By Abby Rosmarin
Imagine yourself at a party with some friends. Now, imagine that you’re a girl and the topic of health and weight has come up. In the middle of the conversation, you casually mention, “I gained 10 pounds.” What is going to happen?
“Oh no, I’m sorry.”
“It’s the holiday food. It’ll get you every time.”
“I know this great diet plan that I can share with you…”
Now, imagine that you try to explain to them that you had also started distance running, teaching a martial art, and attending more yoga classes now than you ever have before. Can you see the blank stares you’d get? Can you see the moment of confusion?
“Well, did you start eating more?”
“I’m sure that weight will come off eventually.”
I made a pretty major leap last year: I quit being a preschool teacher and dove headfirst into fitness instruction. It wasn’t something that I had planned; all I knew is that being a teacher was not for me anymore and that I needed to leave the early education world. I quit not knowing what was in store for me. But I quickly realized that instructing a class on what I was currently doing in my spare time made the most sense (something that was facilitated by my own martial art instructor) and I jumped right in.
This meant that the things I was doing in my spare time were now things I did in lieu of a 9-to-5. And, since most classes are in the mornings or evenings, my days suddenly opened up, giving me time to do the one thing I couldn’t do while in my classroom for 9-plus hours a day: run for absurdly long amounts of time. Furthermore, my love for teaching martial arts bled into my love for yoga and, before long, I was enrolled in teacher training to become a registered yoga teacher.
Because of all this, I gained 10 pounds between when I quit the education world and now.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Why? Because I gained 10 pounds of muscle. I watched my arms gain definition and I watched my legs grow more solid. I jumped on the scale and noticed that I had skyrocketed from my usual 145 lbs to 155 lbs in a matter of six months.
Now, imagine yourself back at that party. You’re still that girl in her cocktail dress, trying to explain gaining ten pounds. You mention that it was all muscle that you gained. Maybe that quells the influx of pro-weight loss comments. Or maybe you get this:
“Aren’t you worried about getting bulky?”
Ah, the “bulky” nightmare. The one reason women stay away from the free weights, away from the strength and conditioning classes, away from even attempting a push-up or a pull-up. Like an extra 10 minutes at the gym to lift some weights or use their own body weight in strength training is going to turn them into Chyna from the WWE.
Did I get bulkier? Sure. My legs are a little thicker (key word: little) and my biceps are a little bigger (key word: little). But, at the end of the day, I don’t look any different than before. No one would look at me and sign me up for a bodybuilding contest. No one would look at me and decide I must be a cagefighter or professional kickboxer because I have that much definition going on.
And even if I did: I don’t care anymore! The most freeing thing I ever experienced was when I let go of this attitude that I had to make myself as spindly as possible. I’ll never live up to those ideals. I’ll never have a thigh gap or a hip gap or a bikini bridge gap or whatever gap they’re trying to pawn off on us these days (fun fact: “bikini bridge” was actually something created by Internet trolls just to see if it would take off).
But you know what I do have? The ability to run five miles on a moment’s notice. The ability to do a full pull-up (which I’ve never been able to do before). The ability to drop and give ‘em 20. I have strength and I have stamina and I have a little more insight on just what my body is capable of.
In short: I love my muscles. I love the 10 pounds of new muscle, I love the muscle-building I had before, I love all of it.
There’s a new saying out there: strong is the new skinny. And I am absolutely enamored with it. I can only hope it grows in popularity. Because the day I switched from the “skinny” mindset to the “strong” mindset, everything changed. And, for the first time in years—potentially ever—I truly, undoubtedly, unconditionally, love my body. And no amount of cocked eyebrows and confused stares at a party will ever change that.
Abby is a writer, a bookworm, a tai chi instructor, and a yoga/running enthusiast. She’s a diehard Bostonian (even though she moved up to New Hampshire a few years ago). She has a degree in English (with a minor in Sociology) from Northeastern University, which makes her the perfect candidate to write essays about people and society. Her favorite pastimes include busting a dance move when doing housework, having philosophical arguments with herself while driving, and refusing to admit that ska is dead. She currently lives with her husband in a small town in the mountains alongside her two cats, her guinea pig, and a whole coop of chickens (and by “whole coop,” she means three).
Photo from We Heart It