I live in one of the healthiest places in America, and it’s not easy. Professional, semi-pro, and recreationally competitive athletes move here to live, work, and train at altitude. And they’re everywhere, racing up and down actual mountains with their toned abs, burly biceps, and well-sculpted glutes. These people are not just fit – they’re statuesque. And it’s more than just a little intimidating to stand next to them.
The ones that aren’t competitive about it, are just really healthy. They’re fun and cheerful yogis, climbers, martial artists, triathletes, kayakers, cyclists, marathoners, and backcountry skiers. They hike miles with their dogs and their kids – up and down fourteeners, and not just on weekends. These people eat organic fruits and vegetables constantly, and make smoothies with protein powder and “greens” from Whole Foods. They’re hydrated, gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, and obsessed about their plant-based diets. They sport farmers’ tans from pro cycling kits and sports bras. They’re not just lean – they’re strong. Mention “muffin top” and they’re thinking of a Pamela’s gluten-free spinach yogurt-zucchini recipe.
Generally, I’m not obsessed with body image. Generally. But this time of year, I start thinking about my pale, out-of-shape dad bod. It’s superficial of me, I know. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m procrastinating the community swimming pool. “I want to look good naked,” says Kevin Spacey in American Beauty. I think, in general, we all want to feel confident about what we see when we look in the mirror. And we can’t help but compare ourselves to those whose perpetual beach bodies seem poised for swimsuits year round.
Truth be told, last summer I threw my back out wrestling a leather love seat down a flight of stairs at a client’s house. I took a few months off regular exercise to give my back a chance to heal, and when I looked up I realized a year had gone by. I got lazy. I got soft in the middle. And now my back hurts all the time. Honestly, the only thing that makes it feel better is chocolate. It’s a perpetual cycle of self-deprecation, injury-inducing over-exertion, and fair-trade dark chocolate.
But here’s the good news. I’m forty one years old. If I’ve got any chance of living to ninety, the only thing that will keep me alive will be whatever I do now. Playing hard with my kid in the Rocky Mountains will be a defining part of my life – and hers. Sure, keeping the weight off and maintaining a limber physique and a strong digestive tract may help me look better naked; but what matters most is feeling good, finding balance, and marveling at the miracle of what I can do in this body – before it’s all used up. And at the end of the day, when I look at my uber athletic neighbors, I’m happy to live in a place where I’ve got friends who understand the rewarding virtues of a healthy lifestyle.
Life is too damn short to pine for someone else’s condition. They’ve got issues they’re dealing with, same as me. But showing up every day, psyched to spring out of bed, take care of the only body I’ll ever have, and raise my daughter to appreciate her physique – exactly as it is, that’s a life worth working for. My wife is simply gorgeous. She reassures me we’ll go in and out of shape as we get older, and no matter what, she loves me just the same. My six year old says “Mama knows everything and Daddy is just handsome.” So, there you have it. With these two by my side, I’m all out of excuses. I may not be as fit as I used to be, but I’ve got a lot of living left to do — so it’s time to get back in shape!
Evan Zislis is a professional organizer, social entrepreneur and bestselling author of ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World. For hands-on assistance simplifying your stuff and organizing your life, call 970.366.2532, email Evan@MyIntentionalSolutions.com, or join the revolution on Facebook.