body image · fitness

Celebrating me at 56: assessment and challenge

This week I turned 56. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had, not just because Facebook showered me with greetings from friends, family, and people I met once on vacation (some of which have become special to me– yes, this is you, Diana!).  Also, not just because friends and colleagues treated me to lunch, dinner, a party, loads of attention, and the chocolate cake to end all chocolate cakes (thank you Steph!).

56 is feeling to me like a time for pause and reflection on what I want for the next phase of my life; however, it’s not a milestone birthday, so there really isn’t any pressure to do or become or start anything in particular, which makes it a perfect time for me.

For some time, I’ve had two strong desires for myself. One is practical/doable: I want to get back into regular cycling, in whatever capacity I can at 56 with this body and body history. I’ve talked about it and moaned and yearned and fussed and avoided it out of fear, but it is what I really want.

So I have a bit of new merch to encourage me in this process. Check out my new buff (under the helmet– thanks, Janet!), and the new super-great Smith sunglasses.

Me in a multi-colored blue buff under my blur helmet, with my new sunglasses (that have mirrored bluish lenses, which you can't see).
Me in a multi-colored blue buff under my blue helmet, with my new sunglasses (that have mirrored bluish lenses, which you can’t see).

The Gore black cycling jacket is also new– I love it.  I went out yesterday for a short chilly ride, which was a bit hard but very satisfying. My friends are all lining up to ride with me when I’m willing and able, which I plan to do often. And I have scheduled some organized rides this summer:

June 10 Bikes not Bombs Charity ride– 30 mile route

July 29 PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally in Toronto– 110K one-day ride

Sept 9 New York City Century ride– 75 mile (which is really 82) ride

I’ll be posting on training, progress, goals met and not met, and what I’m doing about it.

My other deep desire is just now coming into focus as perhaps the most important thing I need and want to do for myself. I want to appreciate and accept and be grateful for and not ashamed of… my body.

I’ve always, as long as I can remember, been embarrassed about my body.  I’ve always felt too big. I’ve felt too big for my friends, too big for cute clothing, too big for kayaks, too big for wetsuits (although honestly probably most people feel that way– have you ever tried wriggling into an already-wet wetsuit?), too big for sex, too big for a partner, too big to be loved.

Too big to be loved. That’s heartbreaking and awful and mean and not true and I don’t need anyone to say or think that about me.  And no one does, except for me sometimes. I’ve struggled with this issue my whole life, and it’s been a primary theme of my long-term therapy. It still is.

So when oh when am I going to let go of this crushing load of negative feelings about myself and my body?

Well, how about now, at age 56? That sounds pretty good to me.

I’m attacking this issue on multiple fronts (pardon the aggressive metaphor, but it makes me feel revved up).  I’m buying clothing that fits now, doing more physical activity (and I don’t mind clingy clothing at all), and doing other self-care activities, which include this workbook:

The Body Image Workbook, by Thomas Cash.
The Body Image Workbook, by Thomas Cash.

My friend Pata and I are going through the exercises in this workbook together. It’s a cognitive-behavioral approach to body image, and so far I like it. What I like the most is the mere fact of having this book makes me focus on my problems and vulnerabilities (with a friend I trust). We are already working on variations on some of the themes. It’s going to take a while: there are eight chapters with a lot of writing, and we are working on this together. But I don’t have to be in a hurry– I’m 56 (as is Pata), and we have time.

I’l be posting on our progress, and welcome input and responses and thoughts and stories from all of you. In the meantime, here’s a start: me from yesterday’s ride, clad in my lycra, new buff and glasses, with a big smile of satisfaction.

This is what 56 looks like on me, and I think it’s just fine.

Me in head to toe lycra, after a fun chilly road ride.
Me in head to toe lycra, after a fun chilly road ride.


10 thoughts on “Celebrating me at 56: assessment and challenge

  1. Happy birthday! Your plans sound great – all the best! Keep us posted on how it goes. It sounds like a lot of work but so worth it.

  2. This made me happy to ready today! Always good to hear someone else is starting down the road to body positivity! I hope you’ll keep us updated on your journey.

    1. Thanks! And you’re right– things are really looking rather fine… 🙂

  3. Great to see you and your buddy taking charge of yourselves. This single change will bring you pride, joy, and fitness in itself. But I think you’ll find that other, seemingly unrelated benefits will follow. You are inspiring others also.

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel. I agree, and look forward to any benefits that come my way.

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