Picture this: 12 year-old little Lindsay up to bat during physical education hour. Her entire 4th grade class standing behind her in the dugout willing her to hit, please just at least HIT the ball, this ONE time. The entire field falls silent in anticipation of her big moment, then from somewhere in the outfield a rouge 4th grader bellows: “Don’t miss, Chicken Legs!” Pitch, swing, miss. Humiliation.
I was born a skinny kid, long and lean with gangly limbs and nobly knees, but I never minded it. I was the just right type for ballet, and ballet was my life. Ballerinas are long and lean and well, too skinny. It wasn’t until one day when someone pointed it out, that I even noticed. My legs, or “chicken legs” as some have referred to them, suddenly transformed me into a self-conscious pre-teen and prevented me from wearing anything that revealed my dirty little secret, those colorless stems. I went from being happy with who I was to being ashamed of my body with just one stupid wise crack.
Years later, when all my ballet classes paid off, I got my first professional dance job. I was living in Hawaii at the time and managed to get a spot on the island’s only legit dance job, Legends in Concert. It was an impersonator show and I was hired as a back-up dancer/singer. With my training and background I was considered special amongst Hawaii’s mostly only hula dancers. I absolutely LOVED dancing for a living. I gave my all every night in every step. I was living my dream in the world where my body was accepted, or so I thought.
One day, the choreographer came to town to watch the show. It was the first time he had ever met me or seen me dance. At the cast meeting the next day amid the collective tension, my dance captain delivered some bad news, “Bobby thinks you need to lose weight, especially in your mid-section”. “What?” I was stunned, “but I’ve always been skinny?” I thought, “How can I now be considered fat?” He suggested that I join a gym and start a diet. Excuse me? How can skinny be fat?
I was not accustomed to trying to loose weight, so I had positively no idea how to even begin. For someone who always ate what I wanted when I wanted and did plies instead of pull-ups I was lost, utterly lost. I tried going to the gym, but didn’t know how to use the machines. I tried following several unsuccessful diets, but soon gave that up. Time marched on at work and I figured, they’d eventually look past my “weight problem” and see only what an amazing dancer I was. Unfortunately things only continued to get worse. They brought in a scale to our dressing room to weigh me every Friday in front of all the other girls, and instead of loosing weight I just continued to gain it. I had no idea what was “normal” for my 5’8”frame, just that I wasn’t too skinny anymore. Finally on Halloween I got my notice, “We have to suspend you since you haven’t been successful in changing your body”. Period, end of sentence. Devastated, I immediately stopped eating all together. I just wasn’t physically hungry for food or for life.
After years of therapy and a particularly encouraging boyfriend I finally began making amends with my weight issues. I found that my weight finally stabilized and I refused to diet or deprive myself. I was dancing a ton and had incorporated Pilates into my routine, which made me feel strong and connected to my body. Everything was going well until I reached my 30’s. Suddenly, my body began to change. I started gaining weight and noticed unknown cellulite on my “chicken legs” one day. What the f***? I can’t win! I immediately started to obsess about my rolls and promptly hired a trainer, because I was FAT. While I loved the exercise (I’m always going to be a warrior) I hated being intimate again with the scale. My mood was determined on whether or not the scale was friendly to me that day. Slowly this dislike for myself blossomed into full -blown hostility. I was raging a war with my body, with myself.
Time for action, or rather less action: acceptance. Instead of depriving myself and counting calories like a mathematician (I sucked at math in school anyway), I have decided to just buy bigger Lululemon pants and eat what I have a hankering for. I like good food. I like feeling good. Let’s stay with that. I’m getting back into yoga and trying my best to push myself in my Pilates sessions, while honoring where I am each day.
In my work as a Pilates instructor, I am no stranger to the fact that this is an epidemic, and much more widespread than just me. For years I have stood idly by, almost embarrassed by my clients as they mouth off about how they hate this part of themselves and won’t I give them an exercise to make it all go away? I am uncomfortable with their rants but why? Because, it resonated the truth: all women care about, or should I say are obsessed about, is becoming, staying, and being skinny. It’s a cleverly disguised way to be hateful to oneself, and it’s a hell of a lot of work.
So, at the risk of sounding a little preachy, really I’m just tired, I’m trying something different now. I’m following my bliss. Not in an esoteric, holier-than-thou way, just doing what feels good and leaving the rest out. Working out makes me FEEL better and that’s a good thing. Eating great tasting, fresh, home made food makes me feel better, so I choose to eat better (with the occasional fast-food indulgence, of course). I get my hair and nails done, give myself facials, get massages and acupuncture. I do all of this because I’m good and deserve to treat myself that way whether it’s a skinny me or not. So, to that undisclosed 4th grade bully- guess I’m finally a chicken no more.
Would love to hear your weight stories and struggles, your comments are much welcome below. Let us at FORM teach you how to do some Pilates and feel great no matter what your size or shape is like. Visit us at our NYC studio or workout with us online. Joe Pilates believed that his method was about blood and organs not just muscles and bone. This is a workout for your insides, not just our outs (plus you will look great after doing it!)