hard core, or I'm going to train for a 5K, or I'm going to start to lift weights, it's false excitement. Or temporary excitement. I watched Tara from The Biggest Loser last season and was SO inspired because of how athletic she was. The clip of her running her ass off on that treadmill with Jillian holding a band around her waist made me so jealous. But I realized yesterday that it's the same kind of jealousy I feel when I watch Diana Krall play the piano, or Chris Angel perform magic, or Cate Blanchett deliver a moving performance in a film. I am the most jealous person on the planet. I would love to have all these talents and abilities. But it doesn't mean I'm going to start taking piano lessons again, studying magic and practicing my slight of hand skills, or sign up for classes at the local theater.

I really think with the working out thing, that's what it comes down to. I'd feel like a badass if I was "fit" like those folks, but I don't have the motivation to work for it.

In general terms, as Christy pointed out, I'm relatively healthy. I can walk up a flight of stairs or jog across the street without feeling winded now. I don't have pain in my knees or ankles because of weight. I don't have diabetes or any other weight related illnesses. I do have pretty decent strength in my legs and arms, and I think a lot of that has to do with being a photographer and lugging/hauling/lifting all my gear. But I am around 32% body fat (I'd guess.) I don't have good flexibility. I couldn't run an entire 5K, in fact I don't think I could run one mile without walking for part of it.

So, in regards to Christy's thoughtful comments... it's just in my head. There's nothing wrong with being a size 12. In fact, there is nothing wrong with being any size, as long as you're happy in that size. For me personally, getting into those size 12 jeans was a huge accomplishment, and I did a freakin' happy dance because of it. But, it's not my goal. Hitting a size 12 is not enough. Why is that? I don't know, exactly. Perhaps it has to do with the ridiculous amount of perfectionism I inherited from my Dad. I know I've been there before, and I NEED to get there again. It's something inside me that will claw and scratch and elbow its way around until it's satiated.

Being smaller makes me feel better about myself. It makes my sex life better. It makes me more likely to go out and be social. I feel better in virtually every facet of my life. And yes, part of it is absolutely about the clothes, I'm not going to lie to you. It's about attention ('cause it should be obvious that I'm an attention whore at this point. Plus I'm a Leo.) I want men, women, people to notice me, and it's not because I need to get a date. It's because it feels really good to be whistled at, looked at with admiration, jealously, whatever. It's so superficial, I know. But it FEELS good to me. It makes me feel like a million bucks. I want the people in my past who overlooked me to go, "Damn!" when they see me next. I want my ex boyfriends to kick themselves when they see me and fantasize about me from then on. (Yes I know, they should know what they lost because of WHO I am, but come on. These are MEN we're talking about here. They'll see my hot ass in a pair of hot jeans and think, "HOT.")

I take full, unabashed ownership of the sad, sad fact that I care absolutely, completely and obsessively about what people think when they look at me.

I think everyone has different motivations. I personally am very motivated by the way my stomach looks in a form fitting dress. Sometimes I don't keep that in my mind when I'm eating Ritz Crackers with cheddar cheese slices (my favorite snack, ever... it is to me what chips and dip are to Monica.)... But I don't know that any motivator actually holds over you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If it does, that's some pretty damn awesome motivation.

It's clear that I've been on the diet rollercoaster for the better half of my adulthood. And some before that too. I need to remember that it's not something I want to go through again, and that it's not healthy either. It's my ultimate goal to get to my desired weight, and maintain. Plus or minus five pounds, that's cool. I just need to remember that I change. My pants stay the same size, and I'd like to stay in them.

And I'd like to end this absurdly long blog post with my horoscope from today:

Friday, Oct 23rd, 2009 -- There is a wide gulf between how you feel now and what you are willing to do. In fact, your actions may say one thing while common sense says something else. Nevertheless, your emotions might prevail today in a skirmish between your head and your heart. Remember, logic can be used to answer a question, but not to share what's in your heart.



The Insatiable Host said...

Jen..YOU ARE THE NEXT COMING OF CHRIST or the ANTI CHRIST whatever the fuck...I love you!

Amen for taking ownership of wanting people to think you are the olives in their dirty martini and wanting people to recognize you or double take you and say " that you??? You are amazing!!"

I think that that stigma inside of all of us makes us get up in the morning (afternoon for some) and do our hair, paint our face, adjust our tits so they look great in our shirts and maintain the goods...this is what feeling good/looking good is.

what does healthy mean? shouldn't that encompass mental health??? i think that loving your ass is most important. its next to drink in one hand, smoke in another, love thy family and thy ownself...bla bla blah...

on my only serious note today, you are so honest and real; its such an inspiration. I love the fact that I feel as if I have known you for years and that I know 1000% that you are genuine and likely more amazing than I...which pretty much means way cooler than any S&tC character...just sayin :)

nuff said write a book so i can read more! cheers if you have a drink in hand, and if not no worries, I'll have another in a sec!! xx

Christy said...

lol ... well, hey, nobody can say you aren't honest! I wish you nothing but the best in becoming the version of yourself you truly want to be.

Life's too short to do anything else.

You'll be out of those 12s in no time!

Jennifer Newman said...

I love ya Jenn! You are a complete nut but an honest and awesome nut! I hope you know how much I appreciate the nuts in the world. I also appreciate the honesty. I am just now realizing how much I like when someone notices my weight loss and compliments me...I now want to be sexy (I have always been the cute one) and I swear part if my want to be sexy is thanks to you! I love your take on things but I really really love your photography. You seriously rock my world with your photos. Everyone you photograph looks amazing. You truly have a gift (which I am completely insanely jealous of by the way)!!!

You seriously kick ass!

keep it real, luv jen

Anonymous said...

I was reading your post and I felt like you were talking about me, not about you. I'm such a jealous person, too! I want to be able to do everything; I want everyone's abilities! And the reason why I'm working my ass to lose weight right now is because I want to people to think I look hot in my bikini in December when we go to Thailand. Of course, the health part is also really important, but I really share your feelings.

Thank you for being honest.

Erin said...

you know, i've never been a tiny-type girl. i've always been bigger. when i was younger, it bothered me. as i got older, it still bothered me, but on a different, more emotional level. i never got to experience the pleasure of size 8 jeans, but i experience pleasure everytime i look in the mirror because i know that regardless of the flaws i see, i know i carry myself with confidence,and that's gorgeous no matter the size i am. do i long for smaller jeans? hell yes, but i know my body is beautiful, big or small. (that and an amazing rack and a killer sense of humor...but ya know, i was being all profound there)

Christine said...

Fit to me will always be, Can I pass the army PT test, male version? Ultimately, that is my goal...although I didn't really realize it till I typed it.

My other goal is to be noticed. I love that you said you were an attention whore. Everybody is to some extent. Anybody who says different is selling something.
I want guys to hold the door for me at a store and not let the door hit me in the nose like they usually do. I want my husband to look at me the way he used to when we were dating. I want to fit into cute clothes. I spent YEARS, living in saggy, baggy, frumpy grey or black clothing. I want pretty, petite, feminine clothing. I want my kids to be proud. I loved your post. At least it's honest. Good on you.

Unknown said...


This was awesome! I love your honesty!! Also, I feel the same way, I really want people to be jealous of me. I mean it feels good when someone is jealous! Keep doing what your doing girl!


Anonymous said...


I am so thankful that I found you through Esther. I don't even knoe where to begin with your post...dang it..perhaps over a margarita?

But alas I live in Oz and you in the I shall endeavuour sober to digest this.

1. put energy into the things which you really want out of life. Not thing you don't want
2. Adopt a healthy lifestyle.
3. Since when did YOU care what other people think? Rock who you are. I to, get consumed with the comparison game--isn't it great?--but I have lost that desire becuase it emotionally drains me into a pile of wortheless, emtionally charged, binge prone woman.
4. Please have lots of sex for me


nic said...

Sometimes its weird how our motivations change through this journey.

When I got down from a size 20 to a 16, I felt amazing. But then it became harder to lose. I knew I needed to introduce exercise and I started slow, but it made me feel so fantastic when I could start to accomplish things that it became a (healthy) addiction.

Fitness truly affects your mind and body. I remember starting c25k for the first time. I quit during day 1. I tried the program SIX more times before I committed all the way through, but I did it, and I ran a 5k, and now I can run 6 miles all at once.

I see it as being more of "another goal" to focus on after you reach your goal weight, because this doesn't end there. To maintain the weight, you'll still have to restrict from your former lifestyle's eating habits. Exercise gives you that much more slack to play with (or eat Ritz with).

Anonymous said...

"What Does "Fitness" Mean?"

This is a very interesting question. Basically,it's the ability to do your normal daily activities. Therefore, "fitness" to a manual laborer is going to be different that an office worker. Also, the meaning of "fitness" can change during your lifetime. I was a typical jock when I was young but now I am a 53 year old widower that just wants to play with his grandchildren someday. Every person really has to answer "What Does "Fitness" Mean?" for themselves. Libraries of books have been written on just that subject.

Ashton Dene' said...


I totally get that you want people to look at you and think 'damn...' and I don't think it is something to be embarassed about. I remember when people used to do that when I walked by and I want it back...bad. I think most people want to be appreciated for our looks, it's natural, especially since we focus so much on beauty in the media.

And your fitness level is just that, yours. As long as you are healthy and happy with your muscle tone, your abs, your arms, how much you can lift, than good for you. You don't have to be a fitness guru to be skinny or to be healthy. It is a personal choice. So thanks for owning up to it and your constant honesty.

Often I read your blog and it makes me reflect on why I want to lose weight. So thanks.

x, ash

Unknown said...

Fitness right now means I can run 2 minutes on the treadmill without dropping dead. I love it.

But my goal is just to get rid of the frickin' wobbly bits. If I was a 'solid' fat person (c'mon, you've seen them, they're bigger but still look great) it would be okay. But I just have a saggy fat ass and belly and that is not okay. So back on the treadmill I go.

PS. I am linking back to you on my blog, if that's okay.

Sasha Carr, Ph.D. said...

I love reading your thoughts on my question and I'm enjoying all the thoughtful comments here too. I want to underline a theme running through them that I hope rings true to you: YOU get to determine what fitness means to you, and nobody else. Your repeated use of quotation marks around the words "fit" and "fitness" reflects your perception that you are using other people's definitions. When you let all that go and figure out what YOU really want--and if it's all appearance-related that's okay, then you can own it and use it to get moving. Just don't let what you think you "should" want confuse you. Doing that is what leads you to wonder why you aren't "motivated" which is a dead end. One of my mentors says: "Forget motivation; what are you committed to?" When I ask myself that question it often help me clarify what I can do for myself to get where I'm trying to go--or I figure out that I don't really want what I thought I did and I change my goal. Hope it's helpful to you.

Carrie said...

You are so very cool and so attention worthy! I haven't been able to read, because my dang computer won't load up your page, but for some reason it does from my netbook.

I love your honesty! I even liked the horoscope part (sagittarius here). *big smile*

I know what you talk about with that, "what's next?" feeling. You are a person who is not satisfied to just stop when you think you've arrived...this is a fantastic quality! You will always strive for more and get it. This type of mentality leads to greatness I believe.

I recently came to the point you are talking about in terms of my fitness goals. I've always craved that ability to be athletic, even though I don't view myself in this light. I'm almost done with the couch to 5k program and I'm trying to assess where I'm going from here. I'm not sure if I'm totally in love with jogging, although it makes me feel great. You tend to hit upon trends in my own life often when you voice you thoughts on the page.

When you get down about not achieving some allusive goal in one part of your life try focusing on what you have accomplished in other areas. Most times when we ask for advice we already know what we want to do, but we need someone to affirm our decision. I find that once I decide, acting is easy. I think you just need to decide. :o) Just my two cents!

Quincifer said...

Wow, I see this blog has encouraged longer comments back!

I don't know whether its just me, but I'm starting to come to the conclusion that dieting and everything that comes with it is completely linked to self esteem (duh!) but that the only true way to be happy with yourself isn't to sort out the dieting side, its to come to terms with the way you are/have been/will be.
As i've said before, I used to be slimmer and have got into the 14/16 rut. I look at my reflection in the mirror and see a stomach that sticks out and bad posture and wider hips and do think to myself "damn, I shouldn't look like this". Not to mention the fact that my guy is a trainee bodybuilder, he has muscles on his muscles, a slimmer waist than me and also weighs a stone less than i do!
But I also know that my weight gain has only happened since I 'found my true self' in life, I became me and got comfortable with the way my life was going.
Every day Jamie tells me that he loves me, that I look pretty, that he likes how my hair looks or the clothes i'm wearing, and most importantly - that he loves my figure. Having that every day really does make me feel a little better about it all, and when he tells me I look fantastic it makes me feel fantastic and I completely lose all my apprehensions about whether I feel big or don't look right. What i'm trying to say the end of the day, when you have a man who loves you for who you are and makes you feel amazing, does it really matter that much?

Kelsie Raedfords said...

You are righta that In your paragraph. It's clear that I've been on the diet rollercoaster for the better half of my adulthood. And some before that too. I need to remember that it's not something I want to go through again, and that it's not healthy either. It's my ultimate goal to get to my desired weight, and maintain. Plus or minus five pounds, that's cool.

Haddock said...

I think everyone has different motivations. ....... thats true but as long as that motivation is there, its fine

Unknown said...

Perfectly said!
I am currently in a size 8-10. Pre-Baby I was a size 4-6. I am a short girl who doesn't hige poundage too well!
Pre-baby my body was beautiful, but I just didn't know it at the time... Hindsight, you know how it is! I know exactly what you are referring to when you talk about the whistles, gawking, looks, and feeling Hott because you know that when a guy opens the door for you it is because he wants to check you out! After having my baby I don't get any of those lavish treatments by strangers anymore... and it is hard. It may sound shallow, but really when you were told daily how good you looked, and now I am no longer told how good I look, it tells me something... that I am in FACT an Ex-Hott Girl just like you Jenn.
So, I myself may have some rediculous, or maybe seemingly absurd goals (to some people) but I in fact want to feel pretty again...
Thanks for your honesty Jenn - it is contagious! You are a breathe of fresh air!