Wednesday, February 6, 2013

That Flat Stomach

I have a confession to make: when I was eighteen and had my first real boyfriend, I was obsessed with having a flat stomach. I am 5’2” and weighed at the time 48 kilograms, which is equivalent to 108 pounds. I was not even close to being fat, but, I had a rounded stomach. Oh, how I hated that stomach! Every night I did one hundred sit ups, full ones, with my feet under the bed frame. I am sure my posture must have improved, but there was no change in the roundness of my stomach.

As a lifelong member of the Society of Wimps and Geeks, I never liked exercise. In elementary school I used to hide under my desk in a pathetic and (as you probably guessed) unsuccessful attempt to skip PE class. As an adult, I discovered a better way to embrace the necessity to exercise (at least in order to leave my stomach round rather than rounder). I told myself that exercise allows me to eat whatever I want. In went the chocolates, the cakes, ravioli, gnocchi, and pizza, and though I never got much bigger than, say, 122 pounds, my tummy never got flatter.

Then came the big revelation. Rock climbers belong to the Society of Wimps and Geeks! Not as Wimps, of course. They qualify for their innate Geekiness. Longing for a break in my fortunes as well as for some adventure (about which I had so far only read in books), I applied to enter that holly order and was accepted, though retaining my Wimpishness. And my round stomach.
Sitting on the summit of Mt. Conness, Yosemite

Having joined the holly order of climbers, I suddenly had a new exercising goal. Now I wanted stamina, leg power, and upper body strength, though you may be sure I still cared how far my stomach flopped over the climbing harness. Exercising changed its name to training. I was training to climb. And climb I did: Rainier, Shasta, Olympus, and some rock climbing routes that I would never have imagined myself on or near. But underneath it all, and certainly beneath the harness, I still worried (in present tense too) about the flatness of my stomach.

Setting the goal to be healthy and strong, says Kelly McGonigal in her book The Will Power Instinct, is a much better and more pertinent motivator than using food as a reward. Say, for example, when my favorite chocolate and nuts bar calls to me with its sweet promise, I can remember my goal of being healthy and strong and decide whether that bar, tempting though it is, would support my goal (answer: no, and no buts).

I want to be healthy and strong. I want to exercise because it supports my goals, and I want to accept and love my stomach no matter how round.  And every once in a while I want to eat that chocolate bar, because, to tell the truth, it too supports one of my goals: the one about living life to the fullest and having fun!

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