When I flick through social media feeds like Instagram, something that brings me up short a lot of the time is how young a lot of fitness and diet gurus are these days. I know – patronising, much? Not at all. I’m not out to denigrate young people – they can’t help being in their 20s as much as I can help being middle aged, apparently – but it’s easy to forget that even as a personal trainer I’m not going to look like the youthful Clean Eating Alice or Madeleine Shaw, lovely as they are, so comparing my abs to theirs is really a pointless exercise, especially if it makes me feel dissatisfied with my body. By the time you’re over 40, your hormones not only encourage your body to lay down abdominal fat but they also increase your appetite to make weight control even harder. Bastards.
Comparing ourselves to what we see on social media is endemic and also useless. We all know very well that what we post is the result of many attempts at getting the perfect angle on a selfie (I have a short body and long legs so I angle carefully rather than go straight on and look like a dumpy midget in yoga pants) and, while I may feel 25 in my head, there’s no getting away from the fact that the bod is genuinely 45. Like most women my age, I am far from cellulite free, have surgery scars, visible veins… I could go on. And it gets really hard to keep things in perspective if you spend as much time on social media as I have to while promoting my business. Because I have such a young face, I’m convinced people will think I’ve let myself go rather than than realise I’m doing bloody well for 45!
The thing is, though, I wouldn’t go back to my 20s if you paid me. I was focused on my burgeoning academic career, ate crap, hardly moved except to get more food or to walk to the pub because I was sat on my ass writing my PhD, suffered from depression, was stressed to all hell with frequent anxiety attacks and had all the energy of a sloth. I was about a size 12-14, far too big for my small frame and looked pretty dead behind the eyes.
When I look at this photo (taken when I was around 28) all I remember is how unhappy I was with pretty much everything in my life at that time. I lacked any self-confidence and had zero drive to change. I wouldn’t mind the thicker hair back, but that’s about it!
So while I might admire the bodies of the twenty-something Insta-pundits, I am happy to wear the literal and figurative scars of the 40+ fittie because I have the confidence, spirit and independence that only comes with age. Older women are still so undervalued in our culture that no one really shouts about how ageing might make staying fit that much more of a challenge but that it absolutely equips you not to give a f**k. I have become much better over the years at saying ‘no’, challenging unfairness and inequality, and simply going my own sweet way.
This photo was only taken a few weeks ago but I love the energy and sass I have in my life right now:
And do you know what else I like about my age? That it makes me better at my job. Whatever coaching work I’m doing, whether it’s fitness, nutrition or helping someone making a career change, I can empathise better with my clients because I’ve been there. I’m not a young trainer who has always been lean, fit and untroubled by major life challenges.
So, if you’re browsing online and feeling like you’re over the hill and in a slow decline, stop it! You can only appreciate where you are now when you stop and look back at how far you’ve come. This is why I look at old chubster photos when I’m being picky about my abs/legs/whatever and am hugely grateful that I made a change, got my life together and am old enough to appreciate what I learned from the process.