I first became obsessed with working out at around age 14. I was a freshman in high school, and it was the year when boys first liked me.
I’d been the quintessential “Ugly Duckling to Swan” story – up until that point, I was skinny, scrawny, with acne, bad haircuts and glasses. Somehow, thank the Lord, the summer before 9th grade and the beginning of high school, I finally blossomed.
I cut my hair, got contacts, grew boobs and started wearing makeup. Suddenly boys liked me.
I wanted to be accepted and liked, after being the smart, nerdy one for so many years. So I pretended not to be smart, although I was still killing it in all of my classes, and I decided to become a cheerleader.
That year, I started working out. I discovered that I loved the gym, enjoying pushing myself through intense aerobic or cardio workouts, and actually liked lifting weights.
It was the year I started doing the endless squats and lunges that I still do today, with my goal of having a “JLo butt.” I know a lot of people don’t enjoy working out, but I loved pushing myself, and loved seeing my body change.
Some Things Never Change!
Today, I’m finding happiness through fitness goals again, a whopping 30 years later. I still care about health and fitness as much as I did then, and I still enjoy working out as much as I used to.
The main difference now is that although I still care about my appearance and want to look good for any man I date, I am doing it for me. I want to look and feel healthy for the rest of a long, happy lifetime.
I want to be my fittest and look my best because it makes me feel good about myself. I am not in it anymore just to impress the opposite sex, and it makes the experience all that much sweeter, because my fitness is truly a gift to me.
I still enjoy setting goals and reaching them, and like pushing myself to be a better version of me. Right now, my goals are simple: lose 10 pounds and get more toned before a boudoir photoshoot that is scheduled for the end of August.
Losing ten pounds in a month feels like a bit of a stretch goal, but my diet is generally very clean. I eat vegan and gluten-free and avoid drinking alcohol in general.
I am trying to give up sugar now as well, and figure with that one change if I watch portion control, eat mostly veggies and proteins, and exercise every day for the next 30 days, I can pull this off!
No matter what, the act of focusing on health and fitness, and taking extra good care of myself, makes me feel good. I am enjoying the process.
The Shift That Made All the Difference
I didn’t always love working on my fitness, however. There was a stretch of years in my late 20s to early 30s when I had stopped going to the gym as much.
At the time I was a professional swing dancer, so I got most of my exercise through dancing. And I mostly stayed in shape.
But I missed being able to really sculpt my body through weight lifting, and there were times when I got into the habit of eating a lot during intense dance periods and then I’d gain a few pounds if we were dancing less.
I decided to start going to the gym again. But in the beginning, I kept beating myself up.
I would set goals that felt ambitious, but having not been to the gym in ages, ended up feeling impossible. I would decide that I needed to work out five days a week, and then beat myself up terribly if I only worked out two or three days that week.
The problem was that it was making working out a lot less fun, and it was turning it into a chore. I was punishing myself for not being “good enough” and not doing enough.
The reality of course is that working out even two to three days a week is a lot more than many people do when they are not focused on health and fitness! I had to learn to reward myself for what I was doing, rather than punishing myself for not being perfect.
That shift made all the difference in the world. I told myself instead that every day that I showed up at the gym, rather than watching TV or just skipping it for no particular reason, was a gift to myself.
I started to honor myself for doing something good for me.
Fun Fitness Goals Over the Years
I’ve often set fitness goals attached to modeling photoshoots or birthdays. I did my first pin-up photoshoot on my 39th birthday, as a present to myself. I worked out like crazy in advance to get myself into killer shape.
I wanted to show myself, and the world, that age would never define me. I plan to be hot at every age, because I think sexy is a state of mind, much more than a certain look or body shape.
I’m with Betty White who said after she turned 91 that she knew a whole lot more than the year before, and was now more sexy.
I tend to step up my fitness goals before each birthday. And this summer I scheduled a boudoir photoshoot as a gift to myself again to show myself that 44 can be amazing.
I really do believe that age is just a number, that 40 is the new 25, and that a woman who is confident, happy, and smiling is sexy, no matter what her shape or size.
That said, I want to look my best and feel my best, and it’s time to step it up a notch again!
The Goals For the Next 30 Days!
For the next 30 days, I plan to eat vegan, gluten-free, cut out sugar, skip the alcohol and to get some form of exercise every. That can be the gym, yoga, or just walking up and down the four flights of stairs in my house some days.
I walk downtown as much as possible, vs. driving, and some nights I will go run the stairs that lead up the hill from downtown Troy to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the university on the hill in Troy.
It doesn’t feel like deprivation. It feels good to eat veggies and vegetarian proteins, and to move my body.
I am rewarding myself for putting in the effort, and will report back as I get closer to the photoshoot with how I am doing on my goals. Wish me luck!
Lisa Powell Graham
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Lisa Graham is an inspirational writer, life coach, motivational speaker, and globe-trotter whose passion is to help others to find happiness and meaning their daily lives. A political activist at heart, Lisa would like to empower more women to run for political office as a way to create positive change in the world. You can find her on the Madam President Project.