Great Aunt Tilly never worked out

Great Aunt Tilly was a fan of suet. Yes, that white fat you can buy in little blocks to feed the birds. You can also make suet into dumplings, which are both “filling and frugal” when you are forced to feed a huge family on a shoestring because of your “reproductive irresponsibility”. Amen. Hallelujah.

Please re-read the above with an old-lady British accent for full effect.

Great Aunt Tilly was five hundred years old and had not removed herself from the confines of her corset for at least three of those centuries when she would visit myself and my four feral children, all the way from Yorkshire, to try to put me “on the right road to proper laundry.”  She was my mother’s Aunt, and I loved her very much.

I did not love her suet dumplings. Tilly used to describe me as “pleasingly plump” and “big boned” and my teaching career as a “nice little job” to keep me busy.

Great Aunt Tilly is one of the reasons I am on a fitness journey today, because she was the only female relative who tried to guide me as a child and as a young mother. My own mother died suddenly at the age of 32, leaving myself and my older sister to navigate the perils of womanhood on our own, a journey which saw our teen years scarred by desperately bad hairdos, an entirely dysfunctional relationship with mascara and fashion sense that tended toward men’s boots, bulky sweaters and polyester pantsuits.

Great Aunt Tilly taught me:

…  I would get a cold in my uterus if I hung out clothing while wearing a skirt.

…  women would go mad after child birth if they didn’t “drain” completely because all that excess blood would go to their brains and madness would certainly ensue.  (“It happened, you know, to dear old cousin Patricia who was institutionalized for the rest of her life with the blood madness.”)

…  my husband should never see me in a housecoat, or without makeup. That he should be served first, always, and that I should hide money from him whenever possible.

…  I should have a calendar in the pantry so I could monitor my daughters’ menstrual cycles because that’s what her mother did so she knew exactly when her sneaky oldest daughter (my Grandmother Barbara) conceived my mother… at age sixteen… and since my third child was the reincarnation of Barbara I should be ever vigilant…

And,

… that she had once been so ill she coughed up a piece of her duodenum.

With this womanly wisdom as my legacy, is it any wonder I blundered into womanhood like a bat in the daytime? Is it shocking that I birthed four children by the age of twenty-six, (always being sure to “drain” properly) when I had neither a driver’s license, a job nor a proper grasp of laundry symbols? Is it a surprise that I thought my children would raise themselves, much like mushrooms in a dark forest?  I didn’t know what a duodenum even was until I was thirty-five! (And yeah… you can’t cough it up. You just… can’t.)

So here I am at fifty. Almost twenty years older than my mother when she passed. Having raised four children… who sprouted quite nicely, despite the dark forest… for the past thirty years. And I still don’t understand laundry symbols. But I do understand that my uterus can’t get a cold, and my duodenum can’t be coughed up, and my third child is not a reincarnation of my Grandmother, and serving my husband first certainly didn’t save our marriage, and calendars aren’t contraceptives… and, as with everything in life, if I don’t take control of my health and fitness and well-being by myself, no one is going to do it for me.

I became a wife and a mother without a whole lot of guidance, but I did learn that no one was going to do it for me. Now that my children are grown I realize that a lot of my fitness and health needs were met when I was younger simply by being a mother to a large family. I was busy! I was running around, chasing children, chasing hockey games, chasing events and mealtimes and police cars… wait, that’s another story… and I was preparing healthy meals to feed the spawn. (Sort of. Frozen fish sticks are healthy, right?) Once they left home it was oh-so-delightful to have wine at dinner on weeknights, and to lie like a flounder on the sofa watching Game of Thrones, and to buy chips that I actually got to eat, without sharing.

Enter: Twenty extra pounds and a hard time climbing two flights of stairs and those weird jiggly dimples on my thighs.

Great Aunt Tilly never had any sage advice about weight gain, or fitness. I don’t think those things existed for her. She had corsets. And girdles. And a bra made of rebar and industrial steel.

I have Beachbody.

Let me be clear… I don’t have a beach body, but I do have 30-minute exercise videos, and a protein shake, and portion control… and my duodenum is quite pleased with all of that. And those twenty pounds are on their way out… not because of my kids, or my partner, or stress, or trying to fit someone else’s vision of who I should be… but because I am making it happen. All by myself, for myself. My fitness journey is about me, for me, and up to me!

And that is more satisfying than suet dumplings, any day!

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I refuse to be defined by my uterus!

How can I possibly be a Beachbody Coach… I don’t have a Beachbody body! I have sagging bits, and lumpy bits, and bits that wobble. I haven’t worn a bikini since I was fourteen. Hells, I haven’t worn a bathing suit for ten years! Swimming? Shorts and bra and tank top. Weird, but it protects the innocent. No one needs to see that. Right?

WELL.

Here we are.

I am fifty. I’m a high school teacher, a mother of four, happily divorced, and struggling with the spectre of menopause on the horizon. Have you noticed, as soon as you approach a certain age, that anytime you mention that you’re tired, or cranky, or hot, or sad your well-meaning friends immediately leap to blame the Meno? Perimenopause, Menopause, Post-Menopause…it’s as if, once we cross the threshold of middle age, we are defined by our ovaries and we’re powerless to overcome the chaos that is our destiny… well, I say… NO.

A resounding NO.

Over the last few years I have become… tired. I get sad easily. I get hurt easily, emotionally and physically. I’ve steadily gained weight, not oppressively, but steadily. Probably five pounds a year. Once upon a time, I could pick up an aerobics class, or increase my walking and I would notice the change in my body. Used to be, I didn’t have to work very hard to stay moderately healthy. Those days are over. I have fat where fat has never been before. I can feel the bulge under my arms, my lower back jiggles when I walk, my thighs rub together and my boobs each weigh as much as my weiner dog. And these physical changes directly affect my emotional well-being. I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to dress nicely, I expect people to not like me. I anticipate failing at my various endeavors, because… I suck. Look at me! I’m a lumpy middle-aged woman with wattles and an aching cervix! How can anyone possibly like me?

Well, I say… NO.

I refuse to spend the last half of my life… yes, HALF, that’s a lot of years, people… being a victim of my own deficiencies. I REFUSE to allow menopause to turn me into a person I don’t recognize. Having spent thirty years raising my children and caring for my family, I am now going to take care of my body and my brain so I can enjoy my adult children actively instead of from behind a wine bottle, propped up on the sofa, crocheting dishcloths and complaining because the chips are too far to reach.

Enter: Beachbody.

Three months in, I’ve lost fifteen pounds and fourteen inches.  I’ve gone from dreading starting the 30-minute video exercises, to looking forward to them and doing TWO videos a day. I’ve gone from barely managing to shuffle my way through the 21 Day Fix modified (thank you Kat-On-My-Right, you awesome thing you!) to shuffling my way through 21 Day Fix Extreme with uncoordinated forays into Core de Force and PiYo.

Am I still jiggling? Yes.

Am I still having periods that drain my life essence like the Niagra unleashed? Yes.

Am I still sore after every workout? Yes.

But I’m so much happier! I am dealing with stress and anxiety so much better. I am wearing clothes that fit and getting compliments on my appearance. I am feeling alive and engaged and eager to see what else I can do. My Love has told me that my ass is smaller!

And I know I’m not alone.

I’m betting there are others like me out there wobbling a weary path to the snack aisle and hating themselves for it.

Getting older as a woman doesn’t have to be like that. It can be different. You can be different.

Are you, me?

If you are interested in learning more about the Beachbody programs, or you  want to share stories about your uterus, or you just want to say hello, please do so! You can message me here on my blog, or you can connect with me through these channels:

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Fit at Fifty…?

About a year ago I went to a specialist about my acid reflux.  I didn’t know it was acid reflux at the time… and who decided to call it reflux anyway? What a disgusting name. No one wants to admit they have reflux… its like telling someone you have explosive diarrhea, or burning vomit burps. These are secret things.

Reflux. Pooping. Peeing when you sneeze.

No one wants to know.

(If you’re squeamish about the reflux, feel free to stop reading here and skip to the motivational message at the bottom of the page, I won’t judge you.)

I explained to the Internalist, who was at least 105 years old, about my discomfort when I ate or drank or breathed and he chuckled at me, which is something I loathe. Don’t chuckle at me, Venerable Health Specialist. I have come to you seeking solace. I’m really upset about my gorge. I am not an hysterical woman. I am a woman with a burning esophagus.  A woman who has birthed four children the size of raccoons, and who knows the meaning of the word discomfort.

“Go get undressed and we’ll get this taken care of,” he chuckled. Cadaverously.

I waved my hands in the general area of my throat, not understanding the naked-under-a- paper-johnny-shirt requirement, but I have always been an obedient child and so I complied. He offered me pills while he palpitated my feet.

“You just need the right medication,” he said.

“The problem is up here,” I beckoned to him as he examined my kneecaps.

He asked me how many units of alcohol I consume per day, politely skipping my nether regions and digging his arthritic fist into my spleen.

“One,” I smiled, pleased with myself for being honest and feeling we were now making progress toward the source of my angst.

“One glass of wine a day shouldn’t be a problem,” he said to my spleen.

“Oh,” I giggled. “I thought one unit was, like… one bottle… haha, you know, like, how many bottles of wine do I drink a day… ha…ha…”

He didn’t giggle. Or smile. He asked me to get dressed. Not once did he look down my throat, not once did he ask me about my health history, my diet, my exercise habits. He did not appreciate my jokes. I felt decidedly disinclined to like or trust him.

And he offered me more pills.

I know there are wonderful, essential medications on the planet that are necessary for many people to lead productive lives due to the debilitating effects of various chronic health issues. I am just one woman, and I have always been weird when it comes to medication. I couldn’t stand to take birth control pills when I was young… I just felt morally opposed to the entire concept, and the Pill made me weepy and bloated and miserable… but…I had my first child at nineteen, so I may not qualify as the voice of reason.*

I refused his magnanimous offer of pills… to which he replied:

“Oh, you’re one of those women.”

…followed by more chuckling, which made me wish I could summon my mysterious brethren of “those women” and we could collectively strangle him… and I gathered my clothing and my dignity and climbed on my high horse and rode the hell outta Dodge feeling entirely certain that 105 is far too old to still be palpitating women’s feet in the name of gastrointestinal science.

In my outrage, I researched. Revenge research. I changed my diet. I drank more water. I began to investigate exercise programs that didn’t terrify me. It was like rage-healing. The doctor pissed me off so much I decided to get healthy. That’ll show him!

And I started to feel better.

Not overnight, and I still feel the burn if I eat too much, or too quickly. Eggs are a problem. They stick in my craw like swallowing silly putty. But I’m not medicated. I am managing my health, and being proactive about making changes that both keep me away from pharmaceuticals and out of the hands of chuckling Internalists.

In January, I started the 21 Day Fix Beachbody program. To date, I’ve lost 15 lbs and 14 inches. My commitment to my Beachbody program is part of a transformation that began for me because I felt my body was starting to fall apart. There is a direct line from Dr. Venerable Health Specialist sniffing my toes a year ago, to me enjoying a Shakeology protein shake and working out every day now. To me enjoying so much more of everything, because I refuse to become a stranger in my own body.

I suppose I should go thank him, but he’d probably hold out the johnny-shirt again and you never know how one of “those” women will react to the johnny-shirt.

What is the motivational message, for those of you who skipped the rambling bits? Be proactive with your health.  Choose nutrition and exercise and relaxation methods that make sense to you, that motivate you and that energize you. Oh, and don’t be afraid to use words like reflux. You’d be surprised how many people will totally get what you’re talking about!

Libby’s coaching website:  http://www.beachbodycoach.com/LBroadbent

(I am in the process of becoming a Beachbody coach! I am wildly excited about this new adventure, and will be blogging about my process as I explore what it means to be Fit at Fifty!)

(Yes, I turned FIFTY this year. No, I was not delighted.)

(I absolutely refuse to let Fifty define my wobbly self. Even if it means eating chickpeas and kale. Which are actually quite good. And make you poop. Which no one wants to hear about.)

*Disclaimer: I in no way advocate ignoring the medical advice offered by doctors and practitioners. I do believe, however, that sometimes we turn to medication before we explore the source of the problem and begin to make solid, sustainable, healthy changes in our lives that will improve our overall health and well-being. I am advocating a healthy lifestyle, not as an alternative to medications, but as a solid foundation for a stronger body and mind.