That's what I have discovered as an aging overweight woman. When I was a young woman, I thought that only young people cared about their appearance. I suppose I thought so because so many older women seemed to stop caring. I saw older women in my own family and community let their hair go gray, dress frumpy, become or stay overweight, and essentially develop an asexual appearance.
It seemed to my teenage/20-something self that once you passed a certain point in your life, you just no longer cared what you looked like. I used to guess that maybe it was because many of the older women I knew were married for many years and didn't need to try to attract a new partner anymore. For those who were single, I guessed that maybe past a certain age you kind of gave up on finding a new relationship and therefore had no incentive to be attractive.
In any case, as I got older, I assumed that I too would care less about being attractive and be focused on the more important things in life like being a good person, a good friend, a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter, a good worker, etc. However, I secretly assumed that my young appearance would be forever frozen in time and I would remain attractive despite not having the time to focus as much on my beauty routine! However, once I actually got to that point in my life, I realized that just because I can acknowledge that there are more important things in life than being attractive, it doesn't mean that feeling and being attractive isn't also important to me. I also discovered that my young face would not remain forever petrified in place, and that I too was subject to the ravages of time.
Once I became that frumpy, obese, asexual appearing woman I realized first hand that I had never made a conscious choice to become and remain that person (just as the older women who came before hadn't made that choice). I had become that person because all of the other things that I wanted to become (a good person, a good friend, a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter, a good worker, etc.) took precedence over my health and appearance. I became so preoccupied with helping other people that I forgot to help myself.
I remember feeling shocked looking in the mirror or my reflection in windows on the street. I still felt like the attractive girl I used to be, even if my outside no longer resembled her. I still wanted to be pretty, even if I didn't live a life that required me to be beautiful on the outside.
I have my man - we've been together over 20 years counting dating - and he's stuck by my side skinny or fat, beautiful or ugly. I have my children - they don't care if I am fat mom or skinny mom as long as I'm involved mom. I have my friends - some who met me skinny and some who met me fat - but all of them have stuck with me regardless of my appearance. I no longer am starting out in life where I have to "put my best foot forward" appearance-wise. Of course, we are all judged in society by our appearance, but many of us older ladies have our core support group in place who will love us no matter how we look. So, what's the incentive to lose weight, get in shape, do our makeup, do our hair, wear fashionable clothing? Who are we trying to impress?
I would argue that I am trying to impress myself. Contrary to the assumptions I made when I was younger, I now know that every woman wants to feel beautiful. Despite the fact that many of us lose hold of our appearance, we still want to get back what we lost (or maybe gain what we never had). Age doesn't change the fact we all want to feel attractive and good about ourselves. Looking at a middle-aged, overweight, frumpy housewife, you might never guess that she dreams of being able to fit into that size 2 evening gown she's eying in the department store, or that she wishes she could don a pair of 6 inch Louboutin red bottoms and rock them at this year's Christmas party, or that she'd love to treat herself to a makeover at Mario Tricoci, but her daughter needs a prom dress, and she comes first.
Every woman wants to feel beautiful regardless of her age, weight, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, etc. That's what I have found as I have grown into the type of woman I once observed as a young person who never could have imagined herself on the other side of the fence. The view from the other side has been eye-opening.
I have always been concerned about my appearance. Not in a vain sort of way, but I never felt like I always put myself last. Of course, as a wife, a mom, and an employee, there are times when I do drop to the bottom of my to do list, and there are plenty of times I've sacrificed for the good of my kids or my family, but never to the point of total neglect. I've never put myself last to the point of forgetting all about myself.
I also unintentionally became that frumpy, obese, asexual woman. The weight gain, that was neglect for sure, but not because I put me last, taking care of everyone else. It wasn't because I reached some level of consciousness that only the older and wiser would know, where appearance ceased to matter because I gained this inner peace. This is how I saw the older women when I was young. I saw them as having some inner peace where their looks really didn't matter anymore. They were probably struggling internally themselves. I didn't gain because I was too busy taking care of everyone else.... It was because I was just lazy. Plain and simple. Lazy.
But reaching that 80 pound mark and feeling like I hit rock bottom, big and ugly, self esteem in the toilet.... I slowly started digging myself out of the pit .... With each pound lost, I really felt like I was blossoming. That pretty girl has come back out with a few more wrinkles, but still.... I just feel so great about myself, that can't imagine how or why I let the big girl take over. I often think I wasted too many of my younger years, fat.
I've struggled, since then, however, with feeling like maybe I've gone to another extreme, and that I've become kind of vain. Like a shallow type of vain, thinking a little bit too much about my appearance. Worrying a little bit too much about my clothes, my face, my hair, and focusing too much on my figure..... I want to get back what I lost. Maybe it is the lost youth. My face has more wrinkles, my skin isn't as firm anymore and toned.... I'm more fit than I was a decade ago, but I will never have the body of a 20 or 30 year old. I've gotten Botox, and plan to do it again. I'd get fillers if they weren't so expensive. I think I'm way more focused on beauty, that physical outward appearance than I was when I was young, but then.... I used to be young.
This weight loss, this is for me. I want to be beautiful for myself. One gem of wisdom you hear over and over again is how you have to do for yourself, not others. This whole journey has been about me. However, I can't deny that the compliments and attention of others has not hurt at all! My husband responded to my new found confidence and also my physical appearance. My marriage has gone from the toilet to date night. This has all been wonderful for me!
__________________ "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!"
"Losing weight is hard. Being fat is hard. Pick your hard."
Total Goal Weight:
I weigh myself every day. It keeps me accountable.
This is one of the best post I have ever read. I, too, thought all women just "gave up" as they got older. I never understood why they didn't care about themselves until I became one of them. I am turning 40 in January and I am determined to get my weight back down so that I can start to feel good about myself in terms of my looks. I love my kids with all my heart (I am a single mom recently divorced) but after 21 years of being a mom I have decided it is my turn to take care of myself while I am still taking care of them instead of letting myself go. Thank you so much for plucking these thoughts right out of my own brain!
twinieten - it's inspiring to hear about how much your life has changed for the better! I am so happy for you. I personally think that a little bit of vanity isn't a bad thing - it holds us accountable and can push us to keep trying.
angien075 - I wish you luck on your journey! I think that as mothers, we need to take care of ourselves. How can we take care of anyone else when our own needs are going unmet? I'm glad you are starting to make yourself a priority.
I too lost myself a little after having my son. I thought "You should be comfortable in your own skin, especially after 40!" Well, he's just about a teenager now and I realized that I while I explaining personal hygene, healthy eating, exercise, etc. to him, I could have been being a better role model. I don't think we realize how important our examples are that we are setting when we pay attention to ourselves. My son did not see this last journey as "Mom won't eat with us - Mom isn't spending as much time with us - Mom isn't this, or that ..." He saw it as "Wow - Mom's working hard to make herself better." Now he wants to eat the healthy food with me and he's taking time to keep himself healthy. That's an eye opener when you think about it...
He even carried a backpack with 20 lbs of weights in it one day during our walk so he could understand how losing 20 lbs made me feel.
Taking care of ourselves isn't selfish - it's mandatory to set a good example and build good character in our children.
New goal is waist measurement! One dancer for each inch lost!
This is absolutely beautiful, brought tears to my eyes. I haven't always been overweight part of my life I was this sexy and confident woman. Throughout this weightloss process I invision myself as this beautiful woman and it keeps me going. This post brings tears to my eyes I gained all this weight though my preganancies and becoming a mom forced me to focus all my attention on my kids. I recently learned that I'm not robbing them of anything by taking a little time out for myself and when i feel like giving up I will remember this and keep going because I know I'm almost there. To being this beautiful woman again... Thank you so much
“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as **** don't deserve me at my best.” ― Marilyn Monroe
healthyangie - your story about your son and the backpack is so beautiful! I am so glad that your family is supportive of you and that you are such a good role model for your son.
getmydivaback3 - awww! Your words are so sweet! I am glad this post resonated with you. I totally understand about gaining weight through pregnancies and giving your best to your kids while putting yourself last. While I wouldn't give my kids anything anything less than my best, why shouldn't I also do the best for myself? Don't I deserve it. Often I forget that I do. I am so glad I have the ladies on this board to remind me and themselves that we do deserve to be the best we can be!
Thank you for this post! You describe it so perfectly. I felt like I was doing my best for my family and kids by putting my needs on the back burner for so many years. Was I lazy, you bet! Did I eat crappy food, for sure! But when my son was 12, we had a family crisis that really shook me up. I also realized that I was heading down a slippery slope health-wise and that I had to get it under control. In the process, I found my "pretty girl" has come to the surface again. I feel like my outside now matches my inside.
Great post Guac. I too have gone through stages of being "frumpy" and although I am not a vain person it made me feel awful not feeling good in my own skin. After having children I was at my worse weight, my hair was a wreck and I always looked like an unmade bed. my self esteem took a dive. I managed to get my "groove back". I think most women need to feel beautiful in order to feel good in general.