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Guest Blog: Choosing “Strong” Instead of “Skinny”

Blogger Biography: Betsy is a proud Navy wife, busy mother of three young children and a happy writer. She is grateful for the adventures and friendships she has enjoyed during her 12 years as a military spouse. No matter how stressful, unexpected and plain old crazy life can be, she is happy to say that she honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

After having three kids in four years, I was not skinny. I am fully proud of the fact that my body grew three teeny tiny babies into hefty and healthy newborns in nine months. I am fully amazed that my body nourished them for another six months outside of my belly. I am also fully aware that my body was used and abused for nearly four years.

I’m not even really talking about the stretch marks and saggy skin thing here. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely added to my soft, doughy form. But I’m really talking about years of not getting a full night’s sleep, hormones raging up, down and all around, baby blues and post-partum depression battling in my brain. I’m talking about being so tired that going to the gym rarely won over a quick nap and being so nauseous that lying still on the couch was the best I could muster. I’m talking about macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, frozen waffles, those silly and oh-so-bland-yet-oh-so-addicting rice puffs being my nutrition for four years. I was not skinny.

When my husband came home from work and told me we got orders to Southern California, one thought popped into my mind: Holy cow, I need to get skinny!!! Don’t get me wrong, I knew well before we had those orders in hand that I needed to get back in shape and take some control over my body; the move to SoCal was just the motivation I needed. So, within a week of our PCS, I joined a local gym and signed up with a personal trainer. I thought all I wanted was to get skinny.

We were in California for two months before my husband headed out on a four-month deployment. In those two months, I worked out consistently with my trainer and saw some great results. I told my husband that I was going to keep working with my trainer through his deployment since the workouts would not only get me skinny, but they would also be my stress reliever and a break from the kids (thank goodness for gyms with great childcare, especially during deployment)!

The day after my husband left on deployment, my trainer brought in boxing gloves and pads. Let me tell you, there is no better workout on the first day of deployment than punching and kicking to your heart’s content. Twice during his cruise, the Navy announced the deployment would be extended. The four-month cruise became a 7 ½ month-er. I texted my trainer when I found out about each extension, and the very next day she brought back the punching bags and gloves. I’m fairly certain those gloves had an even mix of sweat and tears soaked into them.

I met with my trainer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I literally worked my backside off. We took measurements, so I could tell you exactly how many inches I worked off back there. Through the months, we charted my weight and measurements and I was definitely getting skinnier. I remember standing in front of the mirror and thinking, “I haven’t looked like this in years!” For a while, my focus was on my body getting smaller.

Over the next few months, my trainer concocted some of the craziest, most torturous workouts I could ever imagine. No, I actually never could have imagined doing these workouts. There were burpees everywhere, plank holds, box jumps, mountain climbers, wall balls, walking lunges, balancing on bosu balls, and on and on. But little by little, and sometimes not-so-little, I got stronger. I could do more burpees, jump up onto the higher box, throw a heavier wall ball and hold a plank for a minute longer. The achievements were awesome. I would leave the gym feeling proud of myself and stronger than ever.

Somewhere around the five-month mark, we had just finished taking measurements and I didn’t even write them down. I was too busy thinking about the day’s upcoming workout. I realized I was starting to care less about the way I looked and being skinny and more about what my body could do and how strong I was getting. Instead of sending my husband a photo of me in a pair of jeans I hadn’t worn in years, I started sending him videos of me doing box jumps on the 24-inch box, or mat pushes with the 45-pound plates or the very tiny beginnings of a six-pack. You see, my focus had shifted from my body getting smaller to my body getting stronger.

By the time my husband came home from deployment, I was four dress sizes skinnier, but I didn’t care about that, really. Instead I invited my husband to come to the gym with me so he could see what I could do. He took a training session with me and we had a great sweaty time. I was proud of my new strength and excited about getting even stronger.

Sadly, with the end of deployment came the end of my training sessions. The good news is that my amazing trainer opened her own gym and is totally successful at showing her clients how strong they can be. My husband has been home from deployment for a year already, and in the meantime, I have joined the local Crossfit gym. I am certainly not on my way to any competitions or anything like that, but I am certainly pursuing my new goal of getting stronger, not skinnier.

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