I can’t run more than 50 metres without stopping. I need help lifting a box of groceries. I can barely touch my toes. I keep eating more cake, and just buying bigger pants.
My body fat percentage is higher than my age. I am 34 years old, and I am not looking after my health. But that’s about to change. By this time next year, I am going to be a real life Wonder Woman.
Couch Potato, to Wonder Woman.
That picture above, dressed as Wonder Woman, is me.
Wonder Woman is a huge role model of mine – her compassion, justice and her strength. When I usually talk about Wonder Woman’s strength, I really mean her inner strength. But now I mean her physical strength, too. Crushing your enemies with your bare thighs kind of strength.
“But Rae,” I hear you say, “Diana Prince is (in some comic arcs, depending on the origin story) an Amazonian warrior gifted with literal powers from the gods. You break a sweat walking up the slight incline to your apartment from the train station. How can you possibly achieve this?”
Aim for the stars, fall on the moon, collect some moondust and pat yourself on the back. Or something like that.
Now you, treasured reader, are welcome to follow me on this journey. But here’s what you’ll need to know before we begin – five things I’ve discovered already.
1. I’m learning – and that means you can too
Ho boy am I by no means an expert in sports stuff. My nickname is school was butter fingers. My legs flick out to the sides when I run. I swim with my head out of the water like a Nanna – all I need is the flower-covered swim cap.
But I really, really want to be able to do cool things before my body decides it’s just too late. I want to be able to run a marathon, swim in the ocean, lift a small car over my head and throw it into a crowd of zombies.
This is why I’ll be engaging the services of experts. Personal trainers, swimming coaches, an impossibly cool martial arts extraordinaire – people who successfully lift heavy stuff and can run a reasonable distance without getting a stitch.
They will be giving us both advice – because when I learn something, I’ll let you know.
I’m also expecting to be learning a lot about myself, my relationship with my body and how I see it. That’s already begun, in a way.
2. Comparing yourself to a bikini model is a bad idea (even when that bikini model is you)
This is me, aged 28. Six short years ago.
A literal bikini model. Do you know how I looked like that? No, really, do you know? I was eating rubbish, never exercising, never giving a second thought to my weight. I was also pretty miserable at the time. As I got happier, my metabolism went trekking in Peru or something, I can only assume. I hope it’s having a great time.
This is me now. Today. This photo was taken minutes ago. This is my official “before” photo.
This me is so much happier – with great friends, family, career, even a pet turtle. I wouldn’t trade my life now for the one I had in the bikini model picture for anything in the world. Even if I was in body fat percentage bracket not called “obese” which I absolutely am now and oh wow doesn’t that throw my self esteem around a little.
Comparing yourself to a bikini model is a bad idea. Comparing yourself to anyone is a bad idea, even an earlier version of yourself. This about you, your body, right now, with the life you have today. We are all different, unique and a bunch of other words you’d find on an Instagram #inspo post about loving yourself. Because the reality is, I do love my body right now, just the way it is.
But it’s not about that.
3. The most important thing about your body isn’t what it looks like
A lifetime of being told, in every single way a message can be relayed to someone, that the most important thing about your body is how attractive it is to someone else is ridiculously damaging.
Allow me to let you in on a secret. Your body is a machine. A badass, totally magical machine that does some incredible things. Being able bodied is a gift. If your body is physically capable of running – no matter if you are good at it or not – that’s a straight up miracle. And it deserves to be rewarded for what it can do, not chastised for not meeting some kind of visual ideal. Your body is no one’s but your own. Treasure it.
I’m not saying this from a place of enlightenment. I’m saying this from the place of someone who needs to remind themselves of this on pretty much a daily basis. I’ve never really done “mantras”, but this may be the one I start with.
I have not been treasuring my body. I’ve been outright neglecting it. And it deserves better.
4. It’s not about you (them, not you)
As someone with an “Internet presence” (I’m so sorry, I’m not a douche, I promise, but there are 120k people on my Facebook page so I feel like this is a fair statement to make) there is an element of “ownership” complete strangers claim to have over how you look.
As though every image posted is for their personal approval. You are a product they are consuming, and it must meet their specific, personal requirements. And they will tell you straight up when they think you’re too big/small/weak/strong/short/tall/pale/dark/brunette/much of an actual human being as opposed to an ideal they have created in their minds of what you should be at all times.
Of course this happens in the “real world” too.
Apparently well meaning friends and relatives pinching your upper arm and smirking, commenting casually about your size (I used to get “you’re too skinny!” now it’s “look at how fat you’ve gotten”) and the never ending unsolicited advice on how to “get fit” from people who have been sporty their entire lives.
There’s no “winning”. There’s only reclaiming.
Yes, it may sound a little dramatic, but I’m “reclaiming” my own body. It’s about to undergo physical changes. And these criticisms are going to come in thick and fast. I’ve seen it happen with others, and I’m not silly enough to think I’ll be immune to the “but I liked your body better before” and “you’re fine the way you are” comments.
So a reminder to all those out there who feel an element of ownership over my body, and what I do with it, in any way: it’s not about you. It never was, and it never will be. My shield is up.
5. Finding something you love to do is the key (apparently)
This is what I’ve been told, at least. I don’t mind swimming, even if I’m not very good at it. I found spin class boring. Obstacle courses seem pointless. Lifting weights is scary.
But if a change is to be made, it has to start with my attitude. So it’s clean slate time. Throw my pre-conceived notions of what I do and don’t enjoy out the window, and try a bunch of stuff.
I’m talking fitness apps, climbing mountains, running as the sun rises, doing yoga in my PJ’s, deadlifting my body weight, riding my pushbike to work and learning how to karate chop someone in the throat. I still need to have focus, though – which brings me to The Plan.
Basically, if I’m going to engage in a complete transformation be a real life wonder woman, there are these things called “pillars of fitness” I’m told are actual things that I will need to focus on. They are:
- Killing a man with my bare hands AKA badassery
- Eating food that fuels me
Over the next few days I’ll be engaging the services of experts in these fields, gaining a more accurate idea of what my starting point is, and working out some achievable goals.
Step one, of course, was making myself accountable. Here I am. I’ll also be on Instagram, posting with #CouchPotatoToWonderWoman.
I can’t wait to begin.