Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see nighttime parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that you’re offering your bodies and not your brains or hearts, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match your own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem. Our value should not be tied into how we match up with the next girl, or whether a boy finds us attractive.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know I’ve done my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other. Stop competing, start caring about each other and that karma will reward us all.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are the superior gender! (Wink.)
Today my diatribe will seem to be off the subject of fitness, but in reality has everything to do with being healthy of mind and body. I have come to my wit’s end with society’s preoccupation with talent-less, substance-less, worthless icons of super-wealthy plastic women. In case you didn’t get it by that description, I’m referring to the Kardashians.
Every day when I stop in the gym locker room prior to or after my workout, I am assaulted by two televisions permanently glued to (and loudly playing) the E Channel. The E Channel (formerly Entertainment TV) has decided, assumably because of viewer demand, that 75% of their programming should be the show Keeping up with the Kardashians.
For the 5 minutes that I utilize my locker I am subjected to Kim crying because some designer can’t make her million dollar wedding dress, or Kanye decided to fly her to Paris before she was ready, or one of her sisters lamenting about how tiring it is to go to another $100,000 night where she has to stand around at a club in Las Vegas pretending to have a good time.
These women who never seem to work out (or at least never sweat), have chefs preparing their calorie-counted food, almost always appear in flawless airbrushed make-up, and live in mansions with assistants and drivers actually believe that their trivial woes are something we can relate to and should sympathize with.
The Madam (as in head of the brothel) who leads this circus is their mother Kris who just this year has launched her two youngest daughters (ages 16 and 18) into the same career as their older sisters. By the way, in case you didn’t know these “careers” are really nothing but a few modeling gigs, event appearances, and of course, showing all aspects of their plasticized non-intimate lives on television. I will say that Kris is quite the marketing genius as she has turned 5 vapid self-centered females into a million dollar enterprise, but somehow that just isn’t enough to garner her my full respect when she’s peddling such hollow fluff.
So why am I bitching about this you may ask? It’s because my mission as a fitness professional is to help people – most importantly women – to accept their flaws, surmount obstacles and limitations, and love their bodies and lives. The Kardashians are in direct conflict with my mission. Their show tells girls that shallow is ok, that fashion and fantasy have more value than hard work. I sincerely doubt that any Kardashian daughter can balance a check book, live on a budget, and multitask the care of children, with the chores of maintaining a house, car, job, and their own personal fitness and emotional fulfillment.
They call it reality TV but it is the furthest thing from reality. As long as viewers enjoy the mind numbing line up of Kardashians, Lohans, and Sex In The City reruns Entertainment TV, MTV, and VHI will never change and girls will continue to be exposed to these unrealistic depictions of life as a woman in America. So if you want to show your daughters examples of television women worth emulating there’s lots to pick from, but unfortunately you’ll have to go way back. Try reruns of Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day At A Time and Julia if you really want to see women of substance and value.
When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.” Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!” Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 52.
But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women. What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.
Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40. While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste“) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase.
Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain weight and the metabolism will slow down. But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).
Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy. But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain. This weight is very stubborn to remove. That’s when our last criteria comes into play.
Perspective. We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time. My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga. She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!
So if you exercise regularly, eat well and clean, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t. But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 7 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it. So I’m okay, and life is good. Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.